Table of Contents

  • What kind of cleaning tools can I use on a cast iron skillet?
  • Best products for cleaning a cast iron skillet
  • How to clean a cast iron skillet
  • What not to do when cleaning a cast iron skillet

What kind of cleaning tools can I use on a cast iron skillet?

When you dive into the Internet, you can find a wide variety of different opinions, tips, and instructions on how to care for your cast iron skillet—and most of what you’ll find is unnecessarily complicated. The truth is, cleaning cast iron can be super simple and easy, with the help of a few good quality tools. To make it even easier for you, we’ve broken down which tools you should use when cleaning cast iron, which ones you shouldn’t, as well as a step-by-step walkthrough of how to wash your pan.

To clean your pan, you’ll need three essential items: a chain mail scrubber, a stiff brush, and seasoning oil. Just like the quality of your cast iron matters, the quality of your cleaning tools does too; that’s why we’ve honed in on the tools that will make caring for your cast iron easy and effective:

Chain Mail Scrubber

A quality, stiff brush is your best bet for scrubbing your pan. Unlike sponges, brushes will dry pretty quickly when they’re not in use, and they’re much less prone to developing mildew or bacteria on the inside. This means your cast iron brush will last much longer than a sponge, and it won’t end up smelling gross or being unsanitary. Brushes are also able to apply a bit more force to your pan, making it easier to remove any stuck on food residue.

Natural Fiber Brush

A quality, stiff brush is your best bet for scrubbing your pan. Unlike sponges, brushes will dry pretty quickly when they’re not in use, and they’re much less prone to developing mildew or bacteria on the inside. This means your cast iron brush will last much longer than a sponge, and it won’t end up smelling gross or being unsanitary. Brushes are also able to apply a bit more force to your pan, making it easier to remove any stuck on food residue.

Seasoning Oil

When it comes to seasoning your skillet, the most valuable tool in your arsenal is your seasoning oil. Oils that are high in polyunsaturated fats are best for seasoning, because they’ll polymerize (or bond with the surface of your skillet) more easily. Flaxseed oil has been touted as the best choice for seasoning, due to its high polyunsaturated fat content—but there is ample evidence from the cast iron communities that it yields a brittle seasoning that can be prone to flaking. Instead, we’d recommend using our cast iron seasoning oil, made from a blend of organic grapeseed oil, organic sunflower oil and beeswax. Both grapeseed and sunflower oil are rich in polyunsaturated fats, and will yield seasoning that’s durable and flexible, without flaking easily. It’s important to note a few details about the quality of these ingredients as well: Our seasoning oil is made with an organic, cold-pressed grapeseed oil that you aren’t likely to find on a shelf. Most supermarket grapeseed oils aren’t organic, and some less-expensive varieties are produced with undesirable chemical refining processes. The sunflower oil we use is also a bit different than the brands at the supermarket; we use organic linoleic sunflower oil, a variety whose chemical composition is particularly suited to polymerization. (Most store brands are high oleic sunflower oil: still great for high-heat cooking, but less effective for cast-iron seasoning.)

How to clean a cast iron skillet

Once you have the requisite tools for cleaning your pan, the process is pretty easy. After each use of your cast iron skillet, just take the following steps:

1.

Rinse out your pan with a little warm water, and remove any loose food particles with a stiff brush. (You can also use soap here if you’d like—contrary to popular belief, using some soap on your cast iron is totally fine. The best soap for cast iron is just any standard, gentle dish soap.)

2.

Use a chain mail scrubber to dislodge any remaining gunk, and gently scuff the cooking surface and side walls of your pan. You’re looking to apply an amount of pressure that will lightly abrade your pan, and remove any stuck-on food or loose seasoning, but doesn’t scratch the metal of your pan.

3.

Heat your pan on the stovetop over medium-low heat to evaporate any remaining moisture. This will take about five minutes, or until you see the first wisp of smoke come off your pan (as soon as you see a bit of smoke, turn the heat off).

4.

If necessary, wipe up any remaining water with a paper towel. (The bottom of your pan can sometimes have a drop or two of lingering moisture.)

5.

Apply a dab (about ¼ tsp) of seasoning oil. Use a paper towel or cloth rag to rub oil over all surfaces of the pan, inside and out.

6.

Wipe away any excess oil to leave only a very thin layer with a dry, matte finish.

These steps won’t just make cleaning your cast iron simple, they’ll also set you up for success by encouraging the development of durable, even seasoning. Continuing to clean your pan with this method, and cooking in your cast iron skillet often, will eventually yield the nonstick, “bulletproof” surface that you expect from cast iron.

What not to do when cleaning a cast iron skillet?

First and foremost, when cleaning a cast iron skillet, don’t let the pan soak. Even if you have some really stuck on food residue or burnt oil, letting your skillet soak can both cause rust and ruin seasoning. Similarly, you don’t want to let your pan air dry—this will almost always cause rust, since water takes a while to evaporate without any heat. This is why we recommend always drying your skillet by heating it on the stove top, which will evaporate any lingering moisture inside the pores of your pan.

Don’t put your pan in the dishwasher. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it does happen surprisingly often. Putting your cast iron through a cycle in the dishwasher is a surefire way to ruin all that nice seasoning you’ve built up, and it will probably result in rust as well.

Don’t go overboard with the amount of oil you’re applying—more is not better. As we mentioned above, putting excess seasoning oil on your skillet can produce funky looking spots or spider web patterns on the surface of your skillet, which will often be raised and ruin the even seasoning that’s already there. Besides, thicker seasoning layers don’t bond strongly to the iron, and will lead to major flaking down the road.

Finally, don’t use steel wool or copper scouring pads. While these might seem similar to a chain mail scrubber, they’re going to have the opposite effect—the small fibers and coarse nature of these items can completely remove your seasoning.

Cast iron care is a lot more simple than people realize—there are just a few steps you should take after each use of your skillet, and then you’re good to go. And if you ever run into some seasoning trouble, or your skillet isn’t looking quite like you want it too, then the answer is to just keep cooking. With time and plenty of use, you’ll build up new layers of seasoning, and any mistakes will be erased.