Skip to main content

A Guide to Properly Clean Cast Iron According to an Expert

How to Clean Cast Iron with Mike Whitehead of Finex Cast Iron Cookware
In the culinary world, cast iron is a tried and true format able to cook foods in a very specific and very attractive way. Yet, many of us don’t know how to work with the stuff properly, whether it’s seasoning a skillet or simply keeping it clean and in great working order.

We thought about talking to a chef but quickly remembered we could take it one step further. So, we reached out to our friends at FINEX who happen to specialize in beautiful cast iron cookery out of their Portland headquarters to get the lowdown on the basic rules of sanitation when it comes to this cook-approved alloy.

Related Videos
A hand cleaning a cast iron.

Our quest for clean answers involved Michael Griffin, the brand director at FINEX. He reminded us that cast iron is heavy-duty and can beautifully prepare any number of dishes, and the clean up is, thankfully, relatively easy. With that simplicity comes the added urge to use cast iron even more, whether you’re cooking in your kitchen or over a campfire.

How to Clean Cast Iron

Now, chances are you already have everything you need to keep cast iron clean. The same tools you use to cook can be utilized to wash. After all, with cast iron, it’s less about a squeaky clean regimen than keeping the layer of seasoning fresh and simply eliminating other build-up. “After cooking, scrape clean with your spatula, rinse with hot water, and completely dry,” Griffin says. “Don’t just air dry; warm your cast iron on the stove and oil it lightly if it’s lost its shine. Buffing a light coat of oil on the inside of your cookware with a paper towel or rag is best.”

Over time, or after cooking with certain ingredients, you may have to deal with more residue. In that case, you may need a few extra tools, but nothing out of the ordinary. “Don’t worry if you’ve got stubbornly stuck-on food,” Griffin says. “A chain link scrubber, rock salt, or a wood scraper can get it. Sticking is often a sign of thin seasoning. Try building it up again by buffing a thin coating of oil into the cooking surface and heating it until it smokes.”

Proper Cast Iron Upkeep

Alright, your skillet is clean, but there are some things you can do it keep it that way or at least make the next round of cleanup all the easier. “Unlike synthetically coated cookware, cast iron can, and often should, be used with metal utensils,” Griffin says. Using a sturdy metal tool will help the integrity of what you’re cooking and also keep your skillet from collecting too much gunk.

“A thin metal spatula, like a fish spatula, is a fantastic tool for cast iron cooking,” he continues. “Not only does it make flipping and serving foods easier, it also helps you keep the cookware clean while you’re cooking. Scrape stuck-on bits or get underneath steaks and other seared proteins with it so you can flip them with their seared crust — and flavor — intact.”

What to Avoid

There are a few things not to do when cleaning your cast iron cookware. Don’t put it in the dishwasher or soak it for prolonged periods. All that water can cause the vessel to rust. Many advocate against using soap when cleaning this metal, but there’s little harm in doing so, at least every now and again. The soap can put a dent in the layer of seasoning on your skillet, but that can easily be brought back to life with more cooking and some oil (and other fatty deposits). Every time you work with cast iron, you’re essentially adding another little layer of goodness to its seasoned base. Some soap and water will cut into that a bit, but you’d have to wash often and vigorously to get rid of it completely.

Editors' Recommendations

How to cook ribs in the oven: A step-by-step guide
Don't have a smoker? Don't fret; an oven can be an excellent tool for fall-off-the-bone ribs
how to cook ribs in the oven 2021

Now that summer is here; you may want to spend time looking for some mouthwatering rib recipes to try this season. But there is an age-old question that needs to be answered if you don’t have a grill: Can you cook ribs in the oven? The answer is simple: Yes, you can. After all, you can use your oven for so much more than baking. You can cook bacon in the oven, cook ham in the oven, or even, yes, cook steak in the oven.

We used to think that ribs are only properly prepared in one of the best smokers or on the grill (sometimes first placed in a slow cooker), ideally over a long period of time. However, when circumstances (time constraints, lack of tools or space, etc.) don’t allow for these methods, you can cook some fall-off-the-bone ribs in a conventional oven.
What do you need to cook ribs in the oven?

Read more
Best Cheap Espresso Machine Deals for October 2022
best home espresso machine

This is an excellent time of year to save on the best cheap espresso machine deals. Retail inventories are packed and right now you can good deals on some of the best home espresso machines available today, and we don't mean a deal on an $11,000 Porsche-inspired espresso maker. We scoured major retailers and manufacturers to find the best cheap espresso machine deals and will update this post regularly.
Today's Best Cheap Espresso Machine Deals

How to Choose an Espresso Machine
Espresso has an allure, almost a mystique for many people. If you have shopped in Williams Sonoma or other upscale kitchen and cooking supply store or appliance department, you can get the impression that producing an acceptable espresso shot combines both art and science. You may have felt that acceptable espresso requires rocket-scientist-level mastery of a machine with a five-figure price tag and more dials, settings, and spigots than a hospital life-support system. I confess I had that same general feeling of awe until one day on a hike. A fellow hiker pulled a small aluminum expresso maker and a simple Sterno stove from his pack during a lunch break. Within a few minutes he was sipping a fresh espresso double shot and wondering why the rest of us were looking at him with our jaws hanging.

Read more
Why the mugful of bacon grease in my fridge is pure magic
Cooking pro tip: Why you should keep your bacon fat
allen brothers bakers pepper bacon

Bacon grease, bacon fat, magical flavor balm from the gods — they all mean exactly the same thing. If you're from the south, chances are you already have a container of some sort in your fridge that houses this thing of pure beauty. If you aren't from the south, or a family member of mine, you may need a bit more explanation.
When I was a single 20-something living in San Francisco, I'd recently moved in with a few other girls I'd met through a Craigslist ad. True to roommate custom, we all had a shelf in the refrigerator to call our own. It didn't take long for my mug-o-bacon-fat to make an appearance on my shelf. A day or two after it did, I opened the fridge to find a post-it-note from one of my new roommates, stuck directly on top of my bacon fat mug. It simply read, "Lindsay...what the hell?" After a pretty big laugh, I explained my magic mug to my skeptical roommate. I can proudly tell you that that girl and I are still friends, and she now has a magic mug of her own. I like to think of it as God's work I'm doing.

What is bacon grease good for?
So many glorious old-fashioned southern recipes call for bacon grease, from cornbread to collard greens to popcorn. And if the recipe is old enough and clever enough to actually call for bacon grease, you'd better snatch that one up quick, because it's likely a fantastic one. While most of these recipes are in out-of-print, vintage cookbooks, you can still find them in thrift stores and on the shelves of your nearest mother or grandmother. So get hunting!

Read more