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Cast-iron cookware has been around for eons and so have the rules for cleaning and caring for a cast-iron pot, pan and griddle.
For starters, caring for this type of cookware is different because it has a coating on it called “seasoning,” which protects the surface from rusting, sticking and burning food. “Seasoning” consists of coating the cookware with unsalted fat, then heating and wiping down any excess grease until the next use. Cast-iron cookware also has excellent heat conduction and evenness of cooking because of its heavy nature, so food is less likely to burn.
Here's how to clean your cast-iron pot, pan and griddle after cooking:
• If your cookware is seasoned correctly and food does not burn at all, you can just scrape out any bits and wipe out the food with a dry rag or paper towel. No water required! When done, there should still be that very light coating of oil left on the pan.
• If you are cleaning burnt pans or griddles, you may pour water on the burnt-on food while the cookware is still a little hot, as this will cause it to bubble up and come loose. (Remember, though, never pour water on a grease fire!) Next, rinse in hot, sudsy water using a wooden spoon to loosen burnt-on foods. They should release easily.
• You'll need to thoroughly rinse and dry your pan and re-season it if you have disturbed the seasoned coating with soap and water.
• If you are desperate to save a cast-iron griddle, pot or pan, put it in the oven on the self-clean setting to burn off any dried-on food. You will need to re-season it before using it again.