It's easier than you might think!
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A cast iron pan is one of the most essential items to keep in your kitchen — but it does require some special care. However, with proper maintenance, a cast iron pan can last for generations. To ensure you’re treating your cast iron with the love it deserves, use the following steps as a guide for cleaning, seasoning, and storing this important piece of cookware. 

How to season a cast iron pan

First things first — before using your cast iron, the cookware must be seasoned. If you don’t know what seasoning a pan means, don’t worry — it’s actually quite simple. Seasoning is a hard, protective coating on the pan that builds up when multiple layers of oil are burned into the skillet, making it nonstick and rust-resistant. To season the pan, you’ll rub it all over with oil and heat it until the pan is warm and slightly smoking. This allows the oil to transform into a thin, plastic-like coating. With each subsequent use of oil or fat in the pan (like frying chicken or sauteing veggies), you’ll add an additional layer of seasoning, making the pan even better — and that’s where the debate over cleaning begins.

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How to clean a cast iron pan

You may have heard that it’s an absolute no-no to use soap on a cast iron pan. Many believe that because the pan is seasoned with fat, dish soap will power right through it. However, per the Lodge Cast Iron website, this is untrue. Because the seasoning is so baked into the pan, it’s not going to be undone by a little bit of soap. It will, however, be damaged by an abrasive tool like steel wool or a dishwasher. That’s why all cast iron pans should be washed by hand with a sponge, pan scraper, or chainmail scrubber. To clean your cast iron pan, follow these steps:

1. Wash the pan

Once you’re done cooking with your pan (or if you just bought it), wash the pan with warm, slightly soapy water and a sponge. If you have some stubborn, burnt-on bits, use the back of your sponge or one of the above tools to scrape it off. If that doesn’t work, pour a few tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil into the pan and add a few tablespoons of kosher salt, then scrub the pan with a paper towel. The salt is abrasive enough to remove stubborn food residue, but not so tough that it will damage the seasoning. Once everything is removed, rinse the pan with warm water and give it a light wash. 

2. Dry it thoroughly

Water is cast iron’s worst enemy, so be sure to dry the entire pan (not just the inside) thoroughly after washing. Water will cause the pan to rust if left on, so it must be wiped up with a dish towel or paper towel. To really ensure that it’s dry, set the pan over a high flame to ensure evaporation. 

3. Season with oil and heat

After the pan is clean and dry, wipe the entire thing with a small amount of oil, making sure it’s spread across the entire interior of the pan. Do not use olive oil, which has a low smoke point and can actually degrade when you’re cooking with it in the pan. Instead, wipe the entire thing with about one teaspoon of vegetable or canola oil, which has a higher smoke point. 

Once the pan is properly oiled, set it over high heat until warm and slightly smoking. You don’t want to skip this step, as oil that’s not heated can become sticky and rancid. 

4. Cool and store the pan

Once the cast iron pan is cool, you can either store it on the kitchen counter or stovetop or put it in a cabinet. If you’re stacking your cast iron with other pots and pans, place a single paper towel inside the pan to protect the surface and remove any moisture.