When I was growing up my job was to keep the kitchen clean and a big job it was. Both parents worked and I was the oldest of 4 children. It meant I had to do dishes twice a day, so needless to say I became quite proficient at it. Fortunately my Grandfather lived with us until I was 8 years old and he taught me how to take care of the pots and pans so they would “last a lifetime.” A lesson I have never forgotten.
Strangely enough, the less you wash pots and pans, the better they will serve you. Most of the time, a simple wipe out with a paper towel or rinsing with warm water, will do the trick without disturbing the seasoning or patina.
What is seasoning, you may ask?
It is the buildup of heat and oil over years of cooking that give pots and pans their non-stick quality. Most pots and pans come pre-seasoned these days; that’s why the “care” directions usually read “wash in warm water with a mild soap.”
People often ask me if there is anything that my precious KD Gold non-toxic liquid soap should not be used on, as I brag it cleans anything and everything washable. In fact, it is the only cleaner I use in my house and my motto is “if KD Gold cannot get the job done, it doesn’t need to be done.” However, when it comes to pots and pans, care needs to be taken. By this I mean, never spray KD Gold directly on the inside of a pot or pan without filling it with water first. It will remove the seasoning if sprayed directly on the inside surface, and that is something you don’t want to happen.
“if KD Gold cannot get the job done, it doesn’t need to be done.”
But you say, “my stainless steel, or ceramic, or glass, or enamel, or “whatever” cookware does not have an oil film on it.” And I’m here to tell you it does and you should cherish it and take care of it. Even though it may only be a micro layer of oil it creates a film that prevents your food from sticking to the surface of the pot or pan. The more you cook with them, the more seasoning adheres and the less scrubbing you have to do to clean them. Your food will taste and cook better too. However, there are also foods that you cook that will remove the seasoning so you have to be careful not to let acidic foods like tomatoes or vinegar sit in the pot or pan too long. As soon as the cooking is finished, remove the food into a serving dish and rinse the pot or pan immediately.
Now all this is not to say you should not wash the outsides of your pots and pans with KD Gold. It’s quite the contrary. I spray the outside of my pots and pans quite liberally with KD Gold Dish Washing Soap or a 10:1 (always water to concentrate) dilution. Even if I do say so myself, I have the cleanest, brightest, pot and pan bottoms of anyone around. In fact some of my pots and pans are over 20 and even 30 years old, and I would be willing to compare them to any pot or pan that someone else has only been cooking in for a month. Mine would win hands down!
The other very, very important thing to know about pots and pans is which cooking utensil and scouring pad to use. It’s really quite simple, metals to metal and all else gets non-metal. By that I mean, if you have stainless steel cookware use stainless steel utensils and a stainless steel scouring pad; while it’s almost impossible to find copper, aluminum, carbon steel or cast iron utensils you can use stainless steel utensils on these as well. But when it comes to scouring pads use copper on cooper and aluminum on aluminum.
You will probably never need a scouring pad for carbon steel and cast iron as they are usually well seasoned but if you do, use a chainmail stainless steel scouring pad or stainless steel wool that does not contain any detergent or soap. Never use stainless steel utensils on anything but all metal surfaces – always use plastic or wooden utensils on non-stick surfaces, glass, enamel or ceramic cookware, as you don’t want to scratch these surfaces. Once they get scratched you may as well throw them away. Stick with the green nylon or plastic mesh pot scrubbers for these surfaces.
Most pots and pans are pretty forgiving and can be re-seasoned if you find you must use lots of soap on them or someone who doesn’t know better does it for you. I say most because there is one kind that is easily damaged yet it is the heaviest and most indestructible in the kitchen – what!?!? It is a good set of well-seasoned cast iron.
Cast iron has been used for centuries over open campfires, on wood burning stoves, in the fireplace hearth (some fireplaces actually have a special swinging hook on which to hang a cast iron pot), on gas burning stoves, even on electric and induction stoves. Cast Iron pots and pans come in all shape and sizes and are the best at maintaining good even heat, even when the heat source is not so even. Cast iron makes the best grills, Dutch ovens and frying pans. But its seasoning must be maintained both inside and outside the pot or pan for if any air or moisture reaches the unseasoned steel it will simply rust away.
I prefer coconut oil because it can handle high heat
without turning into a carcinogen and it never goes rancid
When I wash cast iron, if I wash it, I first clean out any oil or food residue with a paper towel, then I fill with warm water, if I feel it needs a little soap, I will put a squirt or two on top of the water, swirl it around then rinse with warm water. The pot or pan must be dried immediately and as there is no drying towel that can reach every nook and cranny or take away every bit of moisture, I put the pot or pan back on the burner, turn it to low and watch until I see every bit of moisture disappear. If need be, I will then re-oil the pan with a very thin layer of coconut oil – I prefer coconut oil because it can handle high heat without turning into a carcinogen and it never goes rancid – wiping dry any excess oil with a paper towel. I then let the oil bake in for an hour or so until it becomes part of the patina and you can no longer see or feel it as oil, but rather just shine.
I once had a nice set of well-seasoned Wagner cast iron. They weren’t particularly expensive or antique, but as I said, they were well-seasoned, which is where their value lies. A well-seasoned cast iron pan is better than any modern non-stick surface there is. At any rate, my Daughter and her then 4 children were going on a 1-month summer vacation camping for 3 weeks along the Delaware River in Pennsylvania and New Jersey then on to upstate New York for a week to visit a friend on a mini farm. She begged to take the Wagners, as each piece had its own travel bag and could be used over an open fire. I reluctantly agreed and gave verbal instructions on how to take care of them, but apparently the only thing that was heard was “bring them back in their cases.”
As I spoke to them frequently on the trip, she praised how wonderful they performed every cooking task on an open flame. Of course they were also well equipped with plenty of my KD Gold non-toxic liquid soap being the only cleaning supply necessary to take along on such a trip. Last day of camping she and the children decided that they should return the pots and pans as clean as they had received them and proceeded to use KD Gold to clean off all that icky black smoke and stuff. That they did. Dried them as best they could, and certainly didn’t put them on the fire again for that would just make them dirty once more. They were then put in their respective traveling pouches and stashed way in the back of their SUV under all the camping stuff because they wouldn’t need them while visiting the mini farm. There they stayed for the following all-most 2 weeks before they made it home to Florida.
I was greeted with 5 very heavy piles of rust
As the children were carrying in the pouches containing my cast iron pots and pans, they happily relayed their cleaning experience. As they described it, my heart sank deeper and deeper until I finally worked up the courage to open them. And sure enough, I was greeted with 5 very heavy piles of rust that once represented a Dutch oven, a two-sided griddle, a 9-quart pot, and 2 frying pans. I was heartsick, as I treasure all my pots and pans, so I gave them to my son. He spent several months on end, grinding and sanding and then several more month re-seasoning them. I’m not sure if they ever did come back to their original glory, I’m afraid to ask.
I hope this helps keep your pots and pans as nice as the rest of mine are. If you have and questions of comments on this post you can do so below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.