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How to Clean a Cast Iron Pan

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As fun as cooking in a cast iron pan is, it’s also very troublesome to maintain it. A properly cared for cast iron pan will only become better with age. Unbeatable durability and excellent heat retention are some of the qualities that you can easily find in a cast iron pan.

The best part is that you can easily restore a cast iron pan and clean it even when it is mistreated or rusty. The many steps of cleaning a cast iron pan can include washing, scrubbing as well as a seasoning, which all combine to create a very essential care routine. 

So, let’s quit wasting our time and dive into the steps on how to clean a cast-iron pan easily. 

How to Clean a Cast Iron Pan (steps to clean)

The first step in cleaning a cast iron pan is to use some mild dish soap and a scouring pad. If not that, then a cast iron pan cleaning brush would work too. Don’t hesitate in using some mild soap, it won’t do any harm! 

Then the next step is to wash, followed by scrubbing and rinsing it. Once you’ve rinsed it properly, wipe out any excess remains and season the pan with a few drops of oil. 

Last but not least, you must store it with a paper towel over its surface.

If you do not want to use soap and a scrub, you can substitute it with some really hot water. You can even use a spatula to take off any burnt food that remains on the pan. This method is used by many cooks in flat-top grills in a restaurant, so it may work for you, too.

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How to Dry a Cast Iron Pan

The process of drying a cast iron is incredibly easy. All you have to do after you’ve cleaned and rinsed is put it on a burner and set the fire to ‘high’ to prevent rusting. You will have to wait for the pan to reach the boiling limit. Once it does, it will be almost parched and dry. 

How to Season Cast Iron

Cleaning and drying are only the first steps in maintaining a good cast iron pan. Now what follows them is seasoning. Now you may ask, what is seasoning? “Seasoning” in simple terms is the process of binding oil to the iron. If you’re like us and don’t want the lengthy scientific version with the depths of polymers, then all you need to do is follow some easy steps.

The first step is to heat up the clean cast iron pan on the stove until it is very hot. Then, the next step is pouring oil. Use a little bit of canola oil or flaxseed oil, then spread it on a wad of paper towel and spread it all over the pan. 

Please make sure you do not touch the hot iron pan without protecting your hand. Now after you’ve rubbed the oil onto the pan, clean the surface with a paper towel to remove any excess oil. Once your pan has cooled down, ensure there is no thick layer of oil left that could leave residue on the surface. Just follow these simple steps and you’ll have a well-seasoned cast-iron pan in your hands. 

However, if you are seasoning an unseasoned pan for the first time, you would need to continuously repeat these steps almost six times before your pan will come out looking smooth and seasoned. Do note that slathering the cast iron pan with oil won’t do you any favors, it’ll simply give you a gummy pan. So, if you’re serious about maintaining your pan and want it to age well, you must follow the steps accurately. Doing seasoning regularly will also reduce the time you spent on seasoning it, and eventually only once will be enough. 

How to Remove Rust from a Cast-Iron Pan? 

As easy as the steps for maintaining a cast iron pan are, the whole regime can be burdensome to follow through regularly, and this lack of proper care, in turn, can lead to rust. But there’s no need to worry because we know exactly how to remove rust from a cast iron pan. Before following the steps of care as given above for cleaning a regular cast iron pan, you must give it a vinegar soak

All you have to do is mix equal parts of basic white vinegar with water to submerge your pan in it. You can either use a bucket or your sink for bigger pans; just ensure that the entire skillet is properly covered with the vinegar mixture. The pans can stay in the mixture for around eight hours but it is strongly advised to check it every now and then because it hugely depends on how bad the rust is. This is because once the rust is dissolved the vinegar will go to the surface of the pan which will not bring out positive results. So, ensure you take the pan out as soon as the rust is removed

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Taking Care of Your Cast Iron Pan

One thing we can assure you is that once you start soaking, scrubbing, and seasoning your cast-iron pan it will become clean and usable in no time. 

The more times you clean and season your cast iron, the cleaner it will be. It also reduces the time you take to follow these steps. Not only does it become easier to maintain a clean cast iron pan but it also increases its non-stick property. 

Cast Iron FAQ’s

Now that we’ve now told you about the steps to clean your cast iron pan, why not answer a few common questions that you may have about or after cleaning! 

Why is my cast iron pan sticky and gummy?

The reason your cast iron pan could become too sticky is if you use too much oil. This can be prevented if you wash the pan with soap and hot water first and then remove any excess oil. Then you can reseason it using only a thin coating of oil to prevent stickiness.

What is seasoning?

Seasoning is a part of the polymerization process which binds oil on cast iron pan. It is very helpful in creating a natural cooking surface and at the same time, prevents your pan from accumulating rust. Seasoning will also ensure your pan lasts for a good time with an excellent cooking surface to use. 

What oil should I use to season the cast iron pan?

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Most cast iron pan users swear by flaxseed oil to season their pans as it helps in building up a smooth and hard finish surface. However, flaxseed oil can be expensive and needs to be stored in the refrigerator so, if you are looking for an alternative, you can consider using canola oil.

How to test if my cast iron pan is well-seasoned?

The best sign of a well-seasoned iron pan is a semi-gloss finish that isn’t gummy, greasy, or sticky when you touch it. However, the most practical way to test if the cast iron pan is well seasoned is to fry an egg in it.

Start by heating 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in the cast iron pan for around 3 minutes, and then add an egg. If your egg doesn’t stick to your pan and you can flip/remove it easily, then it is well seasoned and ready to go!  

My new pan says it’s already seasoned. Do I still have to season it?

It’s never a bad thought to season your newly brought pan before using it, as it only offers more protection. You must, however, season it after you’ve used it and before using it for a second time. 

Can I season my cast iron pan in the oven? 

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Reasoning your cast iron pan in the oven is highly recommended especially if you want to remove rust. For those of you who are unaware, oven seasoning adds a more even layer of smoothness to the entire pan. You are required to follow three easy steps for seasoning your iron pan in the oven and they are as follows. 

Step 1: Scrub your pan 

You must clean your pan with warm water and add a bit of soap. It’s better to use soap since you will be required to re-season the pan once you’ve cleaned it. 

Step 2: Apply some oil 

Add a thin layer of oil to your pan, both inside and outside. Make sure you do not use too much oil as that can lead to stickiness. 

Step 3: Bake the iron pan 

Place your pan in the oven for about an hour before you take it out. Ensure you have an aluminum sheet or baking sheet underneath it and bake it at 450 degrees for an hour before allowing it cool. 

Can I soak my cast iron pan in water to soften up crusted-on food before I wash it?

Soaking your pan in water to soften up the food stuck on the surface is a complete no-no! You can instead heat up your pan with water in it and scrape off whatever bits of food you have by using a spatula. 

Can I use soap to wash my cast iron pan?

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Yes, you can use any mild soap to wash a cast iron pan. It is recommended and does not harm the surface of your pan in any way. 

Can I use steel wool or a metal scrubber to clean my cast iron pan?

Steel wool or metal scrubber can do more harm than good for your cast iron pan, so it is recommended you use either a pan scraper or a chainmail scrubber to clean your cast iron pan. 

Can I put my cast iron pan in the dishwasher?

No, you should not put your cast iron pan in the dishwasher. It is only meant to be washed by hand, since using a dishwasher will remove the seasoning effects and cause harm directly to the surface of the pan. It can also lead to rust. 

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