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Dec 20, 2009 01:21 PM

Caring for cast iron

How does everyone care for their cast iron pots and pans? I've just received a skillet as a gift and so far have only used it a couple of times for cooking bacon. I know most say not to clean it with soap and water but to just wipe it down with a cloth. But, do I keep a cloth specifically for cleaning the cast iron since it turns brown? Using paper towels leaves bits of paper reside in the pan. Any tips and suggestions appreciated! TIA

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  1. People get into religious arguments about their cast iron (especially WRT soap), but it's not that complicated.

    It sounds like you've got a "natural" finish not a polished finish. If it's tearing up a paper towel, however, it's too rough.I would start over with the seasoning (sorry).

    Scrub it out with a steel wool pad to take off the finish (if it tears up the steel wool, it was definitely too rough - use a wire grill brush and dish soap instead). Then take some fine grit sandpaper (silicon, not aluminum oxide) wrapped around a block of something hard (wood, metal) and smooth the pan a bit. Doesn't have to be glassy, just take the sharp peaks off.

    Once you've reseasoned, you should be able to wash it with a stiff nylon brush and blot it dry (not rub, blot) with a paper towel. Some people only use hot water with the brush, some use soap, I use veggie wash (not as harsh as soap). If you get greasy spots that need deeper cleaning you can simmer some cornstarch and water in the skillet. Just make sure to rinse and dry well afterward.

    If you're using it regularly and the pan is getting airflow (hanging, not in a cupboard), you don't need to oil it for storage. If you're cooking bacon, it should do fine.

    1. Nmurawsk,

      I think it is ok to use mild soap and mild detergent. Interesting, all those "green" and "natural ingredient" detergents are weaker, like the Clorox Green Work or Seventh Generation....

      A cast iron skillet may have a rough surface in the beginning as ringo2 pointed out. In that case, you can use a designated dish cloth. Or you can still use a paper towel and to use water to rinse the paper bits out. After that pour out as much water as you can and put the cast iron on low-medium heat over a stovetop to dry it.

      Like ringo2, I personally use a nylon brush to clean my cast iron skillet first and then wipe it down with a paper towel. Paper towel or dish cloth alone is not enough to get rid off carbonized food residues.

      1. I'd suggest using a natural-fiber brush under hot running water to clean out your skillet. Then pat it dry with paper towels. You can also use a folded-up paper towel to apply a light coat of oil to the inside after that.

        If your skillet has lots of burned-on gunk in it, I've found the best way to get it off is to put an inch or so of water in the skillet, bring it to a low boil, and gently scrape the bottom clean with a wooden spatula or turner. Then let it cool down and clean as described above.

        1. I would agree that the "rites" of the ferrous temple can get pretty arcane.

          For basic cleanout, warm water and a scrub brush works well. brief soak and a little dish soap isn't the end of the world (water all by itself doesn't make iron rust, and the notion that stuff will taste like soap is dubious.) Dry at once -- let it heat up on the stove, and give it a light wipe of oil or fat. That's it.

          A nice stiff stainless steel spatula is helpful for persuading things that are sticky, plus regular use burnishes the surface, smoothing out the pebbly texture.

          Good luck -- I am currently breaking in a new 8" pre-seasoned Lodge. Egg #1 pretty much glued on, egg #2 took some persuasion, and egg #3 was a keeper. It will be a few weeks before this pan rocks, but it is very usuable now (9 yo daughter even managed a batch of scrambled eggs).