Instructions for cast iron skillet cleaning often include a lot of don'ts: Don't use soap, don't use steel wool, don't put it in the dishwasher. It's almost enough to scare a cook off from cast iron completely!
However, with a few simple techniques, you'll be able to keep your skillet clean, rust-free, and well-seasoned.
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And don't worry: if by chance you take off some of your skillet's smooth seasoning, you can always re-season the skillet after cleaning. It's not a big deal and not hard at all.
What You Need
Cast iron skillet
Sponge or stiff brush
Clean, dry cloth or paper towels
Vegetable oil or shortening
Kosher salt (optional)
1. Clean the skillet immediately after use, while it is still hot or warm. Avoid soaking the pan or leaving it in the sink, or it may rust.
2. Wash the skillet by hand using hot water and a sponge or stiff brush. Avoid using the dishwasher, soap, or steel wool, as these may strip the pan's seasoning.
3. To remove stuck-on food, scrub the pan with a paste of coarse kosher salt and water. Stubborn food residue may also be loosened by boiling water in the pan.
4. Thoroughly towel dry the skillet or dry it on the stove over low heat.
5. Using a cloth or paper towel, apply a light coat of vegetable oil or melted shortening to the inside of the skillet. Some people also like to oil the outside of the skillet. Buff to remove any excess.
6. Store the skillet in a dry place.
- Using soap, steel wool, or other abrasives is not the end of the world, but you may need to re-season the skillet. If the skillet is well-seasoned from years of use, a small amount of mild soap may be used without doing much damage – just be sure to rinse it well and oil it after drying.
- Remove rust using steel wool or by rubbing it with half a raw potato and a sprinkle of baking soda (seriously, it works!). Again, it may be necessary to re-season the pan after cleaning.
Is this how you clean cast iron skillets? Share your own tips and tricks in the comments.
Originally published February 3, 2010.