You’ve probably heard about the benefits of cooking with cast iron: the high heat, the versatility, the durability, and especially the longevity. If you treat a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven right, it could last you a lifetime. However, you may have also heard that cleaning and maintaining a cast iron piece is difficult and inconvenient. We are here to dispel that rumor. In fact, cleaning cast iron is almost easier than washing regular dishes. Read on to find out how to properly clean and maintain your cast iron cookware, so you can keep cooking for years to come.
For day-to-day cleaning between light cooking jobs, a simple scrape and rinse should be adequate for keeping your cookware clean. If your seasoning is in good shape (not dull or marbled), go through the steps below:
- While skillet or Dutch oven is still warm, rinse with warm water. Avoid using cold water on a hot dish, as this can strain the iron.
- Use a dish brush to scrub and scrape the inside until any food residue is gone.
- Pat dry with a towel or paper towel and let dry in an open air rack. Make sure your cast iron is absolutely dry before storing—excess moisture may lead to rust.
For heavy-duty cleaning jobs, you might need a few extra tools. If there is food cooked onto the cast iron, or if it’s been a while since you deep cleaned your dish, you can follow these steps:
- While the cookware is still warm, try to remove all food bits with warm water and a plastic pan scraper or chain mail scrubber. These won’t scratch your pan’s seasoned finish, but they’re tough enough to scrape off stubborn residue.
- Fill the skillet or Dutch oven with warm water and set on a stove to heat. Bring the water to a simmer and add 2 teaspoons of Cast Iron Cleaner or food-grade oil.
- Rub the cleaner in with a plastic brush or clean dish rag. If there is still any burnt-on food, you can loosen it by letting the pan simmer with the water and cleaner for several minutes then scrubbing. You can also try boiling the water for about 10 minutes.
- Rinse well and pat dry with a towel.
- While the cast iron is still warm, spritz every surface a few times with Cast Iron Conditioner or pour a little bit of food-grade oil and dab it into the metal with a paper towel or clean cloth. Wipe off any excess (you don’t want your pan to be dripping in oil).
- Allow to dry and cool before storing.
If your cast iron cookware has rusted or its seasoning has been damaged, don’t panic. There is still hope for your favorite skillet or Dutch oven. It just may need some extra care to get back to cooking shape. This process is called restoring or re-seasoning. Follow our guide below or watch the featured video from Camp Chef to restore your cast iron cookware.
- Heat up your cast iron piece in a self-cleaning oven to strip the seasoning. If your oven doesn’t have a self-clean setting, you can heat your cookware to 450° F for 1-2 hours.
- Let the cast iron cool a bit before trying to handle it with heat guard gloves.
- Use a steel wool pad to scrub any rust off the surface of the cast iron. For extreme cases, you can also use a wire wheel brush on a drill to clean the rust away.
- After you have removed all the rust and stains from the cookware, and while it is still warm, apply a thin coat of Cast Iron Conditioner or food-grade oil. For best results, squeeze some conditioner onto a lint-free cloth and rub it onto every surface of the cast iron.
- Place the cast iron piece into a pre-heated oven, grill, or smoke vault, and bake it at 450° F for another 30 minutes.
- Let cool before storing.
And just like that, your skillet or Dutch oven will be ready to go. Cleaning and seasoning your favorite cast iron is simple; and if you follow our tips, you will have an excellent collection of cookware for quite some time. Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below. Then check out our variety of pre-seasoned cast iron cookware today!