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How to Clean and Season Cast-Iron Skillets, Casseroles and Woks

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How to care for your cast-iron skillet, casserole and wok so that they keep their non-stick coating and don’t rust. Cast-iron is virtually indestructible. They make versatile pieces of cookware, are great conductors of heat and last forever if you take care of them.

– Cast-iron pans retain heat better than non-stick cookware but they need to be washed and dried well after use to stop them going rusty.

How to Season a Cast-Iron Skillet Casserole
Every so often you need to season your cast-iron cookware to keep its non-stick quality intact and to remove any rust. The seasoning process builds up a layer of fat that creates a natural non-stick coating. Repeating the seasoning process every few months builds layer after layer of coating creating a tough non-stick seal on the pan.

– Wash and dry the cast-iron pan or casserole. Use a paper towel and half a teaspoon of vegetable oil and smear it over the inside and place the item over a medium-high heat until the oil smokes. Turn the heat off and wipe the bottom of the pan with paper towel to remove any brown residue or rust. Keep using a clean paper towel as the previous one gets dirty and keep going until the paper towel is clean. You may need to repeat the oiling and heating process a few times if the pan is particularly dirty. When the pan is clean let it cool completely. Oil the pan lightly with vegetable or mineral oil and put it away. It should now be clean and non-stick again. Use the same process if the pan has rusted.

Why you need to oil your pan when you have finished with it
It’s important to wash and oil your cast-iron pans after each use and to keep them dry. (When we wash our pans in the gréatfood kitchen we heat them briefly on the cooker to dry them out completely – just leave them to cool before you pop them back in the cupboard.)

Can you use washing-up liquid to clean cast-iron pans and skillets and casseroles?
The answer is yes, you can use washing up liquid as long as you don’t use too much as cast-iron picks up aromas easily. Never use an abrasive cleaning agent, scrubber or wire wool because you will remove the ‘seasoning’ and it will lose its non-stick quality. The scratches may also rust.

–  If the cast-iron skillet has burnt food on it, heat it with salt and water, remove it from the heat and use a plastic brush to clean it. Or add hot water, washing-up liquid and place the cast-iron pan back on the heat and use a non-stick spatula or wooden spoon to push the residue from the bottom of the pan. Never use a scrubbing pad or wire wool as it will scrape the pan.

 How to season a cast-iron wok
– A cast-iron wok can be cleaned and seasoned the same way as a skillet.

Can you cook acidic foods in cast-iron cookware?
– Yes, you can cook food that is acidic in cast-iron without the finished dish tasting metallic but you need to cook them as quickly as possible. Acidic foods and ingredients include lemon or vinegar-based sauces, tomatoes and wine.

Tips for cast-iron pans

– BAKING IN A CAST-IRON SKILLET
We bake tarts, crumbles, pies and tarte tatins in our skillet – cast-iron is an excellent conductor of heat so you get a golden crisp crust on the bottom of the pie. It also feels very rustic and you can bring the pan to the table (make sure you put a heat-proof pad down first!).

– MAKING TOASTED SANDWICHES IN A CAST-IRON SKILLET
Make toasted sandwiches or paninis in a cast-iron skillet – butter both sides of the filled sandwich, place the sandwich in the pan, turn the heat to medium (you may have to turn it down as the skillet heats up so keep an eye on it), place another skillet on top of the sandwich and when the first side is golden, turn the sandwich over and the cook that side. (Make sure that the bottom of the skillet that you place on top of the sandwich is clean!)

– TURN YOUR CAST-IRON SKILLET INTO A BAIN-MARIE OR HEAT DIFFUSER
Use your skillet as a heat diffuser if you don’t have one. Place a saucepan of melting butter or chocolate in a skillet (no need to add water to the skillet) and place over a low heat. The skillet acts as a barrier between the heat and your pan, working almost as a bain-marie but without the water!

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