Why You Shouldn't Put Cast Iron Skillets In The Dishwasher

Cast iron carries nostalgic weight with many cooks, but just as many shy away from using it because it seems too fussy. Who wants a pan you are discouraged from washing with soap and need to "season" before using — what does that even mean? Not to mention, these implements' weight can make them unwieldy, and there's a virtual rule book on what you can and can't do with cast iron. Really, who wants a pan with baggage?

But caring for your kitchen equipment can also be a satisfying part of your culinary journey. Sharpening your knives, organizing your pantry, and polishing your wine glasses are often relaxing, comforting tasks that can help you feel at home in the kitchen. Tending to a cast iron pan can be just that kind of chore.

And while they're often seen as easier to deal with, you have to be careful with non-stick pans too; they even require their own set of utensils. You can use any kind of spatula with cast iron, on the other hand, and that's just the beginning: The extra effort you do put into your cast iron pan will often be returned to you tenfold, even if you have to forego some conveniences like running it through the dishwasher.

Caring for cast iron — without the dishwasher

What does it really take to keep a cast iron skillet in good condition? A new pan will need an initial seasoning. The active time on your part is just a few minutes to cover the pan with oil, plus one hour of inactive time while it cures in the oven, as Southern Living explains. That's not so hard.

As you cook with your pan, it builds a coating up from that initial seasoning. This process, called polymerization, is a reaction between the hot oil and the iron that fuses the two. The seasoned pan thereby becomes a nearly nonstick surface — one that doesn't include Teflon or its health concerns. Contrary to popular belief, soap probably won't do much to compromise this coating (via America's Test Kitchen) — but Hunker explains that the high pressure and heat of an automatic dishwasher cycle will.

Instead, serve up your dish, then simply wipe, scrub with some coarse salt, and rinse the pan clean. Dry, then polish it with a bit of oil, and it's all ready for your next stellar meal. All done in less than a minute. Perhaps not as easy as popping it in the dishwasher, but your favorite treats will thank you.

Why cast iron pans are worth the trouble

Practically, cast iron is the epitome of sustainability and versatility. This is a pan you can pass on as an heirloom that, as Taste of Home points out, only improves with continued use. It gets hot and it stays that way, which makes for beautifully seared, juicy steaks, crusty cornbread, and crispy bacon. You can start cooking with it on the stovetop and put it directly into the oven. This pan even gives you a little extra iron in your diet (via Michigan State University)! What other cookware do you have that supplements your nutrient intake?

With all its benefits and applications, not being able to put a cast iron pan in your dishwasher seems like a small sacrifice to make. Consider the pleasure that comes with maintaining a special kitchen implement, and caring for yourself and others with tools you honor and trust. Few kitchen moments are more fun or satisfying than hefting a cast iron skillet out of the oven, chock full of fragrant cornbread or a puffball of Dutch baby that wouldn't be the same in any other vessel.