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How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet or Cookware

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Learn how easy it is to clean a cast iron skillet or cookware. Use these cleaning tips to overcome your cast iron cookware intimidation.

Childhood Memories

Like a lot of people, my first memory of cooking with cast iron came from my childhood. I can still vividly remember my mom making cornbread in a cast iron skillet.

I was actually quite amazed and puzzled. I thought skillets were for frying. So, did my mom actually fry cornbread instead of baking it? Nah! I swear I saw her put that skillet in the oven, but the cornbread was definitely in a skillet. You can see or share in my confusion, right?

Actually, my mom wasn’t what I would consider a great home cook. She had a few dishes that she mastered and, to me, they were amazing. In fact, some of my favorite dishes were cooked in that very same cast iron skillet that mom used to bake cornbread.

Recreating Mom’s Cornbread

My mother passed away unexpectedly when I was only 18 years old. For years, I tried to recreate her cast iron skillet recipes from my memories. Recipes like her cast iron skillet cornbread and perfectly crispy fried potatoes.

It didn’t take me long to realize there was a lot to learn about cooking with cast iron. But, being eager and impatient, I simply wanted to recreate mom’s cornbread. Much to my amazement, I was able to bake some really good cornbread – even though I didn’t really understand what I was doing.

One of my favorite childhood recipes is my mom's cast iron skillet cornbread. This recipe uses box corn muffin mix.

You see, that whole cast iron skillet thing kept getting in the way. I had questions about how to properly care for (which I later discovered was called “seasoning”), clean and cook with a cast iron skillet. Did you know that if you leave a cast iron skillet soaking in water that it will rust? Who knew!!

How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet

You can actually get AMAZING results cooking with cast iron. But, before you begin cooking and baking with your cast iron, you really need to know how to care for and clean your cast iron skillet or other cookware properly.

Today, I simply want to share with you how to care for and clean your cast iron skillet on a daily basis. This is assuming your cast iron is free from rust and has been properly seasoned. I’ll be sharing soon how to address those issues.

New Cast Iron

Before I share with you the steps to clean and care for your cast iron skillet, I first want to address NEW cast iron cookware. If you buy, bought or were gifted your cast iron skillet or cookware brand new, it probably came pre-seasoned. Even so, you still have to care for your cast iron cookware properly and will need to re-season it from time too time.

New cast iron cookware should be lightly washed, dried and oiled before using the first time.

The following instructions apply to the daily care of your cast iron cookware. If you need to season or re-season your cookware there are a few additional steps that I’ll share another day.

Learn how easy it is to clean a cast iron skillet or cookware. Use these cleaning tips to overcome your cast iron cookware intimidation.

How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet or Cookware


Step One: Wash

    You will always want to wash your cast iron skillet or cookware by hand. The use of soap is not recommended or usually needed.

    After cooking in your cast iron skillet, simply use a pan scraper to remove any stuck on food.

    If you still have food stuck on your cookware, simply pour enough water in your skillet to cover
    the stuck on food and simmer for 5 minutes.

    Use the scraper again after the pan has cooled.

    Then simply use your dishcloth to wipe out the skillet under hot running water.

Step Two: Dry

    Drying your cast iron skillet is a two-step process.

    Dry withLint-Free Towel
    Once you wash your cast iron skillet and have removed all stuck-on food, you'll want to immediately dry your cookware with a lint-free cloth or paper towel.

    Dry on Stove Top
    After rinsing and drying your cast iron with a lint-free towel, place it back on the stop top over low heat and allow to dry for 3 minutes. Your skillet should now be nice and dry.

    Note: You may notice a little black residue on your towel - that's just part of the seasoning and perfectly normal.

Step Three: Oil

    While your skillet or cookware is still warm, add one teaspoon or so of vegetable, canola or corn oil to the pan and smear the oil around with a paper towel. Be sure to coat the ENTIRE surface of the cast iron
    cookware - inside and out.

    Rub in the oil until it no longer looks greasy. If you have too much oil, wipe up the excess with a dry paper towel.

Storing Cast Iron Cookware

    Now that you've properly cleaned, thoroughly dried and lightly oiled your cast iron skillet or cookware, you do need to pay attention to HOW it's stored away.

    If you're fortunate enough to have enough space to simply place it all by itself (not stacked with other cookware) on a shelf, you're good to go.

    However, if you need to stack your cast iron cookware, simply place a paper towel in the skillet before stacking another piece of cast iron or other cookware on top of the cast iron skillet. The paper towel will
    simply help to prevent scratching and prolong the life of your cast iron cookware.

    Some people like to store their cast iron cookware in their oven on the oven rack. That's fine, except every time you go to use the oven, you have to remember to remove your cast iron cookware first.

Cast Iron Skillet Recipes

I plan to share more cast iron skillet and cookware tips and recipes, in the meantime, here are some helpful resources:

More Ideas

If you enjoyed learning how to clean a cast iron skillet, you might also like these ideas from The Birch Cottage blog:

I hope this tutorial on how to clean a cast iron skillet was helpful to you. I hope it encourages you to keep experimenting with your cast iron skillet. It’s actually one of those things that the more you use it, the better it becomes. And the funny thing? The more you use it, the better and more confident you become with using your cast iron skillet.

Seriously though, a well-cared for cast iron skillet or cookware should last a lifetime or two or three. It’s something you can hand down to your children or your children’s children.

If you have any questions about caring for cast iron cookware, please don’t hesitate to ask. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll certainly help point you in the right direction.

Til next time…

Pam Baker from The Birch Cottage

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