Learning how to properly clean your cast-iron pan can prolong its life, prevent rusting, and maintain its important seasoning. Follow our steps regarding how to clean a cast-iron pan so you can use this kitchen staple with confidence.
What to Know Before You Clean
These durable pans will protect your food from burning as long as you take care of them. Most cast-iron cookware comes pre-seasoned, so it is important to maintain that seasoning throughout every cleaning cycle. The seasoning on a cast-iron pan is a polymer that has formed between oil and the pan’s surface. This seasoning creates a nonstick surface and adds delicious flavor to every dish. Preserving that layer, however, can get a little tricky. Improper methods of cleaning can actually strip the seasoning away, and the project of re-seasoning a cast-iron pan can be time consuming.
How to Clean a Cast-Iron Pan
Step 1: Begin cleaning your cast-iron pan immediately after cooking, so use pot holders or tongs if the pan is hot to the touch. Do not use dish soap, let it soak in the sink, or put it in the dishwasher. Instead, pour one cup of coarse sea salt directly into the pan, then use a wooden spatula or spoon to scrub away any leftover food residue. The abrasiveness of the salt will scrape off any hardened bits of food without damaging the pan’s layer of seasoning.
Step 2: Use a clean towel to scrub away the remaining salt and food. If there are still some stubborn food spots, boil a small amount of water in the pan to loosen the particles and repeat Step 1.
Step 3: Once your pan is completely clean, use a clean cloth to dry it thoroughly. If the pan still feels wet, place it on a heated stovetop to evaporate any extra moisture. This will protect your cast-iron pan from rusting.
Step 4: Once the cookware is completely dry, wipe the interior of the pan with a cloth dipped in ½ teaspoon of vegetable oil or melted shortening. Store your cast-iron pan in a dry area, like a cabinet or stovetop.
Lard also works very well. Skip olive type oils. They create more of a sticky and cake on coating.
Use a dedicated cloth when wiping down your pan so that all of your towels don’t turn black.
How to Remove Rust
If your beloved cast-iron pan has acquired rust over the years, a nonmetallic scrubber paired with a little bit of soapy water will do the trick. If the rust is still visible after scrubbing, mix equal parts water and white vinegar and submerge the pan in the liquid completely. Let sit for up to eight hours, but frequently check on the pan to see if the rust is removed in less time. If scrubbing is needed, proceed with using the nonmetallic scrubber again, otherwise go right to re-seasoning your pan.
How to Re-Season
In the case that your pan does not come pre-seasoned or if you feel that the seasoning has worn off, here are simple steps on how to return it to its original state.
Step 1: Wash your pan with hot water and dish soap.
Step 2: Wipe the pan dry with a clean towel.
Step 3: Apply a thin layer of solid shortening with a paper towel on the front, sides, and bottom of the pan.
If you are doing this a annual or semi annual care. You may on occasion want to use some seasoning inside of the pan. Than wipe out after.
You do NOT want to use evo or olive oil. It can cake up and cause a film. Lard works great also.
Step 4: Place your pan facedown on aluminum foil in the oven.
I also sometimes just leave I the oven loose. Especially when using seasoning.
Step 5: Let it heat for over one hour at 350℉.
For mid year care. Leaving it in a 150-ish degree oven for 3+ hours or overnight. May help cure and recure from use.
Step 6: Turn off the oven and let the pan cool down in the oven.