It is hard wired in my brain that a pan is clean only when it has been scrubbed in hot, soapy water. So when my husband ordered a set of cast iron pans many years ago, they were never my favorite. They were hard to clean, they didn’t like being immersed in hot,soapy water and they spent more time in the cabinet then they did being used.
Then something clicked in December when I went looking for new pots and pans to fill out my pots and pans. I read this incredibly awesome review on Amazon which made me decide to give my cast iron another, serious chance. I convinced my darling hubby to light our outdoor fireplace so we could truly clean and re-season our pans. So despite an unseasonably cool December morning, the dirtiest and hardest to clean pan went on the grill.
The liquid pooling at the bottom of the pan is the excess oil and fat that had accumulated over many uses grilling steaks and burgers over the years. This pan had been”washed” many times with water, salt, scrappers and still the blasted pan never came clean. So, imagine my surprise as the years of accumulated gunk began to burn off and the pan slowly became clean as the gunk burned off.
Truth be told, my husband did most of the work over the open flame. It could have been done indoors on the stove or on the BBQ but why when I could prevent the smoke filling up the house by cleaning it outside?
No way to sugar coat it, the process is time intensive so be prepared to set aside at least an hour. Eventually we brought the pan inside to finish the process, and here is what just a small bit of the burned off gunk looked like in the kitchen sink:
Once all the gunk is burned off, we applied a light coating of vegetable oil to the pan. Doing this several time and removing the excess oil each time left the pan perfectly seasoned and ready for use. The pan is now incredibly easy to use and clean. Once a year, all of my cast iron pans are going on the fire and being meticulously cleaned.
Tips and Tricks
- Paper towels, or a soft cotton cloth you don’t mind getting dirty, for cleaning the pan after each use.
- For tough spots, happens even in the best seasoned pans, I have a chainmail “sponge” to scrap those tough spots disappear
- I keep a spray bottle of Canola Oil handy to spray into the pan after it’s been cleaned
- Oil and wipe down the pan after each use
In retrospect, caring for cast iron isn’t complicated it is just very different from using and caring for other types of pots and pans. Needless to say, now that my brain has figured it out my cast iron pans are getting a lot more use these days.