How to Clean a Cast-Iron Skillet

We tested whether you can use soap.

July 29, 2022

Related To:

How To Use and Care for Cast Iron Pans, as seen on Food Network Kitchen.

How To Use and Care for Cast Iron Pans, as seen on Food Network Kitchen.

Photo by: Felicia Perretti

Felicia Perretti

Tools for Cleaning a Cast-Iron Skillet

How to Clean Cast Iron

Since cast-iron pans can handle heavy-duty cooking, you might have a bit of a mess to clean up when you're done cooking — but don't worry, no matter how you prefer to clean your pan, it can take it. Here, a step-by-step guide.

Step 1: Clean the pan while it’s still hot. As tempting as it might be to let the pan sit while you enjoy your freshly prepared feast, taking a few minutes to care for your cast iron immediately after you use it will save you a lot of time later. That’s because stuck-on food hardens as it cools.

Step 2: Clean the pan with hot water – and no soap. Hot water will help loosen food that stuck onto the pan. Firmly scrub the pan with your cast-iron scrubber. You may have heard conflicting info about whether it’s okay to use soap. Conventional wisdom says soap strips seasoning from a pan. Some articles floating around the Internet claim that you can, in fact, use a tiny bit of soap and your pan will be okay. We’ve tested both methods and concluded that soap does indeed strip cast iron – even if it’s just a little bit. Steer clear.

Step 3: For stuck-on messes, use some salt and a dry towel. The abrasion of the salt helps lift the food away, and working it in with a dry towel, which has lots of surface area, amplifies the elbow grease. If the food still won’t come off, try boiling a little water in the pan.

How To Use and Care for Cast Iron Pans, as seen on Food Network Kitchen.

How To Use and Care for Cast Iron Pans, as seen on Food Network Kitchen.

Photo by: Felicia Perretti

Felicia Perretti

How to Remove Rust from Cast Iron

To remove rust, scrub your pan with a steel wool scouring pad and a little warm water (you can also use coarse salt if you don't have steel wool on hand or need additional abrasiveness).

How To Use and Care for Cast Iron Pans, as seen on Food Network Kitchen.

How To Use and Care for Cast Iron Pans, as seen on Food Network Kitchen.

Photo by: Felicia Perretti

Felicia Perretti

How to Dry a Cast-Iron Pan

Dry your pan thoroughly with paper towels, otherwise it will rust. To make sure it's really dry, place it on the stove and gently heat until all the water evaporates. Then wipe the inside with an oiled paper towel. Neutral oils like vegetable, canola or grapeseed are best.

How To Use and Care for Cast Iron Pans, as seen on Food Network Kitchen.

How To Use and Care for Cast Iron Pans, as seen on Food Network Kitchen.

Photo by: Felicia Perretti

Felicia Perretti

How to Store a Cast-Iron Skillet

Store your pan by hanging it (make sure your hook is strong!), or stack with paper towels in between pans to protect against scraping the finish.

How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet

And what does it mean to season cast iron, anyway?

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