How To Properly Clean A Cast Iron Skillet
When it comes to creating a perfect sear on your meats, no other cookware can come close to the raw efficiency of cast iron skillets. Because they stay hot for a significantly longer period of time, they’re the perfect tools for chefs and kitchen masters who require such benefits. Unfortunately, this type of cookware is especially prone to corrosion especially if it is not well-seasoned. It is for this reason that, aside from learning how to season your cast iron skillet, you should also learn how to clean it well. Here’s how:
Removing Burned Bits of Food
One of the unique characteristics of cast iron skillets, as we have mentioned in the beginning, is their capacity to hold much heat for a substantially long period of time. The downside to this is that food can easily stick to the surface if you suddenly forgot that you have something cooking on the pan.
To remove burned bits of food from your cast iron skillet, you will need a good helping of coarse sea salt or, if you can afford it, kosher salt. This will serve as both chemical and physical abrasive against the burnt-on food making it super-easy to remove. If you’re looking at small bits of burnt food, you can simply use paper towel of even a clean but damp washcloth to gently scrub the affected areas of the pan. If the problem is more stubborn than you thought it would be, it’s time to bring out your plastic pan scraper and methodically work your way removing the burned-on food.
Whatever you do, don’t use scouring pads, detergent scrubs, or steel wool in removing these stubborn food bits as doing so will ruin your skillet’s seasoning and exposing it to rust.
Managing Cast Iron Skillets that are Showing Early Signs of De-seasoning
Did you know that, while cast iron skillets are tough and have excellent heat retention, you cannot actually boil water in them? This is more so if your pan happens to be unseasoned or seasoned poorly. Sadly, there are certain ingredients that can also degrade the seasoning of cast iron skillets. For instance, acidic ingredients like vinegar and tomato sauce can reduce the level of seasoning of your cast iron skillet, exposing it to corrosion.
If there are acid-damaged spots or rust is beginning to show in your pan, you can use a detergent scrub that has a gentler formulation. Use this to clean the acid-damaged areas and remove the rust. Make sure to rinse and dry thoroughly.
Once fully dried, you can re-season these damaged or rusted areas by rubbing the trouble spots with canola oil, vegetable oil, or even melted vegetable shortening. The idea is to ‘melt’ oil onto the surface of your pan to give it extra protection. You can re-season the damaged spots in your oven or on your stovetop.
If the damaged areas are relatively small, you can place the skillet on your stove burner over medium heat for about 10 to 15 minutes. This should be enough time to ‘bake’ the oil onto the damaged areas. Once completed, just allow the pan to cool off naturally.
If the problem spots are large or if they are located on the exterior or underside of your pan, you can put the skillet in your oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure to place your pan upside down in the oven’s top rack. Bake it for about 30 to 45 minutes.
If your goal is to start from scratch, now’s the perfect time to bring out the steel wool. Use this to vigorously scrub the entire surface of your pan, both in and out, to remove any of the remaining seasoning. Wash it well with water and gentle dish soap before drying thoroughly. Now, it’s seasoning time.
Breathing life back to you cast iron skillet can be tough as it does require substantial scrubbing and re-seasoning. Nonetheless, just consider it a good workout and a nice way of extending the life of your pan.