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spreenkle #5

Why we love our cast iron pans – they’re one of the most affordable pans on the market ~ they conduct & maintain heat incredibly well ~ are great for high-heat situations such as frying and searing ~ working on stove-top or oven, gas, electric or induction, even on the grill  ~ they go camping with us ~ they’ve been around forever and have a certain nostalgic charm ~ and when cared for properly, they’re virtually indestructible, non-stick, and something your someday-grandkids will love to have.

Caring for the cast iron pans we love – to clean stubborn food remnants: SALT & a bit of OIL! (Don’t use soap.) Kosher salt (Morton’s is cheap, coarse and great for this purpose.) With the pan still warm, add ½ to 1 cup of coarse kosher salt and a touch (maybe 1 teaspoon) vegetable oil. Using a rag or folded dishcloth you reserve for this purpose, scour the pan. Rinse with hot water and dry immediately. (You can clean up with far less salt if your pan isn’t coated with food. A little salt and paper towel may do the trick.)

Seasoning the pans we love – nothing could be simpler. Rub a light coat of vegetable oil into the clean pan, about a Tablespoon for a larger skillet (flaxseed or grapeseed work especially well), starting with the inside, with anything remaining on the cloth continuing to the outside also; place in a low-temp oven (say 250°F for ½ to 1 hour). The heat will help the pan absorb the oil. A well-seasoned pan will perform better (especially as a non-stick surface) and will greatly resist rust that iron is otherwise prone to.

34 Comments Post a comment
  1. I didn’t know about the cleaning with salt trick. We used to scrub our skillet with sand when camping. Good to know. Thanks.

    March 26, 2012
  2. Nice Spree! I grew up with cast iron pans in my house (sadly I do not own one now but I think it’s time to change this)!

    March 26, 2012
    • Well yes you’d better! 🙂

      March 26, 2012
  3. what perfect timing, I just bought my very first cast iron pan over the weekend! 😀

    March 26, 2012
  4. Brilliant – I have ruined two cast iron griddles through washing them, the next one will be more “cherished” now I know what to do!

    March 26, 2012
    • If, by any chance, you still have one of those griddles that you ruined…it isn’t ruined. Even if the pan is completely covered over by orange rust, that can all be scrubbed, sanded, polished away, bringing the pan back into safe food service again. They are only really ruined if they get badly bent or broken in half.

      March 27, 2012
      • Ooh – that´s good to know. Will get Big Man on the case, he has a sanding gadget!

        March 27, 2012
      • exactly!

        March 27, 2012
  5. jim callas #

    Sometimes….late at night….when the house is quiet and everyone is asleep. I’ll sneak downstairs and season my pan just because…
    (sometimes when I don’t even need to…)

    March 26, 2012
  6. A joy to see how you’re spreading the cast iron love. Didn’t know about that salt trick until very recently (thanks to you). Mike treats ours like precious little babes, and it shows.

    March 26, 2012
    • May sound weird to say, but they get “prettier” with age it seems. Is it the patina, or is it just all the love that gets showered on (and in) it over the years?

      March 26, 2012
  7. Thanks for this lovely trick. I hope it’s not too late: I finally bought a cast iron pan about two years ago, and have been washing it the old fashioned way.

    Ronnie

    March 26, 2012
    • Oh Ronnie! Not too late at all! You can have a pan that’s all rusty – simply steel wool the rust off. Then use salt with oil. Rinse, dry. Then use the oil treatment in the low-temp oven for an hour and it will likely look good as new!! (Or good as old!) 🙂 Keep using it, and keep treating it this way and it will just get better and better!

      March 26, 2012
  8. I do love my cast iron and wish I had seen this post years ago. Where were ya, Spree, when I need ya? 🙂

    This is a great, informative post, Spree. Like you, I’ve found salt to be the magic abrasive and haven’t had any problems keeping my pans clean with it, when necessary. I bet this will get referenced plenty of times by new owners of cast iron cookery googling for help with their dirty pans — rightly so.

    March 26, 2012
  9. I would give up a whole lot of more expensive, fancy kitchen gear before I’d surrender my two black skillets (two are handy not only for larger quantity treats but because I can make a fake panino iron by heating both and putting the second on top of what’s to be pressed in the first pan). Cast iron skillets should also be mighty convenient for beaning any miscreants who break in and try to steal my cauliflower fritters, I should think.

    March 26, 2012
    • I agree. If I had to choose between my main cast iron pan and the KitchenAid Stand Mixer, the mixer would GO.

      March 27, 2012
    • I should think those trusty old skillets have been used for such a thing as this a time or two. (I like your idea of employing two so as to have a panini press. You clever thing!)

      March 27, 2012
  10. That was very instructive, thanks a lot!

    March 26, 2012
    • It’s so my pleasure! Thank YOU! 🙂

      March 27, 2012
  11. Affordable? I thought everyone just had hand me down ones like me. They last so long. Really affordable!

    March 27, 2012
    • You see, YOU’RE the very reason we should be taking good care of our pans. 🙂

      March 27, 2012
  12. I don’t have a cast iron pan, they are not something you get easily here but I really should try and get one, I keep hearing great things about them

    March 27, 2012
    • I hadn’t thought to consider that cast-iron would be hard to find! It’s so prevalent here. But if you can locate one, I think you’ll be so pleased you did.

      March 27, 2012
  13. jim callas #

    I use salt but only organic, free range salt. I think that helps…

    March 27, 2012
    • Jim – I think the people who stop in here to visit know that the only kind of salt I EVER use is free-range and humanely raised!
      😉

      March 27, 2012
  14. Agreed! My 10″ cast iron skillet is my kitchen workhorse. Although I just got a 2-burner griddle and I am finding that I use that quite a bit as well–what an improvement on having 3 pans on the stove!

    March 27, 2012
  15. deb #

    Great spreenkle – thanks 🙂

    March 28, 2012
  16. I didn’t know the salt trick, spree! Awesome because I just bought a huge dutch oven! And I have been wondering if my frying pan couldn’t use a little “seasoning” up but wasn’t sure how to do this! Yay!! No more stuck eggs!! xo Smidge

    March 28, 2012

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