Cast Iron Cookware: 4 Common Questions About the Use and Care of Cast Iron

cast iron cookware facts

Got questions about how to use and care for your cast iron cookware? If so, you’re not alone. Even with the popularity of cast iron pots and pans throughout the years, learning the proper care and use of these well loved kitchen tools is still almost an art form that must be learned!

This particular type of cookware has its own requirements for how to care for it as well as how to properly use that other types of cookware do not.

With that in mind, here are some of the most common questions asked when it comes to the use and general care of cast iron pots and pans.

Q & A about Cast Iron Cookware

1. Question: Is new cast iron cookware truly “pre-seasoned” or is it really properly seasoned and ready to use?

Answer: Yes, “pre-seasoned” cast iron pots and pans are ready to be cooked in without having to go through the typical seasoning process at home.

However, you still need to lightly wash and rinse your new cookware to remove any accumulated dust or dirt on them. After washing, dry and place on a heated burner set to medium heat for about one minute. Allow the pan to cool before coating lightly with a food-quality oil. Wipe off any residue before storing. Be sure to add a light coat of oil after each use of cast iron to cause an even better patina to build up on the pots and pans over time.

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2. Question: What causes cast iron to sometimes peel and chip, even though properly seasoned?

Answer: There are several things that can cause this to happen even to the most well seasoned cast iron. Two common reasons for this is soaking cookware overnight in the sink and/or washing pots and pans in harsh detergent.

Both actions can cause the seasoned finish to soften, then disintegrate or peel off. The proper way to wash cast iron is to rinse the pot or skillet quickly in hot water, wipe with a paper towel, and dry completely on a stove burner. This ensures that the cast iron patina will remain intact.

A third common reason is cooking foods that are highly acidic. For example, if you’re cooking something with lots of tomatoes, you may begin to see a dulling or distressing of the cookware finish. To avoid this, just be sure to cook lower acidic foods in the same pan just as often to create a balance between acidic and nonacidic reactions.

Generally, however, if the patina is very well established, cooking foods with some acidity isn’t going to hurt the pans. It’s typically in early uses of the cookware some pitting and softening might develop. Just continue to clean as directed earlier and avoid highly acidic foods as much as possible in brand new cookware. As cast iron develops its patina, you will be able to cook most anything in it without any problems occurring in the finish.

A fourth cause of damage to cast iron can occur when using metal cooking utensils. It can scrape the seasons and cause rust to develop if you aren’t careful to clean and maintain it properly.

3. Question: Is older old cast iron cookware ruined if spots of rust have formed while in storage or unused?

Answer: Absolutely not. It’s not hard to remove the rust and re-season for many more years of use. A simple method to remove rust is to sprinkle salt on the rusted ares, rub a fresh lemon half over the salt. Then, let the cast iron dry complete. Rinse. You can again repeat the process, if there are any remaining rust spots.

This method doesn’t damage the pan and it can be repeated as often as needed. It’s best not to use spray-on oven cleaners or other harsh cleansers, which can strip the remaining patina. A little sale and lemon can remove rust spots with harming the finish. Plus, this method is natural and toxic free.

4. Question: Is it best to simply wipe cast iron cookware clean without immersing it soap and water? Does this get rid of harmful germs?

Answer: It’s true that typically it’s best to avoid using soapy water to clean your cookware. However, there may be certain times when a little mild detergent on a soft sponge is necessary to adequately clean. The point is not to use harsh detergents or abrasive surfaces to clean cast iron, since these can ruin the natural patina.

As far possible germs, you can heat cast iron over high heat and add a few drops of oil. Let the oil heat to just below the smoke
point. Then, remove the pan from heat, allow to cool. Wipe the cookware with a paper towel. Germs cannot will survive through this process and it is definitely more effective than cleaning with soap and water.

If you would like to use water to clean at certain times, you can add water to the cookware, heat up to a boil. Pour the water out and then allow the pan to thoroughly dry on a hot burner. If, for some reason, you really need to use detergent, do so sparingly. Then, wipe the cookware with a soft sponge and a dab of mild detergent. Never use a harsh scrubber. Rinse and dry completely. Don’t forget to rub on some oil after each cleaning, no matter what method you use.

There are different methods to care for cast iron cookware depending on what is cooked in your pots and pans. For instance, if you cook a lot of acidic foods like chili, you may need to season your cast iron more often. However, if you cook bacon and eggs in a skillet, you generally need only to wipe well out with a paper towel and it’s ready for the next breakfast.

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Practice Makes Cast Iron Cookware Perfect

Sometimes it takes a little practice to get the hang of perfectly caring for your cast iron cookware, but its an art in itself that you’ll appreciate acquiring especially after you pass it down to the next generation!

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