Most of us who like to cook are all too familiar with a mess afterwards it is part of the experience. Depending on your cookware material cleaning can take a bit longer and some elbow grease. I am going to guide you today on how to clean cast iron cookware.
To some cooking is all about presentation and those people are not wrong but cooking is also about taste. Cooking on cast iron gives your food more taste overtime as you cook with it. Cast iron may require slightly more effort to clean it but it certainly pays off. Cleaning your cast iron properly can allow for years of cooking even after one hundred years have passed.
I am going to break down the cleaning process into four different sections. First thing is using the right tools to clean cast iron. Next is understanding how to properly wash and clean up. Then drying and evaporating any left over water. Our last section ends with discussing storing.
Tools That Clean Your Cast Iron Cookware
Some who have gripe with using cast iron are turned off at the fact that it takes more time clean versus non-stick-ware. Well yeah it takes slightly more effort and probably even longer if you are not using the right tools or do not have the right know how.
Picking the right tools takes some understanding of cast iron. Seasoned cast iron cookware have a layer of oil baked onto it. This layer protects any food from sticking. If the food does stick badly then it could be
- Not enough cooking oil was added to the cast iron
- The food was placed on a lukewarm or even cold cast iron
- The seasoning was worn down and needs to be seasoned again
All of which you never want to do because it will make for a sticky mess. Be sure to apply a generous layer of cooking oil appropriately. Also be sure to let your cast iron cookware in question to heat up evenly to the temperature you plan to cook on. You can use a laser thermometer to read the temperature or just carefully hover your hand over the cast iron cookware to feel if its hot enough. More on seasoning later.
Making some roasted tomato soup or sunny sides makes for a messy cleanup as one could imagine. From sheer experience with my cast iron cookware it sounds a lot harder then it is. All I use is some coarse salt, some lint free dish towels, a Haicheng plastic scrapper, and a S.O.S scouring pad.
Washing and Cleaning
The whole point using proper tools is to avoid using harsh soap targeted toward breaking down grease. These soaps essentially breakdown the seasoning since it is oil based, stripping it away.
If the cast iron cookware is really messy with saturated grease I wait until the pan is lukewarm and pour just enough salt to cover the surface with a thin layer of salt. Then I take a pair of tongs with a paper towel and wipe away at the absorbed grease using the salt as the main form of abrasion. Once most of it is saturated into the salt, wash it away using warm water.
Once the salt is washed away scrap off any remaining food particles. I make short work of this with my trusty scrapper. If anything charred is still lingering I scrub it off using the SOS pad gently enough to keep the seasoning intact but firm enough to get the desired results.
Drying and Evaporating the Water
Drying any cast iron cookware properly is essential as it helps to keep its longevity as a tool. If dried improperly it could lead to rusting or cracking.
Sounds devastating but it is all preventable through simply drying your cast iron cookware with a dish towel or paper towel. I use a lint free dish towel for drying to avoid leaving lint behind. Leftover lint could be disregarded but it can end up getting stuck and embedded with the cast iron should it be seasoned.
Dry off as much as possible. Once its seemingly dry place it back on your stove top and set to high until you see faint vapor coming out. This is done to completely evaporate any water that may have seeped into the cast iron. Once that is done turn off the stove top and let it cool down until you can pick it up without being burned.
Season Again or Store
What happens next is all up to your personal preference. You can either proceed to add an additional layer of seasoning before storing it or just store it as.
My best advice is keep an eye on you cast iron seasoning. If is looking completely bare then yes season it before storage. If some parts look bare but others look faded your call but I would season it if that were the case. If the seasoning is looking faded in some parts but intact everywhere else than it is ready for storage.
Some Effort Today Goes A Long Way Tomorrow
Not going to lie it is a process the first time you do it but it is not as daunting as it sounds or is made out to be. The process is tedious but cast iron is very robust.
Even if it does get rusty this is easily solved with some elbow grease and a fresh scouring pad. I have had my cast iron lid rust already once but cleaned it up relatively quickly without the use of a drill bit.
A little effort certainly goes a long way if you keep up with maintenance. The benefits may not be present but then again this is not task that provides instant gratification. Any well maintained cast iron is a tool that keeps on giving. With every meal you make you add more flavor to the seasoning and this is why you want to avoid using soap. Lasting years these tools can make it for being a heirloom. Providing meals, joy and happiness for as long it is cared for.
Did you learn anything helpful? Leave a comment if you did. If you got any further relevant questions or comments drop them below.