Cleaning and caring for your cast iron skillet is nothing to worry about! Follow these 3 easy steps to clean a cast iron skillet or pan and keep it cooking up grub for generations!
You’ve likely heard all the do’s and don’ts when it comes to cast iron . . . so you’ve stayed away. After all, what busy cook has time to baby a skillet?!
Being scared of cast iron kept me away for years, then I finally decided to try cast iron after receiving a small skillet as a gift.
Needless to say, I eventually ditched my flimsy steel pans (yes, all of them!) and grew my collection of cast iron skillets! I’ll have to share another post about why I love them so much, but I first want to chase away all fear of caring for cast iron and show you how easy peasy it is to clean and maintain cast iron.
WATCH ME CLEAN MY SKILLETS IN THIS VIDEO
3 STEPS TO CLEANING YOUR CAST IRON SKILLET
Step 1: SCRUB
When your pan or skillet gets dirty from cooking, simply rinse it under warm or hot water and scrub with a soft bristle brush or non-abrasive scrubber sponge.
The best advice I have for you is to clean your skillet right after cooking and while it is still hot. The grease and grime will wipe away much easier, if not almost effortlessly! If that doesn’t work, catch my tip below for a heavily soiled pan!
Step 2: DRY
Thoroughly dry all surfaces of the cast iron skillet.
You must get that skillet dry right after washing! Otherwise, it can quickly rust and make it harder to clean next time you use it.
You can choose to wipe it down with a rag, but I much prefer to heat it up and let that water evaporate while the pan gets hot again – in preparation for my next step.
Step 3: SEASON
Wipe the skillet down with an oil while hot or promptly after re-heating.
After the skillet is completely dry, it’s important to wipe oil along all surfaces. This keeps a well seasoned, beautifully shiny, non-stick pan ready whenever you are.
I like to use coconut oil, since we always have it around. Technically speaking, oils with a high smoke point work best.
If you want to use the most natural oil with a very high smoke point, avocado oil would be best. It’s just super expensive so I am ok with coconut oil. It just might get a bit smokey the next time I cook, but since I use olive oil, butter or coconut oil to cook with – it will smoke anyway past a certain temp.
There it is! The 3 steps to cleaning your cast iron – scrub, dry and season!
But wait . . . what if it isn’t that easy? What if your pan is super gross and the yuck won’t come off?
HOW TO CLEAN A HEAVILY SOILED CAST IRON SKILLET
Perhaps your cast iron is super greasy and grimy. Some folks might tell you to get special cast iron scrubbing solutions. Some cast iron hackers like to use course salt. But I save my pennies for more cast iron, and just opt to heat the dirty pan up again with some water.
Once that hot water has been boiling with all the food grime, I have found it is so easy to take it back to the sink and scrub and rinse once more. This has worked for my super dirty pans every single time.
No salt or cleaner needed.
DO YOU HAVE TO CLEAN YOUR CAST IRON EVERY TIME YOU USE IT?
Truth be told, we use our pans every day, in not frequently throughout the day. They are so well seasoned that a lot of times the food lifts right out leaving only small traces of food. In these cases, I’ll just quickly wipe it out with a clean dry rag or paper towel and leave it right on the stovetop for the next meal.
But if you’ve made a sloppy mess out of your dish, fear not! Just scrub, dry and season!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT CLEANING A CAST IRON SKILLET
You’ve likely got a few questions about cleaning cast iron on your mind. Let me see if I can address the most common concerns. Let me know in the comments if I missed your question!
This is controversial. Some say a little gentle dish soap is fine. Others say to avoid it so your pan can keep that nice non-stick surface, since any chemicals or cleaners may strip that away. I say there is no need. I have never needed soap for my cast iron and have had a great deal of success using the methods I discussed in my post.
If you’ve let water sit on your pan or if you’ve bought a used cast iron skillet, there may be rust. Just scrub with water, heat up the pan and re-season the hot pan by wiping a layer of oil all over the top, bottom and handle.
Baking soda can be used on cast iron to restore an old or rusty pan. However, it will strip away any well seasoned layer so you will need to season it again. Avoid using baking soda to clean your cast iron on a regular basis.
I suggest you oil your skillet after every use, but a more thorough season should be done if storing for long periods of time or a few times each year. As a rule of thumb, season your skillet if you see dull spots where the season has wore off.
If your skillet needs to be seasoned well, wipe the entire surface down with oil and heat in the oven at 400 degrees for one hour. Place it in the oven upside down with a baking sheet underneath to catch any oil.
Avocado oil is the healthiest option for seasoning a cast iron skillet, and great because it has a very high smoke point. Canola oil and vegetable oil are often recommended, but these are not great options if you are wanting to avoid highly processed oils. For daily use, I use coconut or olive oil even though they have a low smoke point. Since these are the two oils I cook with most frequently and they are more affordable than avocado oil, these are my personal preferences.
Cast iron can last for generations! Buying from antique or thrift stores is a great, affordable option if they appear to be in good shape. Avoid any skillet or pan that has any warping, cracks or pitting. They will likely require a heavy seasoning, but finding a skillet at a thrift store is a score!
For a heavily rusted cast iron pan, it would be okay to use super fine steel wool – #0 grade. Plan to season your skillet after scrubbing with steel wool. Using steel wool regularly should be avoided.
For cast iron dutch oven or skillets that you plan to store away, season it very well before storage. To do this rub all surfaces with oil and heat in oven for an hour at 400 degrees. Keep away from any moisture. You could place towels or paper towels in between any layers to help keep dry.
WHERE DO I BUY MY CAST IRON SKILLETS
Click below for my favorite sizes and brands of cast iron:
- 8″ Small Skillet size
- 10″ Medium Skillet size
- 15″ Large Skillet size
- Cast iron muffin tins (I love these so much!)
What to learn how to clean more?! Check out these posts:
- My Best tips for Cleaning the Sink
- My Favorite Non-toxic Cleaner
- What to Keep in a all-natural Cleaning Caddy
I GOT A NEW IRON SKILLET AND SOMEONE SAID COCONUT OIL WAS GOO TO SEASON WITH.PUT IT IN OVEN AND IT’S TACKY. I ALWAYS MAKE SURE IT’S ALWAYS MAKE SURE IT’S DRY.AN ANY IDEAS ? THANK U ENJOYED YOUR BLOG SO MUCH.
Marian Fielding says
I love my cast iron pan. It lives on my stove top. Since I got it I got rid of all my other fryng pans. (I did just buy a lighter weight, smaller ceramic coated frying pan for my daughter who loves to make crepes… the cast iron pan is too heavy to “flip” food in). For really stuck on food I use a “chain mail” scrubber I found online, but otherwise, just like you said the non stick surface make everything come off perfectly clean. I love that I can use metal tools on it… I really think that any other pan needs more babying than cast iron… cast iron is indestructible and lasts forever!
I treat my cast iron pans exactly as you described, with the exception that I use lard to season my pans. That has worked well for me, and it’s not very expensive (I get it from a local farm store).
My mom always cooked in a cast iron skillet. She gifted me one when I got married. I love it! I now have a couple of others as well. They just can’t be beat.
I absolutely agree!