How To Clean a Cast Iron Skillet – Do’s and Don’ts

Learn how to properly clean a cast iron skillet so you don’t ruin it. These do’s and don’ts are going to help you so your cast iron pan will last a lifetime!

So you just got a new cast iron skillet and you know you need to clean it but you just aren’t sure the proper do’s and don’ts.

You have the same questions that most people who are new to using a cast iron skillet have. Can you use soap on it?  What about scrubbers?  Don’t worry – we have the answers for you!

Cleaning and Keeping the Seasoning

Part of what makes people love cast iron for cooking is that there is a layer of seasoning that gets put onto the pan after regular use.  Think of it as a layer of oil baked onto the pan’s surface.  Each time you cook with oil or fat, the seasoning will build up.  Eventually this will make the pan nearly nonstick.

The tricky part is that the hard-earned seasoning can come off in the wash and you don’t want all that hard work to go to waste.  You should be gentle when cleaning so here’s some do’s and don’ts for how to clean a cast iron skillet.

Do: Clean Immediately After Use

Try to rinse your cast iron pan right after you’re done cooking with it.  This will prevent food scraps from clinging to your pan and hardening and sticking to it.  Wait until your pan is cool enough to handle then hand wash it in the sink.  Yes…it’s OK to get your pan wet!

Don’t: Let the Pan Soak Too Long

Although you may be tempted to toss the skillet into a soapy sink while you eat, avoid the temptation!  Cast iron isn’t rust-proof…make sure you minimize the amount of time it comes into contact with water.

Tip:  Submerging an extremely hot pan into cold water can cause it to crack.

Do: Use Hot Water and Soap

The misconception is that soap will strip the seasoning from the pan.  A little soapy water won’t hurt it – it’ll actually help get rid of stuck on food and cut down on the use of old fashioned elbow grease.  Hot water also helps dissolve the food bits better.

Don’t: Use an Abrasive Scrubber

Abrasive scrubbers like a scouring pad or steel wool do not go good with cast iron pans.  This is because they’ll get rid of the hard-earned seasoning that you’ve accumulated.  If you got tough residue, look at products that are safe to use on cast iron pots and pans.

Do: Dry Well and Oil

Instead of leaving your pan on the dish rack to dry…wipe it down  with a clean rag (avoid towels since the cast iron pan can stain it) or a paper towel right away.  This will prevent the pan from rusting.  After that, you can let your pan dry right on your stovetop or even in the oven.

Tip: Reinforce your seasoning after you wash it by applying a light coat of vegetable oil with a paper towel while the pan is still warm.

Don’t: Stress

A little rust of scrubbed off seasoning isn’t the end of the world.  Remember that if seasoning was on there once, it can be on there again.  Cast iron pans are super durable which is why many people love cooking with them.  With a little bit of care, they’ll last you a lifetime!

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