I am a huge fan of cast iron cookware. Given the opportunity to do so, I recently used my entire carry-on allowance to bring a new skillet with me on an airplane.
Safe to say, I am a fan.
With that in mind, I urge you not to put your cast iron cookware into the dishwasher (cast iron pans are not dishwasher safe).
I know putting your cast iron in a dishwasher is convenient and tempting, but doing so disregards the benefits of using cast iron in the first place.
Dishwasher Ruins Cast Iron Pan Seasoning
First of all, dishwashers wreak havoc on the seasoning of your cast iron pans.
The seasoning that comes with regular use is one of the critical benefits of cast iron over other types of cookware.
Ideally, before using your cast iron cookware for the first time, you will want to season it—more on that below. Cast iron is porous and more like a brick than ceramic or stainless steel cookware.
Because of this, it has a habit of retaining what you put into it.
Retention is good when pan-frying a steak after cooking bacon earlier that day. Not great if you have placed your skillet in a dishwasher and soap residue is now seeping into your filet.
Begin rubbing your cast iron down with kosher salt and wiping it clean. Then do the same thing with a fair amount of oil, again wiping it clean with a paper towel or cloth after doing so.
The salt and oil will season the cookware and create a nearly non-stick surface making cleaning up a breeze.
Putting your cast iron cookware in a dishwasher is harmful for two primary reasons.
- First, it will inject the porous material with loads of hot soapy water. Not really what you want to use as a marinade for your next meal.
- Second, it will strip away the seasoning that gradually builds over time. Cooking fatty portions of meat and bacon traps the flavor into the surface of your skillet.
The resulting glaze not only creates an excellent cooking surface but adds just a hint of deliciousness to every meal.
Don’t waste this by throwing your cast iron pan into the dishwasher.
Cast Iron can Soak Dishwasher Soap
Cast iron is also widely regarded as safer and more chemical-free than other types of cookware.
Cooking at high temperatures, a process called leaching can occur.
Leaching is when metals from the cookware are absorbed into the food. Materials like aluminum have a higher risk of this occurring and could have negative health implications.
Studies show cast iron to be resistant to leaching, and when it does occur, it only enriches the food with more of what our body naturally needs, iron.
Using the dishwasher to clean your cast iron will introduce chemicals into the material later released as you cook.
Even if all that is absorbed is soap residue, why risk it this way if you wouldn’t add it to your food as you prepare it?
How To Clean Cast Iron Pans (without using a dishwasher)
Cleaning your cast iron pan or skillet is relatively easy.
By following the four steps below, you will guarantee a happy relationship for years to come with your favorite cookware.
Cleaning Begins With Cooking
First, before cooking, prepare your skillet well. Heat your cast iron with a small amount of water until it begins to steam.
Remove it from the heat, dump the water and wipe it out with a paper towel or clean cloth.
Heating and wiping down cast iron ensures that any leftover film or residue is not part of tonight’s meal.
Pre-heating Is Key
Next, you can heat the cast iron again and add whatever type of fat or oil you will use for cooking.
Cast iron will never be as non-stick as Teflon, but this simple step will help cleaning up be a breeze.
Cool and Wipe
After cooking, allow the pan to cool, and then wipe the pan out with warm water and whatever gentle scrubbing brush you have on hand.
If there is still food residue on the pan, it is a good idea is to simmer a small amount of water in the pan for close to five minutes.
Doing so will help loosen the food and make it easier to clean.
Some people will disagree, but it is acceptable to use a small amount of soap when necessary to clean the pan well.
If any soap or detergent penetrates the cast iron’s porous surface, it will be removed in the preparation stage the next time you use it.
Dry the Cast Iron Pan Properly
Cast iron is made of metal and will rust quickly. After cleaning your pan, make sure it is dried thoroughly.
You can wipe it with a lint-free cloth and even place it back on the burner to let the stove do its job.
Any discussion of cleaning is incomplete without also addressing how to season your cast iron.
The final step of cleaning is to season the pan once again.
Rinse and Reseason
Every once in a while, it is necessary to reseason your cast iron.
Cast iron is exceptional for cooking because of its ability to retain seasoning.
Unlike ceramic or aluminum, cast iron is porous and can maintain seasoning from one meal to another.
For this reason, many people like to season their cast iron with salt and oil before using it for the first time.
Start by wiping a small amount of salt around the pan’s surface. Next, rub the surface with an oil such as grapeseed or olive oil and wipe off any excess.
The salt and oil fill the tiny pores to add flavor and protection to your pan.
Finally, place your cast iron skillet or pan upside down in the oven. Bake it for ten to fifteen minutes on medium heat to trap the oil and seal it properly.
It is a good idea to place a baking sheet underneath your cookware to catch any oil that may drip and keep your oven clean.
This provides the seasoning that only cast iron can offer and protects the pan’s surface. Cast iron will never be as smooth as Teflon, but it will last for generations when treated well.
When done as a final step in the cleaning process, the pan is well protected and ready to use. Using a dishwasher to clean your cast iron would remove all of the benefits of your work.
Cast iron is the Rocky of cookware. It will take a beating, and keep on going. Cast iron has been dated back to the Han dynasty in 200 BC.
The method used to make cast iron has not changed since developed in 1707. Cast iron is made to last and has evidence to prove it will do just that when cared for properly.
Handing down family recipes is a great tradition.
If you take care of your cast iron cookware, your family will not only use the same recipes but prepare them in the same pan for generations.
My family loves waking up on weekends to the sight of pancakes in our skillet.
I am happy to know that they will use the same skillet to feed their children with a little bit of care. I’ll just have to ask them to keep it out of the dishwasher.
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