How to care for your cast iron pan
An essential in any kitchen, the cast iron pan: versatile, sturdy and highly effective. Learn how to care for your cast iron, or get a quick refresher. Cast iron pans need to be seasoned, to make the best use of your pan and allow food to come out easily and quickly. If properly cared for, these pans can last a lifetime. Whether you’ve inherited a pan that has been in your family for generations, found one at a vintage sale, or bought one new, these tips are for you, to extend the life of your pan and make your life easier.
The science behind seasoning –
The surface of cast iron, even if it looks smooth, is very porous at a microscopic level. Cooking oil penetrates these pores and prevents oxygen from combining with the iron to make rust. When properly seasoned, the pores are filled with oil (in a good way!). This inhibits food matter from getting in these pores and makes cleaning easier. Make sure to only use vegetable shortening or oil.
A how-to seasoning guide
If your pan is new – remove any labels or stickers before continuing with the steps below. And make sure to wash properly before first use, as there is often a sealing coating on the metal from production.
1. Wash pan
Directly after use (or if your pan is new), wash warm pan in warm water with a small amount of dish soap to remove any leftover foods. The sooner you wash the pan after cooking, the easier it will be to clean. The warm water insures that the metal doesn’t get shocked which can cause cracking and warping. Using soap is totally fine, as long as you rinse it well and continue with the following steps. The Iris Handtverk pot brush is a perfect cleaning tool for washing your pan because the natural bristles will not scratch your pan. The plastic Skoy Scrubbers are also a great option that won’t damage your cookware.
If there is a lot of hard build up in your pan, use a couple tablespoons of kosher salt before washing and use the coarse salt crystals to scrub away any stuck on food. Salt is a safe cleaning method that won’t damage your pan.
2. Dry pan immediately
If a pan is left with any water on it, the risk of rusting is high. Use the above washing techniques instead of soaking your pan, and do not wash in the dishwasher. If your pan has rust on it already, you can remove small rust spots with a salt scrub or by soaking the pan in one part vinegar to one part water for major rusting.
Dry pan completely with a towel and, to ensure total drying, put the pan on the stove on low for a couple of minutes until no water remains.
3. Season with oil
When your pan is cool enough to handle (and dry!), use a small amount of vegetable oil (no more than 1/2 tsp) to create a thin layer over the entire pan. Seasoning with oil protects the iron’s porous surface and creates a non-stick layer that makes cooking easier! Wipe away any excess oil with a towel or paper towel.
You can heat the pan after seasoning and repeat the oiling process 3-4 times if your pan’s seasoning seems worn down or patchy.