How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet With Salt

How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet With Salt
Cast iron pans retain and diffuse heat better than any other pan, and that translates into less fuel burned when cooking for long periods. The hot surface also imparts a yummy caramelized crust to many foods. However, cast iron requires special care. Cast iron pans are "seasoned," or coated with a thin layer of oil and then heated, creating a natural non-stick surface. Cast iron can't be soaked for long periods or put in the dishwasher. In fact, soap and water are enemies to cast iron.


Difficulty: Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup salt
  • Paper towels
  • Light cooking oil, such as canola oil
  • Spatula or cooking spoon
  • Pan scraper (optional)
Step 1
Clean the pan while it's still warm, if possible. This will make removing stuck-on food easier.
Step 2
Remove larger food bits with the spatula or spoon, taking care not to scratch the pan's surface.
Step 3
Pour in 1/4 to 1/2 cup of salt (kosher salt is recommended). The amount of salt needed will depend on the size of the skillet and how dirty it is.
Step 4
Rub the salt into the skillet with a paper towel, using the salt grains to scour away stuck-on food. If the skillet is relatively dry and not much oil was used in the cooking process, you will need to add little oil to help things along.
Step 5
If stuck-on food is stubborn, scrape it with a spatula or a pan scraper, an inexpensive but handy small plastic square with beveled edges and rounded corners that is specifically designed to scrape pans without damaging them.
Step 6
Rinse with hot water, if you have some available. If not, just wipe the skillet clean with paper towels.
Step 7
Dry the skillet thoroughly. Even a small amount of water left in the skillet will cause it to rust.
Step 8
If the skillet's surface has gotten dull, or it seems that the protective oil coating on the surface needs refreshing, put a small amount of oil in the skillet and spread it around the inside with a paper towel. Put the empty skillet back on a hot fire until the oil coating starts to smoke. The skillet will be re-seasoned. Let it cool, buff it with a paper towel, and store it away from moisture.

Tips & Warnings

If the skillet is really dirty or the food is really stuck, you can clean it with soap and water, scrub it with a steel wool pad or scratch-free cleanser, or even soak it for a few hours. Just be as gentle as possible and remember to re-season the skillet afterward. You won't ruin you pan by using soap and water on it as long as you re-season.
When seasoning your skillet, leave only a very thin coating of oil on the surface. A thick coating of oil can turn rancid and impart a terrible taste to your food. If you're using a skillet that hasn't been used for several months or more, wash it with mild soap and water and re-season before cooking.
Don't leave food, especially high-acid food, in your skillet for very long because chemicals in the food can damage the skillet's surface.
Although it's important to protect a skillet's oil coating, it's equally important to remove all food bits, as any food left behind can spoil and breed bacteria. Put the empty skillet on a hot fire for a few minutes if you think it needs to be sanitized.

Article Written By Marsha Maxwell

Marsha Maxwell has been a professional writer and editor for since 1988. Her work has appeared in "The Valley Journals," "Classical Singer," "NetWare Connection" and Trails. She also teaches writing at Salt Lake Community College. Maxwell has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Chicago.

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