Here are some tips on what should not be done to take care of a cast iron pan:
- Don't wash your pan with soap. Using soap will break down the seasoning, and you will have to re-season it for a good non-stick and rust resistant coating.
- Don't leave your pan to soak in a sink or dishtub full of water. This will cause your pan to rust very quickly.
- Don't wash your pan in the dishwasher. The dishwasher uses soap, which will break down the seasoning. Even worse, the dishwasher's dry cycle uses very moist heat, which can cause rust to set in almost immediately.
- Don't leave a cast iron pan with food in the refrigerator. The cold, moist atmosphere of the refrigerator will cause your pan to rust very quickly.
It's easy to maintain the seasoning on your cast iron pan, and with a little love your pan will last the rest of your life. However, be prepared for disaster! Your family and friends may love you, but they probably don't know how to care for your cast iron cookware. Eventually, someone close to you will do one or more of the no-no steps listed above, and you will find yourself with a rusty cast iron pan.
You don't have to disown your friends and family when they abuse your cast iron pans. Cast iron is nearly indestructible! A rusty cast iron pan does not need to be thrown away. You can fix it and make it as good as ever…all it needs is a little elbow grease and re-seasoning.
If your family and friends have ruined the seasoning on your pan by washing it in the sink or in the dishwasher, all you need to do is re-season it. Give your pan a good scrubbing to smooth it down and remove the rust. Here's how to remove surface rust from a pan:
- In a small bowl, mix together some vinegar, vegetable oil, and a little kosher salt. The salt will help provide friction. You don't have to add enough salt to turn the mixture into slush; just a little salt will do.
- Use steel wool to apply this mixture. Vigorously scrub the entire surface of your pan, top and bottom, until the rust is gone. This will usually take only a few minutes. The iron surface will react to the vinegar by taking on a very attractive silver color. This color only lasts a few minutes, and will fade away shortly after you wash off the pan.
- Rinse off your pan under warm-to-hot running water. Dry off the pan with a towel. Turn on your stovetop to low-to-medium heat, and place the pan on the heat for several minutes to completely dry it.
- When the pan is bone dry, turn off the stovetop heat and let it cool off.
- And season it all over again. See also: Seasoning Your Cast Iron Pan
As a preventative measure, you can show off your cast iron pans to your friends and family, and tell them specifically that they must not be washed with soap. If you want to threaten bodily harm, voodoo curses, or other types of doom and torture to anyone who tries to wash your cast iron, that's your business.