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How to clean and season cast iron

Cooking in cast iron comes with a lot of advantages. I love cast iron because its surface is naturally non-stick, it has exceptional heat retention and it also has unbeatable durability. Cast iron is virtually indestructible.

Cleaning cast iron

Utensils made of cast iron usually come with a list of several things you should not do. Some of these instructions are; don’t use steel wool, don’t put it in the dishwasher, don’t use soap among many others. You might even end up shying away from using cast iron.

The good news is that there is a way you can keep your cast iron clean, rust-free and well-seasoned. A good sturdy scrub brush is the key to full proof and easy cleaning.

There are brushes designed specifically for cleaning cast iron. There is no better tool to remove stuck-on food other than a good brush.

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You can clean cast iron by following these simple steps.

Materials and equipment you’ll need

  • Your used cast iron skillet/pan
  • Brush/sponge
  • Vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt (optional)
  • Stove (optional)

Instructions

  1. Clean your cast iron pan/skillet while it is still hot i.e. right after use. Never soak it or leave it in the sink because if you do it will rust.
  2. Always clean your cast iron pan/skillet by hand using hot water. If the water is too hot for you, use tongs or gloves. Do not wash it in the dishwasher and don’t use steel wool or soap. Using them may remove the seasoning from your pan.
  3. Make a paste using kosher salt and water.
  4. Scrub the pan with the paste to remove food that is stuck on it.
  5. Rinse the cast iron pan/skillet and dry it using paper towels.
  6. Use a paper towel to apply a light coat of vegetable to the inside of the pan/ skillet. You can also apply some on the outside
  7. Buff your cast iron pan/skillet to remove any excess oil.
  8. Store it away in a dry place.

Click Here to Learn What you should know Stainless Steel vs Nonstick.

How to clean cast iron pan after cooking

There is a saying that you should care for your cast iron the same way you care for your car. If you service it well and regularly, it will serve you for a long time but if you neglect it, it will need heavy-duty repair work.

Here is how to clean your cast iron pan after cooking.

Materials and equipment you’ll need

  • Your used cast iron pan
  • Brush/sponge
  • Vegetable oil
  • Stove (optional)

Instructions

  1. While your pan is still warm, wipe the interior surface with paper towels to remove any excess food and oil
  2. Rinse the pan under hot running water.
  3. Scrub the pan with a brush or sponge to remove any traces of food and rinse it.
  4. Dry your pan thoroughly using paper towels. You can place it on the stove until all traces of moisture disappear.
  5. Use paper towels to lightly coat the interior surface of the pan with vegetable oil and buff to remove any excess oil.
  6. Store your pan in a dry place

How to clean rusty cast iron

The good thing about cast iron is that you can restore it even if it gets rusty. By following a few simple steps you can restore your rusty cast iron and have it in a ready to use condition.

Rust is mostly caused by neglect or moisture. This is referred to as profile rusting. Thankfully, profile rusting can be removed easily at home. Just follow these simple steps in order to properly clean rusty cast iron.

What you will need

  • Steel wool
  • Soap
  • Sponge/ scrubbing brush
  • Vegetable oil
  • Paper towels
  • Aluminum foil
  • Oven

Instructions

  1. Use the steel wool to remove rust from affected areas. Do this by scouring the area until you see raw cast iron.
  2. Thoroughly wash the cast iron with soap and warm water. Use your scrubbing brush or sponge.
  3. Dry the cast iron with paper towels.
  4. Use paper towels to coat your entire pan with vegetable oil. This includes the bottom part and the handle.
  5. On the top rack of your oven, place the cast iron upside down. Place aluminum foil on the bottom rack so that it catches any oil drips. Heat the cast iron for an hour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool down before you use it.

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How to clean cast iron grill

A cast-iron grill is always perfect for grilling. It heats evenly and retains heat for longer compared to others.

Cast iron’s greatest enemy is water. Water makes it rust and deteriorate. Here is how you can clean your cast iron grill while preventing rust.

What you will need

  • Wire brush
  • Sponge/ scrubbing brush
  • Vegetable oil
  • Paper towels/ clean dry cloth
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Mild soap

Instructions

  1. Clean your grill as soon as you finish grilling. You can allow it to cool down a little so that it is warm. Don’t let it get cold because you will have to put in more work for it to be clean.
  2. Scrape food particles off the grill using a wire brush.
  3. Make a solution of water and apple cider vinegar and use it to spray the grill. This will sanitize the grill.
  4. Wipe off the solution and repeat the process until there are no food particles on the grill.
  5. Apply mild soap on a sponge and use it to wash the grill. The soap will remove excess grease.
  6. Rinse the grill with warm water.
  7. Use a clean dry cloth to dry the grill completely.
  8. Coat the cast iron grill with vegetable oil.
  9. Heat the oiled grill to make sure it is completely dry.
  10. Store your cast iron grill in a dry place.

Cleaning cast iron with salt

You can use salt to clean your cast iron. Kosher salt comes in very handy in removing stubborn bits of food from your cast iron. The process is pretty simple.

There are two types of kosher salt. The Diamond Crystal and the Morton. Diamond crystal is best for everyday seasoning. On the other hand, Morton has large coarse grains which makes it perfect for cleaning cast iron.

Simply pour a cup of kosher salt onto your still-warm cast iron. Use a scouring brush or a folded kitchen towel to scour it. You can also clean cast iron skillet with salt and potato. Just cut the potato into half and use it to scrub on the salt instead of using a scouring brush or folded kitchen towel.

Once done, discard the kosher salt and rinse your cast iron with warm water. Dry it immediately with paper towels or alternatively heat it over a medium-low flame to dry the moisture.

When your cast iron is dry, coat it with one tablespoon of vegetable oil or flaxseed oil.      Buff the cast iron and store it in a dry place.

How to clean a cast-iron skillet with burnt on

It is essential that you know how to clean off burnt food from your cast iron skillet as well as how to restore it. Knowing how to clean black residue off cast iron skillet is essential.

Here is how to clean a cast-iron skillet with burnt on.

Instructions

  1. Wipe down your cast iron skillet with two tablespoons of oil. The oil will help clean out food that has burnt on the cast iron. Pour the oil onto the still warm skillet and wipe it down with a paper towel.
  2. Use kosher salt or baking to scrub away food that has burnt on your skillet for a long time.
  3. Discard the salt and rinse your skillet with warm water.
  4. Alternatively, you can lift off burnt food from your skillet by boiling some water in the skillet. Fill the skillet with 1 inch of water and let it boil over medium heat. As the water begins to boil, use a wooden spoon to scrape away burnt-on food.
  5. Rinse your cast iron skillet thoroughly
  6. Dry it in the oven for one hour at a temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. Once dry, apply a thin layer of oil on the inside of the skillet and use a paper towel to spread it over the surface.
  8. Store your cast iron skillet in a dry place until you are ready to use it again.

Seasoning cast iron

In simple terms, seasoning is baking oil onto your cast iron. This process forms a natural easy-release surface on your cast iron and prevents it from rusting. Well-seasoned cast iron lasts for a very long time. However, you will still need to handle it with care.

Scientifically, when oil is heated with cast iron, it bonds with the metal and forms a layer of seasoning. This process of bonding with the metal is called polymerization.

Regular use makes your cast iron develop a durable layer of seasoning that is more resistant to rust and more non-stick. Cast iron gets better with time as long as you take good care of it.

Vegetable oil is highly recommended when it comes to seasoning cast iron.  It is more effective and has a high smoke point. Additionally, it is affordable and easily available. Canola oil is also great at seasoning. However, all cooking oils can be used to season cast iron. The difference will be on how effective it really is. The trick is in ensuring your cast iron is completely dry so that you do not end up with spots while seasoning.

In the past, most people used lard to season cast iron. Some still use it. I don’t recommend using lard unless you use your cast iron cookware very frequently.

When seasoning, it is important that you ensure the cast iron heats up to your oil’s smoke point. Only then will a chemical reaction occur to bond the oil to the pan and create a natural seasoning.

When I got my brand new cast iron skillet I kept asking myself how do I season a brand new cast iron skillet. Well, it turns out the method of seasoning is pretty much the same as when you season cast iron that you have already used.

You can season cast iron on stove. The stovetop method is not a common method of seasoning cast iron but it is pretty simple and straightforward. To do it, just place your cast iron on the stovetop until it is screaming hot. Remove it, rub oil on it using a paper towel and put it back on the stove for 10 minutes over medium heat until the oil dries completely. Just like that and your cast iron is seasoned.

Best way to season cast iron

There are several ways of seasoning cast iron, but this is definitely the best way to season your cast iron. It will bring back the luster of your cast iron and prevent it from rusting.

What you will need

  • Soap
  • Sponge/ scrubbing brush
  • Vegetable oil
  • Paper towels
  • Aluminum foil
  • Oven

Instructions

  1. Thoroughly scrub your cast iron in hot soapy water and rinse it.
  2. Use a clean dry cloth to dry it thoroughly.
  3. Using a paper towel, spread a thin layer of vegetable oil on the cast iron including the bottom part and the handle.
  4. Place the cast iron in the middle rack of your oven and then spread aluminum foil on the lower rack so that it catches any drops of oil from the pan.
  5. Heat the cast iron in the oven for an hour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Let it cool down in the oven.

How to season a rusty cast iron skillet

The good thing about cast iron skillet is that you can easily give it a facelift when it gets rusty. Cast iron skillets are prone to rust but even if the rust has turned orange, you can still fix it. You only have to follow these simple steps to have your rusted cast iron skillet looking brand new.

What you’ll need

  • Steel wool
  • Mild soap
  • Sponge
  • Vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Scour your skillet.

Do not be gentle with the skillet.  Use the steel wool, soap and lots of energy so that you can get rid of the rust. The goal is to strip off the rust. Don’t worry about some seasoning coming off as well, you’ll add more seasoning later.

  1. Rinse the cast iron skillet

At this point, you’ll have a copper brown mush on your skillet. Rinse it off and use the soapy sponge to clean it again so that it is completely clean. Buff off any residue that remains.

  1. Dry the skillet

Use a clean dry dish rag to dry the skillet. In order to make sure it is completely dry, place it on the stove and turn on the heat for a few minutes until all traces of moisture disappear.

  1. Season

Pour a tablespoon of vegetable oil on the pan and spread it around using a paper towel. Oil the outside of the pan and the handle as well. Wipe off excess oil using a folded napkin. Place the skillet in the middle rack of your oven facing upside down.

Place aluminum foil on the bottom rack. Set your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and let the skillet bake for an hour. Turn off the oven and let the skillet cool in it. Your rusty cast iron skillet will be as good as new.

Best oil to season cast iron

All cooking fats and oils can be used to season cast iron. However, if you want more effective results, use vegetable oil, melted shortening or canola oil.

Vegetable oil, shortening and canola oil have a high smoking point which makes them the best for seasoning cast iron. Additionally, they are cheap and easily available.

Vegetable oil has a neutral odor and taste and it also makes a sleek durable seasoning. Seasoning cast iron with olive oil works although the process will be a bit smokier compared to when you use other oils.

Seasoning cast iron with flaxseed oil is very ideal as well. Flaxseed oil is not expensive and the results will be worth bragging about. Seasoning cast iron with coconut oil is also highly recommended as long as you use refined coconut oil. Refined coconut oil has a smoke point of approximately 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whichever oil you choose, ensure it reaches its smoke point so that it bonds with the pan to create a natural seasoning.

How to season cast iron grill grates

Cast iron grill grates are great in smoking and grilling food. Unfortunately, even with regular washing, they can become sticky and rust.

Seasoning cast iron grill grates is essential when it comes to caring for it. Follow these simple steps if you want to season your cast iron grill grates.

Instructions

  1. Rinse the grates to remove any dirt or dust and dry them with a clean dry cloth.
  2. Heat the grates at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes in the oven.
  3. Rub a thin coat of vegetable oil or canola oil on the grates using paper towels and tongs. Alternatively, you can use nonstick sprays. Ensure you use one that doesn’t contain lecithin to prevent sticky buildup on the grates.
  4. Place the grates back in the oven and heat them to the highest temperature available for one hour. Turn off the oven and allow the grates to cool in the oven for two hours.
  5. Store the grates in a dry place until you are ready to use them.

How to season porcelain-coated cast iron grill grates

Porcelain-coated cast iron grill grates transfer heat to food efficiently through direct contact of the food and the grate.

Here is how to properly season your porcelain-coated cast iron grill grates.

Instructions

  1. Turn on the grill to its highest setting, close the lid and let it heat up for 15 minutes.
  2. Fold a paper towel and dip it in vegetable oil. Use tongs to rub the oil on the porcelain grates and cover both sides of each rung.
  3. Close the lid of the grill and heat it on high for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat, reapply the oil and heat it again.
  4. Let the grill grates cool down and store them in a dry place.

Frequently asked Questions

How often to season cast iron?

Only season cast iron when its seasoning gets impaired. Otherwise, just clean it the way you should after every use.

What temperature to season cast iron?

You should season your cast iron at 350 degrees Fahrenheit in your oven for one hour.

How do you fix uneven seasoning on cast iron?

The most convenient thing to do is strip off all the seasoning and season it afresh. To so this you will need a large plastic bag and oven cleaner.

Place the pan in a large plastic bag and spray it all over with the oven cleaner. Once done, close the plastic bag and let it sit for approximately 24 hours. This will strip off all the seasoning on your cast iron.

Take the pan out of the plastic bag, rinse it and dry it. Once it is completely dry, start the seasoning process.

What causes cast iron seasoning splotchy! How to fix

Failing to thoroughly dry your cast iron and leaving damp spots on it causes the cast iron seasoning to be splotchy.

To fix it, simply strip off the seasoning from your cast iron and start the seasoning process again. Make sure your cast iron is completely dry and there are no damp spots before you begin seasoning it again.

What causes cast iron discoloration?

There are two main things that cause cast iron discoloration. One is improper cleaning procedures and the other is cooking acidic food in your cast iron.

The two create spots of dull, patchy, dry-looking metal on the inside of the pan. Your cast iron will no longer be smooth and black.

You can fix it by wiping the warm pan with oil to re-season the areas that have been damaged. Wiping oil on the pan will even out the protective coating of your cast iron.

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