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How to Care for Cast Iron

Joanie.Demer

Fancy pans don’t stand a chance in my house. I’m guilty of every non-stick sin possible.  I use metal spatulas and scrub with scouring pads. Despite my trouble with non-stick pans, I can’t bring myself to break the bank for professional stainless steel pans.

A few years ago I picked up an old rusty, cast iron skillet at a yard sale for $4. I knew nothing about cast iron, except that it can go from stove-top to oven with ease.  I definitely didn’t know how to clean the dirty rusty thing. But to my delight, it took a mere 10 minutes to salvage the timeless piece, and it has been a staple in my kitchen ever since.

Cast Iron is classic, durable, and extremely versatile. Most people shy away from it due to its high maintenance rumor. I’ve compiled an easy Cast Iron cleaning and caring tutorial, which could turn a $4 rusted pan into the last skillet you ever buy!

Cleaning

Don’t let the yucky rust scare you–there is so much life under there. Search yard sales, estate sales and thrift stores!  Three supplies needed to clean:

  • Coarse Salt. I prefer Sea Salt.
  • Cooking oil. Vegetable Oil or Olive Oil work best.
  • Paper Towels.

1. In the dry pan, pour an even ratio of salt and oil in the center. I usually start with ¼ cup of each.
2. Using 2-3 folded paper towels rub the salt mixture in small circular motions all over the inside and outside of the pan. Almost instantly you will see the rust lifting. Voila! It’s that easy!
3. You can add more oil or salt if needed. If you have a really rusty pan, you may want to repeat the entire process a second time.
4. Once you are completely satisfied with your clean rust free pan, throw out the salt mixture. Using a mild dish soap, give your pan a good washing to get rid of the last traces of rust and yuck.
5. Place your restored pan on the stove top over medium-low heat for about 3-5 minutes to dry. (Remember, that rust you just scrubbed off was caused by improper drying. Iron+Water=Rust.)
6. Remove pan from heat and let cool. While the pan is cooling, preheat your oven to 350 degrees to prepare for ‘Seasoning.’

Seasoning

Create your personal, safe, non-stick surface.

1. Coat the inside and the outside of the pan with an even layer of cooking oil; ideally the same type of oil you used to clean the pan.
2. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour.

Result: Shiny black cast iron and a surface that can compete with most pricey non-stick pans on the market. Now your pan is ready for use!

Caring

  • Washing with mild soap, and even a rough scrubber is perfectly safe for rugged cast iron.
  • Always dry your pan with heat to evaporate all traces of water.
  • Along with drying thoroughly after each use, regular seasoning is equally important in maintaining the integrity of your pan. You can season weekly, monthly, or whenever your pan looks a little dull.

This has been a guest post by Sylvia from Denver, CO
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