How to clean and maintain cast iron skillets is a question I’m asked a lot so I’m going to jump right in. Cast iron skillets are virtually indestructible. With proper care, your skillet will look brand new all the time. When cleaning, I never use soap or a metal utensil. Just water, oil, heat, and a good plastic scraper.
How to Clean Cast Iron
- 1. Wash the skillet with water and a soft brush or plastic scraper (no soap needed).
- 2. Dry the skillet with a cloth or use heat to ensure all water is removed.
- 3. Oil the entire skillet with a very thin coating of vegetable or canola oil before storing.
- 4. Reseason (only if necessary) in an oven, upside down for an hour. Details below.
1. Wash the Skillet
With the skillet still hot, rinse or let soak for 10 minutes in hot water only (I never use soap), use a scraper to remove any excess charred residue. Use a paper towel or soft scrub brush to wash off any grease and rinse. You can use soap if you really prefer, but thanks to the nature of cast iron and the thick seasoning, it won’t make the pan any cleaner.
Some claim soap will ruin cast iron, this is simply not true. A quick rinse with light dish soap will not harm the seasoning that’s built up over the years. I just don’t want to risk introducing any soapy flavors.
My favorite tool is Lodge’s plastic scrapers. You can get them here on Amazon for next to nothing and they are the best way to scrape off any stuck-on-food without scratching your skillet’s cooking surface. Kosher salt and a cloth works as a great abrasive for removing stuck-on-food.
2. Dry the Skillet
Once your skillet is clean, take a paper towel or cloth and dry as best you can. This is important to prevent rust. If you leave your skillet out to air dry, you’ll come back and notice a rusty residue. Alternatively, you can place your skillet back on the hot stovetop on medium-low heat to dry the skillet entirely.
3. Oil the Skillet
Pour a teaspoon or two of your favorite cooking oil (I use canola or vegetable oil) in the skillet and use a cloth or paper towel to rub a thin coating of oil over the entire surface of the skillet. I start with the inside and also do the outside edges and the bottom, except for the handle. Cast iron’s surface is porous, so the heat and oil helps to make the surface smoother. The oil prevents the skillet from drying out and creates a beautiful shine that also protects the skillet from moisture.
That’s it—store in a dry place for next use.
4. Re-seasoning the Skillet (Optional)
Over time, your skillet may start to look dull and grey or lose it’s smooth shiny surface. Every few months I like to re-season my skillet to protect the surface and replenish some of the non-stick characteristics. You can follow the first 3 steps above and then bake your skillet face down in an oven at 400 °F for 1 hour. Turn off the heat and allow to the skillet to cool before removing from oven.
You’re all set, your skillet is perfectly seasoned. Have an old rusty skillet? This is the perfect way to bring it back to life good as new. Cast iron will last for decades if treated properly and taken care of. Amazing for how affordable the cast iron pans are.