Cleaning a cast iron pan with salt is the key to baking and cooking with it more often. My favorite method uses basic materials– kosher salt works it magic with a bit of elbow grease thrown in!
I love to use my cast iron grill pan and my cast iron skillet…cleaning it is another story. Even after one use it looks icky, for lack of a better word. Cleaning a cast iron grill pan soon after you use it is one key to success.
So how do I clean a cast iron pan? Here are a few guidelines and what to do and what not to do in caring for your cast iron.
- Cleaning your cast iron pan as soon as you finish using it with cooking oil. Brush off any food scraps first. Then, the simple method of wiping the pan down with a bit of oil and a paper towel works well. Be sure not to use too much oil, you’ll want it all to soak in or you can wipe up the excess.
- Can you use water and soap to clean cast iron? Yes, surprisingly this method is ok and is even recommended by some cast iron manufacturers. Again, brush off any food scraps, then wash with a sponge or nylon scrub brush with a small bit of dish soap. It is important to rinse completely and to dry your pan thoroughly. *I have read that using dish soap can take off the finish or the seasoning of your pan, if that happens you’ll need to re-season your cast iron.
- Use salt and a nylon scrub brush. In my opinion, cleaning cast iron with salt is the best way to clean a cast iron grill pan. Start again by cleaning off burnt or stuck on food and then follow the directions detailed below.
A few more cast iron cleaning tips:
Avoid the dishwasher and avoid soaking the grill pan or cast iron skillet. Rust is the enemy here. If you choose to wash with water and scrub the cast iron grill as you would a usual pan, simply dry it completely before storing it away in a cabinet.
Materials needed to clean a cast iron pan
1. Coat the pan with salt. I may have been too generous with the salt this go round so feel free to use less.
2. Simply start scrubbing with the nylon brush and the salt becomes a paste-like substance that helps to take the bits of food and grease right off the pan. Water isn’t necessary, but if you have a really dirty pan with grease caked on, go ahead and add a bit of water to make a paste.
3. Look how dirty the salt becomes! And, like magic, your cast iron pan (skillet or grill pan) is clean.
Brush the excess salt and gunk off the pan and you are done. If you need to season the pan you could brush it with vegetable oil and bake it at a very low temperature (200-250 degrees) for about 30 minutes.
Please note that learning how to clean a cast iron griddle grill or how to clean cast iron stove grates involves a similar process. You may choose to use baking soda to clean as well. At home, I clean my stove grates with a mixture of baking soda and water mixed into a paste that cleans beautifully.
The salt scrub process isn’t necessary every time. Usually you can wipe down your grill pan with a paper towel or cloth in between uses. Your cast iron pans will last for years.
- kosher salt
- nylon scrub brush
- Cover the pan with a thin layer of kosher salt.
- Scrub with the nylon brush. If the pan is very dirty, add a tablespoon of water and keep scrubbing.
- Brush off the excess salt and gunk.
- Re-season if necessary or go ahead and get baking!.
Try this salt method with cast iron grills, griddles, and pans. It will help keep your cast iron for years to come!
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Here are some recipes you’ll enjoy making with a cast iron pan:
- Onion rolls
- Basic focaccia
- Apple, beer and cheddar soda bread
- Fuss free Fried Chicken from Southern Plate
- Blueberry Peach Cast Iron Crisp from Nutmeg Nanny
- Focaccia Buns
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Please note that this post was originally published in April 2012 and was updated in January 2019.
Holly Baker started the food blog, A Baker’s House, in 2011. She is the writer, recipe creator, and photographer for the site. Holly loves to bake and shares recipes for gluten free food, canning recipes, as well as traditional desserts too. Her recipes and food photography have been highlighted by BuzzFeed, Reader’s Digest, and She Knows.