How to Clean a Cast Iron Frying Pan

A Guide for Cleaning Cast Iron Pans

If you’ve never cooked with a cast iron frying pan (also known as a skillet), then you’re really missing out. Properly cared for, a cast iron pan will last for generations, and it even uses the oils and fats from foods to create its own non-stick surface.

Of course, it still needs to be taken care of, and learning how to clean a cast iron frying pan is essential. It’s easy to do, and the benefits will be evident when you pass the skillet along to your children or grandchildren.

Cleaning With Salt

Cast iron frying pans are remarkably durable. Even if they’ve been sitting around for decades covered in grime, they can be back in your kitchen in no time. This cleaning method uses coarse salt and the following materials: cast iron skillet, burner, rubber glove, sink and water, and vegetable oil (peanut oil is recommended).

NOTE: The following method is suggested for cast iron pans which are very dirty and have been unused for years.

If the pan is old and coated with rust and dirt, you’ll need to take a fine steel wool brush and gently rub the surface. You can then remove the loose rust and dirt with a cloth.

Once the rust has been removed, place the pan onto your stove’s burner and turn it to medium-low heat. Next, heavily coat the bottom of the cast iron skillet with vegetable oil (preferably peanut oil, as it’s less likely to smoke). Allow the oil to heat for five minutes before turning off the burner.

Add two to four tablespoons of coarse salt (depending on the size of the skillet). When combined with the oil in the bottom of the skillet, this should form a sort of paste. Place a rubber glove on your hand and scrub away at the paste with several wadded-up paper towels. Your other hand should steady the pan with a pot holder. Make sure to scrub all rusted spots, and add more oil or salt if needed.

Next, place the pan in hot water and wash it with dish washing soap. Rinse in hot water, dry, and then coat the bottom of the skillet with a thin layer of vegetable oil. Use paper towels to wipe off any excess oil. This layer of oil will help the cast iron frying pan to keep its non-stick surface (this is known as “seasoning” the pan).

If you just finished cooking with your skillet and wish to keep it in good shape, try pouring some coarse salt into the bottom and scrubbing with a paper towel. Once you’ve finished scrubbing, rinse out the salt in cold water and wipe dry with a paper towel. If the paper towel has a brown stain, you’ll need to add more salt and scrub again. When you’re finished, rub a thin film of oil on the bottom of the pan.

Cleaning With Ammonia

If your cast iron frying pan suffers from heavy burn buildup, you can wrap it with a rag, pour ammonia over it, and then enclose it in a garbage bag. Place it outside to avoid the smell, and keep it away from any pets you might have.

Within the first few days, any rust should begin to clump and fall off. Visually inspect the pan every day, as you should be able to tell when the cleaning effects of the ammonia have ceased. Then remove the pan, scrub, wash, and season with salt and oil (the first option discussed).

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