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Learn how to clean your cast iron quickly and easily so that it lasts generations.

Cast Iron 101 :: How to Clean Cast Iron | Add a Pinch


I frequently receive emails asking about cast iron – how to care for it, how to select the best size, the sizes of skillets that I use, etc. I love answering each one of these emails and thought that it might be helpful for even more people for me to write a series on the topic!

Properly cared for, cast iron cookware can last for generations and will become on of those prizes heirlooms handed down through your family. Cast iron cookware has long been a treasured tool for cooking for their weight, conductivity of heat, as well as the ability to cook just about anything in it! While there are definitely more expensive pieces of cookware available, there are few pieces that are as versatile as cast iron.

Since I use my cast iron cookware so frequently, I definitely want to make sure I am taking proper care of it – especially the skillets given to me from my Grandmothers as well as my husband’s family.


Cast Iron 101 :: How to Clean Cast Iron-2

How to Clean Cast Iron

1. Once your cast iron has cooled to a slightly warm temperature after use, pour about ¼ cup of Kosher salt onto the cooking surface

2. Use a paper towel and scrub the salt in a circular motion to remove the cooked on residue.

3. If the residue still does not release, pour about 1 tablespoon of oil onto the cookware, grab an old store rewards card or similar hard plastic card and scrap away the problem area.

4. Wipe clean with paper towel to remove all of the salt and residue you’ve removed from the cookware.

5. Rub a light coat of oil over the surface and place on the stove top over low heat for a few minutes to completely dry.


Β Do you use cast iron cookware? What’s your favorite thing to cook in it?




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Robyn Stone

Robyn Stone is a wife, mom, blogger, recipe developer, and cookbook author. Welcome to Add a Pinch where I share thousands of delicious, tested and perfected easy recipes that the whole family will love.

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    1. I have had cast iron for years . I wash it then coat it lightly with cooking oil . It seems to work ok . But the sticking part I dont like . Maybe if I do the salt thing it might help . I love my cast iron . Frying chicken in it makes the chicken so much better . But thank you for the in put on cast iron . Im always ready to learn new things , never to old for that !

  1. Thanks for this post! I need to get a cast iron pan — I know, I can’t believe I don’t have one yet — but once I do, I’ve bookmarked this post! πŸ™‚

  2. Robyn, you are brilliant! I sometimes put the teensiet drop of detergent in mine even though I known I’m not supposed to. I’ll have to cut that out and try your method in stead.

    1. Do try to never add any detergent into your cast iron unless you are planning on taking it all the way down to the raw iron and then starting over with the seasoning. It just causes spots where the seasoning isn’t very good and then things stick more easily, etc. The cycle is just vicious if cast iron isn’t seasoned properly. πŸ™‚

    1. I’d love to come to your neck of the woods sometime and go cast iron skillet shopping. Wouldn’t we have fun?!?!

  3. I have been building up an entire set, and LOVE LOVE LOVE to cook in my mine. Never thought about seasoning it by setting if on low for a while after you rub it down with oil. Thanks for the tip!

  4. I just got mine out after years of being in storage. I hate cleaning the thing given I never really knew how. We got it out to make your pineapple upside down cake which was fabulous.probably a silly question but why don’t u want to use soap and water, then just oil it after it’s clean?

    1. Detergents break down the seasoning to expose the raw iron, which then easily rusts and allows everything to stick and just get all yucky.

    1. Hi Bri,
      For grill pans, I use the same method but instead of using a paper towel, use a bristled brush to get into all of the areas. Then follow the rest of the steps for drying and seasoning upkeep!

  5. I am new to cast iron and sadly, I used detergent on mine because I did not know any better. Can you tell me how to get the thick grease out of the skillet after frying bacon or some types of meats ? I was using detergent and scubbing off the grease, but I know see this is not the right way. So how do you get rid of the thick grease ?
    Thanks for any help you can give me !

    1. Sheila,
      First, as a Southerner, I have to tell you that I pour that bacon grease into a can and put it in the refrigerator to use for cooking. {It’s how my Grandmother taught me!} But, if you’d prefer not to do that, just allow it to cool completely and it will thicken to a whitish grease that you can then remove with a paper towel or wooden spoon into the trash. Once you have removed most of the grease, you can either use the bacon grease to as a touch up for the seasoning by reheating the pan to a very low heat and rubbing a very, very thin coating of the bacon grease over the inside of the skillet. Don’t have the coating too thick or it will just be a sticky mess.

      If you need to remove built up residue and grease, then follow the method using the salt and paper towel in the post.

      Good luck!

  6. Gosh doggit. I couldn’t decide which Pinterest board to pin this to but I sooooo needed it. I have two very neglected cast iron pieces in my oven right now… which brings me to the question: Where do you store your cast iron? I just cannot figure that out.

    1. saw somewhere… cut a potato in half, dip in a baking soda and rub in a circular motion. Rust will come right off!

    1. No, it doesn’t have to be Kosher. If the residue is really, really tough, the courseness of sea salt actually works amazingly well.

  7. Thank you so much for this. I am in love with my cast iron skillet but have never known how to properly clean it… especially since I usually cook something like chicken in it. I’m always worried that I won’t get it clean enough to be “safe” to use next time, so I commit the worst sin there is for cast iron… I wash it! Luckily mine is still in good shape. Can you reseason the skillet again? Do you use Crisco and put it in the oven or something? I can’t remember! I need to season it all over again now & clean it your way! Thanks a bunch!

  8. Do you use salt each time? That seems like a lot of salt every day. Sometimes I use mine for breakfast and dinner!

    1. Hi Brianne, I use salt each time there is something cooked on or my cast iron needs a good scrubbing. With a good seasoning, you don’t have to use the salt scrub nearly as much.

  9. Is this method good even after shallow fring chicke? when all the grease and tiny bits of chicken sticking to the skillet. Would it also take care of the eggy or meaty smell? I have spoiled too many skillets by washing them bcoz the smell jus wouldn’t go away and I couldn’t bear to cook in the skillet again with that smell….:(

  10. To get rid of rust on cast iron, try scrunching up some tin foil into a ball and scrub away the rust spots with it.

  11. I have my grandmother’s and my mom’s cast iron skillets and the way I was taught to care and clean them was after I cook on them, turn the stove top back on and get the iron hot. Add about 3 pieces of ice to it and scrape with metal spatula where the ice is sizzling…the cooked on foods come off easily. Then pour out and put wipe out access. Then put the skillet back on the burner to all the heat to dry. I also used to work at a grill and we cleaned the iron grill the same way periodically throughout my shift so as to not have so much to clean at the end of the night.

    1. I forgot to add, I always coat with more oil after it is clean and I store them stacked together with a paper towel in between each skillet

  12. Do you use water to rinse the salt out? Also I have heard that you are supposed to clean it immediately after cooking, is cooling the skillet better?

    1. I use a paper towel or damp dish cloth to remove the salt. In extreme cases, I will use a little bit of water, but am sure to immediately re-season my skillet. Recently, I asked the folks at Lodge personally what their view was about water and they said for their skillets, it wasn’t an issue if you dried and made sure to re-season them. So, I’ve been a bit looser on that since the conversation.

      I only allow my skillets to cool enough for me to handle them and then clean. The cooler they are, the harder I find it to remove anything that might have become stuck on them.

  13. I have seen a lot of talk on line about using cast iron skillets. They are too heavy for me to use. What other type of skillet do you recommend for those of use who can’t use cast iron any more?

    1. You might want to check into the Lodge Carbon Steel skillets. They are much lighter than the cast iron with similar results. I’ve not added one to my skillet collection, but have used one and loved it. It is definitely on my wish list!

  14. I got rid of my chicken fryer when we moved 5 yrs. ago. I would like to try again. But have they made a “model” of cast iron pan that is lighter in weight? You see I had a stroke 26 years ago and at my peak in left-handed strength I still couldn’t handle the ol’ chicken fryer. Now that age is bearing it’s strange effects I wouldn’t even try anything so heavy. But I will go out and get the small fry pan that my Mother used for frying one egg at a time.

  15. I use mine for cooking cornbread mostly. I have been washing my skillet so definitely won’t do that anymore. Thanks for your help!

  16. I have my grandmothers skillet and it is one of my most favorite cooking vessels- mostly for the memories! How do you clean the outside of the skillet? My grandmothers has lots of what I can only assume is decades of burnt items on the bottom and sides. How can I remove this or will it damage the skillet?

  17. Robyn, I love your site. This article on properly taking care of cast iron cookware is great. I tried it on my Lodge 12 inch cast iron skillet and it worked like a charm. I shared it on Facebook.

  18. If desperate – really, really desperate, to remove old crud from a cast iron skillet, and start fresh with bare iron, use the pan for making soap. I discovered this when I wanted to try making homemade soap from grease and lye. Instructions said not to use aluminum, nor an enameled pan. What I had was a couple of cast iron skillets, so I pressed one into use. Thankfully, I had enough sense to do it outside. It doesn’t need to be heated, the chemical reaction between the grease and the lye get it plenty hot enough. The fumes it created were awful!
    The lye not only turned all the extra grease I gave it into soap, it grabbed every bit of “seasoning” it could reach and turned it to soap. It looked like I had a shiny new skillet, and I had to start the seasoning ritual all over again.
    And there there is the time my (now ex) husband decided to “clean” both skillets with a welding torch. Torch burnt off the seasoning alright, but he also melted a hole in one of the skillets. He fixed that little “oops” by filling the hole with melted brazing rod. I was not happy.

  19. I love my cast iron. I use them for steaks and burgers and fried chicken! Thank you for the tips. I guess I have been doing it wrong. I would heat my pan and then put the oil on it. I will try your method.