I find that everyone seems to have a preferred way to care for their cast iron, and I am yet to find a way that will utterly ruin it. There are many misconceptions about what methods to use and what methods to avoid like the plague. When I first got my cast iron I was overwhelmed with all of the methods out there, and the conflicting information as to what works. The concept of having to cut a potato in order clean my pan blew my damn mind. Now that I have used many ways to clean my cast iron, and my pans are still intact, I would like to review some ways and maybe clear up some myths. Rather watch? Click here.
Method One: SOAP AND WATER
First of all, I read all of the time how soap will absolutely ruin cast iron and on and on and blah blah blah. However, if the piece in question has a good, hard season an occasional soap down will do absolutely no harm. I actually recommend a soap down on a new piece, especially one that’s second hand. You never know what that cast iron had been exposed to and, if you’re like me with food allergies, a soaping is the only way to make sure your pan won’t cause you hives, stomach upset, or worse. If the pan has an uneven or gooey season, using soap can help to remove the weak seasoning and then you can go on to correct it.
Method Two: SOAKING
People absolutely lose their minds over the concept of soaking cast iron. It’s like the zombie apocalypse if it’s even mentioned. I, too, was once put off by soaking, also under the impression that even a quick soak would leave my cast iron susceptible to rust, but then I had allowed something to burn in the pan and felt I had no other choice. It was experiment time! I left the pan to soak overnight. And guess what? In the morning I was able to easily wipe the last little stuck on crumbs out and there was no rust. Since then, I commonly soak my cast iron and have no rust from it.
Method Three: KOSHER SALT RUB WITH OR WITHOUT POTATO
Were you confused when I mentioned the potato in the intro? Well, now we get to clear that up! The most popular method I have seen is to scrub the dry pan with kosher salt, either with the cut end of a potato or with a paper towel. The salt scrubs the excess oils and food away, and you are left with a clean pan that is untouched by water. I have tried this with a dish towel, but no potato, and found that it was too complicated for as often as I use my cast iron, which is up to 4 times a day. It definitely works, though I would still rinse it clean afterwards instead of wiping it again and again to remove the salt.
Method Four: STEEL WOOL OR CHAIN MAIL
This is a method I have not used, but they sound awesome and I will most likely end up getting a chain mail scrubbie soon. I didn’t even know these methods existed or were so controversial until I started researching for this topic! I have read about people using steel wool or chain mail both with and without water, and the concern people seem to have about it is the thought that the intense scrubbing will remove or damage the seasoning. While I have not used these, I consulted with a friend who has and she says that she uses her steel wool for daily cleaning and has caused her seasoning no harm. So, not too educated on this one.
Method Five: LOOFAH AND WATER
This is my preferred method. I rinse with water, sometimes soak, and then use a round cut from a natural loofah to wipe away the mess. It makes it very easy to upkeep and the only thing I need is a natural loofah that is compostable.
In short, there seems like no wrong method to clean cast iron. If you were expecting me to speak about using the self cleaning oven method, campfire method, or any other deeper cleaning method, that will be reserved for another post. I intend to include in this series a post dedicated to cast iron rehab, so that I can give proper attention to that subject. How do you clean your cast iron? What did I miss?
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