How to Season and Clean a Cast-Iron Skillet

Seasoning and cleaning cast iron doesn't have to be intimidating.


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Traditional cast-iron skillets don't emerge from the box with a nonstick surface, and unlike other types of skillets, a cast-iron skillet isn't ideal for a set-aside-to-soak sort of person. Cast-iron skillets take some work, but treat them right, and they'll last for years to come.

You can give your skillet a nonstick surface by seasoning it, or coating the skillet with cooking oil and baking it (see how to season a cast-iron skillet in the above video, or follow the steps outlined below). The skillet won't take on that shiny black patina immediately out of the oven, but once you dry it with paper towels, it will be ready to use. You'll reinforce the nonstick coating every time you heat oil in the skillet, and you can hasten the process by seasoning as often as you like—or by using a seasoning spray.

Learn how to give your cast-iron skillet the care it needs with our guides to seasoning and cleaning cast iron, below.

How To Season a Cast-Iron Skillet

Seasoning a cast-iron skillet is the key to successful, full flavored, non-stick cooking. “Seasoning is simply oil baked onto cast-iron cookware that helps create a naturally non-stick finish,” explains Kris Stubblefield, Chef at Lodge Cast Iron. Some cast-iron skillets, such as those from Lodge, are seasoned at the foundry where they’re made, and are ready to use as soon as you bring them home. However, others will need an initial seasoning before you start to cook.

The good news: Maintaining the cast-iron seasoning is simple for home cooks. “The best way to maintain the seasoning on your cast-iron cookware is to use it,” Stubblefield says. “Your skillet’s seasoning improves with every meal it cooks. If you notice your cookware getting dull or the food starts to stick, that’s a good time to give it another season.”

Cast-Iron Seasoning Instructions

So how do you season a cast-iron skillet? Read the step-by-step seasoning instructions below.

1. Start by applying a thin layer of cooking oil to the entire surface of the skillet. Any neutral cooking oil, such as vegetable oil, canola oil, avocado oil, or peanut oil can work for this. Depending on the size of your skillet, estimate you’ll need about ¼- ⅓ of a cup.
2. Use a cloth, clean rag, or lint free paper towel to cover the cookware with oil, including the exterior and the handles.
3. While you’re doing this, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
4. Once the skillet is coated in a thin layer of oil—no tripping—turn the cast-iron pan upside down and bake it on a rack for an hour.
5. Turn off the oven and allow the skillet to cool, it will be super hot to the touch. And voila, your skillet is seasoned!
6. Dry the skillet thoroughly with a towel or paper to store until you’re ready to use it.

How to Clean a Cast-Iron Skillet 

Naysayers may believe you should never clean a cast-iron pan, but “just like any other piece of cookware, it’s important to clean your cast-iron to maintain it in between uses,” Stubblefield says. However, the process looks a little different, and your cast-iron should never go in the dishwasher. Even on a gentle setting, the heat and detergent can ruin the seasoning and finish of the skillet, and cause the surface to rust. 

“Simply wash the cookware with hot water and a nylon brush,” suggests Stubblefield. “Use a little soap if you need it. Dry it thoroughly with a lint free cloth, then wipe with oil, handles and all. You don’t need much oil to maintain your seasoning.”  Hand-wash and dry your skillet immediately after cooking, preferably with a dedicated towel, which will likely soak up some oil stains

Never soak your cast-iron (which can also lead to rust stains in your sink) and use scrapers, scrubbers, or even coarse salt to remove cooked on bits. 

Did someone accidentally run your precious cast-iron through the dishwasher? Don’t panic, it can still be salvaged. Remove any rust with steel wool, and then re-season according to the initial seasoning method. With proper care, a cast-iron skillet can last for generations.

Cast-Iron Care Tips From Professional Chefs

Still wary about properly cleaning your cast-iron cookware? Check out more cleaning tips from professional chefs below.

Keep it dry

“Don’t expose it to too much water. Immediately dry it and rub in some oil to season,” suggests chef Mareya Ibrahim, Her oldest cast-iron skillet is currently celebrating its sixteenth year. “I add a little kosher salt and let it sit in the pan until the next time I use it.” 

Scrape it clean

After making a sauce or searing meat, Ibrahim immediately scrapes out any residue from the pan to prevent any moisture from seeping in, which can damage the cast-iron and cause rust. If your pan is too hot, use a wooden or silicone spatula to scrape the remnants. 

No metal utensils

Avoid using metal utensils when cooking in a cast-iron. ”You want to use something that is soft, like silicone or wooden utensils,” Ibrahim says. Otherwise, you may end up scraping your pan’s coating and damaging the surface. And speaking of metal, cast-iron is metal in itself, so never put it in the microwave, even if you think reheating for a few seconds is safe (it’s not).

Store it in a dry place

“Store your cast-iron pan so that it stays away from moisture,” Ibrahim says. “I keep it with my pots and pans in a cabinet, with a soft pot protector on top of it, so nothing scratches it.” This can also help the fresh oil and seasoning from adhering to any stacked skillets. Don’t keep your skillet hanging over the stove, where moisture can cause damage or particles can build up. 

Use it for stovetop to oven cooking

“Cast-iron goes from stovetop to oven easily. The heavy bottom helps keep heat in, and develops flavors beautifully,” Ibrahim says. She’ll often make a skillet hash with over-easy eggs finished in the oven, or even bake apple pie with a crisp crust in her skillet. Iron in the skillet helps add flavor. 

Make it your dish duty

At home, the person who cooks is often not the person doing the dishes (if you’re lucky, at least), but consider taking charge of the cast-iron cookware. Someone who doesn’t know how to cook may submerge the cast-iron pan, or worse. “Handle the cleaning of it in a different way than everything else,” Ibrahim suggests. 

Scrub out cooked on deposits

“If your pan begins to develop any overcooked oil deposits, put the pan on high heat, add salt, and scrub with a dry rag,” suggests chef Allen Dabagh, of Brooklyn’s Boutros. “This will help break down the overcooked oil without destroying years of seasoning you put into your cast-iron pan.”

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