Design & DIY

How do you properly clean a cast-iron frying pan?

How do you properly clean a cast-iron frying pan? I don’t use dish soap, but is using water okay, before oiling it?
—Yvonne Hiemstra, Sturgeon Lake, Ont.

You wouldn’t want to put your pan in the dishwasher, soak it overnight, or obsessively go at it with steel wool and a caustic cleanser, but using dish soap and water is perfectly fine. (Coarse salt works well if you need an abrasive.) Chef Ray Dawson, the director of culinary operations at the International Culinary Center in New York City, recommends cleaning it with a soft sponge, a mild detergent, and lukewarm water. Don’t let it air dry, or it can get rusty. Either dry it thoroughly right away or, as Dawson recommends, put it in a warm oven or on a hot stove for 15 to 20 minutes. And good call about oiling it: To keep the pan’s non-stick surface, chef Yannick Anton, of Le Cordon Bleu Bistro @ Signatures restaurant in Ottawa, recommends wiping it with fat (cooking oil or shortening) after every use, once it’s dry. Use about 1/2 tbsp to 1 tbsp, and rub it in with a paper towel “until the pan is visibly oily, like a heavily buttered piece of bread,” says Dawson.

Sure, caring for cast iron is “more labour intensive,” says Anton, “but it’s worth it.” A cared-for pan could last a hundred years. That’s a lot of pancakes.