Cleaning Cast Iron Pans

Cleaning cast iron pans

I cook on cast iron pans just above every time I cook anything in the kitchen or on the grill. I use cast iron to fry, boil, simmer, bake, broil, roast, and grill. All of which means that my cast iron pans need to be cleaned practically every day. As promised in an earlier post, I’m sharing my process for cleaning cast iron pans.

Honesty time: I don’t always do the dishes immediately after the meal is over. I can easily stack pans neatly in the kitchen sink or leave them on the stove top for the evening before I get to cleaning in the morning. This comfort with a bit of kitchen disorder can leave me in need of extra effort to get my cast iron pans clean when I get to the washing-up. So, how do I wash my cast iron?

Cleaning Cast Iron Pans

The Cleaning Basics for Cast Iron Pans

Chainmail scrubber for cleaning cast iron pans
Chainmail scrubber for cleaning cast iron pans (which I call a metal dish cloth below)
  1. Run the kitchen tap until the water gets hot.
  2. Slip the dirty pan under the tap get rid of excess food or sauce.
  3. Turn off the tap, leaving a small puddle of water in the pan. Begin to scrub the pan with a metal dish cloth.
  4. Rinse the pan in a sink of water or under the tap.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 as needed until all the food is removed from both the insides and outsides of the pan.

An Extra Step for Cutting Grease

When the cast iron pan was used to cook something especially greasy, I go an extra step. I use a dish scrubber and liquid soap. Dish soap! On the cast iron pan! Yep, as it turns out, it’s not a big deal.

  1. Using a scrubber brush, scrub the inside of the cast iron pan, being sure to get those grease-cutting soap bubbles all over.
  2. Again, rinse the pan in a sink full of water or hold it under a running tap.
  3. Repeat steps 2 and 3 as needed.

A Pre-Step for Baked-on Mess

Sometimes, when the pan which I left out over night is super crusty with the baked or dried-on food from the night before, I boil water in the pan to soften everything up before starting the basics (above). I place the cast iron pan on the stove, pour in some water and turn on the heat. I let the water boil until the dried-on food has softened up a bit. Upon occasion, I’ll use a kitchen scrubber to gently loosen the gunk before the water boils.

Drying Those Pans – A Necessary Step

Cast iron will rust if pools or bubbles of water are left on the pan. So, drying after cleaning cast iron pans really is an important step.

My approach is to set the still-dripping, but clean, pan into the dish rack to let the excess water run off. Then I use a dark colored dish towel to dry off the pan completely.

Honesty time, part 2: I don’t always hand-dry my pans. Sometimes I leave them to air dry in the dish rack. Yes, this does leave spots of rust in the pan. You can read how I deal with that below.

Post Cleaning: A Quick Swipe of Olive Oil

I keep my olive oil in a bottle on the kitchen counter (yes, I use olive oil that often.) After I dry the cast iron pans (or after they have air-dried in the dish rack), I pour a wee bit of olive oil into the pan and rub it in with a paper towel or napkin. As I use these kind of pans all the time, I typically will use the same towel or napkin on several pans.

When a pan does end up with a little rust on it, rubbing a little extra olive oil on the pan more than takes it away. Problem solved!

With any excess oil wiped away, I place the pan back in my storage rack until the next time.

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