My cast iron maintenance routine differs from that I read from around the web. But my way works for me—even better than the web-sourced tips. I actually learned this, again, from my mom and the Korean friend that I have mentioned several times in this blog now.
SoakingI have been using my skillet to make pancakes, roast fish (because we eat mostly fish) or sauté vegetables. The best cleaning tip I could give you—and this applies to non-cast iron cookware as well—is to pour water into the still-hot pan, just right after cooking in it. This is a tip I learned from my mom.
Right after cooking, pour water into the pan, preferably hot, though tap water works just fine. Doing this will lift the gunk out of the surface so that come washing time, cleaning up is a breeze. If you skip this, the gunk dries up and sticks to the bottom, making it quite a headache to remove later.
My readings tell me that the Western way of washing cast iron is to wash it with water, without soap, with only a stiff brush to remove the gunk. I’m here to tell you there’s a better way. My Korean friend washes his cast iron with this soap which, in the Philippines, comes by the brand names of Perla, Bluewheel and other similar soaps. Choose the white one as you don’t need the blue dye of the blue one. (This is not a plug, btw.) I use this soap and a basic scouring pad and it’s so easy.
I don’t know why really, but I think soaps like the above are not as harsh as dishwashing detergents. These soaps are more oily, actually, which may be the reason why they are better able to maintain the non-stick finish of cast iron. It removes the odor and gunk better than just water and brush. I’m sure countries everywhere have their own versions of this soap.
Whereas online tips tell you to wash your cast iron pot immediately after cooking—which is really anti-climactic if you think about it (as you want to eat right after the dish is cooked and think about dishwashing much, much later, right?)—I find that I can really delay washing until the most convenient time. And look, my cast iron is still just as ebony-beautiful as ever.
My pre-loved cast iron, as I’ve mentioned, is pre-seasoned and so I do not have to season it often. If you have a cast iron pot which you use for grilling or frying, and you do not use detergent soaps in washing it, you will find that it maintains its non-stick finish. However, if somebody apart from you has washed it with detergent, or if you have used the pot for cooking tomato-based/acidic sauces, you may have to season it again.
What I do is to simply take a look at my cast iron pot from time to time when it’s dry. If the finish is not as glossy as before, or if there are rusty spots, I simply rub a small amount of RBD coconut oil on all surfaces, in and out. That’s all. It restores the non-stick finish fast. The Western way says to stick it in the oven and heat if for awhile. You may do that of course. But my simpler way still works.
In summary, here’s my less-fuss cast iron maintenance tip in a nutshell: Let pot bottom soak in water right after cooking, wash with the soap above and with a scouring pad and, as needed, season with a coat of RBD coconut oil all around its surfaces. I guarantee you a good-looking, well-performing non-stick cast iron cookware that can outlive you. (Is that even good news?)
See how easy-peasy cast iron maintenance is? Have you got even simpler tips out there?