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How To Clean And Store Your Cast Iron Cookware

Cast iron cookware is a beloved kitchen staple for many home cooks, but cleaning it can be daunting.


Cast iron is porous and can rust if not correctly cared for, unlike non-stick or stainless steel cookware. Additionally, harsh cleaning methods or using soap can strip the seasoning from the pan, which is what gives it its non-stick properties.


This guide teaches you how to wash, dry, and reseason your cast iron cookware.

While you're here, let me teach you how to clean in half the time, and take a look at how to clean your dishwasher filter.

Stack of cast iron pans

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How To Clean Your Cast Iron Cookware

 
cast iron pans with cleaning sponges

1. Let the Cast Iron Cool Down

  • Don't try and clean burning hot cookware - you might hurt yourself. Duh.

  • Don't dunk burning hot cookware in cold water, either. This sudden temperature change can cause the pan to weaken or crack.

Let your cast iron cool down before cleaning.

 

2. Wipe it While it's Still Warm

While the cast iron is still a little warm:

  • Drain any excess oil.

  • Take a paper towel to wipe away any leftover food and cooking oil.

The slight heat will make it easier to remove gunk and goo.

 
dirty cast iron pan with scrub brush

3. Remove Stuck-On Food and Grease

If food is still stuck, heat 1 cup of water in the pan and boil to loosen the food bits.

  • Do not leave your cast iron to soak in water to remove stuck-on food.

  • Do not use steel wool or metal scrapers since they damage the cast iron surface.

  • Do not use harsh chemicals such as oven cleaners, bleach, or abrasive cleaning products. These can strip away the seasoning, damage the surface, and potentially contaminate your food.

  • Do not place cast iron in your dishwasher. Ever. It will strip the oils from the cookware and cause it to rust.

Use:

  • A non-abrasive scraper, like a wooden spatula or a brush with soft bristles, to loosen stubborn gunk.

  • Hot water to scrub away food residue.

  • Salt for stubborn food particles. Sprinkle some coarse salt on the cast iron and scrub it with a damp cloth or paper towel.

  • Baking soda. Mix baking soda with water, apply the paste to the cast iron, and gently scrub.

  • Mild dish soap (occasionally). While avoiding using soap on cast iron is generally advised, you can use a small amount of mild dish soap if necessary.

 
rinsing cast iron pan in sink

4. Rinse

Once all food and gunk are removed, rinse quickly and thoroughly.


Rinse the inside and outside of the cast iron under running water to remove any soap, food particles, or cleaning agents.


Ensure that all traces of soap or cleaning solution are thoroughly rinsed away.

 
cast iron pan on stove top

5. Dry Immediately

Dry the cast iron immediately with a soft dishcloth.

Do not allow the cast iron to air dry.

  • Place the cookware in your oven on low heat for 10 minutes to ensure it's completely dried.

  • Or, place it on a hot stove plate for a few minutes.

Now you can be sure that there's no moisture left anywhere.


Let the cookware cool off before storing it.

 
cast iron pan with oil and brush

6. Lightly Reseason if Needed

If your cookware needs a reseason, do it before you heat it to dry. Seasoning your cast iron cookware is essential in maintaining its non-stick surface and preventing rust.

  • Use 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable oil and rub it into the interior and exterior of the whole pan, including the handle.

Use a clean rag, brush, or paper towel to do this.

Make sure to use an oil with a high smoke point, such as vegetable oil, canola oil, or flaxseed oil.

  • Wipe off any excess oil from the cast iron. You want a very thin and even layer of oil on the surface.

  • Place the cast iron upside down in an oven, preheated to around 400-450°F (200-230°C).

Put a sheet of aluminum foil or a baking tray on the lower rack to catch any drips.

  • Let the cast iron bake in the oven for about an hour.

After that, turn off the oven and allow the cookware to cool inside the oven. This gradual cooling helps in the seasoning process.


For best results, repeat the seasoning process multiple times. Each time you season, it further enhances the non-stick surface and durability of the cast iron.

 

7. The Best Way To Store Cast Iron

  • Store your pan in a dry place with the lid off to allow air circulation.

  • If you have limited space and need to store them with the lids on, use silicone or cloth protectors to prevent them from scratching the cookware. These protectors also help to absorb moisture and prevent rust.

  • Avoid stacking your cast iron cookware, as this can cause scratches and damage to the seasoning.

  • If you have sufficient space, hang your cast iron cookware for a convenient and visually appealing storage solution.

With proper storage, your cast iron cookware can last for generations. Remember to periodically inspect your stored cast iron for any signs of rust.

If you notice rust spots, remove them using a gentle scrubbing pad or a mixture of vinegar and water, then reapply a thin layer of oil before storing again.

 

The Bottom Line

Cleaning and caring for your cast iron is easy-peasy. It might take an extra few minutes to follow these steps every time, but it's well worth it.

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