How to dry a cast iron skillet

firebus's picture

When you wash a cast iron skillet, you have to dry it or else it rusts.

Some people in my house like to dry the skillet with a dish towel. Usually this results in a dirty dish towel, and the towel goes in the hamper.

Some people in my house like to dry the skillet over a gas flame.

We have a dispute about which method is worse for the environment, and I am going to use the famous "n of 1" research method to resolve this dispute.

Assumptions

  • It takes 30 seconds to dry a burner over a gas range.
  • You can dry 4 skillets with a dish towel before it gets dirty
  • You can wash 50 dish towels in a single load of laundry

The natural gas method

According to Mr. Electricity, a gas burner uses 9,000 BTU/hour. That's 75 BTU to dry the skillet.

According to Power Partners, burning 1 million BTUs of natural gas release 117 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere. So that means that our 75 BTU used to dry the skillet results in 0.09 ounces of CO2.

(By comparison, according to the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center each exhalation contains 0.0013 ounces of CO2. So drying the skillet over gas releases about 70 breaths of CO2.)

The dish towel method

According to the Natural Environment blog, a washing machine using cold water (as we do), plus a dryer adds up to 529 pounds of CO2 per year. This (seems to) assume that you run a 2 loads of laundry per week, so that works out to 5.1 pounds per load, or 1.6 ounces of CO2 per dish towel, or 0.4 ounces per skillet.

We have a winner!


Comments

towel drying cast iron skillet

Do you use the same towel for your skillet drying? do the stains from the skillet come off the towel when washed in cold water?
My mother dryed the skillet over the heat. I does not take a lot of heat to dry the pan and there is not a 'special' towel to use and keep track of so all of your towels will not get ruined each time you dry the skillet.
I vote for the stove drying!


firebus's picture

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just kidding

> Do you use the same towel for your skillet drying?

We have a set of towels that are used for dirty things in the kitchen

> Do the stains from the skillet come off the towel when washed in cold water?

Sometimes, but we don't care since these are the grungy towels. I didn't consider the footprint of hot water, or the wash cycle at all, in my calculations above. My understanding is that the dryer is so much more resource intensive than the wash that it really doesn't matter. But considering the wash (hot or cold) can only make the outlook grimmer for towel-drying.

I wonder how things would look if we considered air-drying as an option.


To season you must heat

Well, the dishtowel technique is doubly out as the only way to season a pan is to heat and oil it: "The process of heating a pan to cause the oil to oxidize is analogous to the hardening of drying oil used in oil paints, or to varnish a painting." per wikipedia.


firebus's picture

black mirrors

yeah, but you don't need to season it every time you use it! that's obsessive.

there's actually only one pan (the new guy) who ever gets seasoned (maybe quarterly?), everyone else has enough of a base coat that it gets seasoned through normal use (like when you're such a good horn player than you can practice by gigging)


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