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How to Care for Your Cast-Iron Pan

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Keeping your cast iron in tip-top shape can seem like a dark art: When do you season it? Can you use soap? Emily Clausen, Outside’s email marketing specialist, puts her culinary degree to work, providing step-by-step instructions on how to keep your skillet perfectly nonstick after every use. Read the full article here.

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Video Transcript

EMILY: Hi, I'm Emily, currently with Outside, formally put in my culinary degree to hard work in the restaurant and food industry. And today, I'm going to show you how to care for your cast iron. 

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So after you finish cooking your delicious meal, you want to make sure you scrape out every bit of food. You want to use a silicone or wooden utensil. Try and avoid metal if you can. It will really scratch up the seasoning. 

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So once all the food's out of your pan, you want to wash it in warm, soapy water. And I promise that you can use soap on cast iron. If you've been seasoning it well, the oil will have actually bonded to create a nonstick surface layer on your iron. It's not going to wash off. The only thing you have to be careful of is scrubbing. That's why I'm using the sponge side. You can also use a dish towel. And if you have any food that's really stubborn, what you can do is add some coarse salt, and it'll be your scrubbing agent for you. It'll kind of agitate that food that's left over. Totally safe for the cast iron. And then it gets completely clean. Once that's done, you can just put it in your rinse water, and make sure to get all of the soap off. 

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All right, so once your cast iron is washed, you want to put the wet skillet right back on the stove. And what you're going to do is make sure that it gets super dry, and this will keep it from rusting. And you'll know it's ready when it stops sizzling, all of the water is gone, and the color will have kind of changed from that dark, wet black to a sort of gunmetal gray. 

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Once your cast iron is completely dry, this is where the actual seasoning process comes in, and that's what gives the skillet its nonstick finish and keeps it lasting for years. So you want to use a neutral oil with a high smoke point. I usually use some sort of vegetable blend, maybe canola oil. If you have Crisco or lard, that works, too. 

And you want to pour in just a little bit. About a tablespoon should be good for a 9-inch skillet. And while it's still over the flame, very carefully spread it around with a towel or a napkin to make sure that it's covering every last bit of surface of your interior. 

Get up the sides, too. And I usually give a quick wipe around the rim. And making sure it's even is also what's going to help it be nonstick, have that really smooth eggs just slide off its surface, as opposed to the craggy one that's a little harder to work with and builds up over time. 

So once you have that, you just want to let it stay over heat until it gets searing hot. It will start to smoke a little, and you'll smell a very strong iron smell. It will probably tickle your nose. 

So once your cast iron is seasoned, the only thing special you need to do is keep it in a dry place. If you're out camping, somewhere there's a high dew point. Maybe put it away. But for general after care, it's nothing special. Just season every time. If you're cooking something very acidic with a lot of tomatoes, maybe add a little extra oil, give it a little extra minute over the heat. 

And if something goes wrong, if your finish starts to crack, if your roommate accidentally puts it in the dishwasher and just ruins it, don't worry, it's savable. You can give it a hard refinish in the oven. Look up instructions for that. It'll give you perfect temperatures and the oils to use. And then just carefully season it every single time you use it and it'll be back to new. 

So those are your basics for everyday care of cast iron. Thanks for watching. 

Basics