If you have a cast iron skillet, pot, or dutch oven, make sure to clean it properly and it will last for years.
You also need to make sure to clean it properly to not remove the seasoning that most people love about cast iron pots.
Here are the steps to properly clean a cast iron skillet or pot.
If possible, wash your cast iron skillet immediately after use while it is still warm.
Allowing it to cool will make food stick to your pot and make it more difficult to clean.
Do not put cold water in a really hot cast iron pot. The temperature difference could cause the cast iron pot to warp or crack.
Use warm water instead to clean your cast iron.
Do not let water sit in a cast iron skillet for too long, else it may develop rust.
When you are not cooking with it, cast iron should stay completely dry.
No Soap or Abrasives
Clean your cast iron skillet using a soft cloth or sponge WITHOUT soap or steel wool.
You can make a paste of salt (either table salt or coarse sea salt) and water to aid your cleaning.
Another option is to use a plastic pot scraper or wooden spatula to scrape bits of food off.
Do NOT put it in the dishwasher.
If your cast iron skillet gets sticky, you can use a tiny bit of soap on occasion, but not on a regular basis because it will remove some of the seasoning.
Heat it Clean
If you have stuck on food, add a bit of water to your cast iron skillet and put it back on the stove to heat it up a bit (not to the boiling point that could remove some of the seasoning).
The heat should release the food and clean your pot.
Dry your clean cast iron skillet with a cloth or paper towel, then put it on your stove using low heat to dry even more.
Another option is to preheat your oven to 250 degrees, put your cast iron inside, then turn the oven off and wait an hour or more for your cast iron to dry out.
If you do not totally dry your cast iron, it will rust.
Season your cast iron skillet with a small amount of vegetable oil or another fat such as shortening or coconut oil.
You could even use a heavy coat of a spray vegetable oil if you wish.
Simply wipe the inside using a paper towel and you are all done.
Some people like to also coat the outside with vegetable oil or shortening to prevent rust.
Make sure to store your cast iron skillet with the lid off.
You can also place a dry paper towel inside the skillet to ensure it stays dry.
You do not want any moisture getting inside your skillet allowing it to rust.
If your cast iron skillet has a few rust spots, you can use a scouring pad to scrub it.
Another option is to use a potato cut in half with baking soda to scrub the bits of rust off.
Make sure to reseason your cast iron pot after removing rust.
Cleaning the Really Nasty
If you have discovered a cast iron skillet that is so nasty and gross that you are considering throwing it away, put it in your oven for an hour on the self cleaning cycle.
The super high heat will clean off much of the nasty gunk and should reveal a cast iron treasure.