Clean cast iron skillet

How to Clean Cast Iron Skillets/Pans: The Ultimate Guide

How to Clean Cast Iron Cookware

The process of cleaning a cast iron skillet is distinct from other kitchen tools due to its unique material and seasoning. Clean cast iron skillet. Regardless of the specific type – be it a seasoned cast iron skillet, a Dutch oven, a grill pan, or bakeware – each item follows the same cleaning steps.

Understanding Cast Iron Cookware

Cast Iron: It’s heavy, sturdy, and can be intimidating, but its ability to retain heat makes it ideal for searing, frying, and even baking. The hallmark of cast iron is its seasoning – a build-up of polymerized vegetable oil that gives the pan its desired nonstick surface.

Pre-Seasoned vs. New Pan: Many cast iron pans come pre-seasoned, meaning a foundational layer of seasoning is already applied. If you have a new pan, it might need an initial seasoning process before its first use.

Cast iron pot

Clean Everything

It’s crucial to clean every part of your cast iron, from the cooking surface to the handle. This ensures longevity and prevents potential rust spots.

Clean Cast Iron Skillet – The Big But

While cleaning is essential, being overly aggressive can strip away the seasoning. This layer not only prevents food from sticking but also protects against rust.

How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet After Cooking

After cooking with your pan, it’s best to clean it while it’s still warm. Use warm water and a brush or scraper to remove food bits. If there are stuck-on bits, using salt or the boiling water method can be effective.

3-Step Cast Iron Cleaning Method

  1. Rinse with Warm Water: Use a brush or scraper for food residues.
  2. Dry Immediately: Use a clean paper towel or dish towel.
  3. Oil Lightly: Apply a thin layer of oil to protect and maintain the seasoning.

How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet With Salt

For stubborn, stuck-on foods, sprinkle coarse salt onto the skillet, adding a little water. Using a cloth or paper towel, scrub gently. The salt acts as an abrasive, helping to lift off food without damaging the seasoning.

The Best Brush for Easily Cleaning Cast Iron

A stiff brush can be a lifesaver. It provides enough scrubbing power without being overly abrasive. Look for brushes specifically designed for cast iron. Nylon brushes, polycarbonate scrapers and chainmail scrubbers are all effective in cleaning cast iron without disturbing the seasoning.

The Most Important Step

Drying your cast iron is vital. Leaving water on cast iron can lead to rust, which can damage the pan and make re-seasoning necessary. Plus, getting rid of the rust itself can be challenging so try to avoid leaving any water on cast iron pans.

Clean cast iron skillet

How to Clean and Restore a Rusty Cast Iron Pan

Restoring a rusty cast iron pan involves assessing the rust level, then scrubbing away minor rust with a vinegar solution or using steel wool for more severe cases. After cleaning, the pan should be washed, dried thoroughly, and then re-seasoned by applying a thin layer of oil and baking it in the oven. With proper maintenance, such as prompt drying and regular oil application, your cast iron can remain rust-free for generations.

How to Dry a Cast Iron Pan

After washing, place the skillet on a stove over low to medium heat for a minute or two. This ensures that no moisture remains. You can also place the pan into a preheated oven to get all the moisture out.

Food That’s Still Stuck

After cooking with your pan

After cooking with your cast iron pan, it’s essential to clean it promptly while still warm using warm water and a gentle scraper to remove food bits. For stubborn residues, methods like using salt or boiling water can be effective. Once cleaned, dry the skillet thoroughly and apply a thin protective layer of oil to maintain its seasoning and prevent rust.

Cooking eggs on cast iron skillet

How to Remove Rust From a Cast Iron Skillet

For pans with a bit of rust, steel wool or a metal scrubber can help. For pieces completely covered in rust, deeper methods like using a rust eraser or even oven cleaner might be necessary.

If your pan has stuck-on bits

After cooking, bits of food may stick to the cast iron pan. Using warm water and a dedicated pan scraper or wooden spatula, you can gently dislodge these bits without causing damage. This method ensures the pan’s seasoned surface remains undisturbed while remaining clean.

Use salt to clean cast iron for stubborn, stuck-on foods

When food is particularly tenacious, kosher salt can come to the rescue. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt onto the pan, and with a cloth or paper towel, scrub gently. The abrasive nature of kosher salt lifts away stuck food, preserving the seasoning, and leaving the skillet clean and ready for the next meal.

Use the boiling water method if food is really stuck on

If salt doesn’t do the trick, bring water to a boil in the skillet. The boiling process softens and releases stubborn food bits. Once slightly cooled, you can easily scrape away residues for a clean pan.

Whether you have a seasoned cast iron skillet, a Dutch oven, a grill pan, or bakeware, each piece of our cast iron cookware follows the same steps for cleaning

Each piece of cast iron cookware, regardless of its specific purpose, benefits from the same cleaning steps. By sticking to these fundamental practices, you ensure the cookware’s longevity, maintain its non-stick properties, and uphold its culinary versatility across different dishes.

Try a rust eraser

Rust spots, even if minor, can affect the functionality of your cast iron. A rust eraser is a handy tool that works similarly to a regular eraser, targeting and removing those spots without the need for chemicals or aggressive scrubbing, ensuring the pan’s surface remains smooth.

If a cast-iron piece is completely covered in rust

Severe rusting requires more robust intervention. Utilizing steel wool or a metal scrubber can strip away layers of rust, although it’s essential to follow this up with thorough cleaning and re-seasoning. This approach restores the cookware, ensuring it’s safe and ready for cooking adventures ahead.

Rusted cast iron cookware

Can you use soap on cast iron?

A common myth is that soap can damage cast iron. However, a little mild dish soap won’t harm a well-seasoned skillet. Just be sure to rinse and dry thoroughly.

Deep cleaning enamelled cast iron

Enameled cast iron can be cleaned using soapy water and a soft brush. Avoid metal scouring pads as they can damage the enamel.

How to completely strip a cast iron pan (and when)

If the pan is excessively rusty or the seasoning is flaking, it might be time to completely strip it. This involves using methods like oven cleaner or a self-cleaning oven cycle to remove all seasoning. Once stripped, re-seasoning is essential.

Other ways to strip cast iron skillet

Beyond oven cleaner, methods include using a mixture of vinegar and water or specialized commercial products.

Everyday cleaning

Consistency is key. After every use, clean your skillet promptly and apply a thin layer of oil to protect it.

1. Daily Cleaning

  • Right After Cooking: While the pan is still warm, wipe away food bits with a paper towel.
  • Warm Water Wash: For slightly stubborn residues, rinse the pan with warm water and use a wooden spatula or a pan scraper to gently remove stuck-on bits.
  • Dish Soap Debate: There’s a myth that you should never use dish soap on cast iron. A little soap won’t harm the seasoning. For those deeper cleans, a few drops of mild dish soap and a stiff brush can do wonders.
  • Drying: Always dry your cast iron immediately using a clean paper towel or dish towel to prevent rust. To ensure no oil residue remains, place the skillet on a stove over low to medium heat for a minute.

2. Dealing with Stuck-On Food

  • Salt Scrub: Coarse salt or kosher salt can act as an abrasive. Sprinkle it on the pan, add a little water, and gently scrub using a cloth or paper towel.
  • Boiling Water: Another method to remove stuck on food is to boil water in the pan, using the heat to loosen food bits.

3. Addressing Rust

Rusty cast iron can be heartbreaking, but it’s fixable.

  • Steel Wool or Metal Scrubber: Use these tools to scrub away rusty spots. Bar Keepers Friend is a popular choice to aid in rust removal.
  • Re-season: After removing rust, you’ll need to re-season the skillet to restore its protective, nonstick layer.

The Art of Seasoning Cast Iron

Seasoning is essentially baking oil onto the iron, creating a natural nonstick coating.

  1. Oil Selection: While vegetable oil is commonly used, flaxseed oil offers a hard, durable finish. Olive oil or any neutral oil will also work.
  2. Application: Add a thin layer of oil to the entire pan, including its exterior. Wipe off any excess oil using a cloth or paper towel.
  3. Baking: Preheat your oven to a high heat. Place the skillet upside down on the bottom rack with aluminium foil below to catch any drips. Bake for an hour.
  4. Cooling: Let the skillet cool in a warm oven to lock in the seasoning.

How to re-season cast iron skillets

  1. Clean the skillet thoroughly.
  2. Apply a thin layer of oil, wiping off excess.
  3. Bake upside down in a hot oven for an hour.
  4. Cool in the oven to solidify the seasoning.
Cooking bread on cast iron skillet


Caring for and cleaning cast iron cookware isn’t just about keeping it looking good—it’s about ensuring it performs its best for every meal. One of the common mistakes many make is using too much oil; a light layer is all you need to maintain that seasoned cooking surface.

When it’s time to clean up, hot water, especially very hot water, is essential. It helps in loosening up any stubborn residues, and if you’re facing a particularly tough spot, the edge of a wooden spoon is often enough to nudge it off.

If that doesn’t do the trick, a sprinkle of kosher salt, combined with a bit of elbow grease and some paper towels, can get the job done without damaging the skillet.

Whether it’s a lodge cast iron skillet, a grill pan, or a Dutch oven, the same principles apply: clean, dry, and season. If you are in the market for new pans check out this article on some of the best pans on the market: best cast iron pans.

Happy cooking!

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