Welcome back to Flawed yet Functional! Through the Autoimmune Protocol, I’ve identified eggs, dairy, and gluten as my major sensitivities and irritants to my autoimmune disease, Type 1 Diabetes. I primarily use cast iron pans to cook my meals and last year I weeded out a bunch of unused pans, leaving mostly cast iron to cook on. Well, one weekend, I left eggs for my boys to eat with a babysitter, and the eggs were cooked on my cast iron pans, naturally, there were no other options! Even after normal cleaning, my blood sugar went through the roof. So today I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned about cast iron pans and food sensitivities and how to fix them.
Don’t we all want to treat our kids now and then? Isn’t it funny that eggs are a treat for my kids? Ha! I love eggs too, and I hope the day comes that I can reintroduce them into my diet. So it was in love that I bought eggs for my kiddos to enjoy while I was out of the house.
I did not think for a moment that cooking them on a cast iron pan would give me problems down the road. My babysitter, knowing my sensitivity, was even careful to tell me which pans had eggs cooked in them. So this is of no fault of the babysitter!
Cast iron pans “season” with use, meaning small amounts of oil from the food cooked stay on the pan allowing the pan to be smoother and more non-stick over time. The problem with this is if you have a food sensitivity, then that contamination stays on the pan and gets into the next dish you cook. So, I needed to get any microscopic bits of egg off my pans, pronto.
First Attempts to Clean Cast Iron Pans
My first go round, I went through my usual routine: scrape the eggs off, rinse the pan with hot water, heat it up on the stove top to dry, and oil it. No good. My blood sugar went up the very next day I ate off that pan.
My second go round, I followed my husband’s suggestion to bake it again, like when a pan is re-conditioned. Well, I looked up some instructions online and roughly it said bake at 350° or so for an hour. Wrong again! My blood sugar climbed another 100 points after eating off the pan a second time.
Back to the drawing board. This time I pulled out all the stops including things that shouldn’t be done to cast iron, and it worked! Follow these steps to rid your cast iron of any food related cross-contamination.
How to Deep Clean Cast Iron Pans from Cross-Contamination
Scrape Off Any Food
Begin as normal by using a plastic scraper and hot water to remove any cooked on food bits. Get the pan as clean as possible by scraping, rinsing, then scraping again. Repeat as many times as needed.
Wash With Hot Soapy Water
Gasp! Did I just say soap? Yes, folks, you need to use soap to get your pan truly clean of any cross-contamination. Wash that pan with hot soapy water as you would any other type of pan. Don’t worry, the pan will survive. The next steps will ensure it won’t rust and will be as good as new.
Dry by heating on the stove top or wipe with a paper towel. Do this immediately after washing and rinsing it. Don’t wait to let rust form. Dry thoroughly and immediately!
Rub a thin layer of oil all over the pan. I use a paper towel with a bit of coconut oil or lard on it, something with a high smoke point. Rub it into the inside, outside, and handle of the pan. Make sure to completely coat the pan in oil, leaving no bare spots that would encourage rust to form.
Bake on Self-Cleaning Cycle
Now you need to apply some serious heat to the pan. Put the pan in the oven, upside-down and turn on the self-cleaning cycle (remove oven racks as usual).
Likely your oven maxes out at 550° or so, but the self-cleaning cycle gets much MUCH hotter, about 900°. Don’t worry about your pan, it can handle the heat. In fact, that heat is needed to ensure all cross contamination is gone from the pan.
Bake the pan for the entire cycle then allow it to cool and use it with confidence!
Rescuing my beloved cast iron pans was such a relief! I knew there had to be a solution, and truthfully, this solution is fairly easy. A tad time-consuming, but not difficult by any means. Just clean the pan thoroughly with hot, soapy water then bake the tarnation out of it!
Do you cook off cast iron? What are your tips for deep cleaning cast iron pans?