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Cast Iron Cookware Isn’t as Fussy As You Think: Here’s How to Clean It

sausages cooking in a cast iron pan over a campfire
1Roman Makedonsky/Shutterstock

Afraid to invest in cast iron cookware because you think keeping it cleaned and seasoned will be more work than it’s worth? Cast iron cookware isn’t as hard to care for as you might think.

Cast iron pans can last forever, as long as you take care of them. This nearly indestructible kitchen item is restorable, even when it has become rusty or has burnt-on food debris. Basic cleaning and care are simple, from washing and drying to keeping it seasoned.

Cleaning Your Cast Iron Cookware

Keeping your cast iron pots and pans clean is the best way to ensure you have them for a long time. You should clean your cast iron after each use, while the pan is still warm—not hot (you don’t want to burn yourself).

Never use the dishwasher to clean cast iron. Your cast iron cookware are hand-wash-only pieces of kitchen equipment if you want them to last a lifetime (and longer).

Wipe Out Food and Oil

While your skillet is still warm, use a paper towel to wipe out the excess food and cooking oils. Immediately wiping out debris and oil makes cleaning easier and keeps food debris from going down your drain and clogging the plumbing. Beginning the cleaning process while your cast iron pot is still warm makes it easier to remove bits of food.

If you forget to clean your cast iron pan while it’s warm, you can warm it back up and follow these same steps.

Rinse and Scrub

Rinse your warm pan with hot water and use a nonabrasive brush or scrubber to remove food.

You can also use dish soap (contrary to the widely held belief that dish soap is a cast-iron-killer, you can use it in moderation), just make sure you rinse well and pat the pan dry.

There’s nothing wrong with getting your cast iron cookware wet, as long as you’re not leaving it wet or soaking it.

Dry Thoroughly

Wetting cast iron for an extended amount of time is a huge no-no. Don’t even think about putting your cast iron pots and pans in the drying rack and waiting for them to drip-dry. Take a kitchen towel and thoroughly dry your cast iron.

Lightly Oil and Cool

The final step of cleaning your cast iron is oiling it. Oiling after washing helps maintain the seasoning on your cast iron pan and helps ensure there’s no moisture left from washing. The seasoning on your pan keeps it a non-stick cooking wonder. If you have too much oil, however, your pan can feel sticky, so you don’t want to overdo it.

To oil your pan, heat it at medium to low heat until all of the moisture has evaporated. Turn off the stove and then add a half-teaspoon of oil and lightly coat the interior pan using some paper towel (again, be careful not to burn yourself). You want to finish with a smooth surface that has no visible oil residue.

Let your pan cool completely before you put it away.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow has been a professional writer for almost two decades. Yvonne has worked for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and much more as a writer and editor. She's also a published poet and a short story writer. Read Full Bio »

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