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Bringing Cast Iron Pans Back To Life

How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet

It happens. You wound up with Grandma’s amazing cast iron pan (which everyone raves about), but after a few uses, you put it away. And now it’’s...not so great. It might even look like this:


Neglected Cast Iron Pan

Neglected Cast Iron Pan | Photo by Noel Christmas

Yes, that’s my pan. It was once my Mom’s. She would not be pleased with what I’ve let happen. Especially that little bit of burnt cheese that's been there for a long, long time.

The good news? While cast iron pans can get a little scrungy looking, they are dead simple to bring back to life. With just a little cast iron skillet care, they'll be back to the amazing kitchen tools they’re touted to be.

How to Take Care of a Cast Iron Pan

You may have heard that cleaning cast iron is difficult, because of water and rust and how soap isn’t good for it. Those both could be concerns, but they’re easily dealt with.

This pan has both rust and baked on food residue (Sorry, Mom!). So it’s going to take a little doing. Break out the scrubbie-sponge and some soap.


It's okay to use soap on cast iron

It's okay to use soap! | Photo by Noel Christmas

Yes, you can use soap! It’s the 21st century, people. If your pan can’t handle a little soap every once in awhile, it's time to get a new pan.

Heavy Duty

That said, you can also use some really hot water and a spatula to take off seriously cooked-on food. It’s how cooks clean flat-top grills in a restaurant, so it’ll work for you, too.


For really baked-on residue, scrape

For really baked-on residue, scrape with boiling water | Photo by Noel Christmas

All Dried Up

It’s cleaned and rinsed, now make sure the rust doesn't come back. It’s easy: just turn the burner to high, set the pan on it, and wait for the water to boil out. That cast iron is practically parched now.


Dry the pan on the stove

Dry the pan on the stove to make sure all the water is gone | Photo by Noel Christmas

How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet

Now, it’s clean and dry, but you want it seasoned. “Seasoning” is, basically, just a buildup of oil in the iron (there’s more to it than that, but once the scientists say “long-chain polymers” I start looking out the window and just want some lunch).


Clean, seasoned cast iron skillet

It’s clean, it’s seasoned, and it’s ready to go | Photo by Noel Christmas

So, in lieu of a class on metallurgy, just take that hot, dry pan and wipe a tablespoon of oil inside it. And that's seasoning the pan! Now just let it cool. It looks amazing, doesn't it. It's almost like you could cook on it.

Keep It Up

If your pan is really rusty—like you wondered if it could ever be used again rusty—then you may want to repeat the heating/oiling/cooling process 2 or 3 times before you use it.

What you’ll find is that every time you do this—clean it, dry it on the stove, then oil it—it'll clean easier, become increasingly non-stick, and even get less prone to any rust appearing on it.

Now Start Cooking

Honestly, what are you waiting for? This pan is going to be your go-to for eggs, potatoes, cornbread, or just about anything you want.


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About Noel Christmas

Noel would really like that with some extra ranch dressing on it.