Technique: How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet

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Cleaning a cast iron skillet after use is different than any other pan.  Ideally, soap and water will never have to be used.  If they are used, it is best to start over by seasoning the skillet before further use.  The trick is to build up a coating on the pan that eventually provides a non-stick surface.

1.  Once the skillet has been properly seasoned, use the skillet to cook per usual.

2.  Immediately upon removing the cooked food from the pan, use a stainless steel sturdy spatula to scrape the food from the bottom of the pan.  Unlike other teflon non-stick skillets, this pan will not be hurt by consistent hard pressure from the spatula.  Scrape until all of the bits are released from the pan.

3.  In order to handle without getting burned, allow the pan to cool slightly.  I usually do the rest of the dishes at this point.  By the time I am finished with the dishes, the cast iron skillet is ready for the next step.

4.  Once the pan is cool to the touch, use a paper towel or cloth to wipe the skillet clean.  A shiny coating of oil will remain.

5.  The skillet is ready to be used again!  When not in use, we store our cast iron skillet on the stovetop, upside-down, to prevent any flies or debris from landing inside.


  • jenna

    this may be a really dumb question, but is it normal for some of the black from the skillet to be in your food?? it has bothered me, thinking maybe I have been using my skillet improperly…and thus don’t use as often as I would like…

    November 3, 2011
    • Molly Chester

      No dumb questions! Hmmm… if there is a LOT – you might have a problem. Do you have a good heavy skillet that was made in the USA? I sometimes get a bit of black when I’ve done some serious hot sticky sauteing, but otherwise, not a whole lot.

      November 3, 2011
  • Brenda

    Is there a step missing in this? It looks like you are supposed to have the pan in the oven with some oil/fat…that is then wiped out later..leaving the coating of oil?

    November 3, 2011
    • Molly Chester

      Nope. That picture was referring to Seasoning the Skillet, which is the step before Cleaning. However, it is confusing how I have it up there! I am going to change it around.

      November 3, 2011
    • Molly Chester

      I changed it around. Hope that helps Brenda!

      November 3, 2011
  • jenna

    My skillet is a lodge. I notice the patchy black even on the bottom of my cornbread. It doesn’t cover the entire bottom, but is scattered about on the surface.

    November 3, 2011
    • Molly Chester

      Hmmmm Jenna…. I have never had that much onto my food. Maybe b/c the lodge brands come pre-seasoned? Does anyone else have this issue and could help Jenna?

      November 3, 2011
  • I’ve never run into problems with the black flaking off like that either. DO you use something abrasive, like a steel scrub-pad to clean the skillet? I could imagine a situation like that where the scrubber would loosen flakes of the seasoning.

    This is essentially how I clean my skillet too, but I’ll often throw a handful of kosher salt into the pan while it’s still warm and use a paper towel to wipe it clean. The salt adds a nice abrasive to the wipe and helps get it cleaner with less scraping beforehand.

    November 3, 2011
    • jenna

      yes, I typically have used a metal abrasive scrubbie to clean the surface. hopefully I haven’t ruined beyond repair :/

      November 3, 2011
    • Lisa

      I do that too. Works like a charm.

      April 24, 2012
  • Sandy Schrecengost

    Love this ongoing dialogue. Wish I had a cast iron skillet to clean. :)

    November 5, 2011
  • I adore my cast iron skillet! Great cleaning tips, Molly :)

    November 28, 2011
  • Babs

    I bought a cast iron pan that has a grill bottom. When I cleaned it the way the instructions said as it dried it looked like it was rusty. The directions were similar to yours the only difference was to dry it in a preheated oven at 200 degrees. Has this happen to anyone and what do I need to do to fix this.

    May 8, 2013
  • @Babs: we only used cast iron skillets growing up. When we did have to use soap and water to clean the skillet, Mom taught us to dry the skillet on a very low flame on the stove top just till it dried. Always worked like a charm! Nothing like a meal cooked in cast iron.

    September 14, 2013
  • susie

    I had a large skillet that had been passed down from my great grandmother. It had a tremendous build-up on it and once using high heat it all came off in my food.

    September 14, 2013
  • Phil

    I’ve seen the black stuff before long ago. I think it’s built up junk, possible from improper cleaning. I have two lodge pans, no problems. Sometimes I dip em in the sink water and wipe out quickly then dry and oil. What I find works best is to scrape them while still hot wipe with the was cloth then rinse and return to stove top. If its still warm it will dry fast, otherwise kick on that burner for a few seconds then wipe some fresh oil even sometimes on the bottom to prevent rusting. Great tip on keeping them upside down. I always rinse with hot water to get the bugs and dust out.

    September 14, 2013
  • Eileen

    I have a cast iron double sided griddle/grill. Would the cleaning technique be the same? I don’t like using the grill side (groove-like) as food gets stuck more.

    September 14, 2013
  • Jim Clark

    Cast iron questions? Visit this Facebook group of over 10,000 cast iron enthusiasts.
    You’ll find cleaning and seasoning tips as well as active discussion about buying, taking care of, and cooking in cast iron.

    September 14, 2013
  • HI! I have a wonderful very old cast iron skillet, while visiting us my son in law put it in the it is very rusty. suggestions??? Thanks!

    September 14, 2013
  • Theresa

    my old and wonderful cast iron pan is well seasoned, so I boil some water in the pan to get the cooked on bits out, wipe it clean and set it back on a low flame to dry. I season my pan every spring before taking it summer camping. when camping, I just throw the entire pan right into the campfire to burn off any bits of food.

    September 14, 2013
  • Bird Williams

    My father grew up in South Carolina and said you should always clean a cured cast iron skillet with sand. That being said, I clean it the way you recommend here . . . unless I’m camping.

    September 14, 2013
  • MFG

    I use Kosher Salt. Works like a charm.

    September 14, 2013
  • Bill

    We use a stainless chain mail like scrubber in our Lodge pots and pans. Works great! See at Amazon search:
    Knapp Made CM Scrubber™ – Chain Mail Scrubber for Cast Iron Cookware

    December 30, 2014

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