The care and cleaning of a cast iron pan is different than that of other types of cookware. This is a guide about cleaning a cast iron pan.
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You can tell me not to use soap on my cast iron pans til the cows come home. I will use it, anyway. I refuse to put away a pan that has only been scraped and wiped. To me, that borders on 'nasty'. I make country style gravy in my cast iron frying pan. I fry thinly sliced sweet potatoes sprinkled with brown sugar, in that pan, cooking till the sugar is syrupy or caramelized. Imagine just 'wiping' that pan.
If the pan is properly seasoned, hot, soapy water will not affect that season. Almost always, a ruined season is due to overheating an empty pan while preheating it. When preheating a pan, don't allow it to get hot enough to smoke. If you see even the slight smoke, don't just turn down the heat, remove the pan from the heat.
The inside bottom of a well seasoned pan will be smooth and shiny. No scrubbing should be required. The inside walls of the pan will often be rougher. Scrub these with something no more abrasive than a plastic mesh ball or a nylon brush. Soak the pan for a while if need be. Never use steel wool, nylon pads, or powdered cleansers on a pan. When the pan is clean and rinsed, put it on a burner at medium heat. Watch carefully. The instant all water is burned way, remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool. With a paper towel, apply a thin film of cooking oil to the pan before putting it away.
If you have cooked fish or onions in the pan, you can rest assured the next time you scramble eggs, they will taste of fish or onions, if you only wipe the pan 'clean'. Even soap and hot water will not remove these scents.
Removing lingering scents from a pan is simple. After washing and rinsing the pan, fill with water and place on medium heat burner. Add a tablespoon of baking soda to the water. Simmer two or three minutes and rinse, then back to the burner to dry. I find drying the pan with heat is more thorough, thus preventing any rust, especially on the bottom where it is most likely to appear.
It's like this, I wash my cast iron pans in hot, soapy water after every use; I always have. An egg will slide around in my pan as if the pan was coated with Teflon or T fal.
Where are those cows, anyway? It's time for their evening milking.
Sometimes a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet needs more than just a simple scraping/wiping to get it ready for the next job. In those cases, I used to soak mine in hot water in the sink. Then I wised up and decided to boil water in it on my stove top. I believe the hotter water soaks and cleans the pan better. Just a few minutes at boil followed by brushing with coarse brush should do the job.
Then I wipe dry, finish the drying on low stove top heat. When totally dry, add a tiny dab of whatever oil you like and continue heating for another few minutes. I use a heavy-duty paper towel to burnish the oil in the pan once or twice before shutting the stove down.
My favorite skillet then gleams and I can almost see my reflection in it. The bottom is just as smooth as the proverbial 'baby's butt'.
By tomatohanger from Canton, OH
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Here are questions related to Cleaning a Cast Iron Pan.
When our mother passed away, we cleaned out her home, inside of the oven we found a cast iron pot in which she had fried fish and never got a chance to clean. It is a beautiful cast iron pot which I do not want to throw away but despite my efforts in cleaning, it will not shed the fishy smell. Do any of you thrifty readers know of a way to clean smelly cast iron. It had a top to it and was covered for who knows how long.
By john larney 07/12/2009
Vinegar is good but make sure it is apple vinegar and use a 1 to 5 ration of vinegar to water, boil for a while, wipe it dry. Then a little more of the mixture. Use a paper towel to wipe it around and then a clean paper towel to dry it, never soap.
Can anyone tell me how to clean built up and burned on food from an iron skillet?
By Sandi from St Louis, MO
If you have a self cleaning oven, leave 1 rack in it and put the iron skillets upside down. Start self cleaning mode. After the oven has cooled down remove skillet and wash and reseason. They will look brand new when done.
What is the best way to clean up an old iron skillet? I know you are supposed to rub oil on them after use. Is it true you do not use soap in them? My grandmother's old iron skillet has a few rusty areas.
How do you clean iron skillets that have not been used in about 3 years and have been sitting in a closet?
By Sharon Stone Gibson 10/27/2011
I have cast iron skillets from my mother and mother-in-law. I love them! They are family treasures. If your cast iron has been sitting for a long time and not being used, treat it like you would a new one. Completely season it again. To season it: 1) Wash with warm soapy water....do not use any abrasive cleanser or cloth, then rinse really well. 2) Dry really well. 3) Rub a good quality vegetable oil all over it. 4) Put it into a preheated oven for at least one hour on 350 degrees. 5) Let cool completely in the oven. Now, your skillet should be good to go! Happy cooking! :)
How can the crust that develops on a cast iron fry pan be removed?
By Frank N.
By Carol Z.11/22/2011
I have always put my cast iron skillets in my oven when I turn on the self cleaning cycle. They come out wonderfully clean, you just have to wash off the ash with soapy water.
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Don't use dish soap to clean cast iron pans and don't run them through the dishwasher. Fill the dirty pan with water and bring it to a boil, then you should be able to scrub off any debris. Rinse with hot water, let the pan dry and rub a small amount of shortening, lard, cooking spray or cooking oil inside the pan before storing.
Maintenance is the best form of cleaning. Clean and oil right away. (01/24/2005)
---> Cast Iron... NOTHING beats it! (08/29/2006)
Susan from ThriftyFun (08/29/2006)
By Grandma Margie
I love using my old-fashioned cast iron cookware, especially my grandmother's Dutch oven for homemade soups on top of our wood stove. I treasure each piece.
I have found it best to wash only in hot water, and then rub some vegetable shortening on the inside of each one after washing. This keeps them rust-free with that beautiful black sheen. This also makes them quite "non-stick" without a questionable coating, like Teflon.
By Margaret M. from N. Springfield, VT
I use cast iron pans to help keep our blood iron levels more normal. But sometimes when we forget to season them well things get stuck on the bottom, or even burned. Putting a little water into the hot pan will cause all the charred bits to lift right off. In a few minutes, it can be swished out easily with no scraping or scrubbing.
By Bailey36 from SW Michigan