Cleaning cast iron pans: What you need to know

For as long as I’ve been cooking with one, I’ve been stumped about cleaning cast iron pans. And based on conversations I’ve had with my friends and colleagues, it’s clear that I’m not alone. It’s not that I don’t clean my cast iron pan — I just don’t know exactly how.

Can you put cast iron pans in the dishwasher? It’s a not difficult. But when it comes to cleaning cast iron pans with soap, I’ve heard both yes and no. Cast iron pans don’t usually come cheap, so before we all ruin our pans forever, this time I wanted to learn how to properly clean cast iron pans.

Clean cast iron pan

While you don’t want to use as much dish soap as you would when scrubbing casseroles or pans, a dime-sized amount of soap is safe to use when cleaning cast iron pans. “A little dishwashing liquid is gentle enough to not wash away the seasoning you’ve worked so hard to preserve,” says Hannah Crowley, the magazine’s executive editor. Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, In particular, raw cast iron like Lodge, not enamelled like Le Crueset, can be washed like a regular pan.

In the case of raw cast iron, dish soap should be reserved for those times when food debris is actually stuck on it. For all other cases, food scientist, cookbook author, and chef J. Kenji Lopez-Alt recommends scrubbing cast iron with hot water, 1/2 cup kosher salt, and paper towels. dried. “This will wipe out any dust and impurities that may have accumulated in it prior to use.”

Although cast iron looks hard and durable, it is actually quite sensitive and most sponges will be too abrasive for cast iron and lose its spice. If you really want to remove bits of burnt food, use a soft sponge or plastic scraper.

Once you can see that you’ve removed any brown flakes from the bottom of the pan, rinse thoroughly with super hot water and a little soap (if needed), then dry completely. Any wet stains are likely to rust, so be sure to wipe them off with an absorbent dish cloth.

After each wash, you should go back and re-season the cast iron pan

The “spice” cast iron doesn’t require you to look inside your spice cabinet; rather, it’s the coating that forms on the surface of cast iron after you cook with it over time. Technically, it’s polymerized oil.

In case you don’t remember much about chemistry (it’s okay, I don’t remember either), when any kind of fat like oil or butter is heated to a high temperature, it eventually turns from a thin liquid to a surface. hard face. . Unlike oils or butters, polymerized oils are not something that can be removed simply by washing them off with warm water and dish soap.

But that’s okay because seasoning is a good thing — in fact, it’s what keeps cast iron pans from sticking, as long as you maintain it. “If you look at a cast iron pan under a microscope, you will see all sorts of tiny holes, cracks and irregularities in the surface. “When food is cooked, it can seep into these cracks, causing the food to stick,” explains Lopez-Alt.

To keep food from sticking to the cast iron, you must regularly season your cookware, which means adding more oil (specifically something neutral like canola or vegetable oil) to the pan to fill it. Fill voids or cracks, then heat to accumulate. polymerization surface.

Use a dry paper towel to blot oil all over the cast iron pan; You won’t be able to see it sealing any small cracks with the naked eye, but this will ensure you reach every nook and cranny.

After oiling, you need heat! Place the pan in the oven at 450°F for 30 minutes, as recommended by Lopez-Alt, until the pan looks shiny and evenly black. If you’ve become lazy and haven’t seasoned your cast iron pan yet after each use (no judgment here!), repeat this process three to four times in a row. Note to yourself: Save this process on a free Sunday.


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