Want to keep your cast iron skillet in great shape? Don't do any of these.
Don't let it rust. Leave even a well-seasoned skillet out in the elements and it will rust. Let it get wet and store it for a long period, and it might rust so bad that no amount of elbow grease will bring it back. When you finish using your cast iron, clean it, dry it out completely with a rag, a couple paper towels, or even over low heat. Wipe it down with a thin layer of oil to protect it till you need it again.
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Don't put it in the dishwasher. Nothing will strip years’ worth of seasoning from a pan faster than putting it in the dishwasher. The combination of harsh detergents, heat and long stretches in a damp environment will transform a pan that used to see a fried egg slide around like it was on ball bearings turn into a bare piece of metal with the non-stick ability of duct tape.
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Don't overheat it. Sticking your skillet into a roaring fire might seem like a good way to heat it up in a hurry, but overheating or uneven heating can cause your skillet to take on a permanent warp, or even crack. Same goes for pouring cold water into a red-hot pan. Don’t do it. Let the pan cool a bit before you wash it.
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Don't drop it. Cast iron may seem indestructible, but if you drop it on a hard surface, you might lose a handle or chip the edge. Hit it just right, and you might end up with nothing more than a handful of worthless cast iron pieces. Use a towel or pot holder when moving your pan. Don’t set your cast iron near the edge of the counter where it might get knocked off. You worked hard to build up that non-stick seasoning on your favorite pan. Take care of it.
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Don’t leave cooked-on food on it. Seasoning in an iron skillet is a micro-thin coating. Anything left on the pan that you can feel when you run your fingers over the surface isn’t seasoning, its crud. And crud isn’t non-stick. Use a plastic scrubber or a chain mail pad like The Ringer specifically designed for cleaning cast iron to get any bits of leftover food.
If you still see or feel residue on your pan after scrubbing, try adding coarse salt to a damp pan and scrubbing again. If that still doesn’t get it clean, pour in a bit of water and simmer over low heat for an hour or two to soften any leftover bits. Remember to add a thin layer of oil to your clean pan before storing it away.
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