How to Clean and Season Cast-Iron Cookware

Photo: Michael Sullivan

For on a regular basis cleansing and seasoning

  • Dish cleaning soap: In our testing, we discovered Seventh Generation Dish Liquid to be the very best. It isn’t made with any dyes or artificial fragrances, which regularly embody questionable substances.
  • Non-abrasive sponge or scrub brush: A Dobie sponge, for instance, or the Full Circle Tenacious C Cast Iron Brush or 10-inch Lodge Care Scrub Brush.
  • Kosher salt: For stuck-on bits.
  • Wooden spatula: If you don’t have already got one, we like the cheap Helen’s Asian Kitchen 13-Inch Bamboo Stir Fry Spatula.
  • A impartial oil: Think canola or vegetable oil.
  • Paper towels or a clear rag: For rubbing the oil.

For deep-cleaning duties like eradicating burnt-on crud or rust

  • A scrubbing device: Consider a Scotch-Brite sponge or a Lodge Rust Eraser (for small rust spots).
  • Rubber gloves: To defend your palms from cleansers and rust.
  • Stainless metal scrubber: Scotch-Brite scrubbers, for instance.
  • Cleanser: We like Bar Keepers Friend.
  • Items for eradicating extreme rust: Distilled white vinegar and a container large enough to submerge the pan.

For on a regular basis cleansing, put aside one to 2 minutes. If it’s worthwhile to re-season your pan, plan for 2 to 3 hours. Deeper cleans, akin to eradicating layers of stuck-on buildup, eradicating rust, or eradicating stains from enameled forged iron, can take 5 minutes to 24 hours.

The most vital factor to recollect about forged iron is that it could possibly’t go within the dishwasher or keep in a sinkful of water in a single day, as it would rust. (All will not be misplaced if it does—we provide some ideas for eradicating rust beneath.) In addition, forged iron is sort of brittle, so don’t “shock” a scorching pan by operating it underneath chilly water, or the drastic temperature change might trigger it to warp or crack.

Contrary to well-liked perception, washing your pans with gentle dish cleaning soap won’t harm them, so long as they’re effectively seasoned. Even Lodge endorses the usage of a small quantity of cleaning soap on its web site, as do cleansing specialists akin to Cheryl Mendelson, creator of Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House.

After cooking together with your pan

Gently scrub the pan utilizing gentle dish cleaning soap, scorching water, and a non-abrasive sponge (akin to a Dobie sponge or the mushy aspect of a Scotch-Brite sponge) or a scrub brush.

Rinse it clear after which dry it fully with a dish towel. You may put it over low warmth on the stovetop or within the oven (at 200 to 300 levels Fahrenheit) to make certain all the moisture evaporates. It’s vital to get your pan bone dry earlier than storing it, in any other case it might rust.

After drying, coat the pan in a really skinny layer of the identical impartial oil (like canola) that you simply use for seasoning the pan (a few drops is all you want). Using a paper towel or clear rag, rub the oil all around the inside and out of doors of the pan (together with the deal with).

If your pan has stuck-on bits

Removing stuck-on meals utilizing kosher salt, water, and a scrub brush. Photo: Michael Sullivan

Occasionally small patches of the forged iron’s seasoning will put on down and grow to be skinny, inflicting meals to stay to the pan. If you’re struggling to take away stuck-on meals, subsequent time, whereas the pan is heat (not scorching), add ¼ cup kosher salt and some drops of heat water. Use a Dobie sponge, a Scotch-Brite sponge, or a scrub brush to softly take away the gunk. The salt will dissolve as you scrub and gained’t injury the seasoning (it’s like a facial in your pan!). Wash, dry, and wipe the pan with oil as regular.

Use the boiling water technique if meals is basically caught on

Add 1 to 2 cups of water to the pan and convey it to a boil over excessive warmth till the gunk loosens. If the meals bits don’t come off on their very own after a few minutes, you should utilize a picket spatula to scrape them up. I’ve examined the Lodge pan scrapers, that are made completely for this objective, however I’ve discovered {that a} picket spatula works simply as effectively. Afterward, wash, dry, and wipe the pan with oil as regular.

Whether a well-intentioned houseguest leaves your pan to air dry after washing or just a few errant drops of water or moisture within the air search out your lovingly cared-for pan, rust occurs. The easiest option to take away rust is utilizing the tough aspect of a dry Scotch-Brite sponge to softly rub it off. You can add a bit water and a drop of dish cleaning soap if crucial. Rinse the pan, dry it completely, after which re-season it.

Try a rust eraser

Using the Lodge Rust Eraser to take away a big space of rust from a cast-iron skillet. Photo: Michael Sullivan

If your forged iron has various rust spots, a rust eraser will assist take away rust from a big space. I examined two: the Dalstrong Rust Eraser and the Lodge Rust Eraser. The Lodge eraser, which is product of rubber and silicon carbide, prices much less, labored a bit sooner in my assessments, and didn’t should be soaked in water earlier than use just like the Dalstrong eraser.

Simply rub the rust eraser, gently, on rusty spots to take away them. But make sure to apply solely gentle to medium stress when utilizing a rust eraser, or it could possibly trigger microcracking, based on Kun Wang, an assistant professor within the Materials Science and Engineering Department at Alfred University. These invisible floor cracks make the pan extra prone to breakage later.

Once you’ve eliminated the rust, wash and completely dry the pan. Follow the steps to re-season your pan.

If a cast-iron piece is totally coated in rust

If you unintentionally go away your pan within the sink in a single day and it rusts throughout, or should you choose one up secondhand and it’s coated in rust, don’t fret.

The easiest option to take away lots of rust from forged iron is to make a slurry of Bar Keepers Friend and a few tablespoons of water within the pan and scrub the rust off utilizing a chrome steel scrubber. We suggest sporting rubber gloves. Again, wash, dry, and re-season your pan afterward.

If the pan is coated in a thick layer of rust that’s too tough to clean off by hand, you’ll be able to take away it by submerging the pan in an answer of vinegar and water. This technique may be very quick and efficient, however Wang cautioned that leaving the pan within the answer for too lengthy can injury the pan. Keep an eye fixed on the pan and take away it as quickly as many of the rust is gone or when the rust appears to be like manageable sufficient to clean off.

Start by filling a container giant sufficient to fully submerge the pan with equal elements distilled white vinegar and water. A plastic bin works effectively, however it’s also possible to use a big casserole dish relying on the scale of your pan. If you will have rust solely on the inside of your pan, you’ll be able to as an alternative fill it with the vinegar answer fairly than submerging the entire pan.

Add the pan to the answer. Eventually you’ll hear the answer fizzing a bit, which implies it’s working its magic. Check the pan after an hour to see if the rust has been largely eliminated or has grow to be skinny sufficient to clean off. If the pan wants extra time, return it to the answer till many of the rust is gone, however don’t go away it submerged for greater than 24 hours, or you may trigger everlasting injury to the pan.

Remove the pan from the answer and instantly rinse it with operating water. If flash rust (a skinny layer of rust that develops as quickly as you take away the forged iron from the vinegar answer) seems, don’t fear.

Make a slurry of Bar Keepers Friend and a few tablespoons of water within the pan and scrub any remaining rust off utilizing a chrome steel scrubber.

Wash, dry, and re-season the pan afterward.

Bare forged iron is very prone to corrosion, so should you’ve stripped away any of the seasoning (the black protecting layer of polymerized oil) within the strategy of cleansing or simply regular use, it’s worthwhile to re-season your pan to stop rust and restore its naturally nonstick cooking floor.

Most brand-new pans, together with the Lodge skillets we suggest in our information to the very best cast-iron skillet, come pre-seasoned and are prepared to be used, however you’ll be able to add extra layers of seasoning should you desire. We suggest including extra layers of seasoning to a brand new pan (or ready for them to construct up naturally over time by cooking fatty meals akin to bacon) earlier than cooking acidic meals like tomatoes or citrus, in any other case your meals might find yourself tasting metallic.

Place the pan within the oven and preheat it to 450 to 500 levels Fahrenheit.

After 5 to 10 minutes, rigorously take away the pan and use a paper towel or a clear rag to rub a really small quantity of oil all around the total floor inside and outside (don’t overlook the deal with). We have used canola, soybean, sunflower, and different impartial oils for this step.

You can use a cotton swab to get into the nooks and crannies if it’s worthwhile to. With a separate, clear towel, wipe all the extra oil off the pan (it ought to look almost dry). Too a lot oil produces a blotchy, uneven seasoning and may generate lots of smoke through the baking step, which comes subsequent.

Bake your pan, inverted, within the preheated oven for one hour, after which flip off the oven and let your pan cool fully inside it. The excessive warmth might trigger some gentle smoke through the seasoning course of, so make sure to use your vary hood or open a window to ventilate.

Repeat the above steps a number of instances (or as crucial) till you’ve constructed up a number of layers of seasoning and the coating is sufficiently nonstick (it is best to be capable to fry an egg in butter or oil with out it sticking).

The greatest option to preserve the seasoning on forged iron is to make use of the pan typically. I go away my skillet on the range in order that it’s all the time at hand. Cooking bacon and different fatty meals in it sometimes additionally helps develop a powerful seasoning.

What oil do you have to use?

In our assessments through the years, we’ve used a wide range of impartial oils to season forged iron, together with canola (rapeseed), soybean, sunflower, linseed (flax), grapeseed, refined coconut, vegetable oil blends, and vegetable shortening. They all work effectively to create a sturdy seasoning. According to Eric Decker, professor and division head of the Department of Food Science on the University of Massachusetts Amherst, oils with elevated ranges of unsaturation will oxidize sooner and make extra polymers. So keep away from utilizing saturated fat, akin to butter, which gained’t season correctly.

Some cast-iron specialists we spoke to additionally mentioned to keep away from additional virgin olive oil as a result of it begins to degrade at a decrease temperature and may grow to be sticky or develop off-flavors.

If you’ve picked up a classic pan that has many years of carbon buildup from burnt-on grease, you will have just a few methods to take away all that crud with the intention to begin contemporary. But a few of these strategies are very time consuming, and others are outright harmful. In our expertise, we’ve discovered that the best option to strip forged iron is to make use of an oven cleaner answer, because it’s largely hands-off.

However, oven cleaners are extremely poisonous, and it is best to use them for this objective solely exterior or in a well-ventilated house akin to a storage. And you should put on rubber gloves, as oven cleaner may cause chemical burns. Most oven cleaners are lye-based (it comprises sodium hydroxide), so their impact is much like soaking your pan in a lye tub (which is what many professionals do), however they’re simpler and safer to make use of, they usually require much less tools and setup.

Wearing rubber gloves and a respirator masks, place the pan in a big trash bag. Carefully spray the oven cleaner over the whole floor of the pan inside and outside, together with the deal with.

Invert the pan and tie the bag closed. Let the pan relaxation for a number of hours, or as much as 24 hours relying on the severity of the crud you’re making an attempt to take away.

Wearing rubber gloves, rigorously take away the pan from the bag. Rinse the pan and completely scrub it inside and outside utilizing dish cleaning soap and a chrome steel scrubber. For good measure, scrub it with dish cleaning soap a second time and rinse it simply to make certain you’ve eliminated all the oven cleaner.

Dry the pan completely with a towel; you’ll be able to then place it in a heat oven or over low warmth in your stovetop to take away any remaining moisture. Follow the steps above to re-season the pan.

Other methods to strip forged iron

Stripping the crud from a cast-iron skillet utilizing Bar Keepers Friend and a chrome steel scrubber works effectively however requires extra elbow grease. Photo: Michael Sullivan

Most cast-iron collectors who restore classic items use a lye tub or electrolysis (some additionally use sandblasting, however that may trigger microcracking, which makes the pan extra prone to wreck) to strip outdated pans. However, these strategies will be comparatively harmful, require particular tools, and are overkill should you plan to strip just one pan.

A extra hands-off technique for stripping a pan is inserting it in an oven and operating the self-cleaning cycle (in case your oven has that function). However, the self-cleaning cycle has been identified to trigger injury to some ovens, so we’re hesitant to suggest this technique.

I examined 3 ways to strip a pan: utilizing Easy-Off Professional Oven and Grill Cleaner, ammonia, and Bar Keepers Friend. Ammonia stinks and doesn’t take away almost as a lot crud as the opposite strategies. (I positioned the pan in a trash bag together with ½ cup ammonia in an open container, sealed the bag, and let it relaxation for twenty-four hours. Unfortunately, not a lot occurred.)

Scrubbing the pan with Bar Keepers Friend and a chrome steel scrubber stripped the pan effectively. It’s possibility should you’re averse to utilizing oven cleaner (which requires quite a few security precautions), but it surely requires lots of elbow grease.

Photo: Michael Hession

Everyday cleansing

Enameled forged iron is less complicated to take care of than unfinished forged iron as a result of it doesn’t want seasoning. Though most enameled forged iron is dishwasher-safe, many producers suggest washing such items by hand to keep away from sporting down the enamel end.

Be positive to let the forged iron cool first to keep away from injury from thermal shock, which might warp or crack both the pot or the enamel. For on a regular basis cleansing, use a non-abrasive sponge akin to a Dobie sponge with scorching water and common dish cleaning soap. According to Lodge: “Citrus juices and citrus-based cleaners (together with some dishwasher detergents) shouldn’t be used, as they will boring the outside gloss.”

Stuck-on meals ought to come off should you boil 1 to 2 cups of water within the pan for a number of minutes after which scrape up the gunk with a picket spatula. Never use metal wool, abrasive scrubbing pads, or harsh detergents that would scratch the enamel.

Keep in thoughts that the enamel will boring with age and a few staining is regular, however neither prevalence will impair the efficiency of your cookware.

Deep cleansing enameled forged iron

If the inside of your enameled cast-iron cookware is frivolously stained or the skin of the pot is roofed in grease stains, you’ll be able to take away them by making a slurry of a few tablespoons of Bar Keepers Friend or baking soda and heat water. Use a non-abrasive sponge (akin to a Dobie sponge) to softly scrub away the stains. Bar Keepers Friend may take away steel scuffs from the enamel (although it is best to use cooking utensils made solely from wooden, silicone, or different mushy supplies to keep away from scratching the enamel within the first place).

Stain removing

For darkish, cussed stains, fill the pot or pan with one half bleach to 3 elements water and let the answer sit for a number of hours, or as much as 24 hours relying on the severity of the discoloration. Rinse and completely wash the pot with a non-abrasive sponge, dish cleaning soap, and scorching water—no scrubbing required.

In scripting this information, we examined many cleansing strategies and merchandise that have been particularly marketed to increase the lifetime of forged iron or make cleansing simpler. But we discovered that almost all of them weren’t price your cash.

Soaps and scrubs

You can discover particular cast-iron soaps, however after testing each the Camp Chef Cast-Iron Cleaner and the Caron & Doucet Cast Iron Soap, I don’t suggest them. Both formulations comprise oils and/or wax, which left a greasy movie on my pans. I discovered it way more efficient to make use of common dish cleaning soap after which oil the pan after.

You’ll additionally discover gadgets offered particularly to take away stuck-on meals from cast-iron pans, such because the dear Caron & Doucet Cast Iron Scrub, which is simply salt mixed with coconut oil and important oils. Regular kosher salt is simply as efficient as eradicating caked-on meals, and it’s method cheaper.


You can use any scrub brush to wash cast-iron pans so long as the bristles aren’t too stiff or tough, which might put on down the seasoning.

I examined just a few brushes marketed particularly to be used on cast-iron pans, and I favored each the Full Circle Tenacious C Cast Iron Brush, and the Lodge Care Scrub Brush. The Lodge has softer bristles should you’re involved about being too tough in your seasoning, however in my assessments the 2 brushes labored equally effectively.

Chainmail scrubbers

Some individuals like to make use of chainmail scrubbers to take away bits of stuck-on meals from their pans, however in testing two, the Knapp Made CM Scrubber and the Lodge ACM10R41 Scrubbing Pad, I didn’t discover them to be simpler than the strategies described above. If you apply an excessive amount of stress, you’ll be able to really scratch off your seasoning (as I did, woe is me!). For that cause, I discovered the chainmail scrubbers extra helpful for eradicating the crackly carbon buildup that may develop on the underside of pans after years of use than for on a regular basis cleansing.


Online cast-iron boards and weblog posts are filled with various recommendation about the very best oil to make use of for seasoning.

You can discover some oils marketed particularly for seasoning forged iron, however these are simply blends of standard cooking oils with fancy labels, so there’s no cause to spend more cash on them.

One different I examined, the Knapp Made Cast Iron Wax, comprises beeswax, but it surely didn’t season any higher than the opposite oils I examined. It’s costly, and it smelled strongly of beeswax (which gave an off-taste to our fried eggs), so I like to recommend sticking with the common oils listed above.

Seasoning sprays are oils in an aerosol can. They don’t prevent time or make seasoning the pan simpler since you continue to have to make use of a paper towel or rag to distribute the oil over the floor of the pan to create a good coating. You also needs to keep away from utilizing nonstick cooking sprays, akin to Pam, which have components that aren’t appropriate for seasoning.

  1. Eric Decker, professor and division head of the Department of Food Science on the University of Massachusetts Amherst, e-mail interview, July 29, 2020

  2. Kun Wang, assistant professor within the Materials Science and Engineering Department at Alfred University, Zoom interview, August 5, 2020

  3. Cheryl Mendelson, Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House (pp. 559, 560), November 4, 1999

  4. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen (p. 790), November 23, 2004

  5. Frequently Asked Questions, Lodge Cast Iron

  6. How to Clean Enameled Cast Iron, Lodge Cast Iron

  7. Rachel Elmkies, How To: Clean Stove Burners,

  8. Sheryl Canter, Chemistry of Cast Iron Seasoning: A Science-Based How-To, Sheryl’s Blog, January 28, 2010

  9. Sheryl Canter, Perfect Popovers (& How to Clean and Reseason Cast Iron), Sheryl’s Blog, January 7, 2010

  10. Cleaning and Restoration Methods, Wagner and Griswold Society

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