How to Clean and Season a Cast Iron Pan in a Few Easy Steps

Ready to learn the easiest methods to wash, dry, and season your cast iron skillet? It’s all easier than you think. 

  • By Jess Dang
  • October 4, 2022

Been a bit wary of cast iron skillets? I get it — they come with so many warnings. You can’t wash them with soap! Water will ruin them! Well, I’m here to bust those myths and help you not be intimidated by what to do with your cast iron skillet before using it. 

The steps for cleaning and seasoning cast iron pans are super easy. Plus, the seasoning on your cast iron is way tougher than you think — it’s the reason these pans have been passed on from generation to generation. A cast iron pan can withstand soap (and even metal utensils) if you handle them right. I know some folks will not believe me, but it literally says so on the Lodge website: “Contrary to popular belief, you can use a small amount of soap to clean cast iron cookware.” 

So let’s jump in. …

How to Clean Your Cast Iron Pan

Today’s soap formulas are less harsh than those in the past; don’t go overboard, but rest assured, your pan is not as high-maintenance as all those warnings have led you to believe. In fact, if there isn’t any food stuck on your pan, you don’t even need to clean it every time you use it. Just leave it be until it needs a good scrub, and then clean it using the easy steps below.

What You Need

  • Dish soap
  • Stiff brush or sponge
  • Dry dishcloth or paper towels

Cleaning Steps

The first thing you want to do is squirt just enough soap in your pan to scrub it out. Think gentle Perrier-level bubbles and not bubble bath–level bubbles. Also, if you don’t want to use soap, another way to wash a cast iron skillet is to mix a little bit of water with salt to create a salt scrub to clean the pan.

Once you’ve got your cleaning agent in the pan, use a sturdy brush like this skillet scrubber with scraper or a textured sponge like this eco-friendly scrubber sponge to remove food bits. You can also use a plastic scraper for any extra-stuck pieces of food, but make sure it doesn’t have sharp corners.

How to Dry Your Cast Iron Pan

The next crucial step to keeping your cast iron pan in good condition is to properly dry it. Since cast iron rusts pretty easily, make sure you don’t have the pan soaking in water or slowly drying on a drying rack. As soon as you are done rinsing the soap away, use a dishcloth (or paper towels if you don’t have one handy) to dry your pan immediately. Then pop the pan on your stovetop for a couple minutes to make doubly sure it’s completely dry.

My quick, 25-second Instagram video demonstrates just how easy it is to clean a cast iron pan:

However, if you do notice a little bit of rust at any point, you can simply scrub it off with steel wool. Then wash your pan again before drying and reseasoning it using the easy steps below. …

How to Season Your Cast Iron Pan

My cast iron skillet is my most used pan and permanently sits on my stovetop. I use it for everything from eggs, to sautéing vegetables, to searing a piece of steak — without sticking and burning. How do I achieve this? It comes down to 1) having the right cast iron pan, which I explain here, and 2) seasoning and reseasoning it as needed.

Even if you’re using a pre-seasoned cast iron skillet, I still recommend seasoning it before you put it to use. Seasoning is the process of baking oil onto a cast iron pan. You see, heating the pan and applying oil or some other fat to it will help retain a good nonstick surface.

Here is what you need and the easy steps to season your pan. …

What You Need

  • Cooking oil or other fat of your choice
  • Silicone brush
  • Sheet pan
  • (Optional) aluminum foil for easiest cleanup

Seasoning Steps

The first thing you’ll want to do is set your oven to 350F / 177C so it can heat while you prep your pan. After you’ve cleaned and dried the skillet using our instructions above, pour around a tablespoon or two of oil in and coat the whole inside surface using a silicone brush

Then place a sheet pan in the middle rack of the oven to catch the drips. (You can put aluminum foil down on the pan if you need an even quicker clean up.) Then all you have to do is pop your cast iron skillet onto the top rack upside down and bake for 1 hour. Make sure to let it cool in the oven, and that’s all there is to it! 

If you want a visual, this short Instagram video shows the easy steps to season (or reseason) your pan:

Don’t forget that if you don’t have any food caked on your pan, you don’t need to wash and reseason it at all. Just let the flavor and fat from your cooking absorb into the pan, which is honestly the best way to season it. However, you can always reseason your pan following the steps above anytime it’s starting to lose its sheen, you notice food sticking more, or the seasoning gets scratched.

One of the best things about a cast iron pan is that it gets better with age and lasts multiple lifetimes. If you want to learn how to get the most out of your pan, check out our articles on Essential Cast Iron Cooking Tips and The Best Cooktops for a Cast Iron Pan.

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