9 Tips for Caring for Cast Iron Pans

Proper care of your cast iron pans can provide years, even generations, of use. Domestic CEO shows you how to take of these long-lasting kitchen staples.

Amanda Thomas
5-minute read
Episode #158

Cast iron pans can be a great investment for your kitchen. Not only are they extremely durable, but they also allow you to create some unique dishes and flavors. Cast iron is great for when you want a crisp edge on pan-fried foods, and when you need to perfectly sear a slice of meat. They even safely up the iron content and nutritional value of your meals (for more information on the nutritional aspects of cast iron pans, pop over to Nutrition Diva’s episode, Is It Safe to Cook in Cast Iron?)

Despite all their benefits, you may have heard that cast iron pans are delicate and require special care. While there are a few dos and don’ts when it comes to caring for these items, these pans are actualy about as far from delicate as you can get - and in fact, are extremely durable, and can even be restored. There is a reason that you'll find cast iron pans from decades ago still in use in kitchens across the country!

Today, we are going to focus on the everyday cleaning and care of cast iron pans. Let’s get started with talking about the seasoning process.

Tip 1: Start with Seasoning

All cast iron pans need to be “seasoned.” This has nothing to do with actual seasoning herbs; rather, it's the process of creating a non-stick layer of polymerized oil on the surface of the pan.

Even cast iron pans that come pre-seasoned should go through a couple rounds of seasoning to ensure that the surface is set. The process is very simple, and involves coating the pan with grease or oil, heating it to allow the oils to set on the surface, cooling, and repeating. Sounds easy, right?

To start, preheat your oven to about 300 degrees. Put the pan in the oven for about 10 minutes to get it warmed up, then pull it out using a thick pot holder, and set it on your stove top. Pour a little oil or grease (bacon grease or lard) into the pan. Allow it to melt and become very thin, then rub it all over the inside surfaces, including the sides, of the pan.

Next, put the pan back in the oven for about an hour. When the time is up, pull the pan out again, allow it to cool, and wipe it out with a clean paper towel. Repeat the process another 3-4 times, until the surface of the pan is shiny and smooth.

During the seasoning process, and any time you are using your cast iron pans, it’s important to remember that the handles are also made of iron, so they get very hot. Be careful any time you are about to touch a cast iron pan handle - and always assume it is hot!

Tip 2: Clean With Warm Water

The best way to clean your cast iron pan is also the simplest. Allow your pan to cool slightly, then use a plastic scraper to loosen any chunks of cooked on food stuck on the pan. Once you have everything loosened, run some warm water over the surface of the pan to rinse it out, then wipe the surface clean with a scrubby sponge if you need to (not steel wool, which is too rough.) Finally, rinse it again.

Be sure to then wipe the surface with paper towel and allow it to set until it is completely dry. If you put away a pan that still has moisture on it, you risk the pan rusting, so always make sure the pans are completely dry. You can even put the pan on a hot stove or back in the oven to ensure that all the water has evaporated.

Tip 3: Clean Cast Iron After Every Use

I used to have a roommate that left her cast iron pan sitting on the stove for weeks. Her reasoning was that the pan didn’t really need to be cleaned, so it was easier to just leave it on the stovetop until the next time she wanted to use it.

While that may seem logical, if you don’t clean your pan after each use, you are leaving all the food remnants and grease out for dust, bugs, and other gross stuff to fall in. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to know that the only ingredients in my foods are ones that I put in! Make sure you aren’t getting any unwanted extras in your meals by always cleaning and storing your pans.