Cast Iron

Watch: Amanda Hesser's Favorite Way to Clean Cast Iron

May 30, 2012

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. 

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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.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • sysrion
  • Jill Cox Kane
    Jill Cox Kane
  • Michele N
    Michele N
  • Tony Tomasello
    Tony Tomasello
  • UncleBen1630
I'm a freelance food and prop stylist, writer/editor, and video producer.


sysrion June 6, 2015
In addition to brewing, I enjoy cooking.
But I often burn my pans.Yesterday I found a SySrion Stainless Steel Chainmail Scrubber was rather helpful.
I tried a good way by using a Iron Steel Cloth.Leaving them as new as the first time you bought them and zero scratches! U all should have a look.Here is the link:
Jill C. April 24, 2015
I've been using the kosher salt, dry on the stovetop and apply coconut oil method. Works like a charm!
Michele N. April 17, 2015
I have a cast iron pan with grill ridges. I also use salt, but here is the best way for stuck-on greasy stuff...pour in about a 1/4 cup kosher salt, then gently scrape the ridges with a wooded chop stick. It fits into the 90 degree angles really well and won't scratch you cast iron. Rinse well, place over a flame to dry completely.
Tony T. January 6, 2015
I inherited my cast iron from my aunt, they are from the 40's and are my most prized kitchen tools. She taught me years ago to clean them with dish soap and hot water and that is what I have always done. They are the best non stick I have.
UncleBen1630 October 19, 2014
Anybody know how to get many year's worth of rough-and-crusty off the OUTside of a cast iron frypan?
Laura415 March 9, 2014
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.
James T. July 2, 2014
When you say using mild soap is OK, you mean when re-seasoning a pan, right? You don't mean use soap for everyday cleaning, do you?
Laura415 July 2, 2014
Yes regular dish soap is fine for cleaning cast iron. Our modern soap is much milder than old school lye based soaps. There are lots of other opinions about using other cleaning methods. I just don't want to waste my good sea salt or try to find sand or something else inconvenient to clean my pans. Soap never hurt them or left any smell behind.
Nancy C. January 2, 2014
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?
TXDjinn June 2, 2012
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.
Panfusine September 25, 2012
I grew up watching Cast iron scrubbed with sandy dirt & coconut fibre..
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?
Leigh A. May 31, 2012
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.
James T. July 2, 2014
A wire brush? Yikes.
James T. July 2, 2014
If it's a Le Creuset (spell check) pan, I believe it says in their instruction booklet that you may use mild soap and a brush to clean it. I wouldn't use a wire brush though.
Leigh A. May 31, 2012
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.
James T. July 2, 2014
Great link! Thank you!
WishWorks May 31, 2012
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!
Alexandra H. May 30, 2012
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!
Kristen M. May 31, 2012
There isn't yet -- but it's definitely on our to-do list!
loubaby May 30, 2012
Can I clean with salt and then oil my wok?....I think it must be iron or aluminum?....
Kristen M. May 31, 2012
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.
winepeddler May 30, 2012
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.
PrayerPoseMom May 30, 2012
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!