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How to Clean a Cast Iron Pan

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!

Cast iron pan with kosher salt and nylon scrub brush

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Here is what I do, all you need is kosher salt, a nylon scrub brush, and a VERY dirty grill pan. If you need to clean a rusty cast iron grill pan then this is the method for you!

Materials needed to clean a cast iron pan

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overhead view of cast iron grill pan with salt

1. Coat the pan with salt. I may have been too generous with the salt this go round so feel free to use less.

Green nylon scrub brush cleaning a cast iron pan with salt

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.

Clean cast iron skillet with dirty salt used to clean it off to the side

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.

Yield: a clean pan!

How to Clean a Cast Iron Pan

Cast iron pan with kosher salt and nylon scrub brush

Cleaning a cast iron pan with salt is an easy way to take care of your cast iron pans and cast iron grills or griddles

Active Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes

Materials

  • kosher salt

Tools

  • nylon scrub brush

Instructions

  1. Cover the pan with a thin layer of kosher salt.Cast iron skillet coated with salt before cleaning
  2. Scrub with the nylon brush. If the pan is very dirty, add a tablespoon of water and keep scrubbing.Green nylon scrub brush cleaning a cast iron pan with salt
  3. Brush off the excess salt and gunk.Clean cast iron skillet with dirty salt used to clean it off to the side
  4. Re-season if necessary or go ahead and get baking!.

Notes

Try this salt method with cast iron grills, griddles, and pans. It will help keep your cast iron for years to come!

Did you make this project?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

Here are some recipes you’ll enjoy making with a cast iron pan:

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Please note that this post was originally published in April 2012 and was updated in January 2019.

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Bonnie and Trish @ Uncommon

Monday 30th of April 2012

Love cast iron cookware! I live in the south and those pans are a staple! Have never thought to clean them this way, super idea! Thank you for sharing at Uncommon!

Kelley @ TheGrantLife.com

Thursday 26th of April 2012

Ive heard cast iron is great.. I need to get some! Thanks for the great tip for my future cast iron pan :)

Kim

Thursday 26th of April 2012

Ooh. Good to know! Do you think it would work on your cast iron stove grates as well? Mine are so grungy but I can't figure out a good way to clean them!

Holly @ abakershouse.com

Thursday 26th of April 2012

Hi Kim, I wasn't sure about cleaning iron stove grates so I did what I usually do when I am stumped: googled it! Here is a link to ehow with one idea on how to clean those grates. Good luck!http://www.ehow.com/how_7806108_clean-cast-iron-cooking-grates.html