Cast iron is like the hidden gem in a kitchen. Although it’s growing in popularity, it’s still uncharted territory for a lot of people. Using cast iron in a modern day kitchen may seem like too much work and effort, but trust me when I say IT’S TOTALLY WORTH IT! In this post I’ll break down how to restore and clean cast iron so that you too can join the cast movement!
Cast iron isn’t just for camping, living off grid, or grandma’s kitchen. It’s for any family who wants to upgrade their cooking experience in their modern kitchens! When I first started using cast iron, I was lost. How do you clean something that everyone says not to wash or you’ll ruin it? It seemed pretty confusing to me! Below I’ll explain how to restore and clean cast iron, walking you through the restoration process and sharing my insight on cleaning and upkeep for optimal care of cast iron!
Where To Find Cast Iron
In the last few years many stores have started carrying cast iron. It’s new and it’s expensive. But totally fine if you want to invest in a new pot or pan. Just make sure you’re buying a good quality brand, as cheap inexpensive options can contain harmful materials that could hurt you and your family.
Personally I prefer to use old cast iron. I don’t know why but I feel like it’s extra special because it has a history and probably made thousands of meals for generations of families in the past. My all time favourite pan is from my grandma, who passed it down to me several years ago. It warms my heart knowing I cook for my family using the same pan that my grandma used to cook for her family. Its a connection we will always share. So special!
You can find old cast iron pretty much anywhere.. barns, yardsales, basements, antique shops (although they will be priced higher), thrift stores, or at the back of family members cabinets. I found one of my pans in a barn under a pile of junk, it was so rusty you would have a hard time even recognising it as cast iron!
How to restore cast iron:
Restoring old cast iron (also known as seasoning) will require a lot of hard work. You’re going to scrub your pan until you think your fingers will surely fall off! But it will be worth it. You’ll be able to use this pan for the rest of your life, and your kids lives, and their kids lives. Cast iron really is the BEST investment for your kitchen!
What you’ll need:
- steel wool
- vegetable oil
** Preheat your oven to 375° **
Step 1: SCRUB
Fill your sink with hot water and add in your cast iron pan. You can add your dish soap to the water but I prefer to pour it right onto the pan when I start scrubbing.
Now you just scrub with the steel wool like your life depends on it.
Scrub every part of the pan; inside, outside, handle, rim. EVERYTHING. This is going to take a while depending on how bad your pan is. The goal is to scrub away all of the rust. And if it’s really caked with rust be prepared to have orange hands when all is said and done!
Testing the pan for “doneness”
I like to test my pan to see if all of the rust is gone by drying it with a cloth and then inspecting it. Running a light coloured damp cloth over it will show you if rust is still present because it will stick to the cloth.
If any rust whatsoever is showing, or you think maybe it could be present, put your pan back into the sink and scrub the entire thing again! You do not want any rust on your pan!
Once your pan clears the “doneness” test
After your pan shows no signs of rust you can coat the entire thing in vegetable oil. First dry the pan thoroughly! Then apply your oil. Be careful not to add too much oil, you don’t want to soak the pan with it.
I like to pour about 3 TBSP into the pan and get a folded up piece of paper towel to rub it around. You need to rub the oil on the entire pan, even the outside and the handle.
Coating the pan in oil takes a bit of skill if you’ve never done it before but the good thing is you can always add more if you didn’t get enough on. And you can scrub the oil away and start the process over again if you added way too much.
(pin it for later!)
The final step! Now that your pan is free of rust and grime, you’ve dried it thoroughly, and it has an even amount of oil covering it, you can place it upside down in your oven. Put a pan or sheet of tin foil on the rack below the pan to catch the drips of oil as they fall.
Let your pan cook for an hour, then turn off the oven and allow the pan to cool as the oven cools. Cast iron holds heat for a long time so it will take a few hours for your pan to completely cool down.
The oil will set on your pan, this creates a seal for the cast and keeps rust from invading! It’s also what makes cast iron non stick.
Before & After!
Cleaning & caring for cast iron
There are a lot of opinions from a lot of cast iron owners about the best way to go about washing and cleaning your cast. I’m going to share what I do and what works for me and my family.
NEVER EVER PUT CAST IRON IN THE DISHWASHER
I think all cast iron owners can agree that putting it in the dishwasher is a huge no no! So although my cleaning methods may go against the norm for cleaning cast, I 100% agree with others that putting cast in the dishwasher should never happen!
Cleaning & Care:
The best way to avoid a full washing and scrub down for cast iron is to wipe it out after you finish using it. OR if you cook something like eggs, let it dry with the pan and then scrape off the egg. It should come off super easily.
When you have to wash your cast iron
Sometimes you have no choice but to wash your pans. And it’s not the end of the world when this happens. To wash cast iron pans just follow these simple steps;
- Scrub pan with warm water and a non abrasive sponge
- If necessary use gentle soap to help clean the pan
- Rinse and wipe dry with a cloth
- Set on the stove and turn the burner on med-low heat until your pan completely dries. (30 seconds to a minute)
- Pour on approx. 1 TBSP vegetable oil and rub it on the entire pan with a cloth
- Let pan cool, it’s ready for next time!
If rust appears on your pan
Sometimes rust will show up on your pan. This is due to over washing, not drying the pan properly, or excessive scraping with metal utensils.
Most of the time the only way to fix this is by re seasoning your pan. But you can try to spot season it (I have no idea if that’s a real term). I’ve done this before and it actually works! You just clean the rust off and apply oil to the “infected” area. Then put it in the oven ( 375° just like when you season cast iron). But this may not work, so be mindful in how you use and clean your cast.
How to master the non stick
It took me quite a while to master this. But if I were to give only one word of advice on this topic it would be this,
When you use cast iron to cook you need to remember this crucial step. Patience is key. The food needs to be fully cooked and ready to be flipped, turned or stirred before you touch it, or else it will stick to the pan!
This is also true when you’re cooking with oil. Never pour oil into your pan and then add the food right after. You need to wait for the oil to heat up in order for it to act as a non stick agent.
How To Restore And Clean Cast Iron
I’m so glad you stopped by the blog and I really hope you found this article helpful!
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How To Restore And Clean Cast Iron
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