Cast iron is easy to maintain. Yes, you have to actually make an effort, but life is more rewarding if you work hard. The basics are these: don’t let it sit wet, clean it when you’re done with it, and, in fact, use it. I will also briefly describe the seasoning process.
Even well-seasoned cast iron cookware can rust. Rust is not good – it will ruin your pan’s seasoning and reduce its lifespan. To prevent this don’t soak your cast iron, let it drip-dry or sit wet after washing. Dry it off immediately and thoroughly. It’s preferable to leave your cast iron sitting with bits of food in it while it cools down than to leave it soaking in a sink. After letting it cool down until it’s comfortable to touch, wash your cast iron withsoap and water. Many claim the use of soap will ruin your seasoning. That’s nonsense, it won’t cause your pan any harm.
Seasoning cast iron well can be a bit of a process. It isn’t difficult by any means, but it does require some time. In my last post I noted that flaxseed oil is the best oil to use for seasoning a cast iron pan, and that’s what I recommend you use. Flaxseed oil can expire and become rancid, so check the expiration date before you start.
Sheryl Canter wrote a blog six years ago that is the most rigorous, science-based approach to seasoning a cast iron pan, and it simplycannot be outdone. I absolutely recommend you read it, but I will reproduce the steps here – you may want to do this over two days.
One thing not mentioned in her blog post is what to do if your cast iron is quite rough, which, if your pan is modern, it probably is. We carry Finex pans which have a smooth finish, which we prefer. Most modern makers do not polish their pans. I recommend taking a 200 grit sheet of sandpaper to the surface of of a rough pan until it becomes quite smooth. The smoother it is, the more the pores of the iron are exposed, which makes the seasoning take better. You can also do this, or use steel wool and a little vinegar, if you have to remove rust and re-season a pan.
The last, most fun way to maintain your cast iron is to use it: cooking in it, baking in it, anything that gets fat or oil on the surface of the pan at high temperatures helps maintain the seasoning on there –so make sure you actually use your cookware!