The best way to clean a cast iron pan

As cookware goes, cast iron is the one that’s considered the most high maintenance.

They’re seen as the holy grail in terms of even cooking and being built to last, though, which is why they’ve stood the test of time (despite this chef’s warnings).

As for the maintenance, it doesn’t need to be super hard to keep your skillet non-stick and clean, but you do want to treat it differently to how you’d treat a ‘standard’ pan.

This generally starts with ‘seasoning’, which is a method that – if done correctly and semi-regularly – can make sure your pan stays in tip-top condition and becomes even more non-stick over time.

You only need to do this every so often, but it should become part of your regular routine with your cast iron whenever you notice that it’s looking dull or you’re needing more oil to avoid sticking and burning.

How to season a cast iron pan

The first time you season your new pan, you’ll need to do this up to six times in a row. After this when you’re reseasoning you only need to repeat the process once or twice.

  • Put your pan on the stove on a medium high heat and let it warm up.
  • Grab a small bowl and put in some oil – ideally you’ll use flaxseed oil, sunflower oil, or soybean oil here (not olive, as this can’t get to a high enough heat to polymerise which is what we want here).
  • Get a piece of kitchen roll and pick up with tongs, dipping it into the oil so it’s not quite dripping but well covered.
  • Wipe the pan with the kitchen roll until you see that there is no visible coating of oil left and the cast iron is smoking.
  • Let your pan cool slightly before repeating the process as many times as necessary.

You can see if your pan is seasoned if it has no rust, is just slightly glossy, and has no dull patches. It won’t be greasy to the touch and you should be able to cook without much sticking.

How to clean a cast iron pan after use

  • After cooking – and while the pan is still warm – first wipe the pan with a paper towel to remove any burnt-on bits or residue.
  • In warm water, scrub the pan with a sponge or brush. You can buy ones specifically designed for cast iron, but just make sure it’s not anything too abrasive and you should be fine.
  • If there are any bits that won’t come off, use some coarse salt to help scrub it.
  • Resist the urge to use washing up liquid. It’s not guaranteed that this will ruin the seasoning, but it’s possible so not worth it.
  • Thoroughly towel dry the skillet or pop in the oven at a low heat to ensure it’s fully dry. Water residue left on the pan could result in rust, which is difficult to remove.
  • Some people like to add an extra coat of oil at this stage, but if it’s been seasoned correctly recently this shouldn’t be necessary.

From here, you’re good to go. You can store your cast iron pans anywhere they won’t get scratched, but as they’re so pretty it makes sense to have them hanging in pride of place in your kitchen.

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