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Ins and outs of cleaning cast iron

What’s the best method and stuff to use to clean cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens? I know you’re not supposed to use any kind of soap or detergent.

— Big H., Jacksonville

Between the cozy weather and a certain restaurant known for country cooking coming to our area, we here at Since You Asked HQ are thinking it’s time to get our skillets ready for the stovetops too.

That said, we’re not sure what shape your cast iron’s in, so we’ll cover our bases using info from Lodge Manufacturing, the company that’s been making cast-iron cookware for more than 12 decades. Odds are, Lodge made your cookware, too, Mr. Big.

For everyday after-dinner cleaning, a little hot water may be all you need. Lodge recommends using a nylon bristle scrub brush, water or a plastic pan scraper, though we imagine a spatula would also do the trick.

For stickier messes, they suggest simmering the pan in water for a minute, then scraping the mess again after letting it cool.

“Soap isn’t always necessary, but if you like, a little mild detergent is fine. Promise,” according to Lodge’s website. “Stay away from dishwashers and metal scouring pads, which can harm the seasoning.”

Once clean, you’ll want to dry the pan while it’s still warm and add a light layer of vegetable or canola oil.

If your cast iron is gray, dull or splotchy, it might be time to re-season it, which is a fancy way of saying it needs a new layer of cooking oil baked into the iron, which gives the pan that natural resistance to sticking.

Lodge recommends covering the cleaned and scrubbed cookware with a light layer of cooking oil first, then place the pan upside down in the top rack of your oven. Place a piece of aluminum foil on the lower rack to catch any oil drips, set the oven to 350 degrees and let it heat for an hour.

Turn off the oven, let it cool down there, and your skillet should be glossy and ready to go.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501 or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com.

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