Cleaning & Caring For Cast Iron Cookware

You don’t have to search very hard on this blog to know that I’m a fan of cast iron cookware.  I’ve shared how I use our large cast iron skillet to make bacon, grilled cheese sandwiches,  and steak.

Our cast iron skillet even led to a weekly Bible verse last year.

Since there are many posts here about cast iron it’s one of the topics friends and family will talk to me about when they mention my blog. Inevitably, the same questions come up.

The first I get asked a lot is, “How did I get our rusty skillet cleaned up, seasoned, and useable again”.  Second, “How do I clean it after each use?”

I thought I’d take a minute to share my experiences with you here.  In no way would I consider myself an expert on cast iron cookware… but I can speak with authority on what I did and how it worked for me.

Cleaning up rusty cast iron

To clean our dirty, rusty, and neglected cast iron skillet I started by soaking it in a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water for about an hour. Then I went to work scrubbing and scouring it with steel wool.

It was hard work but the water/vinegar mix combined with the steel wool knocked off the little bits up food that were left behind and eliminated the rust.  From  here I rinsed the pan really well, dried it with a towel, and then put it on the stove and turned the flame to high to make sure all the moisture got cooked off.

When it was good and hot (about 5 minutes) I added a teaspoon or two of vegetable oil to the pan and wiped it all over, both inside and out, making sure every part of the pan got a very thin coating of oil. You don’t want it to be thick.  More is not better in this case.

Next, the skillet went into our oven, that I preheated to 400 degrees. It was placed on the top rack upside down over a cookie sheet below on the bottom rack.  That way it would catch any oil that dripped down.

I let our skillet “bake” in the oven for an hour.  Then turned it off and left it there until it cooled down.  After that it was ready to use.  The first few times I used ours after seasoning I went with fattier foods like bacon, burgers, and sausage.

Cleaning cast iron after each use

I’ve found that it’s best to clean cast iron while it’s still a little warm. For me, that’s usually after we’ve eaten the meal that was prepared in it.  Some warm water and a hard plastic scraper (the kind that comes with Pampered Chef baking stones) usually does the trick.

I haven’t used soap with any of our cast iron.  If there’s some food that’s really stuck on I’ve been known to add a little salt to the pan and scrub it with a wet paper towel.  The salt acts as an abrasive.

Once the pan is clean I’ll give it a really good rinse.  Then it’s back on the stove over high heat for 5 minutes or so.  When it starts to smoke I’ll add a little bit of vegetable oil to the pan and wipe it inside and out.  Getting a thin coat of oil on the whole thing will keep it from rusting.

I let it cool on top of the stove… then it gets stored inside our oven. We’ve got two cast iron skillets.  They get stored stacked together with a paper towel in between them.

Final thought on cast iron cookware

That’s it.  Cleaning with and cooking with cast iron isn’t as hard as I first imagined. In fact, it’s pretty easy… and the results are awesome.  It’s now my favorite way to make steak, cornbread, and homemade pizza.

Since cast iron is so durable if you do neglect it you can always start the cleaning and seasoning process over again.

What are your best cooking/cleaning cast iron tips?  What do you like to cook with cast iron? Got a piece of cast iron cookware that was handed down from a previous generation?  Leave a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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