How Can I Tell When My Cast Iron Pan Is Clean?

published Jan 7, 2015
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Erika Tracy)

Q: I just bought a Lodge Cast Iron skillet and am confused about how to maintain it. It says to not scrub so hard to avoid scrubbing the seasoning, but after a couple of uses there is black stuff burned into the pan. I just tried scrubbing it for a good 20 minutes.

Every time I rinse and put new water in, the water turns completely black. I put it on a burner with water to try and scrape the stuff off, and it seems like there is an endless amount of black “stuff” (not sure what else to call it). So is that supposed to happen? Is the black stuff I keep scrubbing up the seasoning? Or should I continue to scrub all the stuff off? I also have the same issue with my wok!

Sent by Anh

Editor: It does sound like you might be getting a little too rigorous here, and are possibly scraping up more than you need to. Definitely remove as much loose, flakey black food debris as possible, but it shouldn’t feel super arduous. If your arm is hurting or if you’re having to really scrape at the bits, then you’re scrubbing more than you need to! I also find that the rinsing water will still darken or blacken even after all the loose bits are scrubbed away — this is okay and perfectly normal.

Also, I think it really helps (especially with a new or infrequently used cast iron pan or wok) to rub it with a little oil after cleaning and put it over low heat for about 20 minutes. This just helps keep it seasoned. After 20 minutes, wipe it again with a paper towel to soak up any excess oil, let it cool, and then store it.

Here are a few posts with more information on cleaning and maintaining cast iron:

Readers, what advice do you have?