How to Clean and Season Your Cast Iron

Cast iron is a heavyweight champion in many kitchens. It has been around for centuries and, as cookware goes, it may be the most durable and versatile. From searing steaks to sizzling fajitas, it’s a staple in many homes. 

A bit of care and maintenance will keep the seasoned finish of cast iron and ensure it lasts forever. 

To soap or not to soap: that is the question.

The big debate is: soap or no soap. A drop of soap on a cast iron pan could be grounds for divorce in some households. One thing we can all agree on, is: NO DISHWASHERS.

cast iron cleaning

First, let’s talk about the no-soap method. The thought here is that soap breaks down fat, and since the seasoning on your cast iron pan is made of oil (aka fat), the soap must break down the seasoning. So no-soapers will usually wash their pans with just hot water and a stiff scrub brush. For stuck-on bits, you can either use some coarse salt for abrasion, or heat up the pan on your stove with some water in it, and stir with a wooden spatula until these bits come loose.

Now, let’s talk about the soap method. The science here is that the seasoning is made up of layers and layers of oil cooked at a high temperature, which transforms it into a plastic-like non-stick coating. The technical term here is that the oil is POLYMERIZED. So as long as you have sufficient seasoning on your pan, a little bit of mild soap shouldn’t hurt it. 

It should come as no surprise to you that House Work is TEAM SOAP (sorry, no-soapers!).

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We used Lodge pans (USA) (Canada) in our tests, which come pre-seasoned.

3 Steps to (Properly) Clean Cast Iron

Step 1 – Wash: 

Hand wash using soap (blue Dawn® is our favorite) and scrub away baked on foods with a stiff scrub brush. Rinse well.  Do not use abrasive cleaners or metal scrubbers.

For stubborn bits, simmer some water in the pan and scrape them off with a wooden or plastic scraper, then rinse. 

Do not let the pan soak in water. Water + iron = rust.

Step 2 – Dry: 

Using a clean tea towel or paper towel, dry thoroughly to prevent rust. 

Optional: warm up on the stovetop on low heat for a few minutes to ensure it’s bone dry.

Step 3 – Oil: 

To maintain the seasoning between uses, buff a little bit of cooking oil into the entire pan (top, bottom, sides and handle) with a paper towel after each clean. 

Optional: You can warm the pan on the stove again to bind the oil to the pan and to ensure the oil doesn’t go rancid in between uses.

How to Season Your Cast Iron

If you are finding that your food is sticking to the pan, it may be time to re-season your cast iron. Here’s how.

cast iron cleaning
  1. Rub the pan all over (all surfaces) with oil – vegetable or canola work great.
  2. Buff in the oil until there is no excess – pools or drips of oil can create hardened droplets.
  3. Place the pan upside down in a preheated 450 degree oven for 30 minutes, with a baking sheet on the rack below to catch drips.. 
  4. Remove the pan from the oven. (IT’S HOT: USE CAUTION)
  5. If there isn’t a sheen to the surface (indicating it’s non-stick), you may need to repeat this process a few times. 

Sear-iously folks, use this guide to help keep your cast iron cookware looking and performing at its best. You will continue to impress your friends and family with the amazing flavors that cast iron brings to your dishes for many more years to come.

– Denise and Becky @GoCleanCo

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