Learn how to care for and wash your seasoned cast iron pans without causing damage.
antique cast iron pan rusty
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If you own a cast iron skillet, you know that cleaning it properly is important. Cast iron pans need to be seasoned and can rust easily if the seasoning is eroded. The good news? If you know exactly how to care for yours, a cast iron skillet will last a lifetime—and it'll continue to get better with age. Here's how to clean and properly season your cast iron skillet.

How to Wash a Cast Iron Skillet

When cleaning a cast iron skillet (meaning non-enameled cast iron), the most important thing to know is that you should not use soap, soak it in water overnight, or put it in the dishwasher. Doing any of these things can ruin its seasoning. Instead, use very hot water and a mild, non-abrasive sponge to clean the pan after each use. Avoid using steel wool or other harsh materials to clean, as they can also damage the seasoning. To remove any stuck-on bits of food, use a combination of coarse salt and hot water to form a paste and scrub gently, then rinse with hot water. After washing a cast iron skillet, dry it thoroughly to remove any excess water droplets and prevent rust from forming.

How to Season a Cast Iron Pan

Seasoning a cast iron skillet has nothing to do with herbs and spices; it's all about using oil to build up a nonstick surface and prevent rusting.

While you should clean the skillet after each use, seasoning is only necessary occasionally, such as if you see signs the seasoning is wearing thin. To season, rub a small amount of cooking oil on the inside of the pan using a paper towel or dish cloth. Then, heat the skillet in a 350°F oven for one hour, this bonds the oil to the pan to create a natural nonstick surface. "The fat becomes carbon particles, which creates the natural non-stick, or easy release," says Mark Kelly of Lodge Cast Iron. "The more people cook with the skillet, the more oils are imparted onto the cookware. With the heat from cooking, they become carbon particles."

How to Clean an Enameled Cast Iron Skillet

Enameled cast iron pan are easier to clean because they're coated with a smooth, non-porous surface. To clean enameled cast iron, wash it with hot, soapy water, just as you would with any other cookware. If there are pesky stains on the inside of the pot that won't go away after a thorough cleaning, bring water to a gentle simmer in the pan on the stove with either a small amount of dish soap or baking soda, then scrub and rinse carefully, says Nate Collier of Le Creuset.

Comments (1)

Martha Stewart Member
December 2, 2020
#theskilletdoctor agrees! Great article and resources! Thank you!