Image of a cast iron skillet

How to clean a cast iron skillet in 4 steps.

Last Updated: October 1, 2021

You may or may not know too much about cast iron skillets, including how to clean them. Find out what cast iron is and how to clean and maintain it in 4 easy steps.

Cleaning a cast iron skillet isn’t the easiest thing to do, but, with a few tips, it actually isn’t the hardest thing to do either.

Once you learn how to do it, your cast iron skillet or stove top grates and griddle will just continue to get better the more you use and clean them. Get ready to find out what cast iron is and a few steps for the best way to clean your cast iron items.

So, what is cast iron?

Cast iron is an iron alloy that contains 2 to 4 percent carbon. An iron alloy is a metallic substance composed of two or more elements with the main substance being iron. Cast iron is made through the combination of iron and carbon along with silicon and manganese. It also includes traces of elements such as sulfur and phosphorus.

Cast iron cookware is a staple for those who are experienced or inexperienced in the kitchen. The skillets are highly praised because of their durability and their ability to retain heat. Cast iron products are also desired for their non-stick quality when seasoned properly.

5 benefits of cast iron skillets

Illustration of a stove

Here are 5 benefits that come with owning/using a cast iron skillet or pan:

  • Non-stick
  • Great heat retention
  • Chemical-free
  • Able to use in oven and stove
  • Has a long life span

Grove Tip

How do you season cast iron?

Part of maintaining a cast iron skillet or pan is seasoning. When fat is heated on cast iron, it binds to the cast iron creating a non-stick surface.

To season your cast iron pan, you simply put a small amount of oil on a paper towel and spread it evenly over a cleaned cast iron to get this same non-stick effect.

Cleaning a cast iron skillet: 4 easy steps

One thing that should never go in the dishwasher is cast iron. Cast iron hates being wet for too long — or even being cleaned too vigorously — so this is one dish that needs individualized attention.

Follow these steps to clean and maintain your cast iron skillet.

Step 1: Clean with hot water immediately after use

Cleaning cast iron is a thousand times easier to do if you do it ASAP.

Once you're done cooking, scrape off left behind food bits, and place your cast iron back on the stovetop. Pour a little fresh, hot water into the cast iron.

Step 2: Scrub excess food using a soft dish brush

Excessive scrubbing or abrasion is bad for cast iron, so use a soft bristle brush to gently scrub your cast iron.

Avoid using soap, detergent, abrasive sponges, or steel wool, as these can all strip your cast iron’s coating. Hot water and a soft brush will do just fine!

For a tough job, you can use a small amount of soap or dish detergent, but wash it off immediately after cleaning the stuck-on food or grime.

Step 3: Dry thoroughly with a clean towel

If left wet for too long, cast iron will rust easily. After cleaning, dry your cast iron with a clean kitchen towel.

You can even set it on a burner and turn the heat to low to speed the drying process.

Step 4: Season the pan: Apply a fresh coat of oil

Cast iron loves a good coat of oil, which keeps it healthy and effective for cooking. Pour no more than a tablespoon of neutral oil (see below for more on this) into the pan.

Use a cloth or paper towel to coat the entire pan in a light coat of oil, and let it sit for a while before putting it away.

Mrs. Meyers cleaning products and Grove Co. cleaning caddy

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A few more tips about cast iron

Can I soak my cast iron skillet?

No! Soaking cast iron is a recipe for disaster. Soaking can cause your cast iron to rust and if it rusts, then you should probably stop using your cast iron skillet and get a new one.

What kind of oil should I use to season my cast iron?

You should use a neutral oil when seasoning your cast iron skillet. A neutral oil is a cooking oil that has a neutral flavor like vegetable or grapeseed. Vegetable oils like olive, canola, sunflower, or even avocado oil are great options for seasoning your cast iron.

How can I remove rust from my cast iron skillet?

Soaking your cast iron skillet in water can be an equation for danger. Rust on a cast iron skillet is never good. If your cast iron skillet starts developing rust, treat it immediately by soaking half vinegar and half water. After about half an hour, scrub your skillet and see if the rust comes out. If the rust continues, repeat the process until the rust is gone. Then dry and season regularly.

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