How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet
Learn how to thoroughly wash your pan without causing damage.
If you own a cast iron skillet, you know that cleaning it properly is important. Cast iron pans can rust easily without proper care and should be seasoned in order to build flavor. But if you know exactly how to care for yours, a true cast iron skillet will last a lifetime—and it'll continue to get better with age. Ahead, find out how to clean cast iron and enameled cast iron pans, plus how to properly season a cast iron skillet.
How to Clean Cast Iron Skillets
The most important thing to know about cleaning cast iron skillets (meaning non-enameled) 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 natural 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 pan. 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 Cast Iron Skillets
Seasoning a cast iron skillet has nothing to do with herbs and spices; instead, it's all about using oil to build up a nonstick surface and prevent rusting. While you should clean the skillet after each use, season it as often as you like by rubbing a small amount of cooking oil on the inside of the pan using a paper towel or dish cloth. Heat the skillet in a 350°F oven for one hour, which bonds the oil to the pan to create a natural nonstick surface. "The fat becomes carbon particles, which creates the naturally non-stick, or easy release. The more people cook with cast iron, the more oils are imparted onto the cookware. With the heat from cooking, they become carbon particles," says Mark Kelly of Lodge Cast Iron.
How to Clean Enameled Cast Iron Skillets
Enameled cast iron pans—such as a Le Creuset Round Dutch Oven ($150-$435, williams-sonoma.com)—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.