How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet with Burnt Debris

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Are you tired of scrubbing away unsuccessfully at those stubborn food particles in your cast iron skillet? Do you think you should do something to improve the performance of your pan? 

Explore some easy cleaning hacks that will help you keep your skillets clean and in top shape! From important storage tips to some good eco-friendly cleaning hacks, we have it all.


Things to keep in Mind

Want to clean oil and grease stains? Use paper towels. But, should we get rid of surface oils completely? Well, that would be a no!

When it comes to cleaning cast iron utensils, hot water is your best friend, and also a dry pan can be good unless it is not devoid of oils. It is the underrated seasoning that helps those pans retain efficiency, shine, and good looks.

How To Clean Cast Iron Skillet

1. Sponge or Stiff Brush

This is the easiest and the most popular method when it comes to cleaning a cast iron skillet. You would need a sponge or stiff brush, dry cloth or paper towels, and vegetable oil to restore your skillet. 

Wash the unclean skillet with hot water and use your hand to clean it with a stiff brush or sponge. You must use gloves if the water is very hot and don’t burn your hands, please! Don’t use detergent or soap this time as this may affect the seasoning of the pan. 

If you have stuck-on food, use a paste of coarse kosher salt and scrub it off. Use a paper towel to scrub the food leftovers as the residue has already loosened after the effective hot water treatment. Once done, thoroughly dry it with paper towels or you can use heat for more efficient drying. 

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You can also apply a light coat of vegetable oil or melted shortening to retain the shine and seasoning of the pan after cleaning. You can also oil the outer surface and remove any excess oil by buffing.

Store the frying pan in a dry place. 

2. No Rust Please

Now, hot water treatment without detergent would be effective for minor burns or stains. If you want to make your frying pan rust-free, you would need steel wool, soap, sponge, dish or paper towel, aluminum foil, and oven. 

First, remove the rust using steel wool and scrub until the affected areas return to raw cast iron. Next, wash the skillet thoroughly with hot water and soap and scrub it with a sponge and bristle brush. 

Dry the skillet properly before applying vegetable oil to the entire piece. Also, don’t forget to oil the bottom and handle of the pan since rusting might be there as well. 

Tips For Cleaning Skillet More Efficiently 

Efficient cleaning is extremely important when it comes to kitchen utensils as they require less effort and are cost-effective. Eco-friendly tips tick both the criteria and it will help you save some effort as well. 

1. First and foremost, appreciate the power of water! I mean, soak your pots and pans into the water, way before cleaning them. This will remove the grease easily and will save you some time as well. 

2. If you notice rusty patches in your pan, use kosher salt as an abrasive before wiping it out with an oily towel. 

3. We used kosher salt to remove stuck-on food. You can replace it with vinegar and baking soda. It will be an easier and more eco-friendly option.

4. Similarly, burnt-on food residue can be removed with lemon and salt and of course, scrubbing!

5. Baking soda is also helpful if you want to dry the skillet in no time. Just sprinkle some baking soda on it and you will have a dry cast iron surface immediately! 

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Tips For Taking Care Of Cast Iron Skillet

1. We must be very careful with skillets while storing them, I mean what else would ‘taking care’ mean? So, if you are looking for a long-term storage hack for skillets, you must know that heavy seasoning is the only option.

Adorning your pan with a protective coating of cooking oil nourishes the layers of iron and prevents rust. 

2. If unused for a week or more, you must use heavy oils like coconut oil which contains saturated fat. For the short term, vegetable oils would work fine. Also, don’t season the pan until it’s completely dry.

3. Coming to the most controversial question, should we use soap? Soaps and detergents are not good for cast iron due to their ingredients but using eco-friendly replacements would be a good option unless they don’t contain any polishing agents.

4. To clean rust, rub fine steel wool with just enough force to remove the raw rust. Do not, I repeat, do not use steel wool to remove the food residue. It can successively destroy the surface. A pan scraper would be enough for this case.  

5. You should resist the temptation of stacking iron pieces up together ask prolonged weight can harm the seasoning of the skillet. 

6. Something as delicate as cast iron should NOT be put in the dishwasher, where it might lose its seasoning and eventually develop rust as well.

7. For simple cleaning, detergent is not required as it will be too harsh on the surface.

8. Prolonged exposure to moisture and air can cause rust and you will never want that! Store it in a cool and dry place and make sure it is absolutely dry (a water droplet can make a huge difference).


How often should I clean a cast iron skillet?

Clean it after every use by wiping it down with a paper towel. But if there are burnt food particles, give it a good cleaning using the methods discussed above.

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When should I throw away my cast iron skillet?

If you notice your skillet has an uneven base it’s time to replace it. This can happen to any cookware if it’s subjected to high and fluctuating temperatures for a while.

Also if a crack or hole forms on your skillet, don’t even think of using it again. A crack can be dangerous while cooking and it can even encourage bacteria growth.

How can I season a cast iron skillet?

Apply a thin layer of vegetable oil or shortening to a dry and clean iron skillet. Then heat the skillet in the oven in an upside-down position in the top rack.

Heat it for about an hour at 350-degree Fahrenheit and you can also use aluminum foil to absorb excess oil dips. Once the cast iron is cool after heating, get back to cooking! 

DO NOT use olive oil or butter to season your iron skillet.

Maintaining and restoring kitchen utensils is not an easy job, and they do require immense effort. Hopefully, these ideas will help you keep the shine intact in your cast iron skillet. Happy cleaning!

Written by Pulkit D

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