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Cast Iron Cleaning and Care

June 11, 2011

There are a couple items in my kitchen I am overly protective over; don’t mess with my Kerry Gold Irish Butter or my cast iron skillet, and no one gets hurt. Despite having recently purchased it from the Christmas Tree Shop (embarassing?), it is quickly become my most used kitchen appliance.

The instructions that came with it were a bit confusing and made it seem like the thing would crack in half if you cleaned it improperly or touched it with the wrong kind of utensil. Instead, I did a little research and came up with a few necessary tips for re-seasoning and cleaning my cast iron.

First, you might be wondering what the hype is about this kitchen tool. For starters, they are extremely durable and can last a lifetime or more if properly cared for. They heat very evenly on the stovetop and in the oven so they are versatile as well. And lastly, the seasoning and nonstick surface only improves with more use. If only everything we owned did that we’d be all set. Basically, they are well worth the fairly inexpensive investment!

Re-Seasoning

Cast iron is a natural non-stick surface, but only if they are seasoned well. If you find half your omelet being left behind in the pan, or notice bits of rust around the edges, you should consider re-seasoning it. Seasoning it means filling in the ‘pores’ of the surface with some type of oil and then heating it to create a smooth non-stick surface that is rust resistant.

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
  • Lightly coat the entire skillet with any type of vegetable oil (corn, lard, bacon fat works well too), wiping it clean with a paper towel. You want to remove basically all of the excess oil so it almost appears dry.
  • Place the skillet upside down in the oven over a layer of tinfoil to catch any dripping oil.
  • Cook for 1 hour.
  • Turn off the oven and leave the skillet in there until it reaches room temperature

You may want to repeat this process 3 or 4 times to get a really good seasoning. As you continue to cook with it, the pores will get filled in with more oil and eventually you can cook without oil if you desire to. I love butter too much to do that, but others may find this useful.

Cleaning Your Cast Iron    

If you remember just a few tips about cleaning this baby, you can pretty much guarantee you’ll have it for life.

  • Do not submerge the skillet in water (especially when its screaming hot)
  • Do not clean a hot or warm skillet in cold water as this causes the surface to crack.
  • When the skillet is still warm after use, scrape out the inside with a wooden spoon and then wipe it clean with a bit of oil on a paper towel. This should get any food remains out, but if it doesn’t…..
  • In hot water, use a mild soap and scrub with a soft sponge.
  • Completely dry the skillet after washing so that rust does not form. It’s a good idea to put it over low heat after drying it to ensure that its thoroughly dry.
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14 Comments leave one →
  1. June 11, 2011 2:04 pm

    Katie, I could just hug you! I’ve had a cast iron for about a year now, but I’m sad to say have only used it a handful of times. It looks rusty and EVERYTHING sticks to the bottom. I’m so happy to finally learn HOW to care for it! Thanks!

    • Katie permalink*
      June 11, 2011 2:57 pm

      I’m glad you found it useful! Yeah its not too tough to take care of once you know the basics 🙂

  2. Kevin permalink
    June 11, 2011 4:10 pm

    Grammy had a skillet she used to call a “spider” and she was always seasoning it and told me that by not cleaning, scrubbing & soaping it, the flavor kept getting betee and better

    • Katie permalink*
      June 11, 2011 9:30 pm

      haha the spider! I don’t ever remember seeing her cook with it, but I bet it would still be good to use to this day! Must have been the secret to her amazing meals 🙂

  3. Carolyn Murphy permalink
    June 11, 2011 10:32 pm

    Katie and Kev, – I think “the spider” was obtained from the old Sunshine flea market store in Wolfeboro , now a Chinese restaurant? And Katie, I am a butter lover too, – haven’t bought Kerry Gold, but hope you’ve tried Kate’s Butter… we love it. The one on the store shelf that is from England, can’t think of the name right now, is next on my list of must trys, but it is pricey!!!! The chefs at good restaurants somehow seem to get the best butters from their purveyors though, and they don’t let the public get their hands on it via a store!
    Speaking of seasoning cooking tools, …. have you ever heard of seasoning a wooden cutting board, the kind you have to use warmed mineral oil on? I got the board, warmed the oil, seasoned and rested it 2 or 3 times, and still am wondering if it is ready, – not a trace of oil remains! Kev, you were watching more closely in Gram’s kitchen than I thought! – Did you ever see her crack a few walnuts with it? She must have loved telling you all about the cast iron spider, – Auntie KK

    • Katie permalink*
      June 11, 2011 10:51 pm

      KK-
      I’ve never heard of those cutting boards, but it sounds really interesting… I’m going to have to look into it more! I’ve actually never tried Kate’s butter! Good butter seriously makes a difference in cooking, I’m getting myself into an expensive habit haha! Thanks for reading and leaving your thoughts 🙂

  4. Sasha permalink
    June 11, 2011 10:37 pm

    katie the only thing i had when i lived in maine a couple of summers ago was a cast iron skillet. i loved it. it was so heavy, though! air flipping egg sandwiches and pancakes in the pan was tough.

    • Katie permalink*
      June 11, 2011 10:53 pm

      snowchild…..? I was so surprised by the weight when I was trying to photograph the screaming hot pan in one hand. Air flipping pancakes? Impressive!

  5. June 12, 2011 1:37 am

    What great tips! I didn’t know many of them prior to reading this 🙂

  6. Trish permalink
    June 12, 2011 12:47 pm

    I was always confused by cleaning instructions for cast irons, but this makes it seem so simple and easy! Thanks, I’ll be re-seasoning mine later today following these instructions.

    • Katie permalink*
      June 12, 2011 12:48 pm

      It really is pretty simple. A bit time consuming, but so worth it in my opinion. Glad you found this helpful!

  7. June 12, 2011 1:32 pm

    My parents have a cast iron and always cooked with it growing up…I can smell the butter and bacon now…;). I just have a cheap Teflon pan – that is CRAZY scratched up and probably killing any nutrients in my food -eek!

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