Cast Iron Skillets for Dummies

Updated on May 22, 2012
A.S. asks from Boca Raton, FL
14 answers

OK . . . I have a Lodge cast iron skillet. Another post alarmed me because someone said to not use soap. My skillet has the raised ridges (i.e., like you would see for grilling). I'm having trouble with stuff sticking between the grooves. I've just been using soapy water and a scrub brush to clean it. I love the pan otherwise. It works great with my gas stove.

Can someone give me simple, step-by-step instructions on HOW to properly clean and preserve a cast iron skillet? Or give me a link? Another web site I saw still seems too complex with the instructions.

By simple, don't presume I know anything! :P I'm on about a kindergarten level, here, when it comes to the kitchen. I *do* love stainless steel and cast iron. I won't use anything "non-stick" or aluminum.

Thank you!

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answers from Houston on

I've heard that you're not supposed to use soap, but I do. Here's my response to the other question:

I have a few of them in different sizes. I use soap, but I don't leave it sitting in water or leave water sittign in it. I give it a good scrubbing and wipe it dry. Then, I set it on the fire and use a paper towel to rub oil into it like lotion. The key is to make this process a quick one. Don't wash it until you are ready to go through the whole process, which doesn't take five minutes.

4 moms found this helpful

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answers from Dallas on

its sticking because you need to season it. pour oil in it, or rub crisco on it rub it all over with a paper towel and put it in the oven for an hour.

You may have to do that every so often again when it starts to stick. To clean it, just wipe it out with a paer towel, rinse it. A little dishoap occasionally wont hurt, but always towel dry it right away so it doesnt rust.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Missoula on

My grandma always cleaned her cast iron pans by using vegetable oil and salt. Be generous with the salt. You can rub it around with a paper towel or your fingers, then wipe it clean. She never puts water on her pan... ever. lol. I still remember the freak-out she had when she caught me dipping it in the dishwater once...

I don't know if that's how you are 'supposed' to do it... but that's what she does and it has worked for her. :)

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

From the America's Test Kitchen website:

Taking Care of Cast Iron
From Season 5: Texas Rib House


Routine Maintenance
If you buy a preseasoned pan (and you should), you can use the pan with little fuss.

Don't wash the pan with soap or leave it in the sink to soak. Rinse it out under hot running water, scrubbing with a brush to remove traces of food. (This is easiest if done while the pan is still warm.)
Dry the pan thoroughly and put it back on the burner on low heat until all traces of moisture disappear (this keeps rusting at bay). Put a few drops of vegetable oil in the warm, dry pan and wipe the interior with a wad of paper towels until it is lightly covered with oil. Then, using fresh paper towels, rub more firmly to burnish the surface and remove all excess oil. The pan shouldn't look or feel oily to the touch. Turn off the heat and allow the pan to cool before putting it away.

Heavy-Duty Cleaning

If you have stuck-on food or you've inherited a pan that is rusty or gummy, scrub it with kosher salt.

Pour in vegetable oil to a depth of 1/4 inch, then place the pan on a stove set to medium-low for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and add 1/4 cup kosher salt. Using potholder to grip hot handle, use thick cushion of paper towels to scrub pan. Warm oil will loosen food or rust, and kosher salt will have abrading effect. Rinse pan under hot running water, dry well, and repeat, if necessary.


If cooking acidic foods or improper cleaning has removed the seasoning from your pan, it will look dull, patchy, and dry instead of a smooth, rich black. You need to restore the seasoning. We have found this stovetop method (rather than the usual oven method) to be the most effective way to season a cast-iron pan.

Heat pan over medium-high heat until drop of water evaporates on contact. Wipe inside with wad of paper towels dipped in vegetable oil (hold towels with tongs to protect yourself). Wipe out excess oil and repeat as needed until pan is slick.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

All you do to clean one is use a plastic scraper. The same kind you would use on a baking stone. Nothing metal, nothing abrasive and never use soap!

When you are done you oil it and put it away. If you don't oil it it will rust.

My husband does use a metal putty knife on our grill but it is perfectly flat and he knows how to do it without gouging the seasoning. Once that seasoning comes off it sticks like nothing else.

Understand though cast iron is not nonstick. It sticks, just not like jaws of life kind of sticking.

Oh yeah and as others have said, oil and a paper towel is perfect for light cleaning.

Oh I have a crazy number of those pampered chef scrapers so we cut one to fit between the groves of our griddle that we use inside. You probably have the same one we use on our stove. Just make sure you don't leave the corners sharp, like round them in the shape of one groove.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My mom used cast iron my whole life and I use it. We both wash the skillets with soap and water but never the dishwasher. They are washed, rinsed, and dried immediately. I used mine alot for frying so I haven't oiled it again after I initially seasoned it. I think my mom oils hers every so often. I love my cast iron skillet ! I have heard of using the other methods to clean them also.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

It seems the secret to maintaining a cast iron skillet is to clean it quickly and without being obsessive. Some people don't use soap at all. I do, but sparingly, because sometimes my husband will use the skillet and let stuff dry in it. I wash the skillet, doing a once-over with one of those little teflon scrubby things, and let it dry on the stove with the burner on the lowest setting for about five minutes.

If it starts sticking, I re-season the pan. You have various instructions for that in the other answers.

The idea is to have the skillet clean enough to use without its being made "squeaky clean" as you would do a stainless steel pan. Our pioneer ancestors used these things out on the prairies, so we obviously don't have to make the pans super-sanitary.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on

My husband is ALWAYS fussing at me for using soap on the iron skillet. I don't if it's not too dirty, but I can't STAND not using detergent if it is.

I put vegetable oil on it and rub it in good, and then stick it in the oven. Even though the heat isn't on, the oven is still warm. That helps it.

I will look forward to reading your posts. Maybe I can overcome diving for the Dawn detergent?!


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Orlando on

Do not use erodes all the seasoning & you'll have to work harder every time you clean it to re-season it. Instead, use salt & a very little water if need be to clean it. Just sprinkle with salt & scrub with a brush. The salt will help get in all those little grooves & will bring up the crud, while still preserving your seasoning. Martha Stewart describes this briefly here: If you still can't get the gunk out of the grooves, try one of these to scrape out the stuff & then scrub with salt:

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

I have cast iron skillets, and I know they may say not to use soap, but I agree with you, and I need it to clean my pans with soap to feel better about the whole bacteria thing! So, this is how I clean them, and they do quite nicely!!!

#1 Don't let sit in water or with water sitting in it. If you do, see #4 :)
#2 To get to the non stick point, you must wait until your pan is fully heated.
#3 After using, to clean, put water in half way up and put on to boil, as soon as it starts to boil, take off and clean with a plastic brush with a little soap I also use the plastic squares that you get from Pampered Chef for cleaning their stones). Pretty much comes right off. If there are some sticking just do it again, and it will be gone! I have never had to do it more than twice even with pots that have sat overnight!
#4 If you ever do let water sit in it (come one we are mom's!) just clean, put some oil on it (I use a pampered chef spritzer) and put on a hot burner for a minute or two. I then wipe with a paper towel to wipe off burnt oil.
#5 When storing pans, I don't like to have oil in them, they catch dust, etc., so after I wash the pans, I put them back on the burner from where it came with the boiling water, spray a little oil and let it sit, the water burns off and it soaks up the oil with out the oil residue!

I love my iron skillets! So if you have any more questions, please feel free to ask! Good Luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I think people don't use soap because they don't want to remove seasoning. We have a cast iron skillet that is ancient (was my MIL's) and is perfectly seasoned. We use Dawn on it all the time. But we never let it sit in water and we reseason after every use by adding oil to the pain on the stove on a mid-high heat.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

I don't use soap on my cast iron. I wash it with hot water and a rag. On the rare occasions that something gets stuck, I use steel mesh - not the soap infused steel wool such as Brillo - just plain steel mesh. I burn it dry on the stove top, brush it with oil while still hot, and turn off the heat when it starts to smoke.
My cast iron is now virtually non-stick after years of use.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

For those using soap because they want the pan sanitary clean. When you use it, the heat from the cooking will destroy any germs left on the skillet. The goal is to get all the food off the surface so that you don't have dried out food mixed in with your new food. But you don't need soap to make it clean.

Using soap works if you reseason the pan after using it. The surface should always look dark and shiny but not oily.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Raleigh on

I have always used Dawn and a scrub brush, as has my mom, grandma, and her mom. Brillo pads aren't the best-it takes off the seasoned part. But I have always used Dawn with absolutely no problems. After I clean it, I put it on the stove to dry it out then store in a dry place. My cast iron frying pan is 70 years old.

1 mom found this helpful
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