The best way how to clean crud off a cast iron skillet starts with helping to prevent crud from caking onto your cast iron in the first place. It also involves the right tools for cleaning the inevitable buildup that will happen no matter how well you prepare to ensure food doesn’t stick to your skillet. Continue reading to learn how to properly season your cast iron and tools you can use to get the burnt on crud off without damaging your seasoned skillet.
Seasoning cast iron is a pretty easy process that is designed to build up a layer of polymerized fat on the surface of your cast iron. This layer is very non stick. Not as non stick as Teflon but it is pretty darn good at allowing you to cook most types of food without needing to worry about food sticking. Many cast iron manufacturers now season their cast iron before they sell it so when you receive it you can immediately start cooking and don’t need to worry about seasoning it yourself. If the manufacturer of your cast iron doesn’t specifically state that it’s been pre-seasoned then you’ll want to do that before you cook.
The best way to season cast iron cookware is to apply a thin layer of flaxseed oil or similar edible high smoke point oil to the cooking surface. Wipe it clean with a paper towel. Don’t worry, you won’t be able to remove all of the oil. Place it in the oven on it’s highest setting, usually 500 degrees. It’s best to place the cast iron in prior to the oven preheating so the cast iron can more slowly increase in temperature. Once the oil has burned off remove the skillet from the oven and allow to cool. You’ll want to repeat this process a few times to build up a properly thick seasoning layer. After some use you may find the seasoning layer is beginning to fade and you will want to repeat this process a time or two to build the layer back up.
500 degrees is ideal and usually the highest that a home oven will go up to. If you can’t get to that temperature just go as high as you can. If your oven goes higher there isn’t any need to do so. Leave your cast iron in the oven for about 1 hour and then turn the oven off allowing the cookware to cool in the oven. Once it’s cooled down you can then repeat the seasoning process if necessary.
You can but it’s not the best option. The higher the smoke point of the oil the better the non stick layer you’ll get in the end. Flaxseed oil is considered the best. Peanut oil is also very good. Any oil will do as long as it’s edible but results are not as good and less durable the lower the smoke point of the oil.
Some great tools for cleaning your cast iron skillet without damaging the seasoning layer are stiff brushes, a plastic scraper, and cast iron cleaning chainmail. If your cast iron has been seasoned well then you won’t need to spend much, if any time using these but on occasion you will have the stubborn bit here or there that needs a little coaxing from the surface. Some soap, water, and a stiff brush can usually remove quite a bit. For the more stubborn burnt on crud a plastic scraper is a very handy tool. For the most determined bits that just won’t budge then chainmail is great for scrubbing down the surface. If you find that you’re often going for the chainmail then you may want to consider a few seasoning cycles to help build that seasoning layer back up. To finish cleaning your cast iron you’ll want to ensure you rinse all the soap off and dry it as thoroughly as possible. It is recommended although not necessary that you either place your cookware on the stove top or in the oven to allow the heat to ensure that all of the water evaporates from the surface of the cast iron.
Instead of some of the previously mentioned tools, some people pour some salt onto the cooking surface and scrub with a paper towel. The salt acts an abrasive and allows you to more easily scrub off burnt on crud. I’ve always felt like it was a bit wasteful to use salt for this purpose but it’s perfectly acceptable and won’t harm your cast iron as long as it isn’t left on. Be sure to rinse throughly and dry thorough when you’re done.
Cast iron is great cookware and bakeware but it does require a little bit of attention and care from time to time. Don’t get frustrated when you have crud to deal with. We’ve covered how to clean crude off a cast iron skillet now and it isn’t that difficult. It’s just a sign that you need to do a quick reseasoning to the skillet. Hopefully you’ve learned a bit about what you’ll need to keep your cast iron skillet in tip top shape.
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