If we could, we’d shout it from the mountain tops: We love cooking with cast iron. They’re durable, efficient, endlessly useful, and make a pretty photo to boot. And yet. And yet, for so many, cast iron pans remain tucked away in the furthest cabinet, shrouded in mystery. There’s the endless questioning of whether you’re cleaning it correctly or not, of course, but equally crippling is the constant wondering: Am I actually using this thing correctly? This pan is consistently referred to as the workhorse of any kitchen—and it is!—but you’ve also probably heard that there are certain things you should never, ever cook in a cast iron. What should go for a spin in this heaviest of pans? What should be reserved for stainless steel and nonstick?
1. We’ve got answers
But first, a brush-up on proper cast iron care. Conventional wisdom saysnot to wash your cast iron pans with detergent, and while that does hold true, “a little bit of soap on the sponge won’t do any major damage,” according to Dawn Perry, Bon Appétit senior food editor. Equally important is to avoid metal scouring pads, which can scratch, damage, and remove the layers of seasoning and expose the metal. If your dinner has imparted stubborn crusty bits onto the pan, the best way to clean it is by rubbing it down with kosher salt and a kitchen towel while it’s still warm, then wiping it down with fat (flaxseed oil or lard do the trick nicely). Water is not the enemy of cast iron, unless you allow it to soak. Your safest bet is to scour, wash with water if necessary, and then dry and rub it down immediately. If your pan needs extra loving, you can re-season it by scrubbing it clean and applying a film of fat all over the pan’s interior and exterior, then placing it in a 350˚ oven with a sheet pan or foil underneath to catch drips. Let “bake” for one hour, then cool the pan completely in the oven.
Now, about that food…