How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet

castironskillet

Betty asked: How do I get grease build up off the outside of a black cast iron frying pan? There is a terrible build up of grease on my black cast iron frying pan. I’ve tried scraping it off, burning it off and scouring it off to no avail. Please help.

Cast iron skillets are prize cookware for many home cooks and professionals alike. Whether it’s your first skillet, or one that has been handed down for generations, the quality never seems to diminish. With use, like any other piece of cookware, grease build-up can become a problem. Follow these steps to clean either the inside or the outside of your skillet and keep it working great for many meals to come.

You Will Need:

  • Boiling water
  • Soft scrubbing tool, such as a nylon scrubber (nothing too abrasive)
  • Wooden spoon/spatula
  • Salt
  • Cooking oil
  • Metal wool
  • Chemical cleaners (ex: Bar Keepers Friend, Comet, Ajax)

Steps to Clean the Skillet:

 

There are several methods you can utilize, depending on the severity of the build-up on the pan and the materials you have available. Choose the one that works best for you or work your way down the list until you pan is as clean as you’d like.

  1. Boiling water is one of the simplest cleaning methods and can be very effective. Begin by boiling water.
  2. Carefully pour it over the burnt area, or fill up the inside.
  3. Scrub the food and build-up away using a soft scrubber, such as a nylon scrubber. Use caution not to burn your hands.
  4. If the build-up is inside of the pan, place it back on the burner and allow the water to continue to boil as you scrape the pan with a spoon or spatula.
  5. Repeat as necessary until all of the food is gone.
  6. Dry completely before putting the pan away.
  7. If a more abrasive cleaner is required, try pouring salt into the pan. Scrub with a soft cloth or scrubber. The salt will provide the extra abrasion needed to break through the build-up. You can also add in some cooking oil with the salt.
  8. If the problem is severe, you may need to resort to stronger cleaning methods. In this case, apply a chemical cleaner such as Comet or Ajax and scrub with a nylon scrub pad. If the a stronger scrubber is necessary, try steel wool.
  9. Clean the pan completely with soap and water after the build-up is removed.
  10. Dry the pan completely and re-season with corn oil or melted lard.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • Cast iron will rust if left wet. Always dry it completely prior to putting it away.
  • If the inside of the pan is scrubbed with soap or any kind of cleaner, it will need to be re-seasoned before use.
  • Some have had luck spraying oven cleaner on the outside of the pan and placing it inside of a large Ziploc bag for a couple of hours. Remove it from the bag and scrub with a scrub pad. Ensure that all of the cleaner is removed before you re-season.

 

Comments

  1. ECT says:

    I have tried the daily oven cleaner (used for cold ovens) on the exterior of my cast iron, and it works, however it takes several applications and a heavy scraper if build-up is severe. Do not use the scraper on the interior/cooking surfaces. I have not tried placing it in a sealable plastic bag. The idea does make sense.

  2. Peter says:

    The question involved buildup on the outside, but the answer deals mostly with buildup on the inside. Inside buildup is an easy problem compared to the thick coating of burned-on grease (not food) that occurs around the outside bottom rims of iron cookware. I have tried all but the oven cleaner method (that one does not seem seem safe enough to be a better idea than buying a new skillet).

  3. Maria says:

    I have seen my mom use the oven cleaning setting on the stove to clean her pots. They come out very clean. It seems the extreme heat burns away the built up greases and grime.

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