How to Season and Clean a Cast Iron Skillet

May 1, 2010Katie

Chris and Laura, our oldest married kids recently acquired a cast iron skillet.  He asked me how to take care of it and I thought to myself, “that would be a great post for my tips and tricks section!”.

Cast iron skillets are special.  They just are. Cook fried potatoes or sausage in one, and you’ll see what I mean. because of the surface material and the wonderfully even heating they provide, they give a great crust to anything you cook in them from steak to blackened fish.  A cast iron skillet, seasoned properly is just as great as a non-stick pan. And it can take a dish from stovetop to oven beautifully!

But first you have to take care of your skillet.

I am showing you my skillet, which was handed down from my mom.  I truly love my cast iron skillet!

If you have a skillet that was handed down from your grandma or mom, and it’s rusted a bit, never fear.  Just take some steel wool and scrub on it and the rust should come out.  If you have a new skillet?  Most new skillets come with a protective coating on them that will need to be removed with a very mild, very hot soapy water mixture and some steel wool.  In both cases, new and old you need to season your skillet.

Seasoning means to cure your pan by rubbing it with oil (vegetable or canola works fine) and heating it for awhile.  This fills in and levels out the rough surface of the cast iron.  The more you cook or season your pan, the better it’s going to work.

Start by preheating your oven to 400º.  Place your oven racks in the middle positions in the oven, one right under the other. On the bottom rack, put in an empty cookie sheet.  This will catch any drips that might happen.

Pause.  It’s apparently time to clean the oven isn’t it? But that means I am using it a lot so that counts for something right?

Take your skillet and pour in a tablespoon or two of oil (vegetable or canola is ok).  You can also use peanut oil or shortening, if that’s all you have on hand.

Now fold a square of paper towel in half and then half again and rub this oil all over your skillet.

Make sure you rub up the sides as well.

Wipe off any sloppy excess and your skillet will now be coated well with a thin layer of oil.

Place your skillet in your hot oven on the top rack face down.

And let it bake for about an hour.  New pans, are recommended to repeat this process, 2-3 times, allowing the pan to completely cool in between in each use. Important!! When removing your skillet from the oven? Please make sure and use a hot pad!

JUST sayin….

Remove your pan from the oven and let it cool down completely.  When it’s cool, lay a piece of paper towel inside of it to absorb any excess oil.  Do not keep the lid on your pan if you have one, as it can allow moisture to form inside causing rust.

Some will tell you to never wash your cast iron skillet with soap.  I am not one of those people.  I know that health codes would not allow chefs in restaurants to not wash a pan, and my own personal health code tells me the same.  I use a very, very mild soapy water solution to clean mine after use (do not soak a cast iron skillet in water).  Then I dry it as best as I can, and set it back on the burner for just a few minutes to burn off the moisture.

Then I lightly oil it again with a paper towel, line it with a towel and store it back in it’s drawer.

Now my pan is ready for its next delicious use.

Get yourself a cast iron skillet soon.

You’ll love the way your food cooks in it.

Do you have a cast iron skillet?  What is your favorite dish to make in it?


  • Esme

    May 1, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Okay I could have used these tips about 6 hours ago-when I seasoned mine-why do you cover it with a paper towel? thanks for this.
    1. dishinanddishes

      May 1, 2010 at 10:39 pm

      Esme - I cover it with a paper towel so that the next pot I might stack in it doesn't get the oil on it, and also just to absorb if I put too much oil in it!
  • Chris Johnstonbaugh

    May 1, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    Okay...I've made two dishes in my cast iron skillet since I've gotten it!! Dish 1: Garbage breakfast. I started with diced potatoes and chopped bacon. Let those crisp a bit. Next, I emptied some of the grease and threw some chopped green onions. Last I made swells, and cracked some eggs in them. Stir it a bit and add some of my favorite cajun seasoning....Bam! Dish2: Shrimp, Scallop, Red&Yellow Peppers,Garlic, Pasta with a roasted pepper marinara sauce! You're right Katie, you MUST have a cast-iron skillet!
    1. dishinanddishes

      May 2, 2010 at 10:05 am

      Chris - the garbage breakfast -YUMM! And that seafood dish sounds awesome too!
  • Donna Schoch

    May 1, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    My goodness, Katie, I have three sizes iron skillets sitting on my stove at all times. I use them so much, I never put them in the cupboard. I have a 6-inch which is perfect for an egg or two for breakfast. The 8-inch is good for a couple hamburgers, grilled cheese or a steak. Then I have a 12-inch skillet, and today I made a pineapple upside down cake in it. It worked perfectly, and the cake is absolutely delicious! The only trouble I had was flipping it onto a huge glass tray from my mother. It is HEAVY! Anyway, to clean mine, I usually use a paper towel to remove the excess fat or any food remains. If it is stuck on, I use a stainless steel scratcher, give it a couple rubs, and it is gone. I rinse it under running water and wipe with another paper town. Today, with the carmel baked on to it, it got a good wash in the sink. Then it's time to season it again, and off we go. I LOVE my iron skillets! Can you tell? Donna
    1. dishinanddishes

      May 1, 2010 at 10:38 pm

      Donna - YES i can tell! Wow - you're making me want some other sizes! I think I have the 12 inch skillet and you're right...they are HEAVY!
  • Fran J

    May 1, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    I use my 6" pan whenever I make my omelet. I store leftover bacon in a container in the freezer. An omelet is a snap to do and fast: I get the eggs mixed in a small bowl, slice a couple of green onions and cooked bacon. Heat the pan on high, fry bacon and onions together, stir in the eggs quickly, and turn off the fire. There is enough heat in the pan to finish cooking the eggs - I like mine soft. My father-in-law used to place the scrambled egg mixture in a medium sized pan, put in a pinch of baking powder in it, cover it and stick it in the oven. The baked eggs would rise up high.
    1. dishinanddishes

      May 2, 2010 at 10:04 am

      Fran -that omelet sounds yummy! I've never heard of the baking soda thing!
  • Kathy aka ToadMama

    May 2, 2010 at 7:53 am

    Cast iron skillets are awesome! I have several. And a griddle. Fried potatoes are my favorite dish to cook in them. You forgot to mention that you can also use your skillet outdoors on the grill at no risk whatsoever to the pan.
    1. dishinanddishes

      May 2, 2010 at 10:04 am

      Kathy - so true! Another versatile use for them!
  • ShaRhonda

    May 17, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Katie, I am referencing this post on TheRHOK. I am writing a post about the cast iron skillets that my Grandma gave me. So surprised when I pulled up your blog and saw this. So glad you wrote it! Thank you! I will let you know when it posts. Probably the 21st!
    1. dishinanddishes

      May 17, 2010 at 3:14 pm

      Awesome ShaRhonda! Link away! Can't wait to read it! Ooo how many did you get?
  • Maria

    May 21, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    I love my cast iron as well. One thing that I do to clean it is to use scalding hot (well, as hot as I can stand) water after wiping it out with a cloth (we don't use paper towels in our home.)
  • Arthur Malocha

    September 12, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Cast iron cookware is simply the best. I used non-stick stuff for years, but a nice, big steak done in a cast iron pan plays in a whole different league. Besides, you can buy a great pan for something like 70 dollars and it will last you a lifetime. The non-stick cr*p may last 4 years if you get lucky. If you search the web a bit, you can often get a really good pan on sale. There are always some awesome offers on cast iron cookware listed on the cast iron pots website. Alright, that did it, now I'm hungry. I think I'm gonna go to the kitchen to clog my arteries with some steak and eggs.

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