There’s a lot of debate surrounding the best way to clean cast iron skillets. Do you use soap? Can you clean with oil? Should you even clean it at all?
Part of this debate stems from the fact that how you should clean your cast iron griddle depends on how dirty it is after you’ve cooked your meal. Read on to learn about the best ways to clean and care for your cast iron griddle, and never wonder again if you’re cleaning it the proper way.
The basics of cast iron
Cast iron is a heavy metal, and cast iron cookware is a great material to have in your kitchen. It holds heat well, browns meat beautifully, and is an effective, affordable alternative to stainless steel. It also usually comes “seasoned” with a coat of what basically amounts to fatty oil, which creates a nonstick surface perfect for cooking.
This Lodge cast iron griddle from Amazon
One of the only downsides of cast iron cookware is that you have to be careful about how you clean and tend to it. Since it is iron, it is easily susceptible to rusting, which would make it unusable. You also can’t use any cleaning agents or materials that are too abrasive, as this can remove the seasoned surface. This could damage the non-stick properties and potentially ruin the food you cook.
A little clean-up
If your skillet is just slightly dirty (i.e. just a few crumbs or residue), all you need to do is pour some oil into your skillet and wipe it down with a paper towel or dish rag. That’ll sufficiently clean it and leave it perfectly re-seasoned for your next cooking session.
A bigger mess
If you’ve got a mess that you would usually use soap and water for (i.e. some food caked onto the surface), it’s actually perfectly safe to use a gentle soap and non-scrubbing sponge on a cast iron skillet. Any mild kitchen soap won’t be strong enough to penetrate the seasoned surface. It’s safe to use to get a small mess off of your griddle.
These sponges from Amazon don’t have an abrasive side.
Perfect for cast iron.
The real threat of using this kind of cleaning method is actually the water. Use warm or hot water to clean, but make sure to dry very well in order to avoid rusting. A trick for getting your cast iron griddle as dry as possible is to put it back over a low flame for a few minutes to evaporate any leftover moisture. Also be sure to store your cast iron griddle in a dry, open place if possible.
Hang your cast iron skillets on this wrought iron pot rack from Amazon.
If you have a huge mess on your hands, like burned on food residue, you may need to do a little dry scrubbing. You can use a safe, gentle, food-based abrasive material such as coarse sea salt (Amazon) or cornmeal to clean your griddle. Sprinkle the abrasive into your cookware, then scrub away the residue with a paper towel. If needed, follow the soap and water instructions above, or just wipe down the griddle with a new coat of oil.
Post-cleaning care and maintenance
It’s very important to “re-season” your cast iron griddle after use. This basically means coating it with a new layer of oil that can polymerize and create a renewed nonstick surface. This step is really only necessary for the second or third scenarios described above, since cleaning it with oil in the first scenario takes care of the re-seasoning process.
These bamboo utensils from Amazon are perfect for cast iron cooking.
After drying your pan thoroughly, drop a bit of cooking oil into the pan and rub it into the cast iron cooking surface, making sure to rub out any spots that look particularly greasy. It should look like a brand new griddle after this imperative re-seasoning step. It’ll be ready to use again in no time!