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How to Clean a Cast Iron Pan

How to Clean a Cast Iron Pan

Last updated on 5/19/2022

Whether it’s been passed down through generations or just recently purchased, a cast iron grill pan is a vital tool to have in your kitchen. But once service is over, do you know how to properly clean your cast iron grill pan? With the right care, these pans can outlast even your most durable non-stick or stainless steel pans. After cooking with cast iron, follow these steps on how to clean and season a cast iron skillet to ensure your sturdy cast iron stays a staple in your commercial kitchen.

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How to Clean a Cast Iron Grill Pan

Check out our tutorial for a visual demonstration on cleaning a cast iron grill pan:

How Do You Clean a Cast Iron Pan?

Below are the best ways to clean a cast-iron pan after cooking:

older cast iron grill pan and utensils

How to Clean Cast Iron with Salt and Water

Because maintaining your cast iron’s seasoned surface is important, it makes sense why many chefs reach for kosher salt instead of detergent when cleaning. The coarseness of kosher salt offers an abrasive cleaning solution that helps rid your pan of stuck-on particles. Often considered the best way to clean a cast-iron skillet, here’s how to use salt and water to effectively scrub your pan.

  1. Allow the pan to cool to the touch, but do not let it cool completely.
  2. Generously cover the surface with coarse kosher salt.
  3. Add a small amount of hot water to the surface, so the salt sticks together to form a paste-like texture.
  4. Use a sponge to scrub the salt around the pan, getting in between the ridges and all around the sides.
  5. Rinse the pan with hot water to remove salt and debris. Repeat if necessary.

How to Clean Cast Iron with Salt

If you’re a firm believer in keeping your cast iron far away from water, this method may be perfect for you. It offers the same abrasive scrubbing as the method above, which makes it effective for combating stuck-on food.

  1. Sprinkle the top of the pan with a generous amount of coarse kosher salt.
  2. Use a folded paper towel to rub the salt into the stuck-on food.
  3. Add more salt as needed and continue to scrub the pan with the salt and paper towel.
  4. Using a new paper towel, do one more wipe down and dump all residue and salt into the trash.

How to Clean Cast Iron with Soap

Just as your cast iron has been passed down over the years, so has the idea that you should never use soap with it. When done right, however, soap and water can be an effective method for removing rust or cleaning brand-new cast iron. Because this method can break down and remove the flavor-enhancing seasoning you’ve built up over multiple uses, it is recommended you use the following method only when necessary.

  1. Place a small amount of non-abrasive soap or detergent in the middle of your grill pan.
  2. Using steel wool, a scrubber, or a sponge, scrub down all surfaces on the pan with soap and a small amount of hot water.
  3. Rinse the grill pan with hot water.
  4. Take a sponge or non-abrasive pad and do one more scrub around the pan with soap.
  5. Rinse off any remaining soap residue.

How to Clean Cast Iron with Boiling Water

If you’re short on supplies or your pan contains a lot of large food particles, this simple method may work best for you.

Note: this method will only work with grill pans that have tall sides to contain the water.

  1. Set your grill pan back on the stove and fill it with about two to three inches of water.
  2. After a few minutes of boiling, food particles should begin to float to the surface.
  3. Use a spatula and scrape between the ridges to loosen up any excess stuck-on food.
  4. Allow the pan to cool for a few minutes, and then dump water and residue down the drain.
  5. Rinse out the empty pan with hot water.
  6. Use a dry paper towel to wipe away any remaining food particles.

How to Season a Cast Iron Grill Pan

a seasoned cast iron grill pan with steaks

Below is the best way to season a cast-iron skillet:

  1. After cleaning your cast iron, set it on the stovetop or in an oven set to 450 or 500 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure any remaining water is evaporated.
  2. Take a paper towel and thoroughly rub a neutral oil or shortening of your choice over the entire pan. Be sure to get the cooking surface, sides, bottom, and handle.
  3. Tear off another paper towel and wipe away excess oil.
  4. Let the skillet sit on the stovetop until it begins to smoke. If you're using the oven, turn it off after an hour and allow the skillet to cool in the oven.

What you do after cleaning your cast iron skillet will determine how long it lasts in your kitchen. Because cast iron is especially susceptible to rust, you must make sure it is bone dry before storage.

Best Oil for Seasoning Cast Iron

The best oil to use for seasoning cast iron is a high smoke point oil, such as canola, vegetable, grapeseed, and even lard. These oils are also inexpensive and have a mild taste, so they shouldn't affect the flavor of your cooking.

Using flaxseed oil to season a cast iron skillet is a hotly debated topic. It is a great drying oil and can leave a nice, sturdy polymer network chain which creates a harder and smoother surface on your cast iron pan. However, many flaxseed oil users have reported that flaxseed oil can flake off after use. Another downside is that flaxseed oil is expensive, and you will need many coats of this oil to fully season the cast iron pan.

Cast Iron Grill Pan Maintenance

No matter what method you use to clean a cast iron grill pan, here are a few tips for increasing the life of your cast iron:

  • Never leave water in the pan or allow it to soak because this can cause rusting.
  • Warping may occur if you allow the hot pan to come into contact with cold water. To avoid this, allow the pan to cool to the touch first, or clean it with very hot water.
  • If you don’t wipe away excess oil when seasoning, your pan can be left with a sticky coating. When possible, opt for solid shortening.
  • If your cast iron grill pan includes a lid, do not store it with the lid on. This can trap moisture from the air between the lid and pan, which may result in rust.
  • When cleaning your pan in the sink, line the sink with towels to prevent scratching on the bottom of your pan.
  • Make your oven as hot as possible when re-seasoning the pan. This allows the oil to pass its smoking point and begin to break down, which will bond it to the cast iron, creating a smooth surface.
  • When reseasoning in the oven, set the skillet upside down and place foil underneath to allow excess oil to drip off during this process.

No matter what method you think is best to clean a cast iron grill pan, be sure to stay consistent and diligent with your after-cooking care. When cast iron pans are well preserved, they only get better with age. Build up years of flavor-enhancing seasoning to produce delicious food guests will come back to time and time again. 

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