Everybody needs a cast iron skillet!

Care and Maintenance

First, Do No Harm...

A less is more approach to daily cleaning and maintenance is best. Use the least aggressive method that gets the job done. Only escalate to a more aggressive approach when necessary.

[Less aggressive]
  1. Wipe the cookware clean using a damp-dry dish towel or paper towel. Dry it thoroughly afterwards. A lot of people heat a skillet on the stove top or in the oven to make sure it is 100% dry. If you do that, use low to medium-low heat. High heat can cause the iron to expand unevenly, increasing the chance of cracking the cookware.
  2. Boil water in the cookware to loosen stuck on food particles; gently scrap with a spatula to break the food particles loose. Afterwards wipe with a clean towel and thoroughly dry the cookware.
  3. Clean the cookware using hot soapy water and a soft cloth, sponge, or brush. Rinse and dry. Lodge has a video of this.
  4. Americas Test Kitchen recommends heat some oil in the pan and use a cup of salt and paper towels to scour the pan.
  5. Use hot soapy water and a stainless steel scrubbie to clean the surface. Apply the least amount of force possible. Abrasive scrubbing will damage the seasoning. Do not use green plastic scrubbies as they have embedded compounds that can damage the seasoning. Thoroughly dry after cleaning.
[More aggressive]

After the cookware is clean and dry you might choose to apply a drop or two of cooking oil, spread it evenly across the surface, and then wipe off as much as possible using a dry cloth. Your pan should end up perfectly dry to the touch, not sticky or tacky.

Avoid...

  • Abrasive scrubbing tools
    • Green plastic scrubbies
    • Copper scrubbies
    • Steel wool, SOS pads, or Brillo pads
  • Prolonged contact with water.
    • Do not 'soak' your cast iron cookware. Dry it immediately after contact with water.

Let the seasoning build slowly, over years of use.

It is tempting to leave a thick coat of oil on your cookware. Don't do it. It is okay to apply a thin coat of oil after the cookware is clean, but use a clean cloth and wipe off as much of that oil as you can. Your cookware should feel dry to the touch - not sticky.

Below is an abbreviated set of illustrations used for cleaning up after cooking an pineapple upside down cake.

Fruit, nuts, sugar, and butter are cooked in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop. Batter is added and the skillet is baked in the oven until done.

Carefully lift the skillet off of the cake.

The skillet has some gooey residue that should be cleaned right away.

Cleaning the skillet starts with heating water in it.

Heat water in the skillet. Gently scrape the sides and bottom of the skillet with a spatula. I used a metal spatula here, but wood is a safer material. Use a light motion that does not abrade the seasoning.

Finish cleaning by hand with a cloth and (if necessary) soapy water - no abrasive pads. Lightly coat with oil.

Pour the water off. If necessary scrub lightly with a non-abrasive cloth and a bit of soap. Rinse, dry the skillet by hand, then heat on the stovetop until all moisture is gone. Lightly coat with vegetable oil, then wipe off as much of that oil as possible.

Delicious!