How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet
Does anyone really know how to clean a cast iron skillet properly? Exactly how important is it to know how to clean a cast iron skillet?
Cast iron skillets are worshipped for their durability, versatility and longevity. However, to make the most of this tool, it’s important to know how to clean it the right way.
If there seems to be an overwhelming amount of tips, tricks, dos and don’ts for maintaining your cast iron skillet, search no further. We’ve compiled a concise method for how to clean a cast iron skillet so that it gets better with each use.
Jump to Section
- How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet
- How to Clean Enameled Cast Iron
- When to Replace a Cast Iron Skillet
How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet
Cast iron skillets are the preferred tool for cooking many dishes — like the crowd-pleasing Marry Me chicken, for example — because of the unique way that they can be “seasoned.” Seasoning a cast iron skillet just means sealing in the build-up of oils that create a non-stick surface. It’s crucial to know how to clean a cast iron skillet because doing it wrong will remove the seasoning layer. Higher-quality pans, such as the Finex Cast Iron Skillet, come pre-seasoned, while others do not.
If your pan is not seasoned, start by soaking it in hot, soapy water and scrubbing it well. After completely drying the pan, coat it in vegetable oil and pop it in the oven upside down at 375°F for an hour. Let it cool in the oven, and repeat this process twice per year.
Once you’ve cooked with your pan, clean it immediately. The number one mistake when it comes to how to clean cast iron is allowing it to soak in water. While this seems like a good idea for a really dirty pan, it could cause the pan to rust irreversibly. As soon as your pan is cooled, rinse it in cool or warm water.
When people wonder how to clean a cast iron pan, the most-asked question is: Can you use soap on cast iron? While a bit of gentle dish soap is okay for really tough residue, avoid using soap if possible.
Likewise, avoid using steel wool to scrub your pan, as it will remove the pan’s valuable seasoning layer. Try non-abrasive materials that are specifically made for cast iron.
A cast iron cleaning kit like the Finex Cast Iron Care Kit comes with instructions for how to clean a cast iron skillet and cast iron cleaning solutions that ensure your pan will be cleaned, not ruined.
Knowing how to clean a cast iron skillet is knowing that rust is what you want to prevent. Before storing your pan, ensure that it is completely dry. Consider placing it in the oven at low heat for a few minutes to really make sure that your pan is safely dried.
How to Clean Enameled Cast Iron
Enameled cast iron skillets are less prone to rusting than traditional cast iron skillets are, and they do not need to be seasoned. However, just as you should know how to clean a cast iron skillet, it is important to know how to clean enameled cast iron to ensure that your pan lasts.
The methods for how to wash a cast iron skillet typically apply to enamel cast iron skillets as well. Since enameled cast iron is less likely to rust, it’s okay to let your enameled cast iron skillet soak if necessary. Allow your pan to cool completely before washing to prevent chips or cracks.
Use hot, soapy water to clean enameled cast iron. Prior to getting sudsy, gently scrape residue off the pan with a wooden spatula. Avoid abrasive scrubbers and soaps. Use a soft sponge and gentle movements.
Although rust isn’t a major concern with enameled pans, it’s generally good practice to ensure that your cookware is completely dried before storage. Use a soft towel to dry enameled cast iron.
When to Replace a Cast Iron Skillet
Your cast iron skillet might be a passed-down family heirloom. Although the best cast iron pans can last decades, these pans can wear down if you don’t know how to clean a cast iron skillet or due to improper storage. Rather than trying to salvage a pan that’s too far gone, take care of a new one from the start.
Replace your cast iron skillet if it’s:
Rusted — There are methods for removing rust from cast iron, but it is generally pretty difficult to remove rust. You are better off getting an enameled cast iron pan, like a Staub Traditional 11" Skillet in Matte Black, to avoid rust altogether.
Cracked — Even the smallest of cracks can expand, causing leaks or the growth of unwanted bacteria.
Warped — A pan can become warped due to heat expansion. This can cause uneven cooking, and will likely only get worse.
When replacing your cast iron skillet, ensure that you are purchasing a quality item that will suit your cooking needs. Cast iron skillets get a lot of praise, but it is the cast iron material itself that makes for optimal cooking and longevity.
If you grill more than you bake or sautée, you can still get great use out of using cast iron, like with a Finex 15" Cast Iron Lean Grill Pan. Or, if you tend to cook in quantities too large to fit in a traditional cast iron skillet, an enameled cast iron Staub Tall Cocotte 5 Qt is an ideal alternative.
Can you soak a cast iron pan?
No. Knowing how to clean a cast iron skillet means you know never to let it soak, not even if there are hard-to-remove chunks of food left in your pan. Doing so will create rust that is hard to remove and damaging to the cast iron surface.
Can you use soap on cast iron?
Your pan won’t be completely destroyed if you use soap on it. However, do so sparingly. Soap can be abrasive and remove the seasoning that makes your pan cook so well. A better idea for how to clean a cast iron skillet if there is some really tough gunk on it is to try pouring a bit of Kosher salt and warm water into the pan, and scrub gently with a soft brush.
Is cast iron dishwasher safe?
Since it’s important to avoid rust buildup on your skillet, do not put it in the dishwasher. Cast iron skillets are not dishwasher safe, nor are other cast iron dishware items. Likewise, avoid putting enameled cast iron in the dishwasher.
Can you use steel wool on cast iron?
Do not use steel wool on cast iron. The best practices for how to wash a cast iron skillet revolve around maintaining the seasoning layer of the pan. Steel wool will scrub that layer right off.
A cast iron skillet is a valuable tool in the kitchen that, when cared for properly, can last a lifetime. With proper cast iron skillet care, the pan can actually get better with each use, so be sure to learn how to clean a cast iron skillet before rolling up your sleeves and scrubbing!
Though caring for a cast iron skillet may seem complicated, there are really only a few simple steps to follow and a few mistakes to avoid. Anyone can learn how to clean a cast iron skillet!
Luckily, both cast iron and enameled cast iron are fairly durable, so there is a bit of leeway for slip-ups. Your safest bet is to purchase a cast iron cleaning kit and a high-quality pan.
For even more ways to elevate your kitchen, check out more chef-recommended cookware in the Cozymeal Shop.