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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 from my book “Modern Pioneering” 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 from my book “Modern Pioneering” 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!!!

How to Clean Cast Iron:

For more Modern Pioneering tips like this, subscribe to my free YouTube series! And be sure to leave a comment there to let me know what you think.


  • Janet Kemper
    Posted July 30, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    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!

  • Jim Shrader
    Posted July 30, 2013 at 4:06 pm

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


  • Amy
    Posted July 31, 2013 at 9:21 am

    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?

    • Post Author
      Posted July 31, 2013 at 2:10 pm

      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!

  • John Athayde
    Posted July 31, 2013 at 10:17 am

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

  • Jessica Limmer
    Posted August 1, 2013 at 10:47 am

    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!

    • Post Author
      Posted August 1, 2013 at 7:16 pm

      Yes that will work, heat will kill the germs, so will the salt!

  • susan
    Posted June 11, 2014 at 7:08 am

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

    • Meri M
      Posted June 11, 2014 at 2:08 pm

      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.

  • Roy
    Posted March 7, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    Great stuff, Georgia. But how do you clead those awful old caste iron skillets and Pans that you find at the Flea markEt Or in your grandFathers barn? Well, i know.

    After scrubbing anD scrubbiNg a rusty old 27″ caste iron kettle i wanted to use for a batch of frijole beaNs, i put it on the tripod over a nice set of coals and brought five pounds of beans to a boil. It Developed the prettiest 2″ head of bright purple foam you have ever seen! That batch of beans wAs ruined, but i kept them at a slow boil for an hour and a half and kept the water level as close to the top as i could.

    Dumped that batch in a ditch and you WOULDN’T believe how clean, slick, and like new the inside of that old kettle was. Still had time to Cook another five pounds before the feral hog hams were done.

    Frijole beans can save the world – and your old caste iron cookware.


  • Toni Taylor
    Posted November 24, 2020 at 5:09 am

    Thank you for the tips on cleaning and seasoning. What brought me to your site was wanting more information on where to buy the beautiful pans featured in the demo on cleaning and seasoning.

    • Georgia Pellegrini
      Posted August 9, 2021 at 1:33 pm

      Hi there, are you referring to the episode you saw of my show “Modern Pioneering?” Please visit the show website http://www.modernpioneering.com and you’ll get all kinds of info on each episode, including a link to buy the pans under the show section. Enjoy!

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