Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cleaning Cast Iron Cookware How-to

I love my cast iron cookware. I'm using it more and more, even my old, old stuff that's considered vintage. I find it so easy to use. So you can image my surprise while writing some product lenses (that's Squidoo speak for articles) that lots of people were intimated by cast iron. Why... because of the cleaning.

Well, we have to fix that because, cleaning cast iron as easy as... well, frying eggs!

Cast iron cookware has been around for centuries. It goes all the way back to the Han Dynasty in 220 AD. In the days of cooking in the fireplace, it's was a must. Even after woodstoves became a household essential back in the mid-1800s, cast iron cookware was still THE cookware to be used.

Times change, of course, and new styles of cookware has replaced the old. Especially "non-stick!" That's what everyone wants. However, it turns out non-stick isn't so non-stick. It can also be expensive and when it flakes... YUCK, what's that going in your body?!

That's why lots of folks are coming back to cast ironed. A well seasoned cast iron pan is really non-stick. It's also heats up slow and retains that heat. You can cook just about anything in a cast iron pan.

The old wisdom, however, is that you don't wash cast iron. And that's a scary thought -- does that mean you cook in crusty old pans?


But water and cast iron don't mix well. The result can be rust. That's why it's it's important to make sure cast iron is always completely dry before putting it away. Also, soaps and detergents can strip away the patina of seasoning that makes a cast iron pan so non-stick.

So how do you clean cast iron? With warm water, a little elbow grease when neccessary a little TLC. The following steps are what I use to clean my cast iron. It's the same way that my mother, my hubby's mother and our grandmothers cleaned their cast iron. And some of those pans are the same ones I'm using today.

Sometimes, a pan is easy to clean, like the skillet I use to fry my morning eggs. Simple warm water and a few minutes on the stove to dry is all that's needed. But then there are the times where I need a little extra effort, like last night's pork chops.

A little crusty! Okay... a lot crusty!

To clean this kind of mess, I blot out any excess grease with a paper towel and then add about an inch of water to the pan. 

I boil the water for a couple of minutes and then the cleaning begins.

I scrap out the chunky parts off the bottom with a spatula (unlike non stick cookware, a stainless steel sputula is fine). The boiling water really helps lift those chunks off the pan.

In the sink I run a little warm water in the pan. Don't add cold water because it is possible to crack the cast iron. You might want to let the hot water cool a little first so you don't burn yourself. I use a scrubby or a stainless steel pad to clean the pan with warm water. Remember, you shouldn't use detergent or soap.

Then I rinse with warm water and dry with a towel or paper towel. To make sure it's completly dry, I put the pan back on the burner for a couple of minutes.

When I remember I will re-season the pan. That's just wiping it down with vegetable oil, but to be honest I don't do that every time. Most of my pans have built up a seasoning patina over the years so it's not as necessary.

It's really just that easy to clean cast iron cookware. The most important thing to remember is to make sure the pan or pot is completely dry.

Do you have another way of cleaning cast iron? Or questions? Let me know.

Till later...


P.S. Oh, those Squidoo lenses... here's some links if you're interested:

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