Cleaning and Caring for Cast Iron Cookware Cleaning and Caring for Cast Iron Cookware
Although cast iron cookware is virtually indestructible, it requires special care and cleaning in order to maintain its nonstick properties and remain rust-free. With proper care, cleaning, and storage, cast iron cookware can withstand a lifetime of use. Take good care of your cast iron cookware, and it can be passed down and enjoyed by future generations.
Seasoning New Cookware
New cast iron cookware requires seasoning before the first use, and it’s typically silver or gray in appearance. Some cast iron pieces are labeled as seasoned, and the durable factory-seasoned finish doesn’t require additional seasoning unless it has been scratched or damaged by moisture.
During the seasoning process, oil is absorbed into the iron, and it creates a smooth protective moisture-proof finish. Unlike regular nonstick skillets, the finish is repairable should it ever become scratched or damaged. Seasoning is an easy process, and with proper care, your cast iron cookware should never require seasoning again.
Begin by washing the cookware thoroughly with hot soapy water and an abrasive sponge. Rinse and dry it thoroughly, and coat the entire surface with a layer of vegetable shortening. Be sure get into nooks and crannies, and coat the undersides and handles as well.
Next, place the cookware upside down on the upper rack of a 350ºF oven, over a lower rack lined with aluminum foil, for approximately one hour or according to label instructions. Allow the cast iron cookware to cool inside the oven before removing and storage.
Keep in mind that achieving a deep black patina takes time, and your new cookware will probably have more of a brown hue after seasoning for the first time. With repeated use and proper care, it will eventually develop the deep black color like that of older cast iron pieces.
Suggestions for Use
Cast iron is fantastic for baking, frying, and preparing foods cooked in butter or oil. Frying foods helps the seasoning process by increasing durability of the protective coating. Consider using your newly seasoned cast iron cookware to prepare fried foods or baked foods that require a well-oiled pan. You’ll help your new cookware quickly develop a durable nonstick surface.
Avoid using your cast iron cookware to prepare tomato-based foods or other acidic foods containing lemon juice or vinegar. They will deteriorate the nonstick surface, and as a result, the cookware might require additional seasoning.
Always preheat your cast iron cookware before adding food. Test for readiness by adding a couple of drops of water. If the water pops and sizzles, the pan is hot enough to begin using. If the water immediately evaporates, the pan is too hot, and the heat should be turned down to allow it to cool to the appropriate temperature.
In addition, never pour cold liquids into hot cast iron cookware or rinse hot cast iron in cold water. The extreme difference in temperature could cause the cast iron to warp or crack.
Don’t store leftovers in cast iron. Food and moisture will deteriorate the seasoned surface and cause it to rust. It’s best to remove foods immediately after preparation, and keep the cookware dry until ready to clean.
Cast iron cookware should never be washed in soapy water. The soap will soak into the surface, and as a result, the foods you prepare will taste like soap.
While the cookware is still warm, place it in an empty sink under hot running water. Wipe the surface with a dishcloth or soap-free kitchen sponge. If there are stuck-on or burned-on foods, use course salt as an abrasive to aide in removal.
Thoroughly rinse the clean cookware, and dry it thoroughly. Traces of moisture will cause rusting. To ensure the cookware is completely dry, set a pan on the stove for a few minutes or in a warm oven to dry any excess moisture.
Areas of high humidity can cause cast iron to rust. To promote air circulation, remove any lids before storing, and line stacked items with paper towels. The paper will promote air circulation while keeping your cookware rust-free until ready to use.
If you discover your cast iron cookware has developed rust, or if it causes foods to taste or smell like iron, your cookware will need to be scrubbed and seasoned again. Simply follow instructions for seasoning, and your cast iron cookware will once again look and perform like new.