Cast Iron Care: how to clean your cast iron cookware

I know there is more to cast iron cookware than skillets but I am still probably going to refer to all cast iron cookware as cast iron skillets. I received my first cast iron skillet as a wedding present 17 years ago! I started using said skillet about a year ago. Why? I’ll give credit to my husband’s grandma. When we moved into our farmhouse that originally belonged to Andrew’s grandma and grandpa, we also inherited some items that were left in the house, like a lot of items actually. Anyway, she had a few cast iron skillets and I just thought, if she used them maybe I should to. That may seem like an odd reason to do something but it got me motivated and now I love them. Turns out using cast iron is not nearly as difficult as it seems. In this post I’ll explain how to clean your cast iron cookware.

I like to compare cast iron skillets to cloth diapers. Cloth diapers are very intimidating. I’ve used cloth diapers on a couple of our kids and I loved them but getting started felt so overwhelming They’re really not that much different than using regular diapers. Just a couple extra steps here and there that you don’t notice if you are motivated about using them. I found this to be true with cast iron skillets as well.

Cast Iron Has Been Around for a Long Time

According to Google, cast iron skillets have been around since 220 AD. That’s a long time. It’s human nature to try to change and improve everything, but some things are best left alone. The amazing thing about cast iron is the more you use it and the longer you have it, the better it gets. Simply put, it gets better with age.

My Cast Iron Cookware

three pieces of cast iron with accessories on a counter
cast iron skillet with lid off laying on a kitchen counter

As you can see in the pictures above, I have three cast iron skillets. I don’t think the one with the lid would be considered a skillet but like I said they’re all skillets to me.

My first pan is the smaller skillet. I believe it’s a 9″ skillet. I bought the bigger skillet about two months ago and it is a 12″ skillet. They are both Lodge brand. The pot with the lid is what we inherited when we bought our house. I’m not sure of the size but it is a Classic. Being fairly new to cast iron I had never seen a lid like this one. It has spikes under the lid. If anyone knows what that is for please leave a comment and let me know, I’d really appreciate it.

One of the main reasons I never used my skillet was that I thought you had to have a gas stove in order to properly cook with cast iron. Turns out that’s just not true. We’ve always had an electric range which is what I have now. The things I cook in cast iron seem to cook better than in regular cookware. Another concern is that they will scratch a cooktop. They are very heavy so I suppose if you were wildly moving the cast iron skillet around on your cooktop it would scratch it. I personally have not had any issues with cast iron scratching my electric cooktop.

Cleaning Your Cast Iron Cookware

There are different ways you can clean cast iron. What I’m sharing with you is just the way I do it, right or wrong, it’s what I do. Depending on the mood I’m in, I might take my time and put a little extra love and care into getting that clean pretty shine. Or, I might just wash em’ quickly and throw them in the warm oven to dry and forget about them until I use my oven again, usually the next day. It’s a delicate balance between caring and getting the job done. Anyway, for your benefit, I’m going to explain how I clean my cast iron when I do it with care.

I mostly use my cast iron skillets for cooking meat. We eat a lot of meat. Sometimes I will cook biscuits in them, or maybe a stir fry, but usually it’s meat. This means they are usually a greasy mess. I rarely wash any pan I have right after using it. I do try to have all my dishes washed before the night is over, but I rarely wash pans right after we eat, especially if they don’t go in the dishwasher. Cast iron should NOT be washed in a dishwasher. This leaves me with cold grease in my pans. If I’m thinking straight, I will warm up the cast iron skillet slightly to rewarm the grease so I can discard the grease before I wash. In the picture above of my dirty pan, I obviously forgot that step so the grease went down the sink, a big No, No.

Since I forgot to get rid of the grease I’ll just add hot water to the pan and let the grease wash down the sink, another big No NO, I know. But It’s how I do it. I let the hot water break up some of the grease then I will use my stainless steel scrubber and scrub until the skillet is clean. I have read different reviews on using stainless steel and how it can scratch cast iron, but I haven’t had any issues with mine and I scrub lightly unless there is something really stuck onto the skillet.

After it’s all clean, I will immediately dry with a dish towel. It is important to note that cast iron will stain dish towels. If you are concerned about that you might use an old dish towel that you don’t care about getting stained, or try a dark colored dish towel. I didn’t really think about this before I used my white dish towel, so now it’s stained, but it doesn’t really bother me. Make sure to dry completely because even a little bit of water will cause the pan to rust. If it does rust there is a process for getting rid of the rust and re-seasoning your cast iron but that’s a topic for another post.

Once your cast iron is dry you will need to add a little bit of oil. I add a small amount of canola oil to mine and then rub the entire pan with a paper towel. I’ll first start inside the pan and then rub the outside of the pan as well. I will add, that sometimes I get little pieces of the paper towel on my pans. I usually notice this if I am pressing too hard with the paper towel.

That’s it. There are a couple extra steps to cleaning cast iron compared to other cookware, but it’s not all that difficult. It’s just like any thing else, once you build a routine of cleaning your cast iron you won’t really notice any difference. Hey, you may even feel so good about yourself being the perfect pioneer wife that you won’t mind the extra work.

I can’t explain it but cooking with cast iron makes me feel like a real adult.

Mandy Bryan
Mandy Bryan

As a wife and mother of four young kids I love being home on our farm. Our little farm and farmhouse is what I have always wanted and exactly where I want to raise my children. My days are hectic and never go the way I plan, if they did that would make for a boring day.
As the Bible says “there is nothing new under the sun”. I just try to enjoy what God has blessed me with and what my husband has put years into building for our family. I would love to be the one who encourages you to do the same.

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