Today I’m sharing with you the easiest tips for how to clean a cast iron skillet.
If you follow me on Instagram, you know I love my cast iron cookware. It’s versatile, cleans up easily, and goes from stovetop to oven seamlessly. There’s something magical about the delectably brown, seared crust you can get on a steak from a cast iron skillet. I don’t use it to cook everything, but it’s in regular rotation in my kitchen.
Cast iron isn’t perfect though (for example, it tends to heat very unevenly), and figuring out how to clean a cast iron skillet can make even the most brave kitchen warriors a little uneasy. There’s definitely a list of dos and don’ts, but luckily you’ll master the basics quickly.
A well-seasoned cast iron skillet will act almost like a non-stick surface. It’s not going to be slippy-slidey like Teflon, but food should stick minimally and the pan should clean up with some warm water and a little scrub from the rough side of a sponge.
The more you use your cast iron and the more you pay attention to some very basic maintenance, the better it’ll do. If you skillet loses its seasoning because you’ve cleaned it with soap, it’s rusty, or food is just sticking a lot more than usual, it’s probably time to re-season it.
Lodge, known for its cast iron which is made the in the USA, has instructions for how to re-season cast iron on its site. I like to season my cast iron in the oven using Lodge’s instructions when I first get it home anyway.
If you’re looking to get started, I really love this 5-piece Lodge set and you can often find it on sale on Amazon, or check your local Target or Ace Hardware.
[Note: Lately when I’ve shared photos of Lodge cast iron, I’ve gotten pushback because the company does use GMO soybean oil to season its skillets in-factory.
Here’s how I look at it: Am I stoked they use it? Not terribly. But if I suggest buying from a company that doesn’t use soybean oil but the cookware is made overseas, I am scolded for not supporting Made in USA products. If I suggest Made in USA cookware, I’m scolded because of the soybean oil issue.
My solution: If you buy Lodge and the soybean issue bothers you that much or there’s a soy allergy involved, remove the seasoning and re-do it with your oil of choice. Directions for that can be found on The Google.
Even if you buy vintage cast iron from an antique or thrift shop, you don’t know what kind of oil was used in it before you, so you may want to re-season. Of course, you could always buy foreign-made if the soybean oil issue is that bothersome, but do you really know what oil was used by those manufacturers anyway?
My opinion on it: Buy domestic, season it again when you get it home, and move on with your life. Don’t over-analyze to the point it makes you crazy.]
But what if you’re just wondering how to clean a cast iron skillet from normal use? Don’t be intimidated! Follow these steps.
1) Wipe out any excess fat.
2) Use warm / hot water and a dish brush or the rough side of a sponge to loosen any stuck on bits. Alternatively, you can deglaze your skillet if you’ve used it to cook meat that’s left brown bits (called fond) in the bottom and either use that liquid as the base of a sauce or just toss it out.
3) If you have really stubborn, stuck on bits, add a bit of kosher salt as a mild abrasive. You can use a mild soap, too, but be sure to follow step 4. If you use harsh soap, abrasives or the dishwasher, you’ll strip the pan of its seasoning.
4) Immediately wipe your pan dry to prevent rusting, and add a small amount of oil to preserve the seasoning. The more saturated the fat—think coconut oil or lard—the less likely it’ll be to oxidize. It’ll be ready to go for the next time you want to use it.
That’s it! Now you know how to clean a cast iron skillet!