How to Clean and Season a Cast Iron Skillet

Cleaning and Seasoning Cast Iron the Right Way

Oct 5, 2017
Cast Iron Skillet
Heather Blackmore


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A cast iron skillet can last a lifetime—probably several if it’s passed from generation to generation. Here’s how to clean and season a cast iron skillet to keep it in the best possible condition.

Cast iron isn’t just renowned for its durability; cooking with it also comes with health benefits. Research has shown that cast iron infuses food with a healthy dose of iron. And take it from me, an anemic gal, cooking on a cast iron skillet is waaaay better than choking back liquid Geritol. It’s the most forgiving cooking utensil, able to withstand neglect and easily restored when it falls into the right hands. Anemic or not, an inexpensive and indestructible cast iron skillet deserves a space in every cook’s cabinet.

How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet

If your pan is in good shape, follow these instructions after each use. 


Wipe the pan clean with a paper towel, preferably while it’s still warm, which will make it easier to remove bits of food. Using a non-metal brush or non-abrasive scrubber, rinse the pan under hot water and give it a good scrub. Use a dollop of soap if needed and rinse well. NEVER allow a cast iron pan to soak. 

Dry the skillet thoroughly with a cloth or paper towel—drip drying is a no-no—then heat it on a medium-low burner to evaporate any remaining moisture. Rust will accumulate if water is allowed to sit on the pan’s surface. Add a half teaspoon of oil (I used canola) to the pan when it’s cooled but still warm. Using paper towels, spread the oil around so that the interior is coated. Continue to wipe down the pan with the oiled towels until the entire surface is smooth and there are no pools. Flaxseed oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, and corn oil will also do the trick. 

How to Season a CAST IRON Skillet

Most cast iron pans come with a factory seasoning that improves with regular use and proper care. Well-seasoned cast iron skillets naturally become non-stick. Buh-bye chemicals. Basically, the more you use it, the more non-stick it becomes. How does it work? When heated to its smoke point, oil or fat oxidizes and forms a Teflon-like layer that seeps into the pores of the pan, creating a slick surface known as seasoning. With repeated use, the seasoned layer builds and less oil is needed for cooking.  

Sometimes a pan will need a bit of TLC, especially if it’s gone unused, to bring its seasoning back up to snuff. Place the skillet over medium-high heat and get it good and hot. Using tongs, dip a paper towel in two tablespoons of oil and wipe the interior until it smokes and there’s no residue. Be sure to grasp the handle with a towel or oven glove. Repeat the smoking process three times, allowing the pan to cool a little between each application.  

Read more about why we love using cast iron for cooking!

About This Blog

Heather Blackmore is a stay-at-home mom with two teenage daughters who keep her on her toes. A former college rugby player, she’s continued her healthy, active lifestyle by focusing on the importance of movement, nutrition and teaching her children the value of hard work. For 20 years, she’s enjoyed writing for national and regional publications on a variety of family and home related topics. Blessed with a wicked green thumb and a determined spirit, Heather tends a perennial and vegetable garden in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. She writes about her garden successes, failures and observations on her blog Here She Grows.

Reader Comments

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cast iron cleaning & restoration

Here's kind of a fun trick. When you go to the flea market or a garage sale and you see a cast iron skillet--that looks beyond repair covered with years and years of greasy god-knows-what--
buy it cheap, then take it home and put it in your self-cleaning oven the next time you clean your oven.

All of that greasy superfluous mess will turn to ashes and you'll get to see that skillet in all its glory for the very first time.

That is brilliant! Thanks

That is brilliant! Thanks Suzanne.

Flaxseed oil

Use Flaxseed oil, toughest coating. Try to get the refrigerated kind.

Black flakes and charred meat

I seasoned and maintained a new cast iron skillet and it worked great for a bit then i made a dish and had really stuck food/burnt food in the middle. Now all but that middle spot is seasoned. Help me.... I really want to get this right. I love cast iron but seem to be cursed! Thanks

Hi Christian! I would try the

Hi Christian! I would try the reseasoning process as described in the article. Clean it up first, making sure not to use an abrasive scrubber, then heat and apply the oil with a paper towel held by tongs. Repeat. Let me know if that works.


How do I clean rust off of old cast iron pans?

Cleaning rust from cast iron

You can use a 50:50 blend of white vinegar: water. Let the pan soak in this vinegar/water solution for an hour (up to 4-6 hours if the rust is thick), then use fine steel wool or an SOS pad to scour away the rust. Rinse and dry thoroughly, then re-season the pan. For very badly rusted/gunked up cast iron, I've also used my gas oven's cleaning cycle to burn off all the 'gunk' and rust; let the pan(s) cool down, then use the vinegar/water trick to get rid of any flash rust, rinse well, and proceed to re-season. You can make some really ugly, badly mistreated cast ironware look absolutely beautiful, but it will take some effort. Once done, however, you've got a kitchen tool that will outlive you and probably your kids!

Flaking outside of Cast Iron Skillet

The outside of my cast iron skillet have this burned up crud on them that flakes off when it gets hot. Any special care needed, or can I just scrub it away?

Also, I too am curious about seasoning stainless steel pans. I thought I saw something about this on a TV cooking show.

Removing heavy crud/gunk from cast iron

For very badly rusted/gunked up cast iron, I've successfully used my gas oven's cleaning cycle to burn off all the 'gunk' and rust; let the pan(s) cool down in the oven to warm room temperature, then soak for an hour, or longer, in a 50/50 white vinegar/water solution (use a plastic or ceramic vessel for the soaking). Once the vinegar/water removes any flash rust (you can help this along with some fine steel wool), make sure to rinse thoroughly, then dry, and proceed to re-season your pan(s).

Other cast iron pans to season

Can I season the other (porcelain) pans or doesn't it make any sense?

Seasoning cast iron

Jim, if you're talking about enamel coated cast iron skillets and dutch ovens, no, you don't need to season them. The coating makes seasoning unnecessary.


+ a 4-season guide to raising chickens!

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