Why You Should Avoid Air-Drying Your Cast Iron Pan At All Costs

Cast iron pans are like the superheroes of the kitchen. They're built from sturdy material, have incredible heat retention, and are always ready to whip up a delicious meal without a sticky mess. But here's the thing: If you want to keep your cast iron pan in tip-top shape, you've got to clean it properly and dry it thoroughly afterward. One thing you should never do after washing this pan is air-drying it.

Air-drying might seem like the easy way out but it's actually a recipe for disaster because it can easily lead to rust buildup. Rust develops when iron stays in contact with oxygen or moisture for a long time. So, when water sits on your cast iron pan while waiting to air dry, it's like laying out the welcome mat for rust. Those tiny water droplets start to infiltrate the porous iron and form rust spots.

And for the uninitiated, rust is not a flavor you want in your food. It's bitter, it's gross, and it can even make you sick if you're not careful. Plus, once this orange substance starts to take hold, it spreads fast and before you know it, your beloved pan becomes a corroded mess unfit for cooking. While you can remove rust from your cast iron pan using some innovative methods, it's better to avoid it in the first place. So skip the air-drying and do this instead.

The proper way to dry your cast iron pan

The way to properly dry your cast iron pan is to use a two-step process. First, grab a paper towel or a lint-free cloth towel and thoroughly wipe down the pan. This removes all the visible water droplets quickly. The next step is to remove any moisture within the porous cast iron that your naked eyes cannot see. To achieve this, you must use heat. Place the pan on a stovetop at medium heat and let all the moisture evaporate for five to 10 minutes.

After drying, season your cast iron before storing it. Seasoning isn't just about creating a non-stick surface, it also helps prevent rust. When you season your cast iron pan, you create a protective barrier that shields the pan from moisture and corrosion. Get a high-smoke point oil — it's by far the best type of oil for seasoning cast iron — and apply a thin layer on the entire surface using a paper towel. Next, heat it on the stovetop until very hot then wipe down any excess oil taking care not to burn yourself. Alternatively, you can bake the pan in the oven at 450 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit for about one hour. Follow these steps and your cast iron pan will serve you diligently for a lifetime.