Cast-iron cookware — great for stovetops and campfires, yet so easy to turn into rust-covered garbage if you’re lazy — can be a mystery to those who live in a nonstick world: there is whispered talk of some seasoning process that sounds, frankly, like it might burn the house down and a lot of rules about how — and how not — to wash it.
Countless online forum threads have been devoted to the best oil to use for seasoning, the ideal temperature at which cast iron should be heated to in order to develop a perfect nonstick patina, and the correct methods to use to wash the pan after use. It can all be a little overwhelming, especially because cast-iron devotees make the fervor of political conventions seem tepid.
It’s not that tough… if it was, these relatively cheap, non-toxic, durable, and essential pieces of kitchenware wouldn’t be passed down, intact, from generation to generation. But if you do it wrong, your trustiest cast-iron pot becomes a literal rust bucket. Here’s how you can clean your cast iron without destroying it.
The real enemy is water
Conventional wisdom — at least according to die-hards — dictates that the use of soap to clean a cast-iron pan will ruin it. That’s where a lot of those “grandma always said…” rules come in, as in, “grandma always said to clean a cast-iron pan with salt and water.” “Grandma always said to clean a cast-iron pan with water and a hard-bristled brush.” “Grandma always said to clean a cast-iron pan with artisanal grasses from the Tennessee hill country.”