5 tips for Cleaning Cast Iron Pans

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I love my cast iron pans. But they can be a little tricky for the first time cast iron pan owners. Cast Iron is tough, but it does need some attention. So I wanted to share a few tips for cleaning your pans that I’ve learned with cooking and cleaning my own pans.

Never Ever Use Soap

When your pan is seasoned correctly, very few things will stick to your pans. They won’t be perfectly smooth, in fact my best pans are a little bumpy and I think that really helps the oil get under your food and give them a nice crisp texture when frying.

Use salt instead.

Sometimes you really want to get in there and scrub those pans.  Skip the soap, which will leave a soapy taste to your pans and will actually ruin the healthy oil coat on your pans. Instead give it a healthy spread of a regular house salt.  I like to buy the cheap salts in those large containers and that’s my cleaning salt.

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Don’t Be Afraid Of Water

Many people think that water will make your pans rust. And they will if they are left wet for too long. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t wash them.  You just need to make sure that you are drying them and oiling them.

Never leave them soaking in water!

Do not leave the lid on your pans or pots.  I’ve made this mistake a few times and I’ve found that here in the Pacific Northwest where the air is a little damp, my pans will actually collect too much moisture in my kitchen with the lids on and the lids will start to rust.cast iron.png

Dry Your Pans On the Stove

Growing up, my Gram would always have me clean the kitchen after dinner. To me, one of the most important jobs was to clean the pans. She would come in after everything was done, the pans were wiped out and clean. Then she’d put them on the burners to dry.  When they would get good and hot, she’d turn them off and add the lard.  In her house, lard was both for cooking and cleaning.

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Make sure you rotate and turn your pans for an even drying.  Also, remember this while cooking as well. Cast iron pans heat directly on the flame, they stay cooler on the edges. Many people think cast iron pans heat evenly, unlike aluminum pans, cast iron pans have a different thermal conductivity, the measure of a material’s ability to transfer heat from one part to another.  A cast iron pan’s thermal conductivity is around a third of that of a material like aluminum.  So.. move that pan around!

It’s Okay to Leave them Greasy!

Many times if I am only doing a light frying or nothing saucy, I’ll simply wipe out the food particles and excess oil with a paper towel.  Then I’ll turn the stove on and heat the pans up to clean them. This is re-seasoning your pan and giving it light repairs from your cooking.

Rust Isn’t The End

It’s happened a few times when I was first learning how to use cast iron, I’d somehow not get them dry or they would sit in the sink and I’d find rust in the pans. At first I was really upset that I’d ruined my pans. But rust can be stopped!

The trick is to start over. Season! Season! Season!

Wipe the pans out with a paper towel damp with oil until the rust comes off. Heat your pans to a light smoke and turn off.  Allow your pans to cool overnight and start again.

Allowing your pans to sizzle and smoke burns in that seasoning and gives a coating on the pan. You want this!  That thin seasoning layer is what keeps your pans safe from rusting and your food from sticking. That layer is called polymerized oil, it is tough layer of oil that has been broken down by heat and adheres to the pan.

Once  your pan has been seasoned and used often, you shouldn’t worry about rust.

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These pans are rugged and have often been passed from one generation to the next.  I’ve heard of people finding pans at garage sales and the pans have been a cherished family item.  I have 2 main pans that I use for everything, a large one and a medium size.  They are my go to pans for both frying and baking.  I love them.

I don’t use my Dutch  oven pan as much as I thought I would,  but my griddle is always making pancakes and latkes in the winter.  Love your pans and they will bring you years of great cooking and joy.

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