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How do you know cast iron is clean?

I bought a pre-seasoned cast iron grill pan (my first cast iron) and I'm having trouble cleaning it. I use hot water and a scrub brush but there always seems to be a layer of grease that doesn't come up. I know grease or oil is what seasons the pan but I feel like the pan's dirty because it's brown grease. After I've washed the pan should anything come off on my finger when I rub it? I'm sure I could get this grease off if I scrub enough but I don't want to scrub the seasoning off. Thanks in advance!

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  1. Just heat it on the stove, you'll ruin it with all that scrubbing. Get it real smoking hot and that will kill any bacteria.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Ida Red

      Clean it this way: hot water and gentle soap (bot detergent - it can be absorbed) - soak an hour then use a plastic or nylon scrubbie. Rinse well with hot water and dry thoroughly. Place on a low flame for a few minutes to comlete the drying. Rub with a clean, lint-free cotton or paper towel and a neutral oil such as grapeseed. At this point, you should not see any dirt on the cloth. If you still see dirt, repeat the process. The best way to keep your pan clean is to do this every time you use it. Never soak cast iron longer than an hour you could develop rust or the patina could start to come off. Personally, I prefer to get old cast iron with the patina established - at garage sales and thrift stores. That new Lodge Logic pre-seasoned has a weird surface.

    2. Wash with soap and water using a soft sponge or non-abrasive scrubber. Soap will take off any surface grease without damage to the surface. Don't scrub with anything more abrasive.

      3 Replies
      1. re: cheryl_h

        I've had good luck cleaning stubborn stuff out of my cast iron pan by filling it with a couple of inches of water, putting it on to boil, then dumping the water out and giving any remnants a swish from my dish brush. Stubborn stuck on stuff gets a little salt and hand scrubbing with a paper towel. No soap. I periodically do what Ida Red suggests and put it on the stove for a good empty heating, especially after I've cooked raw meats in it. It's now a few years old and is the most beautiful black, and things rarely stick.

        1. re: cheryl_h

          I use soap and water too, always have and always will. After washng I heat gently to evaporate any water then wipe and put away. None of my skillets or cornstick pans have suffered from this and some are over 30 years old.

          1. re: Candy

            I never use soap on my cast iron. Hot, hot, hot water and a good scrubbing followed by drying over a gas flame.

        2. i use my cast iron skillet mainly for corn bread but then i just wipe it out with a paper towel. Even if i do saute stuff in it I would not use soap and water. If you cure it well and then wipe it out and give it a little heat you be just fine. Don't fear the seaoned cast iron

          1. I sprinkle a moderate amount of Kosher salt in the pan and rub it around with a paper towel. The salt is gentle enough to act as a scrubber without ruining the seasoning of the pan, additionally it absorbs excess grease or what ever might be left over. I then give a quick rinse and throw it on the stove to dry it. I have been using this method for years and my pans have never had to be reseasoned.

            1. I see now we have a sharp division between the soap people and the water scrub/high heat people (with the salt meathod thrown in). I don't want to mess with anyone's tradition, but
              I'm still pushing my high heat meathod, it's kept my pans perfect all these years, is sanitary and most important, so easy.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Ida Red

                I'm with you on the high heat and hot water...I only use soap when I cook fish, and I worry about the fish flavoring the next meal. Then it's dry over high, and wipe with peanut oil while the pores are still open...If it's eggs or something, I just wipe it out, no water at all...

              2. After I'm finished cooking I pour water in (to stop smoking for instance). When I clean up I put the pan on high heat and get the water boiling, if there's stuff stuck on the pan I use the spatula to loosen it, scraping the bottom of the pan, then pour off the water and wipe with a paper towel on both sides. If it's really greasy I might do this boiling thing twice.

                I might have scrubbed, and used soap, in the past but I do not do this anymore. I do occasionally cure the pan, wipe with high smoke point oil and bake in the oven, but don't really find this necessary. I've been using my grandmother's old cast iron pans for 20 years, so perhaps there would be a difference with new pans.

                1. I never use soap in my cast iron pans, if you do you have to re-season them. If I have used the pan to fry something in and have a lot of grease residue, I'll use several paper towels to blot up the oil or grease so it doesn't go down the drain, then I simply use a scrub pad (for non-stick pans) to scrub out anything that is sticking to the pan, rinse with clean hot water and use a paper towel to dry it.

                  The idea of seasoning the pan is 1. helps keep it from rusting and 2. and helps minimize food from sticking to it.

                  I have read that cast iron pots and pans maintained in this way have never been associated in any cases of food poisoning.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: jackrugby

                    I have cast iron pans over 25 years old which have been cleaned with soap and water all this time and never been reseasoned. You can't remove the seasoned surface with soap, it needs something abrasive. My mother used my grandfather's cast iron wok for over 40 years cleaning it with soap which is what he used for decades. It works.

                    1. re: jackrugby

                      Any high heat will kill any bacteria, they're not really a worry anyway IMO.

                      Interesting about Cheryl's grandparents and soap, might have to try that.

                    2. As soon as I cleaned my year old cast iron griddle with soap and water, I saw rust spots. Never again, no more soap.