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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Vinegar is good but make sure it is apple vinegar and use a 1 to 5 ration of vinegar to water, boil for a while, wipe it dry. Then a little more of the mixture. Use a paper towel to wipe it around and then a clean paper towel to dry it, never soap.
Can anyone tell me how to clean built up and burned on food from an iron skillet?
By Sandi from St Louis, MO
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.
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.
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. Then I wised up and decided to boil water in it on my stove top. I believe the hotter water soaks and cleans the pan better. Just a few minutes at boil followed by brushing with coarse brush should do the job.
Then I wipe dry, finish the drying on low stove top heat. When totally dry, add a tiny dab of whatever oil you like and continue heating for another few minutes. I use a heavy-duty paper towel to burnish the oil in the pan once or twice before shutting the stove down.
My favorite skillet then gleams and I can almost see my reflection in it. The bottom is just as smooth as the proverbial 'baby's butt'.
By tomatohanger from Canton, OH
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
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.
Lodge manufacturers cast iron pans. I followed their instructions on how to re-season my cast iron and it came out beautiful. Check this site for other tips on cleaning and cooking.
How can the crust that develops on a cast iron fry pan be removed?
By Frank N.
How do you clean iron skillets that have not been used in about 3 years and have been sitting in a closet?
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! :)
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.
By Lynn from Big Stone Gap, VA
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)
Sorry, she boiled the peelings not the whole potato. (05/09/2010)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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
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)
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)
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.
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.
I inherited my mother's cast iron skillet and I'm afraid I have ruined it. I hope someone can help me fix it.
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.
How can I clean cast iron pots?
I love using my old-fashioned cast iron cookware, especially my grandmother's Dutch oven for homemade soups on top of our wood stove.
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.