Cast iron pan with fig feta pistachio and rosemary sprig
Cast Iron – Scrubbing Away the Myths

I confess… I often use soap on my cast iron pans.

I had been doing it for a while, feeling guilty about it each time, until I read somewhere that the president of Lodge, one of the world’s largest producers of cast iron pots and pans, also occasionally uses soap on his collection.

I began to wonder, was it a myth that one should never use soap on cast iron? What if I cooked salmon in my 10-inch skillet, and the next day wanted to make a skillet apple crisp? Surely a bit of suds must be okay? No one wants a fishy dessert.

Furthermore, were there other myths about caring for cast iron that needed to be dispelled? Here’s what I’ve learned:

The do’s and don’ts of using and maintaining cast iron:

1. It’s okay to cook acidic things in cast iron – like tomato sauce or a white wine sauce – as long as it’s not a long simmer. If cooked for too long the ingredients could pick up a metallic flavor from the pan. Keep cooking times short with acidic ingredients.

2. Do keep your pans seasoned. Simply wipe a thin layer of coconut, canola or other vegetable oil onto the interior surface of the pan occasionally. Wipe out the excess, and you’re good to go. 

2. It’s totally okay to use a mild dish soap to clean your pan, but you will want to dry it well and then season it with oil after doing so.

3. A little rust doesn’t mean you need to toss your pan. Use steel wool to scrub the rust away, then make sure to dry the pan thoroughly, and rub it with a little oil to season it again. 

4. I’ve heard people say you should never use metal utensils on cast iron, because it will ruin the seasoning. The truth is, it’s fine to use a metal spatula in a cast iron skillet. The seasoning becomes ingrained within the top layer and protects the surface. If it gets a little scrape, just re-season it.

5. Do be careful of hot spots in your pan. One of cast iron’s great attributes is its density. Once the pan heats up, it retains that energy for a very long time. In the process of warming, though, the portions of the pan closest to the heat source will become hotter than others, temporarily creating an uneven cooking surface. You’ll want to preheat the pan and rotate it around your heat source to create an even distribution. 

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