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soap sacrilege (moved from Home Cooking)

Does everyone REALLY not use soap on their cast iron pans? I just bought the pre-seasoned Lodge set and I keep balking at the no soap cleaning protocol. Do I just have to suck it up and get accustomed? Does the pan never start to smell rancid or anything?

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  1. heat kills bacteria. After I'm done cleansing my pan( without soap) I lightly wipe it with oil and heat it up again to both keep my seasoning and to kill anything that might be there

    1. I scrub mine out with detergent and rinse well and set over a flame to dry. If it looks like it needs it (rarely) I will wipe on a little lard and rub it well.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Candy

        dumb question: by detergent do you mean the liquid stuff or the granular stuff?

        something else I don't understand... are you able to use any kind of sharp utensil on cast-iron? someone told me that it will scratch off the seasoning, so to avoid it. So does this mean that the castiron is indestructible but that the seasoning is not?

        1. re: alex8alot

          The only abuse it doesn't like it the soap/detergent. I have used the dish det on cast iron, GENTLY, and the seasoning has not washed out, but I wouldn't do it often. (Reseasoning by heating the way coastie and Candy describe, above, after that wash) I've found, though, that cooking acidics, such as ANYTHING with tomato, will strip that seasoning fast as a wink. Scratching with harsh utensils?...that'd be a neat trick, I think.

          AnnieG

          1. re: alex8alot

            The liquid stuff and a brush. Some crud is just going to stick and scrubbing with salt is not going to remove it. I've had most of my cast iron for over 30 years and it has not suffered a bit. When it gets too gunky and crudded I run it through the self-cleaning cycle of my oven and start over. It does not take too much work to get it back to perfect again.

        2. I use Dawn regularly, and I have a fabulous old cast iron pan I bought (at a garage sale) that used to belong to the grandmother of someone I worked with. I'm guessing the pan is at least 50 years old! I do dry it immediately after cleaning well (rinse with cold water), and will rub some vegetable oil into it as needed. Sometimes I will scrub it with salt, but that is rare. After once burning some milk in it, I did reseason it in the oven. The poster who said tomato sauce will remove the seasoning is right, as well. So far, milk and tomato sauce are the only things I found that will completely remove the seasoning..
          Not sure if this holds true with a new pot, but that's what works with my old one.

          2 Replies
          1. re: mschow

            how funny that the two opposite things would do the same damage! Why is milk so deadly, is it the burnt sugar in it?

            1. re: alex8alot

              I make caramel in a cast iron skillet and have no problems with clean up.

          2. I cooked fish in my cast iron pan last night. I used a smidge of liquid dw soap (Dawn) with a scrubby to clean it and get rid of the fish smell. I reseason the pan once in a while in the oven with a little oil--sometimes I scrub it with kosher salt.

            1. There is a huge to-do and lots of great tips about cast iron and seasoning and cleaning in the cookware board. I believe it has something about crisco in the title.

              1. Buncha foodie "cast iron snobs"!

                Scrub it if you must, you can always re-season (and that just takes cooking something with some fat or oil content and then simply wiping and/or rinsing).

                Every now and then you're gonna get something tenaciously burnt on and it will take chemicals and/or violence to get it clean. That's life in the trenches, live with it!

                I do find that, short of major cleanup surgery, detergent is less effective than a long soak or a soak started with a burner-top boil with plain water. But the pros, on their cast-iron-top grills, don't hesitate to use grill scrapers made of foamed glass, which skillets (with their walls) are too small to allow, and cleaners that are almost straight lye, and anything else that gets the cleanup done.

                2 Replies
                1. re: wayne keyser

                  ok, all of this helps. For some reason I thought that you couldn't soak with water for long periods since everyone seems to stress the importance of immediately drying the things.

                  1. re: alex8alot

                    I dry my cast iron items on a hot burner after wiping dry so I don't have to clean off rust the next time I use them.

                2. Of course you can use soap. I don't know where that silliness comes from. Who wants their morning eggs tasting like last night's fish?
                  I use Dawn. Or I let the pot soak for a few minutes with just plain water and then hit it with a stiff scrub brush. No, you can't let it soak for hours or overnight because it will rust. But even then you can reseason it. Some of my family's heirloom cast iron was underwater for weeks after Katrina and I restored it all from total rust.
                  My cast iron is well seasoned so I can cook things with tomatoes. After I do, the pans sometimes need a little touch-up, so we have bacon and everything is back to normal. Terrible price to pay, isn't it?
                  The very best thing that you can do for your cast iron is to use it. Cook everything in it. Just like all of our grandmothers did. Day in and day out. Pretty soon it will be part of your life and you'll stop fretting.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: MakingSense

                    I don't have any problem soaking for hours, even (if I get lazy) a couple of days - assuming, of course, that the pan is already seasoned - I wouldn't soak "naked" unseasoned cast iron, or fail to dry it, but once it's coated with and permeated with fat, I find it to be fairly resistant to water damage.

                    And, again, if it does pick up a bit of rust, a little scrub and some bacon and you're back in business.

                    1. re: MakingSense

                      I agree--the more you use it the better it gets.

                      1. re: MakingSense

                        That's not as bad as when the pancakes smell like last night's fish.

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          I have quite an ancient cast-iron skillet that gets scrubbed out only with hot water -- never anything else. Never had to re-season. Pretty tough for flavors to permeate into solid iron.

                          1. re: mpalmer6c

                            I usually only rinse mine out as well if I've only cooked something that isn't strong-flavored or hasn't left a big mess. But sometimes I have to use soap.

                            Here's the thought process. In a well-seasoned pan, the food never touches the cast iron because the pores are sealed and a coating has been built up of carbonized fat. (That sounds kinda icky.) The seasoning layer is a constantly-changing work in progress so as you cook you're constantly adding to it, including with new cooking oil that might have heavy flavors of, say, frying fish. You don't cook that long enough for all of it to carbonize completely, although some of it will, but it will leave the oil-borne flavors in the pan in the uncarbonized oil. You have to wash out what didn't carbonize so that the fish flavor doesn't carry over to the next morning's pancakes. Water doesn't get that oil out without a little soap.

                        2. soap is fine, but i think since cast iron is porous it can soak some up which can affect the flavor of your food. soap will also wear the seasoning a bit (less than cooking tomatoes!), but the beauty of cast iron and spun steel pans is that if you wear out the seasoning, you can re-season them pretty easily.

                          when my cast iron is really dirty or has something stuck on (very rare), i wash it using a stiff brush and a small bit of liquid soap, then set it on a hot burner for a couple of minutes to dry. while warm, i rub a small amount of vegetable oil or peanut oil into the pan. if its not really dirty, i just use hot water and the brush. It is important to wash your skillet pretty soon after you cook in it; don't let it soak in the sink for a long time.

                          salt also works but i use it more often on the office coffee pot than anything else. its convenient for washing dishes when camping, if you have salt around. i think people use salt because it will affect the flavor of your food less than soap, and they are not wrong but I use soap so rarely it doesn't seem to make a huge difference.

                          1. I use dishwashing liquid, hot water and either a nylon scrubber sponge (on the skillet) or wire brush (on the stovetop grill) and neither is worse for the wear. Just put it away dry and put some oil on it if you have scrubbed too hard. I hate the taste of last night's fried food in my eggs, and I do have some concerns about the gunky build-up of food -- especially on grill pans. Heat does kill bacteria, but I don't like cooking with dirty pots or pans. For me, it's a hygiene issue. The fanatics will surely disagree, but I am telling you that my pans are in such good shape, they will probably be left in my will. Soap is not the enemy.

                            1. I have never used soap on my cast iron pan. It was made in 1942, and I'm hoping to keep it unsoaped until I die. If the hearth is the center of the house, my cast-iron skillet is the center of the hearth. It has never smelled rancid.

                              So yes, there are some of us out there who don't soap. Although it sounds like we're in the minority.