Cast iron skillets and pans are some of the most popular cookware found in most kitchens. The durability, effectiveness, and ability to generate and retain extremely hot temperatures make cooking with cast iron a dream.
Here at Kitchen Season, we are obsessed with cast iron products. We even use them to make the best pan pizza at home!
Cooking with cast iron is also easy; they can be used on any oven or grill, and cook up meat and veggies with ease.
Cast iron skillets are also pretty price friendly, another major plus that makes them fantastic kitchen products and cooking must-haves.
Another cool feature of cast iron products? They can add vital iron to any diet! Believe it or not, iron from the pan can be transferred into the food during cooking. While other types of metallic cookware can sometimes contain hidden toxins in the sealant coating, or processed metals that can be harmful, cast iron has the opposite effect. Pretty neat, right?
While we love to use them any chance we get, the process to clean a cast iron skillet can be a pain. These pans need a little extra attention, as the normal cleaning process that you might give to other pots and pans simply won’t be effective with cast iron.
So how exactly do we clean a cast iron skillet?
It’s a familiar problem that many cast iron skillet owners share. No one wants to whip out their favorite pan or skillet only to find old food particles and stains stuck to the surface. And no one wants to waste time trying, and failing, to give their cast iron a proper clean.
Failing to clean cast iron thoroughly can cause the pan to rust, which takes away its non-stick properties and can cause health problems if accidentally consumed. Poorly cleaned cast iron can also reduce the cooking effectiveness and taste of the food that is being prepared.
But don’t fret! Simply follow these fool proof steps to ensure a perfectly cleaned skillet, every time!
- A brush with stiff bristles or a sponge for removing stuck food
- Paper towels or a dry cloth
- Vegetable oil
- Mild detergent
- Kosher salt
*It’s important to note that you should aim to clean cast iron immediately after use. Don’t fall into the bad habit of leaving your skillet or other iron products to soak for long periods of time in the sink – As mentioned, this can lead to rust.
**Also, cast iron skillets and pans should only be hand washed, never placed in the dishwasher.
1. Rinse the Skillet with Hot Water
Stubborn grease stains and food particles cling to cast iron like crazy. Once cooled, they can be a bear to scrub off. The best bet for how to clean a cast iron skillet is to immediately rinse with hot water after use. If you are planning to use a sponge or a product short enough to leave your hands exposed to the faucet during the cleaning, wear gloves to prevent any burning. The water should be THAT hot initially. If the sink doesn’t get too hot, don’t be afraid to boil some water to use.
Don’t use any steel wool for the scrubbing! Those products can wear down the case iron seasoning, a slick layer that forms on the skillet when the iron and oil molecules bond. This seasoning is responsible for the natural finish and non-stick characteristics of cast iron skillets that make them so great for cooking.
2. Make a Cleaning Paste
Now take 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and mix in a bowl with a splash of warm water and a drop of mild detergent. Mix the 3 elements together generously, until it begins to turn into a paste. Add directly to the skillet.
*We use kosher salt since it is more pure and less harsh than iodized salt, and easier on the cast iron when cleaning.
3. Scrub the Skillet Thoroughly
The salty paste added will act as an effective abrasive to help remove any stubborn particles or stains from the skillet or pan. If you have a cast iron product that has rusted, this paste is also extremely effective for removing it. Once the paste has been added, use a sponge or brittle brush to scrub the pan. Once finished, rinse off the skillet with warm water to remove all the extra paste.
4. Dry the Skillet Immediately
Remember – do NOT try and store the skillet while it is still wet. This will only encourage rust. Grab a paper towel or dry cloth and pat down the pan so that there is no moisture left. Alternatively, you can even dry the skillet over the stove or in the oven. If you chose that route, simply turn the oven to 350 degrees, or place on a high burner for around ten minutes and allow the skillet to heat until it’s completely dry. Once dry, put it aside and allow to cool.
5. Season the Pan
While cleaning your cast iron, chances are high that the seasoning can be messed with with and potentially degraded. So seasoning your skillet with vegetable oil after cleaning is an important yet under appreciated step. Vegetable oil can help prevent the pan from rusting and can also make sure that food doesn’t stick as easily. Pour a tablespoon of vegetable oil into the skillet and wipe it around evenly across the pan’s surface. Once the skillet is coated with oil, pop it back into the oven. Let it heat at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes.
Once done, remove the skillet from the oven for a cool down. When it’s not too hot to the touch, add another splash of oil and wipe thoroughly with cloth. Now it’s completely clean!
6. Store the Skillet Properly
Your skillet is now ready for storage. Make sure that the skillet is stored in a moisture-free space. You can spread an absorbent paper towel inside the skillet to ensure this while stored.
Do’s and Don’ts of Cast Iron Maintenance
- Avoid using soapy water when cleaning the skillet. If the paste has difficulty scrubbing off especially tough stains, use baking soda instead of salt.
- Season your pan occasionally. Even if you don’t use soap to clean your skillet, you should make seasoning a routine. This will help the pan serve you better, and stay in good shape longer.
- Never store food in your skillet. While it might be tempting to leave food in the skillet after cooking, this will only degrade the quality of your pan.
- Clean it immediately after use. Note that most foods contain acids. When these acids are broken down, they can remove the seasoning of the skillet. The longer they’re left in the pan, the more damage can be done.
- Always dry thoroughly. Moisture can cause cast iron to rust, and quickly. Before storage, ensure that all the moisture has been completely wicked away.
Cleaning a cast iron skillet is pretty easy once the process is understood. Correctly maintaining your skillet will also increase the lifespan of your products. In fact, if properly taken care of, cast iron skillets and pans should stay functional for years to come. Many Chef’s, professional and amateur, have cast iron products that have been handed down through the generations, and for great reason. All you have to do is keep them clean.