If you learn how to wash a cast iron skillet properly, this versatile and durable piece of kitchenware can literally last a lifetime. A 10- or 12-inch cast iron skillet can take on nearly any kitchen cooking task with the exception of boiling water, which will cause it to rust. Nevertheless, it can be used on the stove top, in the oven, beneath the broiler – and even over a campfire to cook up the evening catch. Valued for its ability to retain heat and to cook food evenly, a cast iron skillet can even add up to 80% more iron to your food. Follow the steps below to clean a cast iron skillet, and, in short, if you take care of it, it will take care of you.
To clean a cast iron skillet, you’ll need:
- A cast iron skillet
- Hot water
- A plastic brush
- A mild abrasive (like Kosher salt, optional, for scrubbing)
- A dish towel (for drying)
- Heat (from the stove, oven, or a fire, for drying)
- Cooking oil (for additional seasoning)
- A paper towel (optional, for storing)
- It will be easier to clean a cast iron skillet if it has been properly seasoned before use. Seasoning provides a nonstick surface, and while it takes time to develop completely, it’s simple to do. Just coat the skillet with cooking oil and place it in a 350° F oven for an hour. Allow it to cool, then dry it with paper towels, and it will be ready for use. Every time you heat oil in the pan, the seasoning will continue to develop, and eventually the skillet will get a shiny, black nonstick coating. You can season your skillet as often as you’d like to help the process along.
- Clean your cast skillet with hot water immediately after you use it. Never use cold water in a hot pan, since it may cause cracking or warping. Never submerge or soak it in water, and do not clean your cast iron skillet in the dishwasher. Using soap regularly is not recommended, although you can add a drop occasionally if you prefer. To remove food that is stuck on or burned, scrub your skillet very gently with a plastic brush and a mild abrasive, like salt, if necessary. This will prevent damage to the pan’s seasoning. If the pan gets sticky or starts to rust, you can scrub it with steel wool, but it will have to be completely re-seasoned.
- Cast iron will rust if it isn’t dried completely immediately after you wash it. After you clean a cast iron skillet, use a dish towel to remove any water. Many people designate a dish towel for cast iron pans, since the pan tends to leave marks on the towel. When the surface water is gone, place your skillet on the stove or in the oven on low heat for a few minutes to remove any remaining moisture. At this time, you can also coat the inside of the pan with oil to repair any damage washing has caused to the seasoning.
- After you clean your cast iron skillet, store it without the lid on to protect it from rusting. Some people also place a paper towel inside the pan or store it in the oven to absorb excess moisture in the pan or in the air. If your pan does rust, it is a sign that the seasoning is incomplete or that it has been damaged. Scrape the rust off the pan, and reason it.