Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Care and Feeding of Cast Iron: Basic Cleaning

Cast iron is possibly the best cookware made. Cast pots and pans heat evenly and hold heat well, can be obtained fairly inexpensively, and with proper care they will last for generations. My father has Dutch ovens that he has been cooking with for nearly 40 years, and they cook better now than they ever have. A large part of the reason for that is due to how they're cleaned and seasoned.

"Seasoning" cast iron refers to treating it in such a way that it develops a hard, durable, nonstick coating. Newer cast cookware has a seasoning applied at the factory, but it's not ideal. You can remove it and replace it if you want, but even that isn't really necessary. Simply using your cookware and cleaning it properly will impart the kind of coating you want to have.

(Please note: there are probably a million and one ways to clean cast iron. The method I teach is what Dad and I were taught years ago by champion Dutch oven chefs. It's kept our cookware running for decades, so we've seen no reason to change.)

The test subject for this lesson is a frying pan that I have had in storage for a few years. It was clean when I put it away, but it's accumulated some dust and crud and it could use a good cleaning.

1) Remove any loose food bits or other crud from your pan. 
Commercial plastic scrapers are available at outdoors stores and some kitchen gadget stores for this, but wood or plastic spatulas also work very well. Don't use metal spatulas! They can cause damage to the coating on your pan and make a lot more work for you later.

2) Add some hot water to your pan. 
Alternately, if your pan is cool, you can simply heat water in it.

3) Remove any remaining food bits. 
Do this with a non-metallic scouring pad and gentle pressure. Note that I haven't said a word about detergent. That's because we're not using any. Oil is what makes the seasoning work, and detergents eat oil. In almost 40 years, we've never had a problem with hygiene; the pan gets hot enough to kill anything in it, and nothing is left behind when we're done cleaning.

4) Drain and dry your pan completely. 
If it is hot enough, drying is almost instant. When it cools enough not to burn you, use a paper towel to remove any remaining water.

5) Cover the entire pan in oil, inside and out.
Put a small amount of oil in the bottom of your pan, and use a paper towel or basting mop to every every surface - including the handle and lid, if applicable.

I use common vegetable oil, mostly because it's cheap. Canola and flaxseed oils are also popular, if you happen to have them around.

6) Wipe away any excess with a paper towel. 
This will leave your pan with the black sheen cast iron is known for.

7) Store in a cool, dry area until you're ready to use it again.

Next week, we'll look at how to save problem pots.


No comments:

Post a Comment

The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.