How to clean a cast iron pan

Read on for our easy guide for how to clean a cast iron pan, season it, and use it for years to come.

Updated

Orange wok on a wooden table

Key steps

  • Start by washing and drying the pan.
  • Use an oil like vegetable oil to rub the pan surface.
  • Buff the oil away until it’s no longer greasy.
  • Heat at around 446°F for a half hour.
  • Oil, buff and heat your pan 3-4 times.
  • Now you can cook with your pan!

A cast iron pan is a solid investment for any kitchen. As well as having a long lifespan, they're easy to clean and free from chemicals; but how to clean yours so that you can keep on making delicious meals? This article will detail how to season a cast iron pan to maintain its good quality for years to come. For more kitchen and homeware care tips why not check out our guide for how to clean cloudy glasses.

Whilst you can use an oil to season your cast iron pan, for the best results and perfect finish we recommend using vegetable oil or melted shortening.

How to clean a cast iron pan: do you need to season every time you clean?

Understanding how to clean cast iron is easy... you want to wash the surface with water! Whilst you can use a small amount of soap, to save you having to season the pan every time you clean simply follow these steps for cleaning cast iron:

  1. Wipe the surface using kitchen paper to remove excess food and oil. This is best done whilst the surface is still warm.
  2. Rinse under hot, running water.
  3. Using a non-abrasive brush, remove any traces of food on the surface.
  4. Rinse one last time to remove any lingering residue.
  5. Leave to fully dry before using your cast iron pan again.

Cast iron care tips: How and why you should season your cast iron pan

If you want your cast iron pan to last for a lifetime, it is very important to season the pan. This is a process by which you apply thin layers to create a hard, blackened skin, so as to protect the surface and add a non-stick property to your pan. Here's how to season cast iron:

Don’t forget: if you’ve used oil or fat to cook in your pan you will be adding and topping up the protective layer, so you won’t need to season every time you clean your pan – if you use our guide about how to clean it, that is!

  1. The first step is to give your pan a thorough clean. This can be done by scrubbing the surface with warm soapy water, using a good quality washing-up liquid.
  2. You can remove cast iron rust with steel wool.
  3. Use a soft, clean towel to dry your pan thoroughly. Popping your pan onto a stovetop flame for a couple of minutes is a great way to make sure it is fully dry and to remove excess water.
  4. Rub the surface (handle too!) with an oil of your choice. Although you can use any oil, we think it works best if you use vegetable or corn oil.
  5. Buff the surface with a soft cloth until it no longer looks greasy. If you’re thinking this is counterintuitive, don’t worry! It will still leave you with a thin layer of oil, but no excess! To make the seasoning process work you only need a small amount. Removing excess oil ensures you don’t end up with a bumpy surface where the excess has pooled into droplets.
  6. Set your oven to 446°F and pop your pan inside for a half hour.
  7. Always keep your kitchen well ventilated, as seasoning your pan can create a lot of smoke.
  8. Once you have taken out your pan (taking care as it will be hot!) make sure you leave it to cool for a short while.
  9. Repeat steps 5-9 at least 3 times to ensure you build up a good layer of protection for your pan.

Allow your pan to cool. Once cooled, it’s ready for you to cook with!

With this simple guide you’re now ready to set about restoring cast iron pans to their former glory. Follow these steps to keep your pan in good condition ready for many more family meals to come!

Originally published