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Tips & Tricks

Beginner’s Guide to Cast Iron Cleaning and Care

By: Lodge Cast Iron / January 11, 2021

Believe or not, cast iron cleaning and care are the most popular topics discussed with our customer care team over the phone, through email, and on social media. We’re here to help you with your everyday cast iron questions so you can start cooking and making memories—with confidence—today.

How to clean a cast iron skillet.

Cast iron cookware has been around for centuries, and though the materials and finished products have greatly improved thanks to advancements in science and technology, there are still some tall tales about use, appearance, and care that remain. For new and experienced users alike, it can be tough to know what information is worth following and what isn’t. 
The good news is, cast iron is resilient and cooking with it is an experience and a relationship that will last beyond your lifetime. Once you get started, your Lodge cast iron cookware will be what you grab from the cupboard for every culinary idea that moves you. Here’s how to tackle the everyday questions that may arise when using your new pan.

1. Does my new cookware still need to be seasoned?

Great news—we do that for you! (In fact, we were the first to foundry-season our cookware.) We spray a thin layer of vegetable oil onto the surface of each piece of cast iron and bake it at a high temperature in a large oven. Now, Lodge cast iron cookware is seasoned before it leaves the foundry and is essentially ready to use, right out of the box.

How often do I need to season my pan?

2. How often do I need to season my pan?

How do I know when it’s time to season my pan?

While your new cookware is seasoned and ready to use, it’s still important to continue to care for your cookware. After each meal, simply hand wash your cookware, dry promptly, and apply a thin layer of cooking oil to the entire surface. And voila! In three steps you’ve cared for your cookware so it’s ready for your next culinary adventure.

3. Is it bad to wash my pan with soap?

How should I clean my pan?

Seasoning is fairly resilient. It can withstand a little soap and water and a good scrub with a brush. For tips on cleaning, check out our step-by-step guide here. You can also read how members of the Lodge team like to clean their cookware.

How to clean a cast iron skillet.

4. What are the black flakes that come off on the rag every time I clean my pan and how do I get rid of them?

Sometimes layers of seasoning may flake off your cast iron pan. Don’t worry, it’s harmless. This can happen if layers of seasoning have not fully bonded to the metal. Our seasoning is made up of layers of cooking oil baked on the surface of your cookware. It turns black in high heat and forms a protective layer over the iron. When cast iron is heated very rapidly, the iron expands quicker than the seasoning layer, which can cause the seasoning to crack and flake. For this reason, we recommend preheating your skillet slowly over several minutes, gradually increasing the temperature.

If your pan is flaking, don't panic. Simply scrub it with a nylon brush or salt, then rinse, hand dry, and rub with oil. You may want to try seasoning in the oven to help build up a strong layer of seasoning. To learn how to season your cookware, follow these tips.

Seasoning

5. Does it matter which kind of oil I use when seasoning?

Which is the best?

Actually, you can use whatever oil you prefer. The one factor to consider: make sure the cooking temperature is below the smoke point of the oil. For example, olive oil, vegetable oil, sunflower oil, and grapeseed oil are all great multipurpose cooking oils—you can use them for everything from sautéing to baking. We have a comprehensive oil guide here.

6. Why did my pan rust and how do I fix it? 

Rust can happen when cooking with cast iron, it is nothing to worry about. Our cast iron cookware is made of a mix of pig iron, steel, and alloys. Without the protective layer of carbonized oil called seasoning, cast iron is susceptible to rust. Even a well-seasoned pan can rust if it's left in the sink to soak, put in the dishwasher, allowed to air dry, or stored in a moisture-prone environment.
The rust can be easily resolved, and we have a few tips to help prevent this from happening again, like re-seasoning your cookware. To prevent it from returning, dry promptly after each use. This removes water from sitting in the pan and forming rust. For more information on restoring a rusty pan, check out our comprehensive guide.

7. Why isn’t my pan as dark anymore?

Is the brown patina bad?

Cast iron can have slight variations in the seasoning coverage, which can make certain areas look darker than others. This is normal and nothing to worry about. It won’t affect the pan’s performance, and with regular use, the cast iron will darken over time. Keep in mind cast iron can become dull if it is heated without any oil on it, or if it is heated without enough oil in the pan to cook the food. The dullness comes when the oil on the pan burns off before cooking. To fix this, just re-season the pan. If your cast iron still looks dull after re-seasoning it, repeat the process until it achieves a slight sheen.

How to clean a cast iron skillet.

8. I can’t get my pan clean. How do I get rid of tough, stuck on messes? 

If you accidentally leave your cast iron cookware on any heat source for too long, food, marinades, and sauces can burn and get stuck to the surface. We recommend using a pan scraper to remove stuck-on food. If the problem persists, simmer a little water in the pan for 3-5 minutes, then use the scraper. Be sure to dry thoroughly and add a layer of oil afterwards. If this does not remove the burned-on food, follow our re-seasoning tips.

9. Why does my cast iron smell weird when I clean it?

Did you recently cook fish or another pungent food in your cast iron? That could be the culprit. It could also be a result of not properly cleaning your cookware before storing it. To eliminate the unwanted odor, simply bake your cast iron pan in the oven at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. This easy, odor-eliminating method won't damage the seasoning on your cookware. A traditional method calls for you to sprinkle a layer of regular table salt on the cooking surface of your cookware, leave it on overnight, and rinse it off in the morning. This will also eliminate any lingering odors. If smells persist, you may need to scour and re-season your cookware.

Pork chop pan

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