Cooking is not just about throwing different kinds of ingredients in a pan. It’s also about having the right cooking equipment. And this is where a good cast iron pan comes in. Once you have mastered using this, you should also know how to clean a cast iron pan well.
What’s a Cast Iron Pan?
You have probably seen cast iron pans in stores or at restaurants. Some would probably think cast iron pans are only for professional chefs or kitchens. But the truth is, you can use this on your own and in the comfort of your kitchen. If you aren’t familiar with what it is exactly, then this is your lucky day.
A cast iron pan is a sturdy, non-stick skillet made of iron. Iron is usually mixed with 2 to 4% carbon, and elements like silicon and phosphorus to form cast iron. The process involves heating and melting iron and other elements.
When the iron is in liquid form, it’s poured into a mold. Once that dries and settles, you get what we now call a cast iron pan or skillet. While that sounds simple on paper, the actual process involves a lot of effort and energy.
What Are the Advantages Of Using A Cast Iron Pan?
A cast iron pan is not like your ordinary frying pan. Apart from the differences in materials, it also has so many pros that you should consider.
Multi-purpose Cooking Equipment
Using a cast iron pan is not limited to one cooking technique or method. There’s more to this than meets the eye. You can use it to fry, sear, sauté, roast, broil, and so much more. Basically, you can prepare all kinds of meals using your cast iron pan.
Apart from using this on the stovetop, you can even pop this in the oven. Don’t worry about the temperature inside the oven. As long as it’s within the normal oven temperature range, your cast iron can survive all of that!
Durable and Tough
Forever might be an understatement when it comes to how long you can use your cast iron pan. It’s no surprise if you find vintage cast iron pans that you could still use. If you invest in this piece of kitchenware, you won’t regret it at all.
As long as you take care of it, you will be able to use it as many times as possible. Due to the material it is made of, you don’t have to worry about overusing this.
Retains Heat Unlike Any Other Pan
If the cast iron pan has one property that you might not get from other pans out there, it’s the ability to get really hot. Apart from this, the cast iron pan can retain all that heat for quite some time.
It’s the perfect cooking equipment if you don’t want your food to get cold easily. Also, if you used a cast iron pan to cook something, you don’t even have to transfer the food to a serving dish. You can serve food as it is. Talk about being multi-functional! If there is any food left, just make sure you do not use the cast iron pan for storage!
Cleaning A Cast Iron Pan
If you have gotten used to using a cast iron pan in your cooking, then you should know how to clean it. Cleaning is an important aspect as this helps keep the cast iron pan in tip-top shape. If you don’t know what to do, here are some things you should keep in mind:
Rinse With Water
As soon as the cast iron pan cools down, you can start rinsing it with water. It is, perhaps, one of the most basic steps in cleaning a cast iron pan. Make sure the pan has cooled down before the rinsing process. Be careful or else you might burn or hurt yourself.
While cooking, there might be some leftovers on the cast iron pan. Remove these soon as possible. Also, when rinsing, you should opt to use warm water. Make sure you avoid using cold water. The sudden and rapid change in temperature might cause thermal shock to the pan. It can cause damage to the pan, affecting its overall performance.
While cleaning kitchen items, you might soak them in water to clear out stains, scraps, and whatnot. It might work for some stuff, but it won’t work on your cast iron pan. Prolonged exposure to water can cause rusting. Rusting occurs when the iron in the pan is exposed to water and oxygen. When your cast iron pan develops rusting, corrosion occurs, which would damage it.
Use Salt To Clean
While this might sound like an unconventional way to clean a skillet or pan, this actually works. When cleaning a cast iron pan with stubborn stains, you can just pour a cup of coarse or kosher salt. If you don’t have coarse salt around, you can try using any type of salt that you have in your kitchen.
After pouring the cup of salt, add water and start the cleaning process. This mixture would help remove the food stains and grime. You can use a kitchen towel or paper towel to remove these. Once these are removed, you can use water to rinse the residue away.
Mix Salt and Vinegar
If your cast iron pan has rusted, it doesn’t mean you can no longer use it. You can still do something to revive it, such as learning how to remove black residue off a cast iron skillet.
Using salt and vinegar is one of the easiest ways to clean a cast iron pan and remove rust. When mixing these two, the ratio should be equal. Don’t mix these two in the cast iron pan itself. You should find a separate container for the mixing process.
You can pour the mixture of salt and vinegar into the cast iron pan. You can leave it for a couple of hours. The maximum would be about 8 hours. You might want to check it from time to time and see if the mixture has removed the pan’s rust. Remove the mixture from the pan and rinse it.
During rinsing, you can use a soft brush or scrub. Don’t go too hard, or else you might damage the pan. Do it gently and carefully until the rust is all gone.
Use Baking Soda
Whenever there’s cleaning involved, you can’t ignore baking soda. Apart from using it in cooking and baking, it’s also an accessible, inexpensive, multi-purpose cleaner. And it’s something that you can easily find in your kitchen. It can remove stubborn scraps or stains on the cast iron pan.
If you are going to try using baking soda to clean your cast iron pan, you should start with heating or boiling water. Pour the hot water into the pan and then add the baking soda. For best results, leave it overnight. By the time you wake up, the stains would have gone away.
What Happens After Cleaning?
If you want to keep your cast iron pan clean and ready to use anytime, store it in a dry place. Before storing it, make sure it’s dry. Moisture is the bane of your cast iron pan’s existence. As mentioned, when exposed to water and oxygen for a prolonged period, a cast iron pan is more susceptible to rusting.
A great storage space for your cast iron pan in the oven. Using your oven as storage won’t only save you some space, but it would also keep the cast iron pan dry. Apart from this, there might be areas in your kitchen that are not exposed to water and moisture. You can consider these as storage areas for your cast iron pans.
During the cleaning process, a cast iron pan might lose some of its protective layers, giving way to the formation of rust. If you want to ensure that the pan is always in great shape, you must season it.
Seasoning a cast iron pan usually involves dropping oil on the pan and spreading it until it coats its surface. You can use a paper towel to coat the pan with oil. You can repeat the process until it looks like the pan has absorbed the oil.
You might be wondering about the best oil that you can use for the seasoning process. You can try using unsaturated oils like vegetable oil, corn oil, flaxseed oil, and many others. There are so many options out there. It’s just a matter of finding one that works best for you and your cast iron pan.
If you don’t want to constantly season your cast iron pan, you should avoid using harsh soap or abrasive scrubs and sponges.
Cleaning A Cast Iron Pan: Not As Hard As It Seems
After using a cast iron pan, it might look difficult and intimidating to wash. However, if you know how to clean a cast iron pan properly, you won’t even think twice about using it every single time you are in the kitchen.
Michael Johnson is the founder of The Pan Handler, Inspired by his blacksmith grandfather’s legacy has a deep appreciation for hand-crafted pots and pans, he provides invaluable guides, reviews, and recipes to enhance your culinary journey.