If you want to clean a cast iron cookware that you inherited or purchased in a market, it is likely that you will have to deal with rust and a thick layer of black and encrusted dirt. The tool might look uninviting, but don’t worry; you will be able to get it back practically like new without making too much effort.
Treating a cast iron cookware is essential to recreate a non-stick treatment and prevent rust. To preserve this treatment, you need to take some precautions when cleaning. With the right attention, your cast iron cookware will improve over time and use, becoming the queen of your kitchen. Here’s what you need to do exactly.
3 Methods To Clean Cast Iron Cookware
Method 1 – Clean the cast iron cookware in the traditional way
- Rinse the cookware with hot water after cooking. Remove the large residues of food and then fill it completely with water.
- Boil the water. Carefully put the cookware back on the heat and bring the water to a boil. Let the water boil for several minutes to dissolve the leftover food.
- With a wide spatula, lightly scratch the edges and the bottom of the cookware to remove the more resistant residues. Do this while the water is boiling, but only for a few minutes. Excessive contact with other metal tools can ruin the cookware coating.
- Throw the dirty water into the sink. Turn off the heat and put the cookware back on it. Be very careful when you move the cookware full of water. Since cast iron is an excellent heat conductor, the handle, like the rest of the cookware, will also be very hot. Use a tea towel or oven gloves to grab it.
- Moisten a couple of paper napkins and quickly pass them over the surface of the cookware. If you do it right, you should notice a thin layer of dark residue on the napkins.
- Apply a thin layer of fat, such as vegetable oil. You can also use spray oil which is very useful for this purpose. Use some kitchen paper to even out the layer of oil on both the edges and the bottom. This should make the inside of the cookware shiny and smooth.
- Store the cookware in a dry and cold place, cover it with kitchen paper instead of a lid, to prevent moisture from forming.
Method 2 – Clean the cast iron cookware with potatoes and sodium bicarbonate
- Cut a raw potato in half lengthwise or breadthwise (based on the size of your cookware). If your cookware is very large, it is better to cut the potato lengthwise, to have a larger cleaning surface. This method is great for dealing with rust stains on cast iron cookware.
- Apply a thin layer of baking soda to the surface of the potato. The bicarbonate is slightly abrasive and also has detergent properties, and is known as a natural cleaning product.
- Rub the cookware with the potato and baking soda, being particularly careful with the most problematic areas. Rub the bottom and edges. If the cookware becomes too slippery, cut the first layer of potato away and put more baking soda back on.
- Treat the cookware after cleaning it. You will probably need to restore the surface treatment after rubbing your cookware a lot.
Method 3 – Clean the cast iron cookware using an oven
- Use a self-cleaning oven to remove scale from the cookware. Set the shortest cleaning cycle (generally 3 hours). At the end of the process, the cast iron will be practically new. Let the cookware cool down to the next day. Wash away residues using only water and an abrasive sponge. Dry the cookware with kitchen paper, then immediately put it back in the oven at 180 ° C for about ten minutes.
- Take the cookware out of the oven after 10 minutes, it should be perfectly dry. Roll up a piece of paper towel, grease it with lard or another solid cooking grease and pass it on the cast iron. If necessary, you can also use oil, but it would be better to use a solid fat at this stage. If you have decided to use the oil anyway, it is important to apply a little (albeit distributing it everywhere). The cast iron must shine, but must not drip and there must be no accumulation of liquid inside the cookware, to avoid problems later.
- Put the cookware in the oven. Turn it on at 260-290 ° C. The inside of the cookware should face down. In this way, the fat will flow outside instead of inside and will not accumulate on the bottom. The high temperature of the oven causes the fat to “cook” on the cookware rather than simply “drying out”. Leave the cookware to heat in the oven for an hour. [Note: during this step, it is better to deactivate the fire alarms in the kitchen because a lot of smoke may escape from the oven. Open the windows or turn on a fan to ventilate the room.]
- Take the cookware out of the oven after an hour. Immediately apply another layer of very thin fat and then let the cookware cool completely before putting it back in the kitchen cabinet.
Important Tips For Cleaning Cast Iron Cookware
- If you wash the cast iron cookware too aggressively (for example if you use an abrasive sponge), also remove the protective patina as well as dirt. Use a gentler tool or treat them again regularly to restore the protective coating.
- If you happen to burn food in cookware, add a little water and scrape the incrustation gently using a flat metal scoop. You may need to treat the cookware again later to restore the protective patina.
- After cleaning the cookware, it is always better to put it in the oven at 180 ° C for about ten minutes to make sure that all the water evaporates leaving it perfectly dry.
- It is very important to turn the food in cookware with a flat stainless-steel scoop, otherwise, the bottom may become uneven.
- Some companies treat their cast iron cookware before putting it on sale. Do an online search to find out which are the most careful and prestigious brands.
- If an encrusted patina forms on the cookware, it means that you are not punchy enough when you wash it. Follow the instructions of the first method.
- Before placing the cookware in the kitchen cabinet, put a few sheets of paper towels or cloth between the edge of the cookware and the lid to allow air to pass through.
- Don’t wash your cast iron cookware too often. It takes very little to remove food residues immediately after cooking: add a little oil and coarse salt while the cookware is still hot, gently scrape the bottom with kitchen paper and then empty it before putting it back in its place.
Techniques That Don’t Help Clean a Cast Iron Cookware
- Avoid using soaps and detergents. They are great for cleaning most of your kitchen equipment, but you need to avoid them with cast-iron tools. The sulphides present in most cleaning products dissolve the surface treatment oil and spoil it, leaving the cookware exposed and vulnerable from the first day of use.
- Never put a cast iron cookware in the dishwasher. The process is different, but the reason is the same as indicated above. This appliance spoils the treatment and promotes the formation of rust.
- Avoid using steel wool to clean your cast iron cookware. It is actually useful for removing food deposits, but it spoils the surface treatment and forces you to start over. Better to use the potato method for cleaning.