Many people aren’t aware of how easy it is to take care of a cast iron skillet or pan and it’s this lack of awareness that leads to fear and hesitation when it comes to actually purchasing one. Whether because of myths heard in the past (never use water to clean cast iron, never use soap) or the innate human desire not to mess stuff up–this trepidation is based primarily on a dearth of hard facts.
To set you straight when it comes to cleaning cast-iron, we met up with Mike Whitehead, founder of Finex Cast Iron Cookware Company (and who you might remember from our cast iron cooking collaborations here, here, and here) to bring you the above video on how to clean cast iron correctly. Whitehead offers the simplest, most straight-forward method of cleaning that will keep your cast iron looking good and cooking strong for years to come.
So how easy is it? Whitehead says that there are three Dos and two Don’ts when it comes to cleaning cast iron:
Don’t: Soak it in the sink overnight.
Soaking cast iron overnight will only lead to rust, which is the physical breakdown of the surface metal. Once rust forms, the seasoning your cast iron has taken on is completely lost. Once this occurs, the pan must be scoured to remove the rust, then re-seasoned. This process requires a lot of elbow grease, time, and monitoring. So it’s best if you realize right out of the gate that soaking is a major no-no in the cast iron world.
Don’t: Use the dishwasher.
Putting cast iron in the dishwasher is akin to cleaning your kitchen floor with a power washer full of acid. It is extreme overkill that will strip your pan of it’s seasoning and can lead to rust.With a properly seasoned cast iron skillet, food debris and any baked on grease should dissolve easily with simple soap and water. If you find you have a really tough baked-on food situation, don’t be afraid to put the pan on the stove and boil some water in it until the remnants are dislodged.
Do: Use soap and water.
A tiny bit of dishwashing soap and a bit of scrubbing and you’ve got your pan looking as good as new. Many people are afraid that the use of soap will remove the seasoning from the cast iron–it will, but not enough to make a marked difference and besides, as Whitehead notes in the video, the great thing about cast iron is that you season it as you cook with it. So, the more you use it, the better seasoned it becomes. Think about how non-stick your skillet can be after only a few months of killer cooking and proper care.
Do: Use a chain-mail scrub pad to remove any food residue.
Yes, chain-mail scrubbers do exist. We recommend this one found here. They’re inexpensive and work wonders when it comes to cast iron. You could also opt for steel-wool, but honestly, the chain-mails scrubber just looks cool. Both products are soft enough that they won’t scratch your cast iron’s surface, but strong enough to remove even the toughest baked on food–think burnt cheese.
Do: Dry it thoroughly.
This is absolutely key. Any moisture left on a cast iron skillet will oxidize and rust the surface metal–leaving you with an unhappy pan. Use a paper towel after washing to thoroughly dry the cast iron (a dish cloth will be easily stained). And don’t forget the handle! If you’re a natural worrier, you can even got the extra mile and put it back on the stove over high heat until any residual water is evaporated. As Whitehead says, “We’ve never seen a dry skillet rust.” Take that to heart.
Pretty easy right?
Now that you know the ins and outs to cleaning cast iron, be sure to follow our Instagram @themanualguide this weekend when Mike Whitehead ‘Takes Over’ from September 16 to September 19. Get a behind the scenes look at his life, work, and how Finex’s quality products are made.