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Cook It In Cast Iron

Caring for Cast Iron:

Cast Iron Troubleshooting

Solutions to Your Cast-Iron Troubles

Do you have a patchy or stinky skillet? We can help.

Your traditional cast-iron skillet may get extra-dirty after a night of use, or your enameled cast-iron skillet might appear stained. Don't be alarmed! We have the solutions for all that and more.

How to Clean a Stinky Skillet

Some sources recommend adding a thin layer of oil to the pan and heating it to its smoking point on the stovetop to remove stinky, stubborn fish oils, but this method leaves an oily mess to clean up. Luckily, it turns out that heat alone is enough to eliminate the two sources of fishy funk: compounds called trialkylamines, which evaporate at around 200 to 250 degrees, and oxidized fatty acids, which vaporize at temperatures above 350 degrees. Next time your skillet needs a little aromatherapy, simply heat the empty, smelly pan in a 400-degree oven for 10 minutes. This method is fast, neat, and effective and doesn’t stink up the kitchen.

How to Clean an Extra-Dirty Skillet

If your skillet has stubborn stuck-on food or is a little rusty, the best fix we’ve found is to scrub it with kosher salt. Start by rubbing the pan with fine steel wool (we normally don’t use steel wool on cast iron, but it’s necessary when you’re dealing with serious grime). Wipe out the loose dirt with a cloth and pour in vegetable oil to a depth of 1⁄4 inch, then heat the pan over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add 1⁄4 cup of kosher salt. Using a potholder to grip the handle, scrub the pan with a thick cushion of paper towels (hold the paper towels with tongs to protect yourself). The warm oil will loosen any remaining crud, and the salt will have an abrading effect without posing any danger to the pan’s seasoning. Rinse the pan under hot running water, dry well, and repeat, if necessary.

How to Clean an Extra Dirty Skillet

How to Fix a Patchy or Scratched Skillet

Cooking acidic foods or following improper cleaning procedures can damage the seasoning on your pan, creating spots of dull, patchy, dry-looking metal on the inside of the pan instead of the smooth, rich black of well-seasoned cast iron. When this happens, you can restore the pan by following the instructions for Level 2: Minor Repairs. Wiping the warm pan with oil will help reseason the small areas of the surface that have been damaged, evening out the protective coating on the skillet.

How to Clean an Extra-Dirty Skillet
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How to Clean a Stained Enamel Skillet

While all of the enameled cast-iron skillets featured in our review have dark-colored interiors like traditional cast-iron skillets, other enameled pans have light-colored interiors like those you may have seen on enameled Dutch ovens. The interiors of those pans can sometimes become stained or discolored by foods. If this happens, you can use bleach to clean them. Le Creuset recommends a stain-removal solution of 1 teaspoon of bleach per pint of water. We found that stained pots were slightly improved by this but still far from their original hue. We then tried a much stronger solution (which was OK’d by the manufacturer) of 1 part bleach to 3 parts water. After standing overnight, a lightly stained pot was just as good as new, but a heavily stained one required an additional night of soaking before it, too, was looking natty.

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