How To: Clean Your Cast Iron Pan (including How NOT To)

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About: Alton Brown taught me how to cook, now I want to tackle diy projects.

Season It
First of all, is your cast ironed seasoned properly?  Check out my Instructable on how to season your cast iron and why I prefer Flax oil.  Done?  Good, let's go.

Now, let's clean it.
Cleaning cast iron is not difficult. So many people over complicate the matter, or worse yet, do detrimental things to their iron without knowing. You essentially just need two things.

 

  • Heat
  • Water

 

Step 1: Let's Get Into It. Watch the Video or Follow the Steps Below.

The video is better than the guide below, trust me. There is an entire section of "do not do"

Step 2: Get Your Pan Dirty.

I threw an egg into a pan with no butter cooked it on high.

It didn't stick too much because my pan is seasoned well, but some small bits stuck.

Step 3: Scrape the Big Chunks Off First.

I made a bamboo scraper out of some shish kabob skewers I bought on Amazon.

Basically wrap them up in a few rubber bands and you are set.

Are you REALLY lazy? $6 & your can buy it pre-made one.

Step 4: Hit the Hot Pan With Some Water and Stand Back

It's going to sizzle and go nuts so be careful, but you are effectively deglazing the pan and this will remove 90-100% of the crud stuck to your pan in most cases.

I've received a lot of feedback about this step. Some important things to remember is to NEVER dunk your sizzling hot pan into a sink full of water. It will crack eventually. Also use a small amount of water for the deglazing, not 2-3-4-5 cups. That will crack that pan too.

Step 5: Hey Little Particles

If you have any little particulates still left you can wipe them off now with a towel.

Step 6: Do a Quick Season and Walk Away.

Everytime I use my pan I do a real quick season just to maintain the surface.

  1. Get the pan hot
  2. Pour in a dollop of Flax Oil
  3. Rub it around.
  4. Wait till the pan smokes.
  5. Take it off the heat.
  6. Wipe the pan one more time.
  7. Walk away and let it cool.

Step 7: What About Salt?

Kosher salt works get as well, but you are throwing away salt every time you use it so save this method for when something is really stuck in deep.

  1. Throw some Kosher salt into your hot and dirty pan
  2. Rub it around with a cloth
  3. Pour the excess salt down the drain
  4. Hit the hot pan with water and let it deglaze
  5. Put it back on the stove and do a quick season
  6. Walk away and consume hoppy beverages.

Step 8: Go With Old School Cast Iron If You Can

If you don't already have cast iron it's time you tried it. It better for your health than the non-stick stuff you have been using from the store. I have a lot of Lodge, but if you want that mega shiny and slick surface you see in my steps above you are better off looking for an old Wagner/Erie cast iron pan on eBay. They might even be cheaper than a new pan. You won't regret it, and you can pass the pans onto your kids someday too.

Step 9: Check Out My Other Instructables Too

Don't forget to check out my other Instructables:

How to Season Your Cast Iron

How to Make Sriracha Salt

Or my YouTube channel:

ColumbusCOOKPOV

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    80 Discussions

    O.k., I'm going to stand in line for the hugs I am about to receive:)
    This will clean nearly every stuck on, cooked on, gunk you have,
    anywhere, with so little effort that you will have time to sing, or
    hum, my praises:) HAHAHA Here's what you do. Get some cream of
    tarter - NOT the bottled kind you put on fish, the dry kind, then get
    some vinegar and make a paste with about a pudding consistency (ummm,
    pudding:) on your gunk with these 2 ingredients, or mix it up in a little bowl (I don't like doing dishes, so I use my gunky pot or pan or whatever). Let's not get critical about my cooking here! Let this stuff sit on your cooked on gunk for about a minute or so and then wipe it out with a dish cloth or paper towel (I like to use paper towels because you can throw
    them away, they're really gunky, and you don't have to wash anything
    else - and yes, gunky IS a word - I think:) If the pot, or whatever,
    has gunk really cooked on, you may have to do it two or three times.
    Don't ask me how I know:\ Now, please line up on my left in an orderly manner, and I will accept your hugs happily:) Don't forget to re-season.your frying pan Sometimes I oil my frying pan, wipe it out and turn it upside down on my gas burner for a couple of minutes. Let it cool down before touching it!:)

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    ElanéM1BetsyFartBlossom

    Reply 1 year ago

    Ms. Fartblossom, I am forever in your debt! Your method worked great removing baked on tomato sauce left from my hubby's fantastic homemade pizza!!

    <<<HUGS>>>

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    BetsyFartBlossomElanéM1

    Reply 1 year ago

    Oh, I just saw your reply! I's so happy this worked for you. Betsy Fartblossom is my cat. She got her name for very obvious, and unfortunate, reasons. That cat can clear a room!

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    BetsyFartBlossomElanéM1

    Reply 1 year ago

    I'm so happy you had great results. I had a cast iron frying pan that had yuck built up on the outside. I put this stuff on it, let it sit for about 3 minutes and scraped the majority of the yuck up. Three more tries and the pan was as clean as new. So easy to do:) Oh, the Fartblossom is a name I call my cat, Betsy, - for obvious reasons:) That cat can clear a room!

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    BetsyFartBlossom_diyMATT

    Reply 1 year ago

    Whatever works for you is a bonus! Keep with your own tried and true and you will never be let down.

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    Peale_diyMATT

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Salt is also extremely inexpensive. Cream of tartar, not so much.

    I use a stainless steel scourer, and I use it to brush off the gunk, LIGHTLY. My pans just keep getting better and better.

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    rdomunky

    3 years ago on Introduction

    I totally read that last part as "you can use it on your kids someday too"

    Thanks for the writeup

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    BetsyFartBlossomrdomunky

    Reply 1 year ago

    HAHAHAHA - you probably can! Did you see that episode of Boston Legal where Betty White cracked that guy on the head with a frying pan? Too funny. Should work on kids too:)

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    JackieT33

    2 years ago

    My cast iron skillet has a build up of burned what appears to be old grease. How can I remove this? I've tried using a knife, cork screw and screwdriver.

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    _diyMATTJackieT33

    Reply 2 years ago

    Cut it all out with an oxy acetylene torch.

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    lslichauco

    2 years ago

    Help pls! My cleaning lady used metal polish on my rust cast iron skillet ... is this still safe to use...how do I get rid of whatever harmful chemicals that may be imbedded in it....Many thanks in advance

    1 reply
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    _diyMATTlslichauco

    Reply 2 years ago

    If your cast iron skillet has rust on it then it needs stripped and cleaned and can't be used in the first place. Rust+cast iron = bad.

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    mrcpu

    2 years ago

    Ok...go ahead and cringe if you want.....

    When out camping I've grabbed fine sand off the beach or around the camp site and used it to clean the pan. Then a quick rinse and quick re-season and done!

    Also... with the re-season, I always put my cast iron pan upside down over the warm burner and leave it upside down at all times so that dust doesn't land on the seasoned surface and stick to it!

    1 reply
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    _diyMATTmrcpu

    Reply 2 years ago

    I've done the very same good sir and see no issues with that. :)

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    Heck yeah. I mostly use a cheap but stiff plastic scrubber now.
    Similar to these.
    http://amzn.to/1KBJ08Q

    Once they get dirty I toss them in trhe dishwasher. When they get too cruddy I toss them.

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    LisaB21

    3 years ago on Introduction

    I was given 10 old griswolds to sell from a family member. These include a waffle iron, muffin pan, and cornbread pan and tite top dutch oven. They were in a house that had a very strong odor which permeated into the thick sticky gunk that covers all this pans. I read the comments here and got some great ideas. I was wondering if the best way to clean them would be throwing them in a fire as I read in one of the comments. I thought maybe that would get rid of the odor as well as the sticky gunk but is there any chance of cracking the pans if they go into a fire? I liked the sand blasting idea but not sure if it would help with the odor. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I also got some great ideas for my own cast iron pans which I love, what a great site!

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    _diyMATTLisaB21

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    I haven't tried the fire trick yet but I have heard of it. I've also heard people sometimes put a really distressed pan into the oven and put it on self cleaning mode. I'd say try first with your cheapest one and see how it works out.

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    kathy.diesel

    4 years ago on Introduction

    I like to use Grape seed oil which has a slightly higher smoke point then olive oil and leaves no flavor behind. I don't like the taste or smell of olives so it puts me off my food and grape seed oil is better for you.