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Feb 16, 2011 08:58 AM

Definitive answer on cleaning cast iron skillet

i've heard plenty of takes on this topic, ranging from "pour in boiling water right after cooking" to don't do anything besides wipe the pan. For me, it seems that cleaning it with water is preventing an sort of seasoning from developing in the very center of the pan.

anyone have a good take on this?

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  1. I use water to soak if necessary, and if the pan is really gnarly I scrub it with a paper towel and some coarse salt, then I dry it immediately. I haven't added any sort of 'seasoning' to this pan for years and years and it's smooth, non-stick, and perfect.

    Of course I only use it for frying meat, and occasionally for cornbread or bannock. Nothing else. I can't see why using water would prevent seasoning to occur in one specific part of the pan, unless it wasn't seasoned correctly to begin with.

    1. The idea of using a pan that only gets "wiped out" is so disgusting I can't even imagine it. So if I make a rib eye steak, and then deglaze the pan with some cognac, add some cream, roquefort and black pepper to make a sauce, I'm not going to wash that out? I scrub mine with soap and water and then put it back on the stove over the flame until it is dry. That's it.--use it for everything.

      1. I am sure you will get a ton of different answers. I maintain a stellar non stick, thick, dark black finish on all mine (I have three). I rarely ever have to completely re season (only when it starts to get so thick it peels off on the edges) maybe every year or two. This is key to cleaning method.

        I typically only use hot water and a nylon brush. The thick seasoning on mine allow me to easily brush off all food residue. This might not be possible if you don't have a thick seasoning already on it. IMO -If you have stuck on food that requires the use of abrasives or soap- your seasoning is not correct.

        Well loved, well used, older cast iron only needs a bit of hot water and a scrub/rinse.

        4 Replies
        1. re: sedimental

          I've read a lot about this "seasoning" peeling off. I've never had that problem and mine is also well loved, well used, older cast iron--but it demands soap and water and a good scrub.

          1. re: escondido123

            Yes, it happens sometimes. In the old days, they used to throw the pan in the fireplace and burn it down, then start over. Like many others, I really never use soap.

            I think I have had a few peels when I have had to soak them for awhile (or forgot about them soaking) or didn't dry them well enough. I am not obsessive about it.

            1. re: sedimental

              My mother has many cast iron skillets and when they became crusty she would put them in a wood bonfire to burn it clean then re-season.

              1. re: Groundhog.Judy

                That was a standard solution!

                The most I have ever done is to get them hot in my oven at over 500 degrees and burn off anything that looks a little cruddy or peely on the edges- wipe it out, then fry up some bacon and they are good as new....or as good as old? :)

        2. I use water to soak mine if there is browned residue remaining, such as when I make browned chicken thighs with garlic, mushrooms, and artichoke hearts. Then I rinse with warm water and a sponge, dry on the burner, and lightly oil with whatever oil is sitting there.

          After cooking bacon or other fatty items, I drain off remaining fat, wipe with paper towels, and call it a day.

          My cast iron pans are more than 25 years old, shiny black and non-stick however they don't have a "thick" seasoning that peels off. I guess I don't really know what that is. They work great for me, though.

          1 Reply
          1. re: tcamp

            tcamp, the same with mine. My Southern Mother (who is in Heaven now) taught me to wash them, heat them, and grease them lightly. I inherited some of her cast iron, and it is also black, shiny, and non-stick. I bought some new cast iron, and I seasoned it the same way....and it slowly became non-stick, black, and shiny too!

          2. Wash with water only, scrub with nylon brush. If anything still seems to be sticking, I use a little coarse salt and oil to scrub it. Followed by drying/oiling on a warm burner. And I'm very happy with the condition of my two. More recent aquisition Wagner Ware chicken fryer still not as black and non stick as one might like but I don't worry about rushing that - only time and use will accomplish it. I also do not experience a 'thick' seasoning that peels. Never actually seen a thick seasoning so I am not sure how that occurs.

            PS clearly there is no 'defiinitve' answer so you will probably have to experiment a little and decide which of the tried and true methods feels right to you