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.
By Trinadad 3
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.
July 12, 2009
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.
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
By Sandi 1
Can anyone tell me how to clean built up and burned on food from an iron skillet?
By Sandi from St Louis, MO
November 15, 2011
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.
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
October 13, 2010
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.
By sophia 1
How do you clean iron skillets that have not been used in about 3 years and have been sitting in a closet?
October 27, 2011
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! :)
How can the crust that develops on a cast iron fry pan be removed?
By Frank N.
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. Rinse with hot water, let the pan dry and rub a small amount of shortening, lard, cooking spray or cooking oil inside the pan before storing.
I put my cast iron in my self-cleaning oven. After it's finished the cycle I just wipe out the ashes of whatever is caked on and oil well.
Maintenance is the best form of cleaning. Clean and oil right away. (01/24/2005)
I haven't 'washed' my skillets in years!! After using them I rub them clean with a sprinkle of salt and some elbow grease, rinse in hot water, dry really well and give them a spray of Pam. They are better than any of the "new' non stick pans!! (01/25/2005)
<img src="http://www.thriftyfun.com/feedbackdisplay.lasso?feedback_image=tff8171949" hspace="10" vspace="10" alt="RE: Clean Cast Iron">
I NEVER USE SOAP IN MY IRON SKILLET.
JUST HOT WATER... AND DRY IN THE OVEN OR ON STOVE TOP. I RUB THE SKILLET DOWN WITH A LITTLE OIL EVERY OTHER TIME THAT I USE IT.
To remove rust from cast-iron pans and woks,rub with the cut side of half a potato DIPPED in concentrated dish detergent. Rinse, then wipe with cooking oil and paper towel. (01/26/2005)
I have two cast iron pans and a round cast iron griddle that fits over a stove burner. I use at least one of them almost daily. Never, never would I use soap or dish detergent to clean them. I put hot water in them and sometimes add a little vinegar then simmer on the stove to loosen anything that might be really stuck on them. Then I rinse well and dry well. A light coating of oil once in a while and they are ready to go. They are the best cooking utencils I own. They sure beat all the non stick pans of today if they are properly seasoned and cared for. I've even baked one dish meals in them. (08/29/2006)
If You buy a new cast Iron Pan Coat with either Lard (what they used it the old days) or if you're a vegetarian like me, use Crisco to coat the pan with, then put cast iron pan into oven and bake it at a low temp (about 200 deg) for a few hours. If the oven smokes, turn it down a bit. This will also help re-coat the pan if you've cleaned it with water to many times. ALWAYS DRY PAN OFF ON TOP OF STOVE then coat with oil, stack between paper towels and Bobs your uncle! If you have a pan that's rusted, simply clean with plain steal wool or use lemon juice to clean rust spots, then re-coat with Crisco and bake as above to recondition the cast iron.
---> Cast Iron... NOTHING beats it! (08/29/2006)
Outdoor gas barbecue grills also work well for seasoning or reseasoning cast iron pans and the smoke stays outside. i've used beef suet, lard or crisco to season mine. Heat up the cast iron skillet in the gas barbecue, shut the lid, turn it off and let it sit for a while. Reheat it if necessary.
Susan from ThriftyFun (08/29/2006)
I have been using my cast iron pans for about 10 years now. Why shouldn't you use soap? I have been washing them just like the rest of my dishes and then "seasoning" them on top of the stove with a little oil and they are just fine. (08/30/2006)
I have washed my cast iron skillets with dishwashing detergent for over 40 years and it hasn't hurt them one bit. I'm still using the ones I started out with! I normally wash them as soon as I remove the food to a platter. If there happens to be a spot that needs a little scrubbing (which is rarely) I use a mesh plastic scrubee.... never anything abrasive. I rinse it well, dry it throughly..either with a towel or by setting it on a still hot burner or in a warm oven. After it is completely dry I coat the cooking surface lightly with a layer of lard. It doesn't take much on a paper towel when the pan is still warm. Now if you DON'T keep the surface coated after washing it you CAN get rust. You just need to always coat it after washing it.....no exceptions! (08/30/2006)
By Grandma Margie
The best reason I can think of NOT to use dishwashing soap would be because of the fact that it has so many petro-chemicals/chemicals that could possibly soak into the pan and poison you and your family. I have no research or scientific backing but for me personally, I wouldn't risk it. I heard animal fats are better for conditioning (they are more stable fats with stronger bonds). I use a biodegradable, plant based, soap to clean my dishes/pans with. The stuff is (ecover brand) practically edible so it puts my mind to ease. (08/17/2008)
I love using my old-fashioned cast iron cookware, especially my grandmother's Dutch oven for homemade soups on top of our wood stove. I treasure each piece.
I have found it best to wash only in hot water, and then rub some vegetable shortening on the inside of each one after washing. This keeps them rust-free with that beautiful black sheen. This also makes them quite "non-stick" without a questionable coating, like Teflon.
By Margaret M. from N. Springfield, VT
I have been using cast iron pans now for 30 years. How do I clean them? I put them in the sink and put in a drop or two of dishwashing liquid and run the hottest water in them. I use a plastic scrubber and rinse in really hot water. If the oven is still warm I put them in there upside down or I put them back on the eye of the stove to dry. I have never seasoned them with anything after they dry, they are still going strong and I plan to will them all to my son who loves to cook. (02/10/2009)
How can I clean cast iron pots?
My techniques is to hand wash (using very little or no soap) and rinse, I then dry the pan on top of the stove on a warm burner and lastly I always finish off by coating the pan with cooking oil then wiping the oil around with a paper towel while the pan is hot. Lastly, I'll stack my oiled pans on top of each other in the cupboard with a paper towel placed between them. Most people will say to not use dishwashing soap and to just wipe the pan out when you're done. But you can't always do this and sometimes you need to actually wash them with a little soap. Always dry the pan thoroughly and wipe it with a little oil to help avoid rust.
Don't use your cast iron pans to cook things like spaghetti sauce in without coating them with oil after washing! Sauces (especially spaghetti sauce) will remove the baked on "seasoning". and the seasoning can sometimes take many, many uses (or years) to acquire. You can also bake your pan with Crisco smeared over the whole pan then place the pan in your oven at a low temperature (like 150 - 200 degrees) for an hour or more then turn off the oven and leave the pan in the hot oven until it cools to absorb the Crisco. This baking technique can help season or re-season your pans.
* Cast iron also puts a little iron into your food! You can't get a better pan for most cooking! (05/11/2009)
I agree totally with Cyinda. That's just what I do with mine. My stepson will not allow detergent of any kind in his so I feel they're never really clean but his kids are healthy so who's to say! I DO wash mine and always will. (05/11/2009)
I collect cast iron skillets. It is my favorite choice. To remove years of baked on crud: leave it in your self cleaning oven next time you run it. This will bake off all the years of accumulation. It will look rusted, grey...as all the seasoning is gone. Wash it in soapy water, wipe dry with paper towels. Using a strip of bacon, rub the inside with the bacon fat until it is well oiled. Place it in the oven, lowest temp for at least 6 hours. This should reseason it for you. I wash mine in soapy water after each use, just quickly and wipe with paper towels and store upside down. (05/12/2009)
I have read that you should never use dish soap. Here are the tools I use.
Always clean it when it is HOT. Most everything comes right off. Use Hot water. If something is really stuck on I use kosher salt to scrub. Sprinkle on the kosher salt (large crystals and use a half a lemon like a sponge. Make sure to dry throughly and then oil. This will help keep your cast iron well seasoned. (05/13/2009)
I have for a while cleaned mine with a mild liquid hand soap, fast and rinse. Then I put in on a burner upside down and heat it till it's completely dry. I use mine for really searing meat and the stuff gets burned on. While I am doing dishes, I put some water in it and heat the water on the stove till it is almost boiling, let it sit till I am done with everything else, then dump and wash like I said. This works really great and I love these pans. (05/13/2009)
By c t
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. Putting a little water into the hot pan will cause all the charred bits to lift right off. In a few minutes, it can be swished out easily with no scraping or scrubbing.
By Bailey36 from SW Michigan
I would just always be sure to apply some oil after you wash it out. Everytime. (10/17/2009)
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 baked a pineapple upside down cake in it and after I cleaned it (or so I thought) with oil I put it away. I got it back out tonight and there is a gummy substance that will not come off. I'm assuming crystallized brown sugar.
I've tried scrubbing it with hot water and salt and I even took a razor blade to it thinking I could scrape it off. I am going to be heart broken if I have ruined the skillet.
Any suggestions would be very much appreciated.
By dobiemama from Fort Worth, TX
You have not ruined it. Boil some water in it to soften the gunk, then use a brillo pad or a copper scrubbie and get it good and clean. Dry it well, in a low oven, and let it cool. When you are sure it is clean, re-season it by rubbing it well with a good layer of shortening, and bake it at 350 for an hour. (12/29/2009)
I have used cast iron for 30 years. The important thing, regardless of what you hear, is not the way you clean them but the way you season them. Whether you use soap or not, you should never soak them and you should dry them right away. Then season with shortening, crisco is best. I do not cook with it. I do not like oil on the skillets. Another help is to use them as often as you can. Not using them causes them to rust. (12/30/2009)
I was going to say the same basic thing that Jilson said. To be honest it is hard to totally ruin a cast iron cooking utensil, unless you crack it. Just do the cleaning, and then re-season it, as described. I have cast iron that had been my late Mother-in-laws, and some that had been my grand-mothers', but it never loses it's quality if kept cured, and greased up. Just enjoy it, and use it with pride. You can't find its equal in the stores, when you think of the many meals it has cooked, or as with one I have, the many pans of cornbread it has turned out. (12/30/2009)
My sister-in-law had these very dirty(caked on food) cast iron pans and gave them to us because she had tried everything to clean them. My husband put them into the oven and "burnt' the food off. After several hours (on med.) turn the oven off when the pans are almost red. When cooled off take them out and wipe out. Food, dirt etc. comes right out. Condition the pan as others have said. We put oil and spread it around the pan. Put on stove to "cure". Put away. We have done this for years and they do not stick. We also wash them in hot water and detergent. and then re-condition them every time. (12/30/2009)
That sticky residue might not be sugar. It could very well be PAM (or some other brand aerosol spray). Don't ever use spray as the oil coating before cooking with cast iron, use as mentioned previously (Crisco). (12/30/2009)
There is tons of advice, not all of it the same, and some conflicting - use Pam, never use Pam; use soap, never use soap - and so on. The bottom line is - it is next to impossible to ruin a cast iron pan. Any gunk you have on them can be burnt off in a self-cleaning oven, or as described in several other posts, or can be scraped off with an SOS or copper wire scrubbie. After you get the thing clean, you season it. Several ways to do that apparently, as you can see from the archives.
The best thing to do is to use it all the time, and just rinse out with hot water. (12/30/2009)
As I've posted before, I ruined my cast iron skillet that I had for years, when I tried to clean it in my self cleaning oven. It did come out nice and clean but within a few days of using it, a big piece on the left side broke off. I have another, that is larger that I bought on the Internet but it has never been as good as my original. What I don't understand with this one is that it has never developed a smooth surface. The bottom is still very rough and I have been using it for at least 10 to 15 years! The only place I see them at stores now are at Dick's sporting goods and they all seem to have a rough cooking surface. When can I buy a new one that will have and/or at least develop a smooth satiny cooking surface? (12/30/2009)
You can use salt to scrub out the sticky stuff. Best thing to do, go to Lodge Logic. com, they make the most durable cast iron that you can get right now (and a long time ago), the website tells you how to revive long since "dead" skillets. I know people have found "dead" ones at garage sales, rust and all and brought them back to life. They are a little more maintenance but once you get the seasoning set, it's old hat and you'll get a nonstick surface that can be heated to HIGH heats and won't leech crud into your food! (12/30/2009)
If your cast iron pan is all cast iron, with no handles made of other materials, you can use the old Scottish method of putting the pan directly on to an open fire to burn the dirt off. (01/01/2010)
By Julia Walton
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
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)