Cast iron is one of the most durable and long-lasting material out there, but it is also one of the most corrosive. Following a few simple steps during each use can reduce or eliminate the need to treat and restore oxidized items. Let’s take a look at some common suggestions and you can start to put them into practice right away.
You only need to wash your cast iron products once, right after you purchase them new. A good and gentle wipe-down with some MILD soap will help to remove any dirt, grime and oils that have accumulated during shipping and the time you bring the item home. However, it’s important that you use non-abrasive soap, a soft cloth and never put the item in the dishwasher. Dry it with a towel when finished.
Seasoning the pan involves using oil to produce a non-stick coating. The more seasoned the pan is, the less things will stick while cooking. You want to season the item after each use when possible, but you should also do it before using it for the first time as well.
Preheat the oven to 300-350 degrees and place some aluminum foil on the bottom rack. Place the pan or other item on the top rack once the oven is heated. Allow it to cook for 10 minutes. Remove and put about a tablespoon of oil, lard or shortening onto the item. Rub the oil around the entire surface of the item before placing back in the oven for an additional 10 minutes. Drain any excess oil or liquid that has accumulated and place the item, upside down, in the oven for 1 hour. The foil is used to catch any drips that may occur during the process.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. You can keep seasoning in intervals of at least 24 hours as often as you like to create an excellent non-stick surface. Seasoning also helps to slow the process of oxidation and the formation of rust on the cast iron.
Cook With Fat
It’s a good idea to cook fatty foods when using a new pan. The grease will seep into the pores on the surface and help to improve the seasoning. Just remember to remove the foods when finished and wash the pan as opposed to using it to store items in the refrigerator. This will break down the seasoning layers and contribute to oxidation.
A good and seasoned cast iron pan will prevent foods from turning into charcoal and scorching the surface. Consequently, cleaning should involve just plain water and a cloth or sponge. You don’t want to scrub or use coarse cleaning material with cast iron products. If you can’t get rid of the residue from washing, then scrub it with coarse salt. Place about a cup into the pan, along with some water and use a towel to rub the salt against the surface. This will be abrasive enough to remove a lot of material without scratching the surface. You can also fill the pan with water and place it on a burner and boil away a lot of debris and gunk as well.
You always want to rinse and completely dry any cast iron items after use. Wipe it down with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Wait about 5 minutes and do it again to get any spots that you may have missed the first time. You can also take a paper towel and season the item before storing it at this time as well. Store it in a cool and dry place and use or season often to prevent the formation of rust.
Following these simple steps is the best thing that you can do to preserve cast iron products. It only takes a little bit of time to make sure that it is properly cleaned, seasoned and dried. Making this small investment now can save you hours of headaches later associated with restoring cast iron products that were not properly maintained.