I'm going to be honest with you: I almost gave up on the first cast iron pan I ever purchased within a few weeks of using it. It had already developed a lot rust and it seems like too much work to fix. Don't worry, that pan has been restored and is used quite frequently. It's even pictured above.
If you are unfamiliar with cast iron, the cleaning process can seem daunting. How are you supposed to get those darned charred bits out of there without soap? Ive been using cast iron for quite a few years now, and now that they're well seasoned, they're the easiest pans to get spick and span.
Why cleaning cast iron is easy:
- A well seasoned pan doesn't collect pieces that are too hard to remove. Even if a few bits are charred, they scrub right off. (If you're interested in a new cast iron pan, make sure you get one that is seasoned well to start with. Lodge does a pretty good job at this).
- These things are virtually indestructible. I'll almost guarantee that any other pan in your kitchen needs to cool quite a bit before plunging it into water, making any charred bits stick even more to the pan. Not so with cast iron. Throw that piping hot baby under hot running water and give it a good scrub. No harm done.
- No soap = less time. I literally just spray out the pan, give it a few swirls with my sponge or cleaning brush, and voila!
FOR THE HARDER MESSES:
- Avoid a brillo pad. It will be effective enough at getting your pan "clean," but you will effectively destroy your layer of seasoning in the process.
- Instead of a brillo pad, pour a few tablespoons of coarse kosher salt into the pan and scrub with the coarse end of a sponge and a little water.
- If you have an extremely stubborn mess that won't budge, fill the pan half way with water and bring it to a boil on the stove, scraping with a wooden spoon as you go until everything is lifted up.
- I've found that cooking bacon on a lower heat seasons pans really well. Instead of charring the bacon to the pan, the grease coats and seasons the pan. Just drain the extra fat afterwards, rinse, and swirl out with a sponge.
- About after every other use, I wipe down the inside of the pan with canola oil. This keeps it well seasoned and prevents rust from forming.
- Make sure no standing water collects in the pan after you wash it (water + iron = rust).
- If your skillet has begun collecting rust, or you've noticed it's lost most of its glimmer, its time to re-season. This is where the soap and brillo pad come in. Wash your pan with warm water, soap and a brillo pad, to get rid of any rust or other residue.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees, with racks in the lower and middle position. Place a cookie sheet on the bottom rack.
- Dry your skillet thoroughly and oil generously with a cooking oil (NOT EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL) on the inside and outside of the skillet.
- Place face down on the middle rack and bake for 90 minutes. Turn off oven and let the cast iron cool completely before removing from the oven.