By Amy Hunt
Taking care of your cast iron, and knowing how to clean your cast iron skillet properly, involves a little more love and care than you have to give to other cookware since cast iron is easily damaged. But it's also so much more beneficial for you to have in the kitchen.
Among the many reasons, it's sturdy, lasts almost forever, and you don't have to worry about scratches ruining its value. The good news is, owning and taking care of a cast iron pan isn't as hard as you'd think! As long as you know how to clean a cast iron skillet, you'll be able to enjoy all the rewards, without the hassle.
Cleaning a cast iron skillet is similar to knowing how to cleaning a washing machine, how to descale a kettle, how to clean an oven, or how to clean a stovetop—once you do know how, it really is simple to do. But finding out the correct way to clean yours thoroughly, and without causing the pan any damage, is the key.
How to clean a cast iron skillet/pan in three simple steps
Cleaning your cast iron pan/skillet just takes a bit of know-how, as does learning how to clean a burnt pan in general. As our steps below will lay out, doing it properly involves washing it as soon as you can after use.
Then, we share tips for cleaning burnt-on food, and how to give your pan an overall clean. Much like cleaning a kitchen, following this step-by-step process will mean you can get the job done in a flash, and without too much sweating over the sink...
1. Clean your cast iron immediately after cooking
After a long, hard day, it can be hard to resist letting your pan soak while you eat dinner. Sometimes the temptation can lead to soaking your pan all night (something we often do with our best food processor, or our best blender), but don't give in! If there were only one thing you needed to know about cleaning a cast iron pan, it would be to clean it as soon as possible after using it, and don't let it soak for too long. Your cast iron pan is not rust-proof, so if you let it soak, it will certainly rust.
What’s more, if you have it soaking in dish soap, the porous cast iron will absorb all the scents, and nobody wants to cook on a pan that always smells like dish soap.
With that being said, when you get the urge to procrastinate washing your cast iron (like most of us do), push through it and get the job done.
2. Use salt and paper towel to get burnt food off
Chances are, you've been faced with an ugly, pan-seared blend of food stuck to the bottom of your pan—and not the kind that's easy to scrape off. No, we're talking about the kind that makes you want to throw your whole pan out...but never fear. It's something that happens to all pans—even our best induction pans, which are meant to be easier to clean! Thankfully though, there is a fairly easy solution to the problem.
Before you begin to give your cast iron skillet a general clean, it's important to get these burnt bits of food off. To do this, simply bunch up a piece or two of paper towel and use Kosher salt to rub the burnt food stuff off—it should start to come off fairly easily, with a little bit of force.
If that doesn't work for you, or you prefer to try other methods, there is one that involves only hot water and a wooden spoon.
3. Then, clean it while it's hot and use a wooden spoon
Before jumping into this great cleaning method, you need to know that hot water and a hot iron pan will make steam. Therefore, you need to be very alert and careful when combining the two.
Additionally, don’t try to cut corners and use cold water to clean a hot cast iron pan. The difference in temperature will damage and crack the pan. You don't want to ruin your precious cast iron before you had the chance to enjoy its life-long benefits! But remember, a cast iron will only work on an induction hob vs. a gas hob, so make sure you're using it on the right cooker to enjoy it for years to come.
So, to give your cast iron skillet a proper clean, make sure it is hot itself, and gently place it under hot running water. Scrub at it (gently), with a wooden spoon—or a rubber spatula if you don't have a wooden spoon. The food and any excess dirt on your pan should rub right off.
If you let your iron cool off after cooking, don't worry. You can easily put the pan back on the stove burner to heat it back up while you're warming up your running water.
How to restore your cast iron skillet to its best
If you're anything like the majority of cast iron cooks (especially new ones), then you may have already made a mistake or two, and now your frying pan is seemingly rusty beyond repair. The good news is that it isn't! Cast iron may rust easily, but it can also be restored easily.
Much like when you clean your stainless steel sink, your cast iron pan just needs a bit of love and attention to help it look its best again.
- The solution to restoring your cast iron is to soak in an even mixture of water and distilled vinegar for about an hour
- Then sprinkle your pan with baking soda and scrub it down with steel wool or a metal scouring pad.
- Don’t use the scented ones from the grocery store that come with detergents already in them. Just use plain steel wool.
- Keep rinsing until all the rust is off and immediately dry with a paper towel until the grime stops coming off.
- Then, bake your pan in your oven, set at 350, for about 10 minutes, to cure it.
As you may be starting to realize by now, cleaning your cast iron cookware isn't nearly as bad as you may have imagined. When you actually know how to clean a cast iron skillet/pan oven, the process can be fairly quick and easy. And when cleaned correctly, your cast iron pan can last a lifetime.
Amy Hunt is Life Channel Editor at womanandhome.com, having been with the brand since 2015. She began as the magazine's features assistant before moving over to digital as a News and Features Writer, before becoming Senior Writer, and now a Channel Editor. She has worked on either women's lifestyle websites previously too—including Woman's Weekly, Goodto.com, Woman, and Woman's Own. In 2019, Amy won the Digital Journalist of the Year award at the AOP Awards, for her work on womanandhome.com. She is passionate about everything from books, to homes, to food and the latest news on the royal family. When she isn't editing or updating articles on cleaning, homewares, the newest home gadgets, or the latest books releases for the website, she's busy burying her nose in a gripping thriller, practising yoga, or buying new homeware of her own.
Strictly Come Dancing stars are applauded for learning sign language - as the show welcomes its first deaf contestant
EastEnders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis will star in the dance show this year
By Sarah Finley •
Sarah Jessica Parker shares her 'devasting' loss in social media post
Friends and fans left sweet messages on her Instagram post after she revealed that the co-founder of SJP had passed away
By Sarah Finley •
The best real Christmas trees—which variety to buy and how to care for yours
The best real Christmas trees all have differing pros and cons depending on their variety, so it's important to choose wisely
By Teresa Conway •
The best artificial Christmas trees to decorate your home in style this festive season
We've assessed the best artificial Christmas trees available to buy for 2021 to ensure your home looks as festive as possible
By Tamara Kelly •
TikTok hack reveals you've been cleaning your toilet wrong—this is how to stop it 'smelling like a urinal'
One TikToker's deep cleaning secret will help you keep your toilet smelling fresh
By Rylee Johnston •
How to make candles at home according to women who have made a business out of selling them
From wax to wick, create a signature glow by pouring your own ambient candles with our expert-approved guide
By Rachel Homer •
The best pillow for a good night's sleep—whether you’re a back, side or stomach snoozer
On the hunt for the best pillow for you? There's no such thing as a good night's sleep without one—so we've rounded up our pick of the comfiest.
By Ysanne Brooks •
How to get rid of limescale from anywhere in the home easily and effectively
Calcium carbonate—more commonly know as limescale—can be easily tackled with a mild acid solution
By Amy Hunt •
The best scented candles for a gorgeous-smelling home
Taking deep breaths has never been so thrilling thanks to the best scented candles
By Sibelle Mehmet •
Rustic bathroom ideas that will create a calm and natural farmhouse-inspired space
Reclaimed wood, natural stone, and plenty of greenery take centre stage for these understated rustic bathroom ideas
By Rachel Homer •