Caring for your Cast Iron Cookware
by Robby Richardson
We recently welcomed a new line of cast iron cookware into our kitchen store and online! I’m excited about carrying it because when it comes to versatility in the kitchen and on the grill, cast iron wins. I personally own a number of cast iron cookware pieces and use them 5 or 6 days a week.
Our customers occasionally express a reluctance to purchase or use cast iron because they have heard that it is hard to care for or use. Nothing could be further from the truth, but there are a couple of basic principles and tips that could be a help for a new cast iron user.
What does “pre-seasoned” cast iron mean?
Most cast iron that you purchase today will say that it comes “pre-seasoned” (seasoning is basically a layer of oil that has been baked onto the cooking surface of the cookware). While it is true that the piece may have been “pre-seasoned’, that is only a start at becoming a well seasoned skillet, dutch oven, or griddle.
First steps with new cast iron:
- Remove any packaging - be careful to also remove any glue that may have held packaging to the cookware.
- Gently wash with warm water and dish soap to remove any impurities left over from manufacturing or shipping. This should be the only time you need to use soap on cast iron, although a well-seasoned pan can stand up to a gentle washing every now and then provided it is rinsed and dried thoroughly.
- Dry THOROUGHLY - moisture will deteriorate the surface and cause it to rust.
- Place cookware on burner and turn burner to medium-high heat (This will thoroughly dry any left over moisture and prepare the pan for another layer of seasoning.
- Turn off the burner once the cookware is up to heat, and pour a small amount of oil into the pan. (You can use just about any cooking oil. Some recommend an oil with a higher smoke point like grapeseed oil).
- Rub the oil into the cooking surface of the pan (including the sides) with a lint free cloth or paper towel. Coat the pan thoroughly, but then wipe out any excess oil that may “pool.”
- Let the pan cool for a few minutes, then come back again with that lint free cloth and wipe out any excess oil that shows up.
Congratulations, you have added another layer to your seasoning! This is a process that you will repeat every time you use your cast iron. In doing so, you will soon develop a well-seasoned slick surface that will be virtually non-stick.
How to clean cast iron cookware after use:
There are two primary methods to clean cast iron cookware after use.
Use a wooden or plastic spatula to scrape free any residue that is stuck to the pan, wiping that out with a paper towel after everything has been loosened. Next, wash out the pan with warm water and either a sponge or a brush designed for cast iron such as this one. After rinsing the pan well, put it back on the stove to allow the heat to thoroughly dry the pan. Heating the pan after use and pre-heating it before use destroys bacteria. Once you have heated your pan, you are ready to add another layer of seasoning as described above.
If after scraping and rinsing your pan, there is still a small area of food residue stuck to the pan surface, put some coarse salt on top of the spot, add just a pinch of water, and rub the spot thoroughly with the dampened salt. This will remove the residue without harming your seasoning.
Just as you finish cooking, while the pan is still on the burner, turn on the hot water in your sink. When you have removed the cooked food from the pan, put the pan under the hot water and use a brush or handled sponge to wipe it out utilizing the steam that comes from the hot water meeting the hot pan. Be very careful to use a hot pad and a good grip on the pan, and don’t put your face too close to the pan as the water hits … steam is by definition very hot. Rinse well, place back on the still warm burner to allow thorough drying. Then when you are ready to add another layer of seasoning, heat the pan and follow the procedure above.
Cookware that will last many lifetimes:
If you wash and dry your pan thoroughly after each use and add a layer of seasoning before putting your cast iron cookware away, you will come to love this versatile cookware material that has been used for generations. Indeed, maybe your grandchildren will cook out of the same skillet.
Look out for next week’s blog where I look forward to sharing my personal tips for cooking with cast iron.