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“How to Clean Cast Iron”

One of my girlfriends wrote me a panicked email recently with full photos of her new cast iron skillet that she had received as a wedding gift. She had been cooking with it happily and running it through the dishwasher after each use, and all of the sudden it just wasn’t working well anymore. Food was burning and sticking, and it was all a hot mess.

“Oh honey,” I said. “We need to talk.” Then I sent her the step-by-step instructions (to be published in my next book!) so she could revive her skillet from dish washer death.

Then, a few weeks later, I was visiting a guy friend ‘o mine and he showed me how he had “ruined his favorite pan,” also a skillet. He had been cooking chicken, walked away and all of the sudden there was smoke filling the kitchen and some crazy burned bits on the bottom of his skillet that he couldn’t seem to remove.

“Oh honey,” I said. “We need to talk.” Then I sent him the step-by-step instructions (to be published in my next book!) so he could revive his skillet from burnt chicken death.

I’ve started to realize that a lot of people don’t realize that you’re not supposed to let your cast iron skillet touch soap or water. No, honey, no! The more you cook with it, the more seasoned it becomes. Water and soap strip it of its wonderful coating that make it a joy to cook with.

So, I thought I’d do a little video how-to for you so we can save the skillets of the world together. I love them too much to let them meet their fate in a dishwasher.

Viva la cast iron skillet!!!

PLEASE NOTE: To watch a crisp, clean HD version of this video, press play, then click on the wheel icon on the lower right and select 720HD.

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  1. Janet Kemper says:

    Thanks so much for this! I have a great cast iron pan that my husband keeps putting in the dishwasher.. I also have a great cast iron dutch oven that was passed down from my great great grandmother….I love it!

  2. Jim Shrader says:

    I mostly agree, but offer science to back the claim that the type of oil matters.


  3. Do you do the 1 cup of salt trick every time you use the cast iron pan, or just when there’s a lot of grit left over? Also, when I make bacon in my cast iron pan, I tend to wipe out the grease and then just leave it. Totally unsanitary?

    • Georgia says:

      Just use the salt trick when there is a lot of grit that needs cleaning. The rest of the time just wipe it out! The bacon grease/wipe out method is totally great!

  4. John Athayde says:

    Salt side worked well. Oven reseasoning hit about 20 minutes before it started smoking. Too much/too little oil (standard vegetable oil)

  5. Jessica Limmer says:

    OK, so if you don’t have grit, but want to be sure to sterilize your pan after say, cooking meat or something (sorry, germophobe here), can you wipe it out and then heat it on the stove top to dry and kill germs?
    I love the video by the way, there is so much random and conflicting info about cast iron. Just trying to take good care of my pans!

  6. This is great, but how do you actually clean the pan after cooking something?

    • Wipe with a dry paper towel, and use a bit of kosher salt to scrub if needed. If you have a good seasoning already, you won’t need the salt. That’s it. Because each time you cook you are supposed to preheat the pan over med heat, the heat sterilizes the pan before food touches it.