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Cleaning a Cast Iron Pan

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The care and cleaning of a cast iron pan is different than that of other types of cookware. This is a guide about cleaning a cast iron pan.
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August 6, 2015

You can tell me not to use soap on my cast iron pans til the cows come home. I will use it, anyway. I refuse to put away a pan that has only been scraped and wiped. To me, that borders on 'nasty'. I make country style gravy in my cast iron frying pan. I fry thinly sliced sweet potatoes sprinkled with brown sugar, in that pan, cooking till the sugar is syrupy or caramelized. Imagine just 'wiping' that pan.

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If the pan is properly seasoned, hot, soapy water will not affect that season. Almost always, a ruined season is due to overheating an empty pan while preheating it. When preheating a pan, don't allow it to get hot enough to smoke. If you see even the slight smoke, don't just turn down the heat, remove the pan from the heat.

The inside bottom of a well seasoned pan will be smooth and shiny. No scrubbing should be required. The inside walls of the pan will often be rougher. Scrub these with something no more abrasive than a plastic mesh ball or a nylon brush. Soak the pan for a while if need be. Never use steel wool, nylon pads, or powdered cleansers on a pan. When the pan is clean and rinsed, put it on a burner at medium heat. Watch carefully. The instant all water is burned way, remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool. With a paper towel, apply a thin film of cooking oil to the pan before putting it away.

If you have cooked fish or onions in the pan, you can rest assured the next time you scramble eggs, they will taste of fish or onions, if you only wipe the pan 'clean'. Even soap and hot water will not remove these scents.

Removing lingering scents from a pan is simple. After washing and rinsing the pan, fill with water and place on medium heat burner. Add a tablespoon of baking soda to the water. Simmer two or three minutes and rinse, then back to the burner to dry. I find drying the pan with heat is more thorough, thus preventing any rust, especially on the bottom where it is most likely to appear.

It's like this, I wash my cast iron pans in hot, soapy water after every use; I always have. An egg will slide around in my pan as if the pan was coated with Teflon or T fal.

Where are those cows, anyway? It's time for their evening milking.

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Comment Was this helpful? 11
September 24, 20150 found this helpful

Amen! I'm not about to NOT wash my pans! I have BOTH of my grandmothers cast iron (app 2 dozen) and not about to put away with just a 'wipe'! *shudders* Yuk! It's very little effort to care for your pans after all I am passing my iron down to my children.

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October 6, 2016

I bought The Ringer, a stainless steel chainmail cast iron cleaner a few months ago and so far I love it. I have been using cast iron most of my adult life, but I still don't have a great method of taking care of them, every so often I do something that ruins the seasoning. I used to simply wipe it out with a paper towel, but I found it to be an insufficient method when something was stuck to it. So, for awhile I washed it normally with soap and water and oiled it after but sometimes that would seem to ruin the seasoning.

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Something I did that I have now learned was causing some damage to my pans was washing them when they were too hot. If the temperature of your pan and the temperature of the water you are using are too different, it can cause damage to your pan and could even break it.

I have a new method now that I have my new fancy Ringer. I wait until the pan has cooled and then I wash it with very little soap and use the Ringer as you would a sponge. The Ringer quickly removes any cooked on food without scraping or ruining the seasoning of the pan. I then place the pan back on the stove and heat the pan back up again and wipe it down with a thin layer of oil, let cool, then store.

Cast iron pans are more of a pain to take care of than some other pans, but I absolutely love cooking with them. With good care, the seasoning on the pan will make it as good as any non-stick pan out there but without the fear of chemicals leaching into your food. :)

If you find the Ringer has a sticky feel, soak it in a bowl of warm water and a good amount of dish soap for a 1/2 hour or so. Then rise and let dry. I use a suction cup hook above my sink to hang it so it's easily accessible.

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Comment Was this helpful? 2
Anonymous
October 15, 20160 found this helpful

How do u get food debris out of this?

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19 found this helpful
April 12, 2011

Sometimes a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet needs more than just a simple scraping/wiping to get it ready for the next job. In those cases, I used to soak mine in hot water in the sink.

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1 found this helpful
July 22, 2016

clean pan

Last Sunday I visited the flea market they hold once a month in Punnauia. Normally I don't buy much at the flea market because it seems everyone sells items I don't need or already have. However, this weekend I found 3 very old; extremely dirty Macocotte Dutch ovens for 300 francs or $3.00 USD.

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0 found this helpful
January 26, 2005

When our mother passed away, we cleaned out her home, inside of the oven we found a cast iron pot in which she had fried fish and never got a chance to clean. It is a beautiful cast iron pot which I do not want to throw away but despite my efforts in cleaning, it will not shed the fishy smell. Do any of you thrifty readers know of a way to clean smelly cast iron. It had a top to it and was covered for who knows how long.

Trina

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
January 26, 20050 found this helpful
Best Answer

Heat the skillet on the stove and sprinkle quite a bit of salt (preferably sea salt) in it and take a paper towel and scrub it, then wash and rinse.

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January 11, 20090 found this helpful
Best Answer

It probably will go away with the next cooking but who wants a fish smell with steak? I rinsed it out with water, dried on the stove top over heat, added vinegar, salt (lots) and baking soda (lots) to get a foam and let it simmer til dry and cooled. Then rinsed again with water, dried on stove top over heat, then oiled and heated again. I never put soap in my cast iron.

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3 found this helpful
October 19, 2010

Can anyone tell me how to clean built up and burned on food from an iron skillet?

By Sandi from St Louis, MO

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October 26, 20100 found this helpful
Best Answer

I have cleaned my burnt on foods from my iron skillet by filling the skillet with water to cover the burnt food, adding several tablespoons baking soda and put on simmer until water is near boiling. Turn off heat, let sit till water cools. I then take my spatula and loosen burnt food. After removing water and burnt food, I wash in hot soapy water and re-season my skillet in the broiler of my stove.

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November 15, 20110 found this helpful
Best Answer

If you have a self cleaning oven, leave 1 rack in it and put the iron skillets upside down. Start self cleaning mode. After the oven has cooled down remove skillet and wash and reseason. They will look brand new when done.

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0 found this helpful
October 8, 2010

What is the best way to clean up an old iron skillet? I know you are supposed to rub oil on them after use. Is it true you do not use soap in them? My grandmother's old iron skillet has a few rusty areas. I'd like to clean that all up and start using it on a regular basis.

By Danielle from Raleigh, NC

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October 12, 20100 found this helpful
Best Answer

The best way to season a cast iron skillet is to apply lard (you can get that in the super-market or Walmart) generously on both surfaces (including handles) and bake them in an oven for 15 minutes at 350 degrees F, then lower the temperature to 200 degrees F, flip the pan upside down over an aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour. Repeat this again using lard. If you are seasoning a new pan or gently used pan, do it only once - that should take care of it. But seasoning an old pan (especially that had rust), you have to do it twice. Hope this helps.

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October 12, 20100 found this helpful

Scrub the rust off with steel wool, then season like asamuel suggests, or look in the archives for other methods. I usually just wash mine with a brush under hot running water, but I do use Dawn if I have burnt on stuff, because I wasn't watching when I was using it!! Just re-season with some oil or lard, but no need to do the heating for 2 hours.

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0 found this helpful
November 20, 2011

How can the crust that develops on a cast iron fry pan be removed?

By Frank N.

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November 22, 20110 found this helpful

I have always put my cast iron skillets in my oven when I turn on the self cleaning cycle. They come out wonderfully clean, you just have to wash off the ash with soapy water.

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0 found this helpful
October 25, 2011

How do you clean iron skillets that have not been used in about 3 years and have been sitting in a closet?

By Sophia

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October 27, 20110 found this helpful

I have cast iron skillets from my mother and mother-in-law. I love them! They are family treasures. If your cast iron has been sitting for a long time and not being used, treat it like you would a new one. Completely season it again. To season it: 1) Wash with warm soapy water....do not use any abrasive cleanser or cloth, then rinse really well. 2) Dry really well. 3) Rub a good quality vegetable oil all over it. 4) Put it into a preheated oven for at least one hour on 350 degrees. 5) Let cool completely in the oven. Now, your skillet should be good to go! Happy cooking! :)

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October 8, 20100 found this helpful

I got a cast iron skillet at a yard sale. How do I season it? I put Crisco inside and out and baked it for about 20 minutes. But it still has little bumps in it and rust stains. I'd appreciate any info.
Thanks.

By Lynn from Big Stone Gap, VA

Answers:

Cleaning a Cast Iron Skillet to Re-season

I am in my 70s. I remember my mama peeling potatoes and putting them in an iron skillet with water to cover and boiling them slowly for a long time. I was a little kid and I don't remember how long it took. (05/09/2010)

By MartyD

Cleaning a Cast Iron Skillet to Re-season

Sorry, she boiled the peelings not the whole potato. (05/09/2010)

By MartyD

Cleaning a Cast Iron Skillet to Re-season

I bought an old cast iron skillet at an antique shop ages ago (for a few bucks!). I had to scrub it with either a green Scotch Brite pad, or steel wool. I seasoned it "after" I got all the rust off. I've been using it for years, and it's great! (05/09/2010)

By mrs.story

Cleaning a Cast Iron Skillet to Re-season

Several web sites address this problem. I used Easy-Off. I sprayed the skillet, sealed it in plastic bag, and put it outside for a couple of days. I had to repeat this after the first cleaning. Season it in hot oven (400F) with Crisco. Be sure surface is smooth, at least inside. Some of the new cast iron skillets have a bumpy surface. I was never able to get that surface non-stick. The old ones are really smooth. After use, just wipe down with water if needed, then rub with a little oil (I use Pam spray). (05/09/2010)

By doteco

Cleaning a Cast Iron Skillet to Re-season

You can also clean it well with a drill that has a wire brush fitting. The high speed helps scrub off the "lumps and bumps" and rust. Then follow the cleaning and re-seasoning procedure. (05/10/2010)

By fatboyslimsmom

Cleaning a Cast Iron Skillet to Re-season

Wire brushing works well if it is rusty and pitted and needs smoothing otherwise if you have a self cleaning oven put your cast iron in the oven when you are going to clean it, let the oven run its cycle cool down, etc. Remove pan, rub with Crisco, tallow, or lard (I like tallow) and bake at 300F for an hour adding more fat as the iron absorbs it until it won't absorb anymore. I cook on cast iron every day and grew up cooking on it and have always had good success. If you do not have a self cleaning oven than you can do the same thing with a very hot campfire. Basically you are burning off all the contaminants. Good luck (05/11/2010)

By tigra

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May 9, 20100 found this helpful

I received a seasoned Bobby Flay cast iron skillet for Xmas and can't seem to cook anything without it sticking. I have seasoned it a few times, the last time with Crisco (don't ever do that) which left it super sticky and awful. I think it may be ruined.

Does anyone have tips for stripping the sticky skillet so I can try to re-season it one more time. I have tried a can of Coke, which didn't do much of anything. Thanks.

By mygreeneyedbabies from northern IL

Answers:

Cleaning a Cast Iron Skillet to Re-season

If it's truly cast iron without the enamel (I know nothing about Bobby Flay other than his name) use hot or warm water and steel wool to remove the gunk. Never use detergent or soap on cast iron.

Reseason it (Lodge Cast Iron has some great tips on their site: http://www.lodgemfg.com/ ) and for the next several uses, try cooking fatty foods (don't use tomato or other acid based foods until it has a good seasoning going on).

Only clean with water and reseason after use and be sure to keep all parts of your cast iron exposed to air as much as possible. IE: don't store them with lids on. (07/06/2009)

By COflower

Cleaning a Cast Iron Skillet to Re-season

It wasn't the Crisco that made it sticky, it was the amount of time it stayed hot. You can clean it now with a rotary wire brush down to the metal, and then follow the steps to reseason the pot. (07/09/2009)

By fatboyslimsmom

Cleaning a Cast Iron Skillet to Re-season

When the seasoning was completely ruined on one of my grandmother's iron skillets or iron Dutch oven, when she moved off the farm she would build a fire in her fireplace and burned them for an hour or so. I have done the same thing using my outdoor grill and firewood instead of charcoal. After burning, you are going to have to wash with soap and water to remove the black residues from the old seasoning and the burning wood.

I never throw away bacon grease because I season my iron skillets with it. I store it in the refrigerator in a small jar with a lid. After burning and washing the iron skillets, wipe dry and put on the stove to reheat. Put a little bacon grease on a folded paper towel and brush a very light coating all along the inside of the skillet. Put it back on the stove and heat just til it starts to smoke and wipe with the bacon grease again. Then put in the oven at 250 degrees F and "bake" for several hours all the while wiping it down with a light coating of bacon grease several more times. When done to your satisfaction, remove from the oven and wipe with a clean paper towel to remove any excess.

Also, as for washing an iron skillet with soap and water, my grandmother always did and so do I. You just can't scrub it. If the seasoning is good enough hot water and soap won't hurt it. Just remember to wipe it completely dry after washing. Myself, after washing, whether or not it needs it, I dry the ironware, add a very thin coating of bacon grease, heat for a minute on the stove, wipe it out and allow it to cool before putting away. I store my ironware with the lids on and a clean, dry paper towel inside the pot or pan to keep down the moisture.

Also, nothing wrecks a good seasoning on ironware like recipes with tomatoes or tomato-based products or a recipe that you have to add just a little bit of vinegar or lemon juice to. (07/10/2009)

By Juanita S.

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April 12, 20110 found this helpful

To clean your treasured but crusty cast iron fry pan, just pop it into your oven on the day you use the self cleaning mode. When the oven is clean, so is your cast iron fry pan or skillet.

By easyeva from Palm Coast, FL

Answers:

Cleaning Cast Iron Pans

My sister in law had a lot of old cast iron cookware. When they got some cooked on grease, she would put them in her fireplace and burn it all off. They turned out like new, then she just re-seasoned them. (01/25/2011)

By suzin

Cleaning Cast Iron Pans

Be careful doing this to keep an eye on your pans; they can warp at high temperatures, and there's nothing more frustrating than having a bottom that isn't flat on a pan. (01/25/2011)

By shes_an_angel

Cleaning Cast Iron Pans

I used to burn mine out by putting it/them into the wood-burning furnace overnight. A quicker way is to heat them red hot with an acetylene torch, but slowly. They don't like being heated fast (01/25/2011)

By tomatohanger

Cleaning Cast Iron Pans

Cleaning cast iron pans in a campfire or fireplace sounds like a better idea than using a self-cleaning oven. ONLY because one side of my cast iron skillet broke off, a few days after I had cleaned it in my self-cleaning oven. I bought it in Fort Worth Texas in 1957 and had been using it for more than forty years. (01/26/2011)

By Kathryen

Cleaning Cast Iron Pans

Lodge Company has been around for many years and I would bet that they are the biggest manufacturer of cast iron pans. Go to http://www.lodgemfg.com/ for "use and care". I followed their instructions to re-season my pan and it is beautiful! (01/26/2011)

By DorothyNYC

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January 25, 20110 found this helpful

I inherited my mother's cast iron skillet and I'm afraid I have ruined it. I hope someone can help me fix it.

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December 28, 20090 found this helpful

I use cast iron pans to help keep our blood iron levels more normal. But sometimes when we forget to season them well things get stuck on the bottom, or even burned.

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October 15, 20090 found this helpful

How can I clean cast iron pots?

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May 11, 20090 found this helpful

I love using my old-fashioned cast iron cookware, especially my grandmother's Dutch oven for homemade soups on top of our wood stove.

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October 28, 20080 found this helpful

Don't use dish soap to clean cast iron pans and don't run them through the dishwasher. Fill the dirty pan with water and bring it to a boil, then you should be able to scrub off any debris.

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Removing Rust from Cast Iron
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