How To Clean and Season a Cast Iron Skillet

How To Clean and Season a Cast Iron Skillet

Am I the only one who collects cast iron skillets and never uses them? I had this grand dream of collecting them, cleaning them, cooking with them, and having a beautiful display set up just for them. Well, over the past year I’ve found them at yard sales, thrift stores, and was gifted a few but all they’ve done was collect dust. I just didn’t want to take the time to clean them. I guess I was too lazy and really didn’t want to do all of the dirty work. Now there are a few recipes I want to try out, so I decided that it was finally time for me to get my hands dirty (literally) and get to cleaning. Here is how to clean and season a cast iron skillet to get from old and rusty to the squeaky clean ones I have now. Enjoy!

I used ¼ cup of baking soda and a copper scouring pad to scrub off the rust. I added about ½ cup of water to the skillet and kept scrubbing until the water turned really murky.

How To Clean and Season a Cast Iron Skillet


How To Clean and Season a Cast Iron Skillet

Make sure you use kitchen gloves when handling the scouring pad because you can get stuck. I constantly rinsed out the skillet while scrubbing. I kept scrubbing and rinsing until the water ran clear. I used a dry cloth to completely dry the skillet off.

How To Clean and Season a Cast Iron Skillet


How To Clean and Season a Cast Iron Skillet

Now comes the seasoning of the skillet. No, I don’t mean adding salt and pepper. I mean oiling the skillet to prevent it from rusting. Some people use vegetable oil and some use bacon fat. I prefer to use extra virgin olive oil. I preheated the oven to 250°. Next, I applied a very small amount of oil to the inside and outside of the skillet. Use a paper towel to wipe off any excess oil. If you use too much oil, it will pool in the middle of the skillet. Place the skillets in the oven for 1 hour. Once the hour is complete, allow the skillets to cool.

How To Clean and Season a Cast Iron Skillet


How To Clean and Season a Cast Iron Skillet


        • sharon says

          You need to get the oil to the smokepoint to season a cast iron skillet 250 degrees is not hot enough at least 450 degrees with crisco and turn the pan upside down not right side up. season for 2 hours cool repeat at least 3 times.

          • Kim says

            Not needed to get to smoking point. Preheat the oven to 350, set the oiled pans in and turn off the oven. Once the oven and pans have cooled you are good to go. Like most Southerners, my cast iron skillets are stored in the oven, so you don’t even need to take them out. My dutch oven cast iron and large skillet with lid are seasoned and stored separately.

      • says

        I have a griddle that I have had for years. I let it get to much of a build up of Crisco for greasing when making pancakes. I used baking soda with vinegar, let it set for a while then took a wire brush to scrape all of the build off. Looks better, re seasoned with Crisco and now I wipe it off after a cool down with paper towels.

    • Lynn says

      I always put my skillets in the oven upside down. That way, if you accidently left too much oil it can run out rather than pool in the skillet.

        • Jo says

          I do the same thing, but I lay a sheet of aluminum foil in the bottom of the oven and turn my skillets upside down on that. I have 5 cast iron skillets that I use religiously and nothing ever sticks by keeping them clean and oiled.

    • Jana says

      I have a dutch oven that is sticky from years of neglect. I used the baking soda trick but not the copper scouring pad. Is that the difference? I still have LOTS of stickiness to clean out

    • says

      An easy way to keep your skillet seasoned…if you must wash the skillet, dry it off, grease it lightly with your preferred oil, wiping off any excess oil. Then place it on the stove top with the eye on the lowest setting. I leave it there for an hour or two. turn off the eye and let it cool. It’s better than heating up the oven and works just as well.
      I’m in my 60s and grew up cooking with cast iron skillets. I usually have at least one skillet sitting on my stove at all times. They are the only skillets I use. I started making skillet handle mitts so there is usually a mitt on the handle that stays on til it or the skillet needs washing. I usually just wipe out the skillet unless it has something stuck on, like where sausage or something like that has been cooked. Then I heat the skillet on the eye and pour in some water, let that sizzle and use a metal spatula (we always called them egg flippers) to scrape off the stuck on parts. Then lightly wash and re-season on the stove top.

      • says

        After reading down a little further I can imagine some of you being horrified that I said use a metal spatula. But if you’ve sizzled that stuck on food loose with some water, you won’t hurt your skillet when using the metal spatula to scrape it off. Or you can just use a pot scrubber instead. Either way, if you’ve had food stuck/burnt on, you will need to re-season your skillet..
        Barbara W. recently posted…I’m Back!!My Profile

      • Regina M. Bryant says

        In our family, we’ve done this the same way with out any problems! Was glad to come across your post!

  1. says

    Great post! I am going to have to start hitting up the thrift shops, rummage sales and yard sales again. My mom always made the best fried chicken in hers, among other things. But when she passed away last summer, I believe my nephews possibly threw her cast iron frying pans out. Sadly, I don’t think they would be bothered to keep a cast iron pan. They took what they wanted from the house and trashed the rest. Couldn’t even be bothered to donate. One item that I found out was trashed was a very old Coats & Clark wooden cabinet. I told my brother I see them for anywhere from $1000 to $2000 and they thought it was junk. Made me sick. After that, I didn’t ask about anything else. :(

    • patti wood says

      Yes. My granny always oiled them lightly with Crico and put them on the stovetop til they got so hot they smoked. After that, let it cool and wipe any extra oil out with a paper towel. But dont wash it. Then after that, any time you use your skillet, wash it, then dry it by heating on the stove til its bone dry. Or til it has smoke rising again. Oil it every so often.

  2. Jenny says

    After cooking how do you do your regular washing of the cast iron? Can you use dish detergent? This will probably remove the seasoning and ruin the whole thing again. So how are you supposed to clean it after every use?

      • Jan P. says

        I have just kept scrolling and reading, got what advise I was looking for for cleaning after each use. Thanks cast iron users, heres to great cooking!

    • Lin says

      Use salt to clean it – scrub with salt , wipe out and then wipe with a touch of olive oil to restore. Read this on a website a while back and it works very well.

      • Kitty says

        In TN. for vacation one year I thought my daughter in law was going to put me in time out. She said they NEVER used water to clean their cast Iron pans…. I treat mine now good, but need to find out how to get rusty ones good again. :(

    • Jonna says

      Never, never use dish soap. Use non-porous scrubbers (ones that can’t absorb or retain any dish soap for washing of other things in your kitchen), and when it needs a good abrasive for scrubbing, sprinkle in kosher salt. Works like a charm. Set on stove, heat to steaming, and wipe with a paper towel and an oil, or crisco. make sure it only has a thin layer, and that you wipe any excess off. Store away when cool. Repeating this every time you use it (the heated pan and thin layer of grease) will become an easy habit that will continue to build the beautiful seasoning of your pan, and make it by far your favorite pan to cook in!

    • Celeste says

      To those asking about cleaning skillet. I use rock salt no water or soap. Pour salt and scrub it pour salt in trash

  3. Marie says

    I use Mineral oil, it does get nasty gunky or rancid like cooking oils do over time. This is the way our leader or our co group told us. Really good for seldom use pieces.

  4. Vicki says

    I use grape seed oil or flaxseed oil. I wash my iron skillets pretty much like I do my other cookware and dry them immediately. To remove stuck-on food, I sprinkle coarse salt in the skillet and add a bit of cooking oil. Then I use a paper towel and some elbow grease to scrub the food off. Wipe out the skillet and store it away. I don’t let my cast iron pieces soak in water, and I do occasionally give them a refresher “drink” of oil coating.

  5. Karen says

    My mom had three that she kept seasoned. One was small- she used this one to cook cornbread in. The second was large & shallow – this one was used for frying bacon/sausage & eggs, etc. The third – when she pulled this one out I knew we were having fried chicken! Yum. Of course it didn’t matter what she cooked it was all “YUM”. The thing I remember most about those cast iron pans, mom said ” don’t ever wash them”. Sometimes you have to re-season them. Just wipe them out with a paper towel and you’re ready to cook. Enjoy.

    • Jan P. says

      Really. I was so overwhelmed when my mother passed I had 80 years of things she had since setting up house. we had just down sized to a condo an just couldn’t take it all. I do regret not taking her set of cast iron skillets. I had a couple which I left with my daughter when at 69 having been widowed for 7 years just now re-marrying and moving to Fla. I have been bitten by the cast iron bug, we bought one, I knew how to season it but my problem is cleaning it after each use? I knew you shouldn’t submerge it in soapy water. I rinse it with plain water, maybe use a vegetable brush, depending on what I cooked. Or I wipe it out with paper towels, I always put a light touch of olive oil each time ???????

  6. says

    i have a cast iron pot not skillet but a pot i got it from my dad how do i clean it my wife is from the city and im from the country and i have gotten her to use the cast iron skillet and she loves it even over the none stick ones i love corn bread and gravy made in these pots

  7. Mary Tonningsen says

    Thanks for this post! I needed a refresher course. I screwed up and tried to scraped off some burned on food with a metal spatula… bad idea!! I took chunks of well-seasoned, smooth surface right off the pan. Now I have to scraped down with the bare surface again with the scouring pad and start from scratch. I did learn a long time ago to use as little water as possible on it – try to clean after using it with course salt and a rag or paper towels, and re-season as needed. I guess I should have re-seasoned sooner so that I didn’t get that food stuck when I burned it. It should have slid right off…. :( But anyway, thanks for the good post! Your pan looks beautiful!

  8. Ann venables says

    I use coconut oil. It’s a wonderful oil for seasoning. Also, I found a wonderful woven metal scrubber from Knappmade I use on stuck on food. I swish it around the pan with hot water and it takes off any stubborn food.

  9. Karolyn Moran says

    I inherited several old pieces of cast iron. All have the hard black crust on the outside of them. How can I remove it?

    • Jeff says

      I have many that are like that and I just leave them. Mine are over 75 years old and work great. It won’t hurt anything

    • Pearl Paden says

      You can put rusty iron skillets or those that have caked up on the outside in a outdoor fire. Then preseason.

  10. john says

    Quick and easy way to clean a cast iron skillet and start from scratch is to put it in s self cleaning oven. EVERYTHING is removed, including the old seasoning, so you can just start from scratch.

    • says

      I tried putting mine in the self cleaning oven once and the smoke drove us right out to the porch.And as most know-once you start a cleaning the door locks so there is no way to open the oven till it cools down.And to make matters worse the smoke alarms are going off. Now one of my sons cleans them for me in a nice bonfife and the come out looking almost brand new. Then I just wipe them out with a little canola oil and let them heat up on a burner till real hot.Cool down and wipe with a paper towel.

  11. Dianne Calandra says

    My mom makes the best cornbread in her iron skillet. I’m not a cook, but I do know she pours cooking oil in the skillet to heat the oil and skillet. When it is very hot she pours the oil into the batter, stirs the batter fast and pours the oiled batter back into the hot skillet, pops it back in the oven to cook. When done turns it over on a plate. It is now crispy brown and wonderful.

  12. Glenda Myers says

    I think I ruined mine.. I forgot I was pre-heating it.. It got really, really hot!! It was so hot I didn’t dare put water in it – I just allowed it to cool on its own.. Well now there are slightly varied levels in the bottom of the pan.. I’ve scrubbed and scrubbed to try to get it smooth but was unsuccessful.. I went ahead and re-seasoned but it now sticks.. I retired it.. :/ Do you think what you’ve posted here will help mine or do you have another suggestion? Or, have I just ruined it?

  13. Anna says

    My dad used to put some water in the skillet and biil it to get the sticky off. I tried it and for some reason it rusted shortly after so I gave up on iron skillets for awhile. Thank you for this post, it reminded me that you have to periodically reseason the skillet.

  14. says

    This is not true, right! It must be a miracle! I can’t believe how powerful the baking soda is as a cleaner! This iron skillet was looking that there is no possible way to clean it! Thanks for sharing! :)

  15. Beth says

    I love my very small cast iron skillet for frying two eggs. I would love a cast iron lid for it. Ido not think they make one.

    • The Kreative Life says

      Hello, Joanne! It doesn’t need to be done every time. I’ve only done it once on these and they’re still good.

  16. maria says

    I gave up cooking on my cast iron skillet, because everything sticks to it. Then it takes forever to wash and get the burned staff off. What am I doing wrong?

    • The Kreative Life says

      Hi, Maria! I’m not really sure. Is your skillet properly seasoned? You can try seasoning again to see if that helps.

    • Jeff says

      Season it good 2 or 3 times. Always heat pan before adding any oil when cooking. Don’t wash it after you cook justbwipe out with paper towels. If there is stuck on food use a little salt.

      The reason food sticks is because you are washing off the seasoning.

      Best way to get smacked in the head growing up wasmfor memto use water on mom’s cast iron.

  17. Toby says

    i have been told i could use salt to clean rusty skillet. i’m not sure what else goes with the salt, maybe butter or oil. do you know this way.

  18. Rowanna says

    I have a cast iron skillet with black crust in the outside of it and food stick on the center. How can I clean the outside and keep food from sticking? It have a little rust inside and need seasoning. Please advise?

    • Laura says

      I have many cast iron skillets and bake ware. If I come across one that is really caked up, I’ll leave it in my oven when I put it on self clean. It will make a a burning smell at first. Make sure that your item is all cast iron. No wooden handle or such. Then I start from scratch with seasoning it!

  19. says

    I have never used cast iron ,Could it be used to cook on top of the stove..then finish cooking on the oven ? what temperature & for how long could it be left in oven when cooking ??

    Thank you very much ..I really would like to get one now that I found out how to season & clean it !!

  20. says

    I season my case iron skillets as you said. My problem is everything wants to stick to the bottom of my case iron skillets. I oil them before and every time I use them. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks Diane

  21. Linda Cavataio says

    I have had a castiron pan for years. I use it to make pineapple upside down cake. It is the best pan for this. To clean I simply wash the pan out, dry with a towel and heat on the stove till it is hot. I let the pan cool down and put away for the next use. I love this pan. It makes the best fry pan for potatoes.

  22. Georgette says

    I have new pans that came pre-seasoned. I rubbed a thin layer of oil on them and now, after 5 mos they’re sticky feeling. Do I clean and reseason? Thanks!!

  23. sharon Bacon says

    I LOVE my cast iron skillet. My mom bought me a deep one for Christmas when I got my first apartment at 18. I call it my chicken fryer because it’s deep and came with a lid. I am now 55 and still have it and use it quite often. I make everything in it.

  24. says

    I just bought a cast iron skillet, and I have a griddle one I have seen several things on seasoning, the new one I tried to season but it is dull looking and kind of rough to the touch is this normal? I will try this!!!

  25. Joyce says

    Thanks for all the info on how to clean and season the cast iron skillet. I gave up all of mine that my mom use to have, but I am going to be on the watch for them now so I can get back to using it.

  26. Willarene Fisher says

    I read somewhere to use salt to clean cast iron so I tried it. I just sprinkled salt all over the inside took a little green scrubbing pad and rubbed it real good and then rinsed it with water and it came clean. you can rub the out side with salt too. I don’t like to wash my cast iron pans. A lot of times I just wipe them out good with a paper towel.

  27. says

    How do you clean the built up gunk on the outside of the skillet? I heard if you make a really hot fire, like a bon fire, you can throw the skillet in there and it burns the gunk off. Is this true ?

  28. Jean Leasure says

    Is it safe to cook recipes with tomatoes in my cast iron pots. Years ago, I had a problem with a pot after making spaghetti sauce in it. It seemed like the acid from the tomatoes made it smell like a chemical-type smell….and it made a bad dark coating inside my pot (that would ruin the next food that was cooked). I have a glass top stove now and was wondering if anyone used cast iron on this type of stove?

  29. says

    I use my cast iron frying pan often. It is always sitting on my stove. It does not rust because after I use it. I clean it with 1/3 cup of salt and a scrubbie. After I have scrubbed it down I add olive oil and continue. Then I dump out the salt and yuck. I wipe the pan down with a clean paper towel and it is done until the next time I use it. No water is used.

  30. Vicki McEachern says

    I too have an electric glass top stove and wonder if I can use cast iron skillets on it. Will the skillet become so hot it might crack the glass top? Do you normally use high stove settings for cooking with cast iron? I received some pre-seasoned iron skillets for Christmas this past year and would like to use them, but am afraid to. Also, since they are pre-seasoned already, do I need to do anything special before I use them for the first time?

    Please help me

    • Glenys says

      I would treat them like they weren’t preseasoned and season them myself. An extra seasoning certainly won’t hurt them, but cooking in one that isn’t seasoned, or not seasoned WELL can be a headache. Just because Murphy’s Laws do exist, I’d season it myself to start. The choice is yours. If you go with their preseasoning, and get any sticking etc., you can always season it after trying it too. It’s all a journey, most important? ENJOY!

  31. Onalee Geeseman says

    I love my cast iron pan for oven cooking one pan meals, it is so easy and doesn’t take much of my free time. However I have a convection oven/microwave in my camper. Is it safe to put the cast iron pan in it. I have been afraid to try it??

    • The Kreative Life says

      Hi, Onalee! I’ve never used my cast iron skillet in the microwave. I’m not sure if it is safe or not.

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