Kitchen Confidence

How to Clean Cast Iron

By • May 30, 2012 • 14 Comments

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Inspired by conversations on the FOOD52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. Today, Amanda shows us how to clean a cast iron pan.

Cleaning Cast Iron

We've talked about the value of cast iron pans, and how every kitchen needs one. We've shown you how to season them. But what do you do when you've got stubborn bits of food stuck to your cast iron? Don't reach for soap and an abrasive scrubber -- you'll lose your seasoning, and no one wants that. Lost seasoning means even more sticking and, what's worse, it invites rust to hang out on your pan. Here, Amanda shares our favorite method for cleaning cast iron. 

Do you have any other tricks for cleaning cast iron pans? 


Today's video was shot by Alex Lisowski, and edited by Kyle Orosz. Photos by Nicole Franzen.

Tags: Kitchen Confidence, tips and tricks, how-to, cast iron, clean cast iron, pans, how-to & diy

Comments (14)


about 1 month ago Laura415

I've never purchased a cast iron skillet. All were given to me by folks who didn't know how to rehab the rusty or crusty specimens they had. So I've spent a lot of time getting vintage cast iron into shape. First off -our modern soap is mild compared to lye soaps and harsh scrubbers. Dish soap is ok. Don't use cleanser tho. For normal cooking gunk a plastic scrub brush and dish soap is ok. Soak the pan for a while if needed. Boil water in the pan to Soften/remove burnt food. To avoid rust- always dry cast iron on the stove on a hot burner until no water remains (Or in the warm oven). If you've got a really crusty, rusty pan simply take it with you next time you go camping or build an outdoor fire. Put the cast iron pan in the low fire and cover with coals. Let it burn off everything, including the seasoning. Next day wrap the cool pan in newspaper then take it home and re-season it. Works every time to make cast iron like new. I also like to render fat in my cast iron skillet. Does double duty seasoning the pan while making something yummy for cooking in my kitchen.


4 months ago Nancy Charlton

I love my cast iron grill pan but despair of getting rid of the cooked-on crusts from the grill ribs. I have had some success with barbecue cleaning tools, mainly wire brushes and scrapers. This is awfully hard on the seasoned surfaces. Is there a tool just for this purpose?


almost 2 years ago TXDjinn

I was told - and shown by our Mammie - that the best way to clean out cast iron was to scrub it with sand and water and then heat it to dry. When it cooled, oil it lightly (don't use Crisco which will go rancid) and put it away.


over 1 year ago Panfusine

I grew up watching Cast iron scrubbed with sandy dirt & coconut fibre..


almost 2 years ago Meatballs&Milkshakes

Anything special to do for a cast iron grill pan, where the bits really are hard to get off without using soap and an abrasive?


almost 2 years ago Leigh Armstrong

I use soap and a scrub brush on mine. It doesn't remove the seasoning. Then I rub oil on it and heat it to add another layer to the seasoning. A wire brush also works well.


almost 2 years ago Leigh Armstrong

Regular dish soap won't remove seasoning from a cast iron pan. I suggest reading Dave Arnold of FCI's great post on cast iron. Basically, most of the stuff we think we know about seasoning and cleaning cast iron is wrong. http://www.cookingissues...


almost 2 years ago WishWorks

I expect this would work with my Calphalon as well...great idea!

Quick story, When I married my husband many moons ago he had a set of cast iron. The pans were so thick with crust and smelled rancid, I refused to use them. He was furious when he returned home one day to find out that I used a drill fitted with a wire brush to remove years of crust.
In my mind, it was a great altenative to food poisoning! Of course I reseasoned them for a fresh start!


almost 2 years ago ChefCitron

I love so many of Food52's 'recipe-less' features! Is there any way for me to save them, like I save recipes, on Food52? Thanks!


almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Senior Editor of Food52

There isn't yet -- but it's definitely on our to-do list!


almost 2 years ago loubaby

Can I clean with salt and then oil my wok?....I think it must be iron or aluminum?....


almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Senior Editor of Food52

Yes, for carbon steel woks, this method is exactly what Lifehacker recommends:

This should work for iron too -- but for aluminum, to remove stubborn bits just bring some water to a boil in the pan and then use a wooden or silicone spatula to rub them off, to avoid damaging the pan.


almost 2 years ago winepeddler

We've been using our cast iron skillet since we received it as a wedding present 46 years ago. The only way we've ever cleaned it is to wash it in warm, soapy water. Dry it with a paper towel and then, most importantly, crumble up a sheet of waxed paper and rub it all over the skillet, inside and out. It cleans up beautifully and has developed a nice, thin patina.


almost 2 years ago PrayerPoseMom

This is a complete "duh" moment for me! I've had my great-grandmother's cast iron (that she received when she was married) since I got married, and I've never ever heard of this method before!!! I've been seasoning them regularly, but I normally just put a little bit of water in the pan and heat over a flame until the bits come off. But THIS! This is amazing! Thank you!