clean cast iron skillet next to herbs and seasoning

A cast iron skillet is one of the most versatile pieces of cookware that a home cook or chef can own. Whether you decide to cook a rib-eye steak in the pan or bake an apple crumble in it, there’s no denying that a cast iron skillet is a handy pan every cook should add to their kitchen. Owning one, however, requires that you learn how to clean a cast iron skillet the proper way to get the best use out of it.

How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet

Cleaning a cast iron skillet is very much about avoiding a few traditional cleaning techniques and using some alternative ones. Once you learn how to clean a cast iron skillet the right way, you can enjoy a clean, rust-free pan to cook or bake with.

Immediately Rinse the Pan After Use

While you can let the cast iron skillet cool slightly so that it’s safe to handle, it’s best to clean the pan while it’s still warm. Wash the skillet under hot running water and do not use any soap or a steel wool to scrub the pan. You should also not wash it in the dishwasher. If you do any of these, you risk stripping the seasoning off your cast iron skillet, which is one of the most appealing qualities of the skillet.

You also do not want to soak the pan in water as you risk the cast iron skillet rusting. Instead, use a sponge and hot water to clean the skillet.

To Remove Stubborn Residue

If you’re trying to clean off stubborn bits that are stuck to the pan, you can try two different methods. The first method is to boil water in the pan; this typically helps loosen up those stubborn bits of meat that can stick to your cast iron skillet.

The second method is to create a sort of scrub using some kosher salt. Sprinkle kosher salt onto the pan or your sponge and gently scrub off the sticky residue.

To Dry the Cast Iron Skillet

To dry the skillet, you simply want to use a paper towel or clean towel to absorb any water leftover from rinsing the skillet. It’s important that you dry your skillet well to avoid any possible rusting. At this point, you can either put the skillet away in a dry place or add a little vegetable oil to a paper towel and rub that along the inside of the pan before storing away.

How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet

A cast iron skillet should look shiny and have a non-stick quality to it. When food begins easily sticking to your cast iron pan, it may be time to season the skillet again. To do this, you’ll simply want to follow the steps above for how to clean a cast iron skillet. The only difference is that because you’re going to season the pan, you may use dish soap to thoroughly clean the pan.

Once the cast iron skillet has been cleaned and dried, rub vegetable oil or melted shortening all over both the inside and outside of the pan to create a thin, greasy coat. Then place the skillet, upside-down, on the middle rack of an oven that’s been preheated to 325°F; bake for 1 hour.

Afterward, store the cast iron skillet in a dry place until you’re ready to use. Once you cook with it, follow the cleaning instructions shared above to preserve the seasoning and quality of your cast iron skillet.

Quick FAQ

How to clean a cast iron skillet with burnt on residue?

The best method for removing any burnt on residue from a cast iron skillet is to boil a little bit of water — about 1/2 an inch — over the stove until the residue loosens up.

How to clean a cast iron skillet with salt?

Cleaning a cast iron skillet with salt is very simple. You’ll want to use kosher salt and sprinkle that onto the skillet, then use a sponge and hot water to gently scrub off stubborn residue.