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How To Clean And Season A Dirty Cast Iron Skillet

Cleaning a Cast Iron Skillet

Warning – Viewer discretion is advised.

Some of the images in this article may be shocking to some viewers. If a dirty kitchen implement is offensive to you – please do not read any further.

If – on the other hand – you are interested in learning how to clean a cast iron skillet, then read on.

I love cast iron skillets. I use them to cook almost anything except where I need to boil something in water. I use them to make sauces, bake cakes, roast meats, fry things – anything – from cooking pancakes to roasting a chicken. Speaking of roasting a chicken – that is how this skillet came to be in the mess it was in. I roasted a chicken which had been marinaded in dry spices and then smothered in butter and blackened quickly on the stove before roasting.

Then I forgot to clean it for a couple of weeks. As you can see, it is a bit of a mess. But – worry not – by the end of this article it will be spotless and back to pristine condition ready to fry an egg in without sticking. So if dirty kitchen implements scare you in any way, relax.

I have heard it suggested that you use soap and water to clean a cast iron skillet. I have three words to say about that idea – No, no and no again.These people are out of their minds. Do not whatever you do – unless it is an absolute emergency and you have baked something on that ain’t coming off any other way – use soap and water on your skillet. It will strip all the seasoning off and you will have to re season completely.

Seasoning is not a big deal, but the only real way to season a cast iron skillet is to use it – repeatedly. And it actually takes about 3 months to properly season a skillet. I use three things to clean a cast iron skillet – coarse salt, steel scrubbers and elbow grease. Nothing else. Repeat – no soap and water. Nothing else.

Oh – and please – not some gourmet Dead Sea Salt or Pink Himalayan Beaver Salt flown half way round the world. Plain old two dollars a pound coarse salt.

So here we have the offending skillet:

dirty skillet

Closeup Dirty Skillet Porn

dirtycastironskillet

As you can see from the photos – and you can enlarge those by clicking by the way – this is pretty bad. That stuff is baked on hard as concrete and is a mixture of sugar, spices, chicken fat and whatnot that has been baked in a hot oven for an hour and a half and then left for 2 weeks. Still no worries. First job – pour some salt in to the skillet and spread out.

cast iron skillet salt

Add coarse salt to skillet

Spread the Salt Over The Surface of The Skillet

Spread the Salt Over The Surface of The Skillet

Apply Heat Using A Burner

Apply Heat Using A Burner

Heat Gently for a Minute or So

Heat Gently for a Minute or So

Clean Using A Paper Towel Before the skillet gets too hot, use a paper towel to rub the salt into the offending grease and dirt. You will need to rub pretty hard, but unless the skillet is unseasoned, the salt should pick up most of the gunk. If the skillet becomes too hot, just urn the heat off and wait for it to cool down, but this works best if there is some heat in the skillet.

Clean Using A Paper Towel
Before the skillet gets too hot, use a paper towel to rub the salt into the offending grease and dirt. You will need to rub pretty hard, but unless the skillet is unseasoned, the salt should pick up most of the gunk. If the skillet becomes too hot, just urn the heat off and wait for it to cool down, but this works best if there is some heat in the skillet.

Almost Done

Almost Done

The paper towel and salt should take care of most of the mess, but any difficult to get off bits will be cleaned with a stainless steel scrubber.

The paper towel and salt should take care of most of the mess, but any difficult to get off bits will be cleaned with a stainless steel scrubber.

cast iron skillet cleaned

The Finished Article – Better Than New

A good, heavy cast iron skillet will last a life time. Several lifetimes in fact. I often buy used skillets – and I don’t care how rusty or dirty they are. As long as they are not rusted to the point where there are holes – they are almost always recoverable.

I personally feel that this is the healthiest implement to use when cooking almost anything. I avoid Teflon because I do not want that chemical nonsense in my food and cast iron adds a small amount of iron when cooking. You can never have too many of these things and they come in all shapes and sizes.Add a lid and you can cook almost anything in them.

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