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How to Clean Cast Iron Pans: The Ultimate Guide

BY: Shannon Grilli | Jan 15, 2018

If you've come to this page, chances are you've recently become the proud owner of cast iron cookware. Congratulations! Cast iron pots and pans are beloved by serious cooks everywhere for their versatility and longevity. Of course, if you don't know how to clean cast iron pots and pans, you might also be feeling a little nervous—especially if you've heard horror stories about rusting and chipping.

But fear not! The good news is that cast iron cookware isn't difficult to care for at all... so long as you follow a few simple rules. Below we put together this easy-to-follow guide to help you ensure your cast iron cookware will be around for years to come.

Lesson One: How to Season Cast Iron

When people talk about seasoning cast iron pans, they aren't talking about salt and spices. Seasoning, in this regard, means building up a protective layer on your cookware that will help prevent rust from forming and can also help prevent food from sticking to the pan.

In this case, the protective layer will be oil, which you will bake into your pan before using it for the first time. To season your pan correctly, follow the steps below

1. Wash your new pan with soap and warm water.

2. Preheat the oven to 350°F

3. Using a paper towel, rub a layer of oil (you can use vegetable, soybean, or any other oil of your choosing) all around the pan, including the exterior and bottom. You don't need to use a super-thick layer, but you want to use enough to ensure the entire pan gets some oil on it.

4. Place the oiled pot or pan in the oven and bake for one hour. If you're worried about oil drips, you can place a piece of foil or a baking sheet underneath the rack to catch them.

5. Remove from oven and let cool!

6. You'll want to re-season the pan by applying a thin layer of oil after each cleaning. The oil you use for cooking will also help season your pan each time you use it, helping to build up that protective layer even more over time.

Lesson Two: How to Clean Cast Iron

First thing's first: never, ever, EVER put your cast-iron cookware in the dishwasher. Unless you feel like opening the door to a rusty mess, that is.

Cast iron cookware does need to be cleaned differently from pots and pans made out of aluminum and other materials. But that shouldn't deter you from buying them, as the cleaning process is really quite simple.

Cleaning a cast iron skillet:

1. For best results, clean your cast iron cookware immediately after cooking since burnt-on gunk will be harder to remove once it cools and sets.

2. Wash the skillet using hot water and a soft sponge or dish brush only. Avoid using soap and anything abrasive, such as steel wool.

3. To remove stubborn, stuck-on food, scrub on some course, kosher salt to break up the bits. Or, put some water in the pan and boil it on the burner to help loosen the stuck food.

4. Once clean, towel dry the pan or heat it on a burner until it is completely dry. Re-season by applying a thin layer of oil to the pan.

5. Congrats! You now know everything you need to know to properly care for your cast iron cookware! We see many delicious stews, perfectly-cooked steaks, and fluffy corn breads in your future!