How to Clean a Cast-Iron Skillet

 cleaning a cast-iron skillet
Christine Burns Rudalevige talks her son Owen through cleaning a cast-iron skillet at their home in Brunswick, Maine. Joel Page/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Known for its durability, heat retention, and ability to withstand high temperatures, the cast-iron skillet is one of the most dependable tools in the kitchen. Able to cook everything from fried chicken to s'mores, there are few foods you can't cook in cast iron. So, how do you keep your Lodge or Le Creuset safe from wear, tear and rust? While caring for a cast-iron skillet can be a little more work than cleaning your average nonstick skillet or Dutch oven, knowing the aftercare routine is the first step in keeping this thing in top-notch shape for a long time.


Cleaning a Cast-Iron Skillet

  1. First off, don't wait until your cast-iron is cold to do some cleaning. Obviously, you shouldn't scrub your skillet the moment after it comes out of the over, but a warm cast-iron makes for easier cleanup.
  2. A sponge or chainmail scrubber works wonders — especially when dealing with burnt-on cheese or caramelized onion. However, the dependability award definitely goes to the Full Circle Tenacious C. The built-in scraper removes stuck-on bits while the brush scrubs away all evidence of dinner.
  3. Run your cast-iron under hot water and add a little soap. It's worth mentioning there's a tiny bit of controversy concerning the use of soap with cleaning a cast-iron skillet (i.e., that you should never do it). But don't let that scare you off; dish soap isn't going to ruin your skillet.
  4. For food hanging on for dear life, the next step is returning your cast-iron to the stove.
  5. Place your pan on the burner and add enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom, according to Cook's Illustrated.
  6. Next, add enough kosher salt to form a paste with the oil. Throw on some oven mitts, grab a few paper towels and scrub. This step is especially helpful if you're trying to get rid of rust spots.
  7. When your pan looks black and slick, it's time to oil it up. Set your oven to 350 degrees F (or 177 degrees C), apply a thin layer of vegetable oil all over (even the handle), and place upside down on the middle rack for an hour. (This step is known as "seasoning" your cast-iron skillet.)
  8. Turn your oven off, allow your cast-iron cool down, pat dry with paper towels, and call it a night.

HowStuffWorks earns a small affiliate commission when you purchase through links on our site.