Nothing beats good old cast iron pans and kettles for low-maintenance cookware that will last for generations. And cast iron is versatile, too! You can use it in the kitchen on the stove top or in the oven, outside on the barbeque, or even over a campfire. What other type of pan can do all that? This post is all about cast iron cookware care.
Simple Cast Iron Cookware Care
Keeping your cast iron in top shape is simple. To preserve the non-stick finish, just follow these simple steps:
- Rinse thoroughly after each use with plain hot water. For stuck on food, soak in plain hot water for a few minutes and use a plastic scrubby, if necessary. If you’re camping, you can scrub the inside with a handful of sand. DO NOT use soap. I know some folks do and claim it doesn’t hurt the finish but in my experience, it does.
- Dry your clean cast iron immediately, either with a towel or place it over medium heat until all the moisture evaporates.
- Coat the inside of warm, dry cast iron with vegetable shortening after each washing. I keep a small can of Crisco with a folded paper towel inside in my refrigerator just for this purpose. After a few times, the paper towel becomes saturated with shortening and may pick up color from the pan but don’t worry – you can (and should) reuse the same paper towel until it falls apart or you get a new can of shortening.
How to Re-Season Cast Iron
If you’ve got a cast iron pan that sticks, it’s because the finish is damaged and you need to ‘season’ it. Or if the pan is new, maybe it’s never been seasoned. Either way, here’s all you do:
- Clean the pan. If you’ve got baked-on grime inside your pan, run it through your oven’s self-clean cycle or burn it off over a campfire and then scrub with hot water and a plastic scrubby after the pan has cooled enough to handle. If you’ve got rust, soak it in a 50/50 white vinegar/water solution for about an hour (don’t leave it too long!) and then scrub the rust away with a plastic scrubby. After either of these treatments, rinse your cast iron thoroughly and dry.
- Re-season the pan. Coat the inside of your cast iron with vegetable shortening. Can you use cooking oil instead? Well, I’ve read that some folks do but it created a sticky residue that I had to burn out when I tried it so I just use shortening now. Place your coated pan in a preheated 400 degree oven, turn the oven off and leave overnight. If the pan still sticks a little, repeat this process a time or two.
With proper cast iron cookware care will allow your cast iron to outlast you. I’ve been using the same pan regularly for decades and it was old when I got it. Also, there are variations on the seasoning method (oven temp, baking time, re-seasoning frequency, etc.) but don’t over-think this and make it harder than it has to be. The overnight oven method works for me because it’s foolproof – meaning I don’t have to remember to take it out in an hour or whatever. Just find what works for you and enjoy that wonderful cast iron cookware!
Crystal Marie lives by the philosophy that needing less rather than earning more is the key to happiness and financial serenity, which allowed her to “retire” from formal employment in health education at the age of 44. She can be found making the most of the second half on her blog, The Best 50 Years.