Is cooking with cast iron any different than cooking with teflon or stainless steel?
Yes and no. The main difference is that cast iron takes a little longer to heat up, but tends to hold that heat longer. This makes searing, sautéing, frying, and baking especially pleasant. Cast iron is also very versatile, able to be used on the stove or in the oven with no problem whatsoever.
How do I clean cast iron?
First, a few rules for cleaning cast iron cookware:
Don’t clean it in the dishwasher.
Don’t soak it in the sink.
Don’t use soap (at least, not all the time...).
Depending on what you’re cooking, you may be able to just lift your food out of the pan, wipe up some of the excess oil, and you’re good! While your pan is still warm, scrape off any excess food bits with a spatula and wipe out any excess oil with a rag or paper towel. For many day to day meals, this is just fine.
If you’ve got a stickier situation, use hot running water in the sink (remember - don’t soak your cast iron), along with a nylon brush to scrub off whatever you need to. Instead of soap, you can use coarse salt as your cleaning agent if you need it. Make sure to dry it completely, then add a drop or two of oil and wipe it around the entire interior evenly before storing.
If you’ve got a real mess and it’s proving especially tough, you can clean your skillet on the stove top. Fill your skillet up with about half an inch of water and bring it to a boil for about a minute. Then use a spatula to scrape off any really tough spots of burnt food. The water will begin to boil itself right off, and you can continue to scrub if/as necessary with a nylon brush, or simply pour the excess into the sink. Make sure to dry your pan completely, then immediately add a few drops of oil and wipe it around the entire interior evenly before storing.
With proper care, you shouldn't need to use soap often, if at all. That said, if the above methods fail, use a few drops of a mild dish soap and a nylon brush to scrub off whatever may still be stuck. Rinse and dry your pan completely, then immediately add a few drops of oil and wipe it around the entire interior evenly before storing.