In the residential kitchen, we’re all quite aware of the 3 forbidden rules when it comes to cast iron:
- Never, ever use soap!
- Never, ever soak it in water!
- Never, ever let water rest on it after being cleaned!
Depending on who you talk to, and how big their love for cast iron is, there could definitely be some rules added to this list – never use metal utensils, throw out rusted pans (this one hurts my heart a little bit), always season new pans, etc. However, whether it be a frying pan, oven to table ware, or griddles, almost all of these rules are different when it comes to using cast iron in a restaurant.
Restaurant Use of Cast Iron
If you scour the web for help with taking care of cast iron in a restaurant, resources are very limited, and almost all of the information you find is for home cooks. However, all of these forbidden rules aren’t the same in the commercial kitchen, because there are health code regulations that don’t allow for a pan to be simply wiped clean and re-used.
If you’re one of those home cooks, prepare to be blown away by what we’re about to tell you.
Wiping a pan clean or using salt to scrub the left-over bits away is not the way to properly clean cast iron after being used in a restaurant. In fact, as far as the health inspector is concerned, the same holds true for cast iron as with any other pan: it has to be ran through a 3-sink basin with detergent/rinse/sanitizer in order to be properly cleaned for re-use. As in most commercial kitchens, the detergent that is required to be used is specifically for what’s being cleaned; e.g. pots and pans has their own detergent, just as flatware has a particular pre-rinse formula. If you think about it, it makes sense to clean cast iron like this, to ensure the seasoning of the pan doesn’t turn rancid – risky and scary.
So, want to know how restaurants get away with not following all of those forbidden cast iron rules? They use those pans so many more times than that same pan would ever be used in the residential kitchen and they’re stored in a very hot environment, which basically helps them season themselves.
Now, that’s not to say that in the commercial kitchen other rules aren’t followed to help maintain a nice seasoning, which includes doing the first initial seasoning and wiping the pan down with vegetable oil or lard before storing (which a lot of residential users do as well).
With that said, because there is health code obstacles in the way of using cast iron in the food service industry, many cooks have started using hi-carbon or black steel pans to get a close substitute without having to worry about violating health code.