The frying pan is one of the essential tools in a kitchen and one of the most common materials that pans are made of is cast iron. With proper maintenance, the cast iron pan can last for many years, keeping the non-stick layer intact: here are the dos and don’ts to clean properly and make your cast iron pans last longer.
An important feature of a cast iron pan is its “seasoning”, or the protective oily layer on its surface: every time you cook with oil or fat, this layer strengthens making the pan non-stick. However, the cover may erode if the pan is washed using the wrong materials. So here is a series of tips to clean cast iron skillets in the best possible way and thus make them last as long as possible.
1. Wash it with warm soapy water
Contrary to popular belief, the seasoning of this type of pan does not come off due to the soap: in fact, many producers explain that washing the pan delicately with a little water and soap does not mean ruining it. To remove stubborn food and fat stains from the pan, wash it with hot water and soap: the remains will dissolve in a short time and you don’t have to insist on the sponge.
2. Never use rough, abrasive sponges
In order not to damage the pan, you should never use iron sponges, abrasive sponges, steel wool, and similar things: just a rub and you could eliminate all the “seasoning”. Therefore, when the pan is very dirty, it is always necessary to use hot water and soap and, if necessary, a sponge that is not too rough.
3. Clean the pan after each use
Never put off washing your pan after using it. If you really can’t do it right away, give it at least a quick rinse, to prevent the pieces of food from sticking to the pan, thus forcing you to use a rough sponge. You can also pour a glass of hot water into the pan and let it rest for a while: once cold, you can proceed with hand washing.
4. Don’t soak the pan for too long
Never leave the pan to soak for too long—you only need to soak it for a few minutes so that the bits of food soften enough to wash away. Therefore, avoid keeping the pan in water for hours and also subjecting it to sudden changes in temperature, for example by immersing a hot pan in cold water: the sudden temperature change could also crack it.
5. Never put it in the dishwasher
The cast iron pan must be washed by hand: never put it in the dishwasher, unless it is made of a special material (which however is very rare). 90% of cast iron pans would be ruined by the type of washing and the detergents used in the dishwasher, which are on average more aggressive than those we use for hand washing: rust would form and the pan would become unusable.
How to treat it after washing: dry it and anoint it with oil
Immediately after washing the pan, it is advisable to let it dry on a surface, avoiding placing it on the rack: this will further prevent rust from attacking the pan. Furthermore, to keep it at its best, it is essential to leave a light layer of oil when the pan is still hot to strengthen its seasoning. To do this, just dip a piece of kitchen paper, or a cotton ball, in the seed or olive oil and then gently pass it over the surface of the pan.