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How To Clean And Care For A Cast Iron Skillet

I love my cast iron skillet. I’ll cook pretty much anything in it. It hold heat really well and once it’s broken in, doesn’t stick, and I don’t need to worry about about scratching off any non-stick coating. Cooking with it is amazing too! It is great for searing steaks, frying chicken, and it any dishes that require you to move from the stove to the oven can be done in one pan!

I have to admit, it took me a while to get used to the idea of cooking on a cast iron skillet, I was definitely intimidated by it. One of the biggest issues was I thought they were hard to clean and care for. But once I got used to how to cook on a skillet, I didn’t think much about cleaning. Yes, there is some extra steps you need to take to clean a cast iron skillet, but if you’re used to hand washing dishes, it honestly isn’t that bad.

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Do’s and Dont’s

When taking care of your skillet there’s a few things you want to keep in mind.

DO

  • Use metal utensil. Despite what you may read out there, your seasoning isn’t fragile and can handle a metal spatula, just don’t abuse or  gouge at it obviously. Plastic and wood work as well, you just will run into problems from time to time when you need to get under certain food cooking if you need to flip it.
  • Use a towel or mitt when handling during cooking. Cast iron hold heat really well. It will stay hot for a good amount of time after you take it off the heat. So even when your done cooking be careful. Unless you don’t like your hands. Then grab that handle with all your might!
  • Wash your skillet after every use. Do your family a favor and run that skillet under warm water and scrub with a plastic brush.It wont harm the seasoning.
  • Coat with vegetable oil immediately after use. When you’re done cleaning. Just rub in some vegetable oil paper towel.
  • Keep moisture away from your skillet. It’s cast IRON. Iron means rust! I think.

DON’T

  • Run your skillet through the dishwasher. This is the best way to strip the oils off your skillet. If you did this don’t worry just re-reason it!
  • Leave water or moisture in your skillet for extended periods of time. When you’re done washing your skillet you want to remove the moisture as soon as possible, IT WILL RUST!
  • Use a metal brush or wool pad to clean your skillet. This is skillet abuse. You’ll strip the season off for sure. If there’s something on your skillet that you can’t get off under hot water and a plastic brush, rubbing a little kosher salt into the pan should do the trick!

How To Clean and Re-season your Skillet

So I was bad to my skillet. Real bad.

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After about a week of cooking bacon and other food in my skillet and not really cleaning plus letting it build a little rust I thought I’d go through how to clean it and get it back into shape. It’s actually a lot easier than you think!

My approach is similar to how I clean my grill grates. Get the grates hot, then let the heat do the work for me and let it all scrub off.

If I’m not immediately cleaning my skillet after I’m done cooking, I’ll get the skillet nice and hot again. In my opinion, this makes cleaning the skillet much easier. Similar to a grill when you need to clean the grates, the leftover fats and burnt junk will scrub off a lot quicker.

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After about 5 minutes of heating on the stove top take your skillet under warm running water and begin scrubbing with a plastic brush. I’ll go in circular motions in one direction and then another.

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This step isn’t required, and I don’t do it every time and there’s some that consider this a cast iron sin. Of course there’s the debate that once the skillet gets to about 225 it will sterilize, but it doesn’t really hurt to give it a good clearning every now and then. I personally use soap every now and then to give it a deep cleaning and just for some reassurance that I’m not going to get the family sick.

If you decide to use soap, add a bit of soap and continue scrubbing. Depending on how dirty your pan is you may need to dump the water and repeat the process a few times. Use a mild dish soap and DON’T LET IS SOAK.

 

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When the water runs clear off the skillet you’re done scrubbing. This shouldn’t take long, about 5 minutes tops.

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Wipe your skillet with a clean towel and place it back on the stove and heat it back up on medium until all the remaining water evaporates. This will help keep any rust from forming.

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Once all the water is evaporated take some vegetable oil, shortening, or even some coconut oil and pour a little in the skillet. With A paper towel rub it into the skillet until it’s evenly coated.

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Let the Skillet sit on the stove top for about 10 minutes on medium.

If you’re re-seasoning place the skillet in the oven at 350°F for about an hour. Let it it cool and store in a dry place.

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And that’s it! Once you get the hang of caring for your skillet, you’ll find that it really isn’t that hard and you’ll really the most out of your skillet. With proper care you’ll have a skillet that lasts your for years, even decades!

Do you have any tips that you’d like to share on how to clean and care for your skillet? Leave me a comment, I’d love to hear it!

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Derek Campanile
Derek Campanile

I’m an IT professional by day. Home cook for the family by night. Follow my blog for easy to make recipes, how-to’s and ideas to gather the family at the dinner table!

  • columbuscook

    HI Derek

    Good article. I have a very similar guide I wrote a while back.

    http://www.instructables.com/id/How-To-Clean-Your-Cast-Iron-Pan-including-how-NOT-/

    I am an IT guy and a home cook at night too. Small world. 🙂 I like your site.

    • Thanks! I guess us IT guys just like to cook huh? I like your thoughts on using flax seed oil, I’ll be giving that a shot in the near future!

  • Mitch Cormier

    Run across your site by Googling some images.

    I am Tier 1 Tech Support at work, but at home, I am Chief Cook and Bottle Washer!

    • Nice! It’s all about getting that C-Level position wherever you can right? I have this blog listed on my personal FB page as an occupation and I am the Chief Pan Master! 🙂

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