If, like us, you need to prepare mentally, physically and emotionally to cook with your loved one cast iron skilleta man named Chris Wing, better known on social media as @Cast_Iron_Chris, is about to change your life. He believes that the best and most effective way to clean cast iron cooking tools comes with – wait for it – soap and water. “Contrary to what you may have heard from your grandmother, it is absolutely safe to clean your cast iron with soap. In fact, I strongly encourage it,” he says.
Now, to anyone unfamiliar with cast iron, this might not seem like a jaw-dropping revelation, especially since we use soap and water to clean just about all of our other pots and pans. The cast is different, however. Until we look this video from Wing calmly cleaning his cast iron collection with soapy water, we strictly followed the “rules” of cast iron, if you will. They are the following:
- Remove food particles which can be stuck to the cooking surface with coarse salt and water. You can also just boil some water in the pot and wait for the food particles to come off.
- Dry the pan well with paper towels or a microfiber cloth or over low heat on the stove.
- Oil the pan using vegetable oil or melted shortening. (It is key and usually the most annoying part of the cleanup process.) Dip the corner of a paper towel in the oil and move it around every inch of the pan, including the handle and the outer surface.
- Let the oil absorb before storing the pan.
This process isn’t wrong, but it takes a lot of time – time we’d rather spend on our own nightly routines. If you want to clean your cast iron cookware the traditional way, go for it. But if you want to cut down on time and materials, soap and water works great, according to Wing. The soap will not affect or spoil the seasoning.
“There are many reasons why people think soap will ruin their cast iron, but the main driver of this myth is that people misunderstand what the seasoning on their cast iron actually is,” says Wing. “In the case of cast iron, seasoning has nothing to do with flavor; it’s just a protective barrier. Cast iron is often admired for its dark patina, but cast iron is naturally gray. It’s the seasoning that gives it that dark look.
As for the seasoning itself, here’s how Wing suggests doing it correctly: “Rub the oil all over the cast iron, wipe off the excess oil, and put it in your oven for an hour.” In the furnace, the liquid oil goes through a process called polymerization and turns this liquid oil into a protective barrier on the cast iron. Good, you have it now.
Another myth that Wing wants to debunk is the one that suggests cleaning duty be done with salt. In one of the videos he posted on instagram, he says that cleaning cast iron with salt is “stupid!” Not for the reason you think, though. It’s not that salt doesn’t work; it just makes cast iron skillets seem to require a lot more maintenance than they are.
Here’s how Wing cleans its cast iron parts:
- Use lukewarm water, dish soap and a sponge. (“Yes, even the abrasive side of the sponge,” says Wing.) Clean it like you would any other kitchen utensil.
- If something is a little hard to get out of the pan, Wing can switch from a sponge to a plastic or chainmail scrubber.
- “Once the pan is clean, I dry it well with a microfiber towel (a paper towel is also fine), then I heat dry it putting it on my stovetop burner for about three minutes, making sure all the moisture has evaporated.
- Once the pan has cooled enough to be safe to handle, it spread a very thin layer of oil on the cooking surface and wipe off the excess with a clean cloth. “Do,” he says.
In other Instagram Video, Chris compares a, dare we say, grossly crusty cast iron skillet that has been cleaned the traditional way and one using, you guessed it, soap and water, and the results are amazing to say the least. . As you can imagine, the one cleaned with soap and water is spotless and the other is, well, still pretty gross.
So if you’ve put off buying a cast iron skillet, a heavy-duty cookware that scientifically improves the taste of food– because you thought they were too much to handle when you were done cooking, consider the myths debunked. Now is the perfect time to invest in a durable cast iron skillet, griddle, or grill pan. “Your cast iron slowly builds additional layers of seasoning as you use it and cook with it, so the best advice I can give you is: use your pan often and keep it clean.”
Jessica Cherner is the associate editor of House Beautiful and knows where to find the best high-low pieces for any room.