Sizzle & Shine: Hot Tips for Cast Iron Cookware Care

Words: Crush

Cast iron cookware are the workhorses of the kitchen; they withstand the test of time… when looked after, that is. If you’re a proud owner of these sturdy pots and pans, you’ll know they deserve a little TLC. Fear not, we share a couple of tips to help maintain your cast iron pots and pans, so you can serve up memorable meals for years to come.

1. Season

Seasoning is the superhero of cast iron care! It’s like giving your cookware a shiny, invincible armour. Seasoning your cast iron pan is crucial because it creates a non-stick surface and forms a protective layer that prevents rusting. The process involves polymerising oil onto the pan’s surface, resulting in improved cooking performance and durability.

To season your pan, preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Wash your cast iron with hot water and a brush – don’t use too much soap (see next step)! Dry it thoroughly, then rub a thin layer of oil (preferably vegetable or flaxseed) all over its surface, including the handle. Place the pan upside down in the oven and bake it for about an hour. Voilà!

2. Clean

Cleaning your cast iron pots and pans doesn’t have to be a chore. After each use, allow them to cool down a bit. Then, simply wipe away any food debris with a paper towel or a gentle brush. If there are stubborn bits sticking around, add some coarse salt and scrub them away. Rinse it under warm water, dry it with a towel, and give it a light oil rub to seal the deal.

Using soap to clean your cast iron pan is generally discouraged because it can strip away the seasoning layer that you worked so hard to build. Soap is alkaline and can react with the iron, breaking down the protective coating and potentially leading to rust. Stick to gentle scrubbing with water and just enough soap to maintain the integrity of your pan’s seasoning.

3. The Heat Dance

Cast iron loves gentle heat. When cooking, start with low to medium heat, allowing the pan to warm up gradually. Once it’s nice and toasty, you can crank up the heat without worries. Remember, patience is key here – your cast iron will reward you with evenly cooked meals and a lifetime of culinary bliss.

4. Say No to Soaking

Unlike a relaxing bubble bath, cast iron dislikes long soaks in water. Water can be its kryptonite, leading to rust and potential damage. So, resist the urge to submerge your pan in a tub of water. Instead, give it a quick rinse, dry it promptly, and show it some love with a light coat of oil.

5. Stubborn Stains & Rust

Sometimes, even the toughest pans can develop stubborn stains. But don’t worry, we’ve got a secret weapon for you: baking soda! Mix a paste of baking soda and water, apply it to the stained areas, and let it work its magic for a few minutes. Gently scrub with a soft brush or sponge, and watch those stains disappear. Rinse, dry and season as usual, and your cast iron will be back to its gleaming self!

In the unfortunate event that your cast iron forms rust, gently scrub away the rust. Start with a dry pan, as moisture can promote further rusting. Focus on the rusty areas until the stains begin to lift. If scrubbing doesn’t fully remove the rust, create a vinegar mix with equal parts white vinegar and water to clean the pan. Place the pan in the solution and let it soak for no longer than 1-2 hours. The acidity of vinegar helps dissolve the rust.

Gently scrub the pan to remove any remaining rust, and rinse it thoroughly with warm water. Once the rust is removed, thoroughly dry the pan with a towel to prevent any new rust from forming. To maintain the pan’s integrity, it’s crucial to re-season it.

How the Experts Handle Cast Iron Care

South Africans know the importance of maintaining cast iron potjie pots better than anyone. Beer Country duo, Greg Gilowey and Karl Tessendorf, also known as team ‘Rust n Dust’ from Ultimate Braai Master, share drool-worthy recipes and foolproof tips for cast iron care in their latest book, Pots Pans & Potjies.

Images: Beer Country

“Much like the process of restoring old cast iron, there’s a lot of strange information out there on how to care for it. We’ve heard tales of hundred-year-old pans that have never seen soap, or how a lightning bolt will smite you if you even look at a dishwasher while holding a potjie. As far as we’re concerned, do what works for you, but be informed. The potjie police are not going to haul you off to that jail where the pots are never stirred if you break a rule. We’ve got our list of Dos and Don’ts, which we’ll share…”


– Respect it. Love it. Use it.
– Always preheat your pot before cooking.
– Be gentle while cleaning to protect the seasoning.
– Clean it, dry it properly and oil it while it’s still warm.
– Bake the oiled cast iron to solidify those layers of seasoning.
– Store in a cool, dry place with good airflow.


– Let it get rusty.
– Use too much soap.
– Soak it in water, especially while cooling.
– Crack it by subjecting it to temperature shock.
– Scrape and scour it with sharp stuff.
– Put it in the dishwasher, ever.

With a little bit of love and a few simple tips, your cast iron pots and pans will continue to be your trusty kitchen companions for years to come. Remember to season, clean with care, handle the heat like a pro and avoid long soaks. Your pots and pans will thank you!

Buy your copy of Pots Pans & Potjies for cast iron cooking inspiration.
Guilty of soaking your pans overnight? Try these 5 easy pan-cleaning hacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>