Cast iron skillets are beloved kitchen workhorses that can last for decades. But keeping them properly cleaned and cared for is essential. Here are 7 steps for cleaning cast iron skillets using the most effective methods.

1. How To Clean a Cast Iron Skillet

Step 1: Remove Food Residue

After cooking, the first step is removing any remaining food debris from the skillet. Wipe away pieces of food using paper towels. For stuck-on residue, pour a small amount of coarse kosher salt into the skillet and use a soft spatula to gently scrape off bits of residue. The abrasive salt helps scrub the pan clean without damaging the seasoning.

Step 2: Rinse With Hot Water

Once food debris is removed, rinse the skillet under hot water from the tap. Use a soft sponge or dish cloth dedicated just for cast iron to gently wash the surface. Avoid harsh scrubbing as this can strip away seasoning. Hot water alone can dissolve most food residue. Focus on problem spots but don’t scour too hard.

Step 3: Use Coarse Salt or Chainmail

For cooked-on food that won’t rinse away with hot water alone, sprinkle coarse salt and use a paper towel to rub it around the skillet. The abrasive salt will help loosen stubborn residue without hurting the seasoning. Alternatively, gently scrub with a chainmail cast iron cleaner for an abrasive scrub without damaging seasoning.

Step 4: Skip Soap

Unless dealing with an especially greasy mess, avoid using soap on cast iron. Dish soap can wash away protective oil seasoning. A good hot water rinse and coarse salt scrub is sufficient for most cleaning. If you do use soap, rely on a very small amount of mild soap and reseason afterward.

Step 5: Dry Thoroughly

It’s very important to immediately dry a cast iron skillet after washing. Allowing it to air dry can lead to rust formation. Use a clean dish towel to carefully dry the entire inner and outer surface until no moisture remains. You can place the skillet over low heat for a few minutes to evaporate any lingering moisture too.

Step 6: Apply Oil

Once dried, rub a thin layer of cooking oil over the interior cooking surface. Enough to provide a light sheen. Unsaturated fats like grapeseed, canola or vegetable oil work well. This oil layer helps protect and maintain the nonstick seasoning of well-cared for cast iron.

Step 7: Heat on Stove

After oiling, place the cast iron skillet on a burner over low-medium heat for 1-2 minutes. This gently warms the oil into the skillet, preventing any droplets of oil left behind from going rancid. The heat finishes the reseasoning process. Then turn off the heat and allow to cool before storing.

2. Some Tips For You

Avoid Dishwasher

Never place cast iron in the dishwasher! The harsh detergents and hot water will cause rust and strip away seasoning. Always hand wash and dry cast iron skillets and pans. The extra effort helps preserve them for years of cooking.

Store Properly

Allow the cast iron to cool fully before putting away in a cupboard or on a shelf. Avoid sealing in moist air by wrapping in plastic bags. If storing for long periods, rub with oil and place a paper towel inside the skillet while storing to absorb moisture.

With the proper gentle cleaning and reseasoning methods, cast iron skillets will develop a great natural nonstick surface. The small amount of extra care pays off in delicious cooking performance for life. Follow these steps and your cast iron will deliver delicious meals for years to come!

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Julia Jane is a home cook inspired by her mother's cooking. With the desire to share my cooking experiences with everyone, she created this website

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