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How to Restore and Clean Your Cast Iron Skillet

Cast iron pans are an incredible investment into your off-grid of homestead kitchen. In this post we’ll go over how to restore and clean your cast iron skillet.

Cast iron pans are durable, and with a little care and attention can be used for centuries.

dutch baby in a clean cast iron skillet

Cast iron pans may seem tough, but just like most things, they are not indestructible.

They need routine re-seasoning and special care after use to prevent rust.

Don’t worry! Luckily, there are tricks and tips you can do at home to restore and care for your old cast iron pans.

How to Clean Your Cast Iron Skillet

Use salt

That is right! You can use salt, kosher salt specifically, to remove the stubborn bits of food from your cast iron pans.

While still warm, pour 1 cup of it into the pan, then use a folded kitchen towel to scrub it clean.

Rinse the cast iron pan with hot water to remove the salt, then dry it using a clean kitchen towel.

If you want to ensure it’s dry, you can heat it over a medium-low flame for moisture to evaporate.

oil and food in a cast iron skillet

Well-season your cast iron pan

Make use of vegetable oil or flaxseed oil to maintain the non-stick properties of your pan. Oil can also drive away rust and keep the surfaces shiny for a long time.

To season the pan between uses, without having to do a complete re-seasoning, use 1 Tbsp of either one of these oils, then rub it gently into your cast iron pan.

For the oil to completely soak in, you can heat the pan over a medium-low flame, and that would do the trick!

Use fancy cast iron soap

Just like most kitchen tools, cast iron pans need to be cleaned with soap and water.

However, not all soap can thoroughly clean your pans. Some prefer using fancy cast iron soap to get the job done.

Take note that using soap to clean your cast iron pan requires you to re-season it.

a whole chicken roasted in a cast iron pan

Reseasoning the pan

Because cast iron pans are one of the most used tools in the kitchen, an abused piece may look rusty, cracked, or warped.

You would definitely not want a ruined cast iron pan to pollute your food, so might as well re-season it.

  1. Start by cleaning your cast iron pan thoroughly using warm, soapy water.
  2. Scrub the surface until clean.
  3. Especially when you’re cleaning an old cast iron pan, it is often difficult to remove food residues completely. You might want to use paper towels or rags to finish it off. Take note that it is not necessary to scrub the outer surface of the pan. Though scrubbing this part makes it look nicer, it is not necessary since it doesn’t come in direct contact with food.
  4. Once you’re done with all the scrubbing, it’s time to preheat the oven to 450 to 500°F.
  5. Coat the inner and outer surface of your cast iron pan with vegetable oil. Make sure not to coat with too much oil, otherwise it might rust.
  6. Place the cast iron pan inside the oven in an upside-down position and bake it for about an hour.
  7. After an hour, remove the cast iron pan from the oven and let it cool.
  8. If it is cool enough to handle, grab a paper towel and rub it across the surface of your cast oil pain. If you can no longer notice anything sticky or disgusting, then you’re done. Otherwise, you will need to repeat the process of scrubbing, rubbing, oiling, and baking again.

How Often Should I Re-Season Cast Iron?

Re-seasoning your cast iron pan would depend on how often you use it. Kitchen experts suggest that you do it a few times a year.

pasta cooked in a cast iron skillet

How to Prevent Cast Iron From Rusting

The rust is often what makes cast iron pans troublesome. Exposure to too much water, for too long, without a proper oil protection can cause the cast iron to rust.

If you want to preserve cast iron, then you must use it! Did you know that oil adds up to the goodness of your skillet? Therefore, it is good to use it when cooking with oil.

Besides cleaning your cast iron pan properly to maintain its quality, you must also avoid certain ingredients that may cause it to rust or ruin.

High-acidic foods are a no-no in cast iron. The good news is there are different types of skillets, and some of them can withstand small amounts of acids without problems.

So make sure you check your ingredients first before putting them into the pan right away!

Another care tip is not to put your cast iron pan in the dishwasher! You can wash the pan with your hands in warm, soapy water.

If the pan is not so dirty, you can clean it using a sponge or brush and hot water to get the job done.

In case it is too difficult to remove stuck-on bits, either get a stiffer brush or rub the surface with a couple of tablespoons of salt. Rinse well.

After rinsing your cast iron pan, make sure to dry it thoroughly and immediately! Water is one element that causes it to rust, so make sure to dry it as quickly as possible.

bacon frying over an open fire in a cast iron skillet

You can also heat the pan over medium-low heat to let moisture evaporate quickly.

While evaporating, put a small amount of vegetable oil in a paper towel, and rub it gently across the surface to smoothen it.

With a little extra tender love and care your cast iron will serve you for decades and be something you can hand down to your children!

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