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How I Clean My Cast Iron Skillets

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    How I Clean My Cast Iron Skillets

    I live in a very humid environment and my cast iron is prone to rusting. Back in January, I decided to get serious with this and restore my skillets and do my best to keep them good and rust-free. Anyone who has ever done a search on how to care for cast iron knows there are quite a few different takes on how to do this.

    Here's what I have fallen into:

    First, it seems the best thing to do to care for cast iron is to actually use it. I try to use my skillets at least once per week, if not more.

    After a cook and when the skillet is just cool enough to handle, I will put the burner on medium heat and I will take the skillet to the sink. I will put in just a few drops of Dawn dishwashing liquid. I'll then add hot water (I don't want to risk cracking) about 1/4 of the way up the skillet.

    With a green/yellow Scotchbrite pad I will gently rub the interior to get off any crusted on bits. I'll then wash the skillet out and repeat, but this time use the yellow/softer side of the pad. I want to do this as quickly as possible. I'm not trying to really scrub it clean as I would a stainless steel pan, just get the stuck food bits out as well as any excess oil/fat. I am using just enough pressure to get the job done.

    After a final rinse, the skillet goes back over the now-preheated burner until all of the water is clearly gone. (I use as dish towel to dab the top and sides.)

    One the skillet has cooled down significantly, but is still quite warm, I put a quarter-sized pour of avocado oil in the middle of the skillet. I then use paper towels to rub this oil all over the skillet, taking care to get the handles as well. I then follow up with two or three additional paper towels and rub as much off as I can. The sheen should be dark, matte, with just a bit of reflectivity, but certainly not wet.

    Then the skillet is stored for the next use.

    I originally was very hesitant to do the water thing.....I mean.....water...iron... but I never could get the hang of using kosher salt as an abrasive and just wiping everything out with a paper towel. It is possible the Dawn/water is harming the non-stick coating, but if it is, the effect is minor (and nothing a good bacon cook won't fix). If I used my cookware less often, I might notice a detrimental effect more, perhaps.

    So that's how I care for mine, and, again, I think the best way to keep the cast iron in good condition is to use it frequently.

    #2
    Thats pretty much what I do. No reason to be scared to dish soap and a sponge. If dish soap takes off your coating, it wasn't a good coating anyway.

    I use, wash with soap, dry on a low burner, add a drop or two of oil and rub it in and mostly get any excess out and heat it again for a few minutes.

    Comment


    • Mr. Bones
      Mr. Bones commented
      Editing a comment
      ^^^^THIS^^^^

      Been usin drop or two dish soap, if/when needed, fer many decades...same as my Ma an Gma
      Ain't never lost me a skillet, yet, Amigo!
      Last edited by Mr. Bones; July 14, 2021, 01:27 PM.

    #3
    I will admit, it did take me a bit to figure out that one does not need much oil at all to wipe it down.

    Comment


      #4
      I scrape the cast iron with a plastic scraper. Then I use hot water and hit it with the scrubby side of a sponge. I don't usually use soap unless if feel it needs an extra cleaning like if I have cooked fish or it just needs additional scraping and scrubbing. Then it goes on the gas burner on high to dry off. I then add some oil, it used to use avocado but lately, I've been using a crisbee stick. I let the pan continue to heat until it just starts to smoke and turn it off and walk away. Later I return to wipe the pan down and put it away.

      Comment


      • Henrik
        Henrik commented
        Editing a comment
        This is what I do to, exactly. The key is to heat up the oil until it smokes, this gives you the polymerization that gives the lacquer (nonstick) finish.

      • Michael_in_TX
        Michael_in_TX commented
        Editing a comment
        I need to try the plastic scraper idea. What that would allow me to do is get much of the gunk off while the skillet is still relatively hot.

      • FireMan
        FireMan commented
        Editing a comment
        Ditto cept I don’t heat til it smokes.

      #5
      Spinaker may have an idea or 28.

      Comment


      • Spinaker
        Spinaker commented
        Editing a comment
        Hahaha


        I was typing while you were posting.

      • Attjack
        Attjack commented
        Editing a comment
        Threads like this are like the bat signal to Spinaker.

      #6
      Unless there is something burned on or stuck, I simply wipe it out and rehang it on my rack. There is generally enough oil left on the surface to protect the pan in-between my daily uses. If not, I will add some beef tallow.

      If there is something stuck on the pan, I will scrape with a plastic scraper and add some hot water. Wipe clean and always hand dry, then add some oil and rehang on my rack.

      Comment


      • Spinaker
        Spinaker commented
        Editing a comment
        Ha, too much already. I am up too about 300 pieces and I have not even cleaned them all yet. 58limited

      • 58limited
        58limited commented
        Editing a comment
        Spinaker You know that me and Panhead John will never respect you until you hit 500 pieces. Just sayin'
        Last edited by 58limited; July 14, 2021, 02:59 PM.

      • Spinaker
        Spinaker commented
        Editing a comment
        Well it won't be long! LOL. 58limited

      #7
      I just got this, works great. Last night made a linguine with mussels in a white wine cream sauce. It left a nice crust from the sauce. This took it right off with water. Dried it, a bit of oil, done.

      Click image for larger version

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      Comment


        #8
        I use chain mail as well, if needed. I haven't had to use dish liquid, but would in a heartbeat. Rinse in hot water, scrape where needed with anything - usually a metal spatula (no fear here) - rinse and paper towel dry.

        When I read the 'quarter size' oil I thought 'wow'! I use a couple drops of grapeseed oil and rub it in with my hands. That's usually enough for both the interior, exterior sides and the bottom too.

        I've got darn near everything from Lodge, Griswold and Wagner stuff from CL, and combo oven/lid/skillet from Westinghouse (my favorite believe it or not). Lodge stuff is the highest maintenance, the worst offender being their grill pan. I feel for those that are CI beginners that get that grill pan first - I read so many comments that they throw it away after a couple uses.

        Comment


        • Attjack
          Attjack commented
          Editing a comment
          I gave my Lodge grill pan away since it was a hassle. Of course, I own about 10-15 actual grills so it wasn't much of a loss.

        #9
        Originally posted by Spinaker View Post
        Unless there is something burned on or stuck, I simply wipe it out and rehang it on my rack. There is generally enough oil left on the surface to protect the pan in-between my daily uses. If not, I will add some beef tallow.
        The thing I always seemed to struggle with is that, especially after cooking animal fats, over timeI always seemed to get this very thin layer of basically bacon grease that seemed to go rancid after awhile. That's why I switched to water and a bit of dish soap.

        Comment


        • 58limited
          58limited commented
          Editing a comment
          It also gets sticky if stored for several months. I use combinations of all of the posts above. If I accidentally mess up the seasoning (usually from walking away and getting distracted when preheating the cast piece) I simply reseason it and cook a lot of bacon in it for awhile. I have over a dozen skillets so if I screw one up I can fall back on others.

        • Spinaker
          Spinaker commented
          Editing a comment
          Yeah, if you are having that issue you are storing them with too much oil on them. Add your fat, then wipe it so it looks almost clean. Then you should have no problem. I also use mine everyday, so there is little chance for things to go rancid. Still, if it is going rancid or sticky on the pan, you are storing them with too much oil applied.

          @Micheal_in_TX 58limited

        #10
        Keep in mind that what protects the skillet isn't oil in its liquid form, but polymerized oil that's been bonded to the iron. So you don't need to scrub gently etc and a little soap is fine.

        I scrub pretty vigorously if I need to to get burned out stuff on. Otherwise I simply scrub it out under running water, dry on a low burner and, if needed, add a little oil. This shouldn't be needed if the pan is well seasoned.

        I don't live in a humid place but if these are rusting in a few days/weeks, it doesn't sound like they're properly seasoned. I'd do a few more seasoning sessions. Or cook some bacon. Whichever
        Last edited by rickgregory; July 14, 2021, 02:31 PM.

        Comment


        • 58limited
          58limited commented
          Editing a comment
          When is cooking bacon ever a wrong answer?

        • rickgregory
          rickgregory commented
          Editing a comment
          Precisely.

        #11
        I hose my CI skillet off and hit it with a Stainless Steel scrubby, back on the flame to evap the water then a dash of whatever oil I have and burn it off. I refuse to put any grease in the sink - septic tank, not good for it!

        I don’t treat the bottom and it has some rust. Do you guys treat the bottom or let it rust?
        Last edited by smokenoob; July 14, 2021, 05:24 PM.

        Comment


        • Michael_in_TX
          Michael_in_TX commented
          Editing a comment
          I didn't do the bottoms years ago when I first started to play with cast iron. Eventually, I found that the rust would rub off on other kitchen surfaces, my hands, my shirt....

        #12
        Michael_in_TX That makes sense, my CI is exclusively used outside on a rusty sear burner.

        Comment

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