When I first heard my Grandma tell me (I had just bought a new set of cookware) that, “You should clean your cast iron skillets with salt,” I thought she was joking. She wasn’t, and proceeded to show me by example with one of her own old skillets she had cooked with last night and was still on the stovetop.
Within two minutes, and with incredible ease, she turned a skillet that looked like this …
… into this:
I was flabbergasted!
For years I had been scrubbing away with hot water and soap and lots of elbow grease to clean my old set of cast iron cookware. Thank goodness I had decided to go and stay with Grandma for the summer, to help out around the house while Grandpa rehabilitated from a serious surgery procedure. “Clean your cast iron skillets with salt” was ringing in my delighted ears.
Overall, the advantages of using cast iron cookware are numerous. They are very inexpensive, durable and, if properly seasoned and maintained, work just as good as any expensive “non-stick” cookware.
You can fry meats, fish, scramble eggs, make omelets, prepare a stovetop quiche, sauté vegetables, scramble eggs, heck – you can even make pizzas in them! A cast iron skillet heats evenly, all over the bottom and up the walls, with no “hot spots” where you can inadvertently burn your fried chicken. Maintained properly, cast iron cookware will last for hundreds of years, and can be passed down from generation to generation as a family treasured heirloom.
Okay, enough of why cast iron is a great choice for the kitchen. Here is how to-
Clean your Cast Iron Skillets with Salt:
A simple two step process will keep your cast iron cookware clean, seasoned, and maintained properly-
- First, and while the pan is still warm, pour 1 cup of coarse kosher salt, or coarse sea salt into the bottom and spread it around evenly. I usually use Kosher salt, just because it is cheaper than most sea salt products, and works just as well. Use either several thicknesses of paper towel or a folded kitchen towel to scour the pan. You will be impressed how easily even tough burnt bits and cooking residues will scrub right off. Discard the salt and then rinse the pan with hot water – do not use soap! Cast iron and soap do not go together. You will destroy the skillet’s wonderful patina and flavor imparting properties. Dry it right away, again with either fresh clean paper towels or a kitchen towel. Or, you can place the pan on the stovetop over medium-low flame and evaporate the moisture. Just be careful to cut the flame off as soon as the pan is dry, and not leave it “frying air” any longer.
- To properly season the skillet, rub about 1 tbsp. of flaxseed oil all over the cast iron. You can also use regular vegetable oil, or lard, but flaxseed oil is my personal favorite. This procedure is what helps the pan to develop that beloved, attractive glossy patina. It also prevents the advent of rusting, and it ensures that the pan will retain its nonstick properties.
For all you people who pick up ideas and learn things better by use of visualizing, here is a very good, short video to watch. It is a clip from one of my favorite cooking TV shows, starring the fun and talented Rachael Ray.
You will note that, in this video, it is recommended that you do not even wash the skillet after cleaning it with salt – just wipe it out clean of the salt and put it away. Some people adhere to this regimen, and it apparently works fine to do it that way. I am with the camp of cooks who prefer to wash out the salt residue with (non-soapy) hot water, dry the pan immediately, then coat it with a thin layer of oil. To me, this keeps the flavor imparting properties impartial (not extra “salty”) and aids in the development of the rich patina. But which method you use is your choice.
And that, my friends, is how you can effortlessly clean your cast iron skillets with salt. I hope you enjoyed this short post, please do leave a comment, let us know if you have cast iron cookware and whether or not you’ve used this technique, and if not – would you try it now?
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