Cast Iron pans and cookware have been in use since the 7th century. They were used in China, India, Korea, Japan, etc.
However, the modern cast iron cookware came into being during the 1800s. In the 20th century, they started being coated with enamel and later with Teflon.
However, one core attribute has never gone away. The fact that food sticks to these pans and that they get dirty. So here is how you can clean your cast iron pans with salt.
Cleaning a Cast Iron Pan with Salt
Cleaning a cast iron pan with salt is the best way to clean it. Washing it with soap is a rookie move. It should be regularly cleaned with salt to preserve its surface and to stop it from rusting.
The overall technique of cleaning the pan is actually pretty simple. So here are all the items you need.
The best part is that you can find these things in any modern kitchen.
- Coarse salt
- Oil (vegetable, olive oil, or Crisco)
- 1 potato
- Paper towel/tissues
Things can get messy depending on the shape and size of your pan. So, you should either go outside or work with a really big washing station.
Either way, you need to have a large surface area to clean the pan.
Make sure that you’re covering any and all surfaces that can’t get wet with a newspaper. This will make cleanup easy as well.
- First, sprinkle a liberal amount of sea salt into the pan. Make sure that you cover the entire inner surface, or anywhere else you need to clean. A half a cup of salt will be just fine for a 12-inch skillet. You can add more if you need it. Just remember to not overdo it. As far as your entire pan is covered, you can rest easy. If there are layers upon layers of salt there, things may get a little messier than you intended.
- Next, cut your potato in half, which easily fits in the palm of your hand. Cut the potato at its widest section, but where you can still get a good grip on it. This is a classic case of widening the surface area for the greatest reaction rate.
- Next, place the cut half of the potato into the pan covered with salt.
- Scrub hard. Use a circular motion and apply good pressure so that the food stains are scrubbed right off. Make sure that you get all of the surfaces that have food stuck to them.
- The potato has just enough moisture in it so it’ll help the salt work off the rust in the pan. So, you’ll be killing two birds with one stone.
- Make sure that you scrub the sides, bottom, and edges, as well. The crevices and nooks and crannies are the worst when it comes to stubborn stains.
- Don’t forget the handle either. It attracts lots of stains when you’re gripping it while cooking. Also, since many people use it for gripping, they forget to scrub it clean. Since it doesn’t do the lion’s share of the cooking, people believe that there is no use in cleaning it. However, rust on the handle, specifically where it meets the pan, shouldn’t be ignored. Over rusting can result in the pan breaking prematurely.
- If the salt gets dirty quickly, you should rinse it out and start over with some new salt. This can happen if your pan is over rusty and way too dirty. If you scrub the pan regularly, this shouldn’t happen too often.
- After you’ve cleaned the pan, rinse it out with water, and pat it dry.
- Then place the pan over your stove at a low heat setting. Do this for a minute so that the stove dries up the remaining moisture.
- After the pan is dry, take a small amount of oil in a paper towel and rub it into the surface. Make sure you get to the bottom and the sides of the pan as well. This will coat the pan and prevent food from sticking to it all over again.
- After you’re done, take a clean paper towel and remove any excess oil.
- Keep the pan over low heat on the stove for 30 minutes.
- Take the pan off the stove and leave it to cool.
- Wipe off any excess oil with a paper towel before you store it in your kitchen cabinet.
Why Does Food Stick to a Cast Iron Pan?
Food sticking to your cast iron pan is not a coincidence. Most times it’s also not because you’ve bought a bad iron pan.
It’s mostly because you’ve not seasoned your pan correctly. Cast iron pans have a natural non-stick surface and if the pan is seasoned correctly, sticking should not be an issue.
Most times food sticks to the iron pan because a portion of the seasoning has worn off or the seasoning wasn’t enough.
Other reasons include rusting. Both require a good cleaning of the pan to get rid of, as mentioned above
Food can stick to the pan mostly when you cook certain foods like:
- Egg whites are mostly protein. Also, eggs that have a lot of water content in them can mix with the oil. This can cause the oil to fly out of the pan.
- Fried potatoes create surfactants in the oil. This causes oil and water to mix and reduces the effect of the layer of protective steam.
- Acidic foods like tomatoes. These will break down the protective layer of the pan and make foods stick more easily.
How to Season Your Cast Iron Pan?
The seasoning of a cast iron pan is essential to keep it from rusting and to extend its shelf life. Seasoning creates a slick and glassy coating.
This is done through baking on multiple coats of oil, thereby protecting the surface from rusting.
- Use a relatively thin coat of neutral food-grade oil and rub it into the pan’s surface. Use either vegetable oil or lard for seasoning.
- Make sure to get the bottom and the sides and the edges too. Use a cotton cloth or a paper towel to do so. After you’ve done this, the pan will look as if there is no oil on the surface at all.
- After that, you should place it upside down in the oven with a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom. This will catch any oil drips.
- Heat the pan for 30 minutes at 450-500 degrees F. Turn off after it’s done and let the pan cool in the oven.
- If you repeat this process several times, you can create a stronger seasoning bond. Note that this process does generate dirty smoke, like cooking in a dirty oven.
Caring for Your Cast Iron Pan
You can care for your cast iron pan by simply keeping it clean and not letting it sit for too long.
Remember that using it regularly as well as cleaning it frequently will help extend its shelf life. So here are a few tips for caring for your cast iron pan.
- Season the pan regularly; about once a month if you cook regularly with oil and with vegetables such as tomatoes.
- Remove any bits of food stuck to the pan immediately. Don’t let it sit on the stove or the washing basin.
- Use salt to clean the pan and don’t use soap or washing liquid. This rips away and destroys the non-stick surface of the pan.
- Use paper towels or steel wool to clean the pan. If you’re using a sponge, use the rough surface to extract the food particles.
- Remember to scrub and dry the bottom, edges, and crevices of the pan as well as the handle.
- Don’t let rust sit on the surface of the pan or anywhere else. Cleaning the rust will extend the pan’s shelf life.
- Use vinegar and water to clean out the rust. Don’t use any acidic liquids or detergents to do so. This will destroy the pan.
- Store the pan in a dry place.
Solutions to Common Problems with Cast Iron Pans
You’ll encounter a few common problems with every cast iron pan no matter how high quality it is.
These problems can occur frequently or infrequently depending on how you care for the pan. So here are some solutions to the common problems with cast iron pans.
Food Sticking to the Surface
Even if you’ve seasoned your pan repeatedly, you can encounter food particles stuck to the surface.
This can come about for any number of reasons including a lack of fat used when cooking with the pan. It can also occur if you’re cooking something with a lot of sugar content.
The best way to remove the food is to scrub out the stuck and burnt bits with the rough side of a sponge. Then you should re-season the pan (see above).
Rusting on the Surface
Rust is natural for any metal surface. However, keeping your cast iron pan operating for a long time will require regular cleaning of rust.
Here’s how you can clean off any rust easily.
- Prepare a mixture of two equal parts vinegar and water.
- Soak the pan in the mixture for at least an hour. This will remove the rust if the entire pan is covered with it.
- If your pan has collected a little rust in certain areas, you can clean it with steel wool or a soapy scrub pad. You can even scrub with this vinegar and water mixture.
- After the pan has dried, repeat the seasoning process (see above).
- You should first wash the pan before seasoning; otherwise, you’ll risk improper or low-quality seasoning.
- Clean the pan with salt and rinse off any residue.
- Dry it off thoroughly with heat and then scrub any water in crevices or hard-to-reach spots with paper towels.
After that, you can begin seasoning.
What are the Best Foods to Cook on a Cast Iron Pan?
The best foods to cook on a cast iron pan are also some of the most delicious in existence. Here are just a few.
Try making your own Colonel Sanders-esque dish in your kitchen.
This is what a cast-iron pan was made for. The pan is known for distributing heat evenly and holds the heat even after you turn off the stove.
The oil temperature won’t drop low even without heat and the oil will season the pan while you cook. That’s a bonus.
Dutch Baby Pancakes
Dutch Baby Pancakes are made with sliced, caramelized apples they taste delicious.
Try making them in your cast iron pan for breakfast one day. This process can get messy, so wake up early that day.
Who doesn’t love pizza? You can make your own personal pan pizza with whatever ingredients you like.
Yes, even the dreaded pineapple.
A Spanish tortilla is a great treat for an afternoon snack. This potato-filled frittata needs to go two rounds in the pan.
First, you fry the potatoes, and then you cook the eggs.
You can layer on the noodles, pasta, cheese, sauce, and then bake it with your cast iron pan.
You’ll be licking your fingers clean for hours.
You don’t need a campfire to make s’mores.
You can use graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows in your pan. Fire up the broiler and then let everyone feast.
Paninis are delicious. You can cook your own on a cast iron pan and make them as delicious as possible.
Make sure that you squeeze in as much flavor by pressing down on the surface of the pan.
A well-seasoned cast-iron pan will be perfect for think, delicate crepes.
If your pan is large, it’s going to be heavy, so flipping the crepes will be a workout. Remember to keep a tissue handy to wipe those sweat streaks.
You can cook up some oats in the oven on your cast iron pan. This will get them deeply browned and caramelized.
Using these tips and tricks, you can make good use of the cast iron pan you have.
Instead of ordering a new pan every few months, you can extend your current pans life by just following the tips mentioned above.
Have fun cooking great food with your now long-lasting pan!
Other articles you may also like:
- How to Clean Cast-Iron Grill Pans – 4 Easy Ways!
- 3 Easy Ways to Clean the Outside of a Cast-Iron Skillet
- How to Clean Le-Creuset Grill Pan
- Seasoned vs Unseasoned Cast-iron Skillet
- How to Make a Pan Non-Stick with Salt?
- How Do I Get Fish Smell Out Of Cast Iron Pan?
- How to Deglaze a Cast Iron Pan