How to Clean and Season a Cast Iron Pan

How to Clean and Season a Cast Iron Pan - Step By Step Photo Tutorial for Extending the Life of   Your Cast Iron Cookware by Tori Avey

The history of cast iron cookware goes back at least as far as 6th century China, but we are perhaps most familiar with its history in Colonial America. At this time, the majority of cooking was done in a hearth. Cast iron’s ability to hold high and even heat for an extended period of time made it ideal for cooking over an open flame. The handles on the pans allowed cooks to hang them above the fire. Because of its popularity, cast iron cookware was manufactured in huge quantities, which is why we see so much of it being sold at vintage shops and antique stores. You can get a great used cast iron for around $10 (sometimes even less). Clean it up, season it… good as new!

You can cook just about anything in a cast iron pan – meat, vegetables, even cake and cornbread. As the name suggests, cast iron cookware is made from a molten hot alloy that is poured into molds, or casted.  You can find the pans in all shapes and sizes and in an assortment of baking molds, from corncobs to hearts to stars. Cast iron is built to last and if you know how to take care of it, you can use the same pan for an entire lifetime.

Here I will teach you a simple technique for cleaning and seasoning your cast iron pans. If you’re in the market for a new cast iron pan, check out my recommendation below.

Do you cook with cast iron? Share your cast iron tips in the comments section below!

Recommended Products

Lodge 12-inch Cast Iron Skillet

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How to Clean and Season a Cast Iron Pan

You will need

  • Cast iron pan
  • 1 raw potato, sliced in half
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1-2 tbsp cooking oil with a high smoke point (flax, grapeseed and peanut oils work well)
  • paper towels
  • Wooden or metal flat-edged spatula
Total Time: 1 Hour 15 Minutes
Servings:
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Start by using a spatula to scrape any food residue from the surface of the pan. If your pan is mostly clean it can be wiped out with a damp cloth. Never use soap on your cast iron cookware.
  • How to Clean and Season a Cast Iron Pan - Step By Step Tutorial for Extending the Life of   your Cast Iron Cookware by Tori AveySprinkle the salt into the pan.
  • How to Clean and Season a Cast Iron Pan - Step By Step Tutorial for Extending the Life of   your Cast Iron Cookware by Tori AveyUsing the flat side of the potato, scrub the salt into the surface of the pan. The moisture from the potato, combined with salt, helps to remove any debris or rust that cannot be eliminated by simply wiping out or scraping.
  • How to Clean and Season a Cast Iron Pan - Step By Step Tutorial for Extending the Life of   your Cast Iron Cookware by Tori AveyUse a slightly damp paper towel to wipe the salt from the pan.
  • How to Clean and Season a Cast Iron Pan - Step By Step Tutorial for Extending the Life of   your Cast Iron Cookware by Tori AveyOnce the salt has been removed and the pan is dry, pour in the oil.
  • How to Clean and Season a Cast Iron Pan - Step By Step Tutorial for Extending the Life of   your Cast Iron Cookware by Tori AveyWith a paper towel wipe the entire surface of the pan, including the inner sides, edges and handle, with the oil. The surface should be lightly coated in oil, with no excess oil pooling anywhere. Wipe out all of the excess oil before placing in the oven.
  • How to Clean and Season a Cast Iron Pan - Step By Step Tutorial for Extending the Life of   your Cast Iron Cookware by Tori AveyOnce the pan has been thinly coated with the oil, place it in the oven at 400 degrees F for one hour. Allow the pan to cool and wipe out any excess oil that may be left behind. For pans that have been completely stripped of their seasoning, you may need to repeat the oiling and heating process multiple times to build up a thicker layer of protection. Do not use too much oil on the surface of the pan-- it should be thinly coated, not dripping.
  • How to Clean and Season a Cast Iron Pan - Step By Step Tutorial for Extending the Life of   your Cast Iron Cookware by Tori AveyOnce your pan is cool and you've wiped out any excess oil, your cast iron is cleaned, seasoned and ready to use! Every time you cook with oil in your cast iron pan (deep frying, sauteing, etc.) you will continue to build the non-stick coating, making it better with age.
  • You do not need to re-season your pan each time you use it. Once you've cleaned it after cooking (using the instructions above), wipe it with a thin layer of oil before storing. This will help to keep the seasoning intact between uses. Re-season the pan once every 15-20 uses, or whenever you start to notice foods sticking more and/or the seasoning wearing away.

Comments (102)Post a Comment

    1. Vaishali– no worries, while soap can be tough on the cast iron it can definitely be brought back into condition with a little effort. I would season your pan a couple of times to build the coating back up (coat with oil, bake, wipe excess oil out, let it cool, coat with oil and bake again). In future use the method outlined here to clean your pan without stripping it. Good luck!

  1. When I lived in miami fla I had a cast iron skillet was given as gift, You had to season it alot before using they used lard to season it cause oils didnt work! I made great corn bread in it and bisquits, when I moved to San Diego I gave it away! You have to be extremely careful w these skillets they are much hotter than regular pans, they cook faster too! But- they make the best fried Chicken. Oh They use Peanut oil to fry chicken in cast iron skillets, cause that oil works with them, and dont let these soak in water! They rust over night!

    1. Good that you mentioned not letting it sit in water. I learned this the hard way and had to recondition. Now I wash my pans and dry them immediately…then wipe with vegetable oil.

  2. I have a square cast iron grill pan for steak and chicken. I have a 6-inch pan that I use for cooking single items, like a fried egg, grilled cheese sandwich etc. And I have a dutch oven which is great for getting a good sear on roasts and for just about anything else. Wish I had a large skillet to make potato latkes, pan fried chicken…well, anything fried! BTW, get your cast iron really hot before cooking.

  3. My cast iron pan seems to have become pitted in the very center. About the size of a lime or small orange. Do I need to get a new one? What would cause this to happen?

    1. Hi Deborah, pitting is usually caused by cooking acidic foods in cast iron, like tomatoes or citrus. The cast iron can react to the acid in the foods, especially if the acidic ingredients are left to sit in the pan for prolonged periods of time. If your pan is really deeply pitted, it may be time to get a new one… while it may be fixable through an extensive sanding process, it’s a long and laborious process. Might be worth looking into fixing if it’s a family heirloom, but new cast iron pans aren’t that expensive, and you may be able to find an even better deal on a vintage piece!

  4. I rescued and reseasoned one that was left in the house we bought in 2009. It was a mess, very rusty. But it’s beautiful now, and the 8″ size complements beautifully the 11″ skillet that was my dad’s, and his grandmother’s before him.

    1. When I was shopping for a new stove, I REALLY wanted a glass topped one, but when I asked about using my iron cookware,I was told it isn’t recommended. The cast iron will scratch the glass surface. SO…my next stove will not be a glass top stove.

    2. I have a glass top for 10 yrs and have used cast iron for the same 10 yrs. they are heavy so you gently sit them down and you don’t slide them! You simply pick them up and sit down easy. Love my cast iron and love my glass top

    3. We also use ours on a glass top. You are Not Supposed To, but we are just relatively careful. They will scratch the top if you drag them across it, and you need to be careful not to drop them on it,but y rea ddon’t wawant to drop anytanything on your glass top.

      For the record, glass tops won’t always heat as evenly as coil elements. That is actually helped by the cast iron. If you use a stove top water bath canner, though, you may have trouble keeping it at a boil. We cannot can things at our house safely. I’m not sure if a stove top pressure canner would work better.

  5. Thanks for this! We use our cast iron griddle every single day. We don’t need to go through this process daily, right? Right now, we use a hard brush + hot water to get any food debris off (after the pan is cool), then we dry it and rub oil into it. Is that sufficient for daily use?

    1. Mari, you do not need to re-season your pan each time you use it. Once you’ve cleaned it after cooking (using the instructions above), wipe it with a thin layer of oil before storing. This will help to keep the seasoning intact between uses. Re-season the pan once every 15-20 uses, or whenever you start to notice foods sticking more and/or the seasoning wearing away.

  6. Hi Tori… Thanks for yet another useful posting! However, my I fear my beloved Lodge cast iron paella pan may be beyond repair! Have a look at the picture at the website (blog) link I’ve provided and tell me what you think.. Is this because I made used metal utensils in it the first couple times? (An obvious mistake I’ve never repeated, but no amount of seasoning with oil seems to be able to bring back the beautiful black sheen of when the pan was brand new) Thanks for any advice you could provide.

    1. Good news Howard! The scratching on your pan is actually scratched seasoning; the pan itself is completely fine. It’s very difficult to damage a cast iron pan, unless you’re cooking acidic foods in it on a regular basis. To restore the sheen, you’ll need to thoroughly remove the old seasoning and then reseason your pan. Here are detailed instructions on the process: link to homeguides.sfgate.com

  7. If you treat your seasoned cast iron just like you would your teflon cookware it will not have to be seasoned as often. I have a couple of dutch ovens and several skillets and they really aren’t much work to maintain as long as you don’t use metal in them. I prefer wooden spoons and spatulas.

  8. I have always washed my cast iron pans with regular dish washing liquid and they are still beautiful. After washing and rinsing, I pat dry, then take a paper towel with a little vegetable oil and rub it all over. It glistens. I’ve had my grandmother’s large pan for more than forty years.

    1. I have every size fact iron pan there is I believe. My favorite is my 12″ that is at least 70 yrs old. It was my mothers. We have always washed it with fish soap. Her mother taught her to wash it, put it on the fire for a min to dry it. As needed wipe a bit of ‘grease’ on it while it was hot. Mine are as slick as can be. So I don’t understand the fuss about not being able to wash.

  9. So glad you posted this. I have a nice sized cast iron skillet and I never knew how to clean it. I knew how to season it but not clean it. I feel like if you don’t use soap then it’s not really clean but now I get it. I will now use it more often for sure!

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