Every good cook knows just how important cast iron skillets can be for whipping up an excellent meal. Their durability and ability to hold uniform temperatures for extended periods make them an essential component in a lot of people’s kitchens. But sometimes people worry if they are a pain to clean. While it’s true that your cast iron cookware will not be as easy to clean as most non-stick pans, it can still be relatively simple.
Keep reading for tips on how to clean a cast iron skillet with burnt on food. We’ll also cover the best ways to clean your cast iron skillet generally. And, explain how you can avoid food burning and sticking in the future.
Lightly Burnt Food
If the food in your cast iron skillet is only slightly burnt or looks like it’s starting to burn when you’ve finished cooking, it’ll be much easier to clean it off.
For this method, you’ll simply need some cooking oil and some paper kitchen towels.
While the skillet is still warm but not completely cool, pour a little bit of cooking oil in and wipe the inside thoroughly with the paper towels.
You might need to apply some elbow grease and give it a good scrub but it shouldn’t be too difficult to remove some slightly burnt food.
You’ll only be able to do this with food that has recently been burnt onto the skillet. If you leave it too long, more thorough methods will need to be used, and we’ll review those below.
You can use pretty much any cooking oil you like but it’s best to go for one with a neutral flavor like canola or vegetable oil so that it doesn’t affect the taste of your next dish.
Of course, once you’ve removed all of the food from the inside of the skillet, clean and dry it thoroughly as you would any other time.
Cleaning Your Cast Iron Skillet With Baking Soda
This is a method you should employ for food that will be slightly more burnt and stuck on from leaving it too long before cleaning.
It works pretty much the same way as the previous method: simply pour some baking soda into the skillet and scrub away at it with some paper kitchen towels.
Because the baking powder is more abrasive than cooking oil, it will be better at removing some of the tougher pieces of burnt-on food.
You can actually use pretty much any abrasive powder you might have in your kitchen like salt or cornmeal.
These will all work the same as baking powder in using abrasion to remove the tougher foods that get stuck to your cast iron skillet.
However, you should make sure to avoid any powders that could melt in the warm skillet. Sugar is a good example of this. It will melt pretty easily in a warm pan and should be avoided when using this method, or you’ll end up with a bigger mess than you started!
Once the food has been removed, simply rinse the skillet off under a warm tap to get rid of any last bits of the food or powder and dry it thoroughly before storing away.
Cleaning Your Cast Iron Skillet With Hot Water
This is something else you could try for food that has been thoroughly burnt onto the surface of your cast iron skillet.
You can always use this method in conjunction with others, using the boiling water to release some of the food from the surface of the skillet and going in with something else to finish the job.
For this method, simply pour a small amount of water into your skillet (maybe an inch deep) and place it on the stove on medium heat.
Then, once the water has come up to a gentle simmer, reduce the heat to stop it fully boiling and use a plastic or wooden kitchen utensil to scrape the food off.
It’s very important to use plastic or wooden implements for this and not metal ones. Metal equipment will scratch the surface of the pan, removing any seasoning and damaging the surface. A wooden spoon or plastic spatula will do the trick just fine.
Once you’ve got as much of the food as you can off of the surface, you should again rinse off the skillet with some warm water. To avoid burning yourself, it’s a good idea to wait until the skillet has cooled down a little before rinsing. Then, simply dry it thoroughly and store it away.
Seasoning Your Cast Iron Skillet
If you own a cast iron skillet, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the term ‘seasoning’ before.
No, it’s not the same kind of seasoning as you do to food but is a form of protection you can apply to your cookware to prevent food from sticking to it in the first place.
Seasoning essentially provides a natural, non-stick layer to the surface of your cookware that makes cleaning them a whole lot easier.
To season a cast iron skillet, start by applying a small amount of cooking oil (try to use one with a neutral flavor) to the surface and spread it across every square inch with a paper kitchen towel.
Then, turn your oven up to its highest temperature and leave the skillet in there, upside down for about an hour. This will evaporate any excess oil and create a smooth layer of seasoning on your pan. In addition to helping with food release, a good layer of seasoning will help prevent rusting and extend the overall life of your pan.
Caring For Your Cast Iron Skillet
There are plenty of different things you have to do to care for a cast iron skillet and protect its longevity.
Primarily, while you should clean the skillet properly after every use, you should avoid using soap. Cleaning it with soap can remove some of the effects of seasoning and end up doing damage to the surface of your cast iron skillet.
Another thing to bear in mind is that, while you can use something like a steel wool scourer to get rid of some of the really burnt on pieces of food, this can also remove some of the seasoning layer, so you should always re-season the pan after doing this.
As long as you follow the tips we’ve outlined here, you should have no problems getting tough pieces of burnt-on food off of your cast iron skillet.
Although they require a little extra effort for care and maintenance, cast iron skillets will allow you to create some of the best dishes of your life so they’re definitely worth looking after!
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