The instructions that came with the cast iron skillet were insistent: “do not use soap.” Soap will strip off the cooking oil seasoning that protects the skillet from rust and helps to make it non-stick.
But several cast iron cookware enthusiasts disagree. Using a little mild soap is OK, they say.
Among the soap embracers are the writers at castironcollector.com and seriouseats.com.
In an article at seriouseats.com, The Truth About Cast Iron Pans: 7 Myths That Need To Go Away, J. Kenji López-Alt writes:
“In a properly seasoned cast iron pan, one that has been rubbed with oil and heated repeatedly, the oil has already broken down into a plastic-like substance that has bonded to the surface of the metal. This is what gives well-seasoned cast iron its non-stick properties, and as the material is no longer actually an oil, the surfactants in dish soap should not affect it. Go ahead and soap it up and scrub it out.”
Lodge Manufacturing Co., the maker of my cast iron skillet, has eased up on its no-soap edict. It has changed its washing instructions to this:
“If no soap is too scary, wash with mild soapy water and dry and oil immediately. However, consider that cookware is 400ºF in 4 minutes on medium heat and is sterile at 212º F, so soap isn’t always necessary. Dishwashers, strong detergents and metal scouring pads are not recommended, as they remove seasoning.”
There is absolute consensus about this: do not soak your cast iron cookware in water. Rust is sure to follow.
As Lodge points out, high temperatures take care of hygiene issues if you do not use soap. But I’m a little uptight about not soaping away the remnants of a previous meal.
I’ve always used a small dot of dish soap when washing my cast iron skillets, and didn’t know about the no-soap rule until I bought a new one a few years ago (a supplement, not a replacement) and read the instructions. I ignored those instructions, continuing my soap habit. I thoroughly dry, sometimes by heating on the stove, and then lightly oil. My cast iron pans are doing fine.
But it’s reassuring to see cast-iron experts saying a little soap is OK.
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This person, at keeperofthehome.org, is anti-soap.
“. . . if washing without soap makes you queasy, it’s fine to use mild suds,” says an article at marthastewart.com
Henry Lodge from Lodge Manufacturing Co. talks to Martha Stewart about cast iron cookware, including a look at how it’s made. Video is here.
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