Your comment may need to be approved before it will appear on the site. Thanks for waiting. First time commenting? Please review the Comment Policy.
Great tips! When I was a kid and my chore was to wash dishes, I HATED my mom’s cast iron skillets. Now, as an adult, I can’t imagine not having them!
Two things I do differently: I always dry with a paper towel and I don’t technically “season” the pans after using them, but I always coat the cleaned pan with just a bit of vegetable oil before stowing it back in the cupboard. I don’t use the heat again. Works like a charm to maintain the seasoning.
I pretty much follow all the tips and rules you’ve listed for my cast iron skillet. It is seasoned and works well. However, my concern is that even after I cleaned it, when I take a fresh paper towel to wipe it I’m finding small black flake specks or residue still coming off and staying on the paper towel. I’m concerned that this would go into any of the food I cook in the skillet.
Hi Tony, This residue won’t make you sick, but I can totally understand why you don’t want it in your food. There is probably some tenacious residue of cooked-on food from many meals ago. (This happens to me with my carbon-steel wok; I have problems seeing the burn residue because the seasoning is black, too). It’s say scour it well with a steel-wool pad or metal scrubby, then season it in the oven with love and care. Hopefully that’ll fix it.
Thank you for the tips. My husband completely burned my favorite iron skillet. Not only is it the perfect medium size, it was my great grandmother’s. She had it long before I was born (I’m 50) so it is probably 70 to 80 years old! I was MORTIFIED! And I have been wondering if it is ruined or not. No matter how many times I heat it up, wipe w oil, heat it up, wipe with oil, all this horrible black carbon comes off on the paper towel. I tried the oven trick…no more carbon on the towel! I am SO HAPPY!!
Kell, that’s great! Very few skillet issues are unfixable. I’m glad you kept trying. My favorite skillets all came from my grandparents, and I understand how rewarding and special it is to be able to use them nearly every day so many decades later.
I ALMOST tossed it, but I just couldn’t. And no matter how much I scrubbed it, wiped it, seasoned it, the paper towel would be just BLACK. I was so discouraged. Now there is just barely a bit of dark on the paper towel, and certainly not enough to taste in the food. My great grandma was the relative I was closest to in my whole family (my son was 16 when she died, so for a while she was a GREAT GREAT grandma!) and so I treasure anything I have of hers. She was a good ol’ salt-of-the-earth Southern woman who taught me much of what I know about cooking. Good to know I can continue to make sausage gravy to put on our biscuits in the same pan as her!
That was a good refresher course.
Great article. I have a couple of Lodge cast iron pans, and here are a few things I do slightly differently.
1. I ALWAYS use a very small amount of soap (NOT dishwasher detergent) in order to cut through the fresh grease. I never simply wipe the pan, although many people do just that. I’ve never had any problem with the seasoning degrading from a little bit of soap.
2. I always re-season the pan after every use. My method starts the same as what is described in the article, but I heat it all the way up to 400 degrees. Here is the key “trick:” I use a “point and shoot” infrared thermometer to measure the temperature of the surface of the pan and turn off the heat when I get more than two measurements over 400. Because cast iron is the worst material for distributing heat, you will get very significant variations in surface temperature. These will even out as the pan cools, so if you get several spots above 400, in the first minute after you turn off the heat, all points on the pan will get to 400. When I wipe up the excess oil after the pan cools I usually have no residue other than the oil (i.e., the paper towel does not look black), indicating that the surface is perfectly clean.
3. I’ve never had to re-season my Lodge skillets, but I’ve re-seasoned other kitchen cooking tools. After reading literally dozens of posts and instructions, I think 400 degrees is better than 350 because 350 doesn’t quite get to the point where most oils will polymerize. I use vegetable oil that is a mix of soybean & corn oils.
4. Based on a huge number of reports, avoid using flaxseed oil for seasoning. Cook’s Illustrated got a lot of people using this, but if you do a little research you’ll find hundreds of posts from people who found that the stuff tends to flake off. Also, I am not a fan of the taste of flaxseed oil, having grown up in the 1950s and 60s when painters still mixed their own paint on site. I remember well when the house was painted having to smell linseed oil (which is the same thing as flaxseed), and it really isn’t all that pleasant.
John, I’ve been wanting to try the flaxseed oil thing. I didn’t bring it up in this article because flax oil is not cheap, and I didn’t want to discourage readers from using more common cooking oils–which we know work anyway. I’ll probably still try it eventually on one of my skillets, just to see. And the infrared thermometer must be fun to use anyway, so that’s a terrific tip.
I bought the IR thermometer on a whim five years ago because they are now so cheap. I can’t believe how useful it has become. You can instantly tell how hot a pan is; the temperature of your fridge or freezer; the temperature of your oil when sauteing or frying; how cold the ice cream mixture has become in the ice cream machine; the surface temperature of your BBQ grill; the heat of the pavement outside on a hot day (160 last summer); and more. You can see hot spots on your pan (which is why I always now pre-heat my cast iron skillet in the oven, since it conducts heat so poorly). Incredible temperature range, and it works on everything except shiny polished metal surfaces (won’t work on my All-Clad). I can’t imagine cooking without it anymore.
As for the flaxseed oil, just Google:
“cast iron seasoning flaxseed oil flaking”
and skim the results. Go ahead and try it on one of your less favorite pans. From what I can tell, it works incredibly well, until it doesn’t, if that isn’t too much of a contradiction.
I have two cast iron skillets that are over 100 years old and were made by my grandfather who was a blacksmith. I know how to take care of them.
That’s awesome. I have one that was my great grandmother’s, and she had it before I was born (I am 50), so it’s about 70 to 80 years old. Very cool.
Very good information Thanks.Could you please tell me how to clean a cast iron skillet that has a crust on outside?
Joyce, do you mean on the exterior of the skillet–that part that’s not coming into contact with food? Those can get crusty and gunky for sure!
Hi Sara! I’ve seasoned my pan quite a few times (as far as I know), both on the stove & the oven method, and each time I cook with it — especially something light colored, like eggs, there’s a iron grey color on the food. I’ve washed the pan & re-seasoned, scrubbed the pan & re-seasoned, and even tried washing, not seasoning & cooking. Each time, light grey color– not appetizing. I’ve never seen an answer to this one. It’s my grandmother’s pan, and I think I did everything wrong years ago when I first tried to use it, but how long does it take for a pan to forgive? Any thoughts? I’d would love to use the pan, but it’s unappetizing (and I think I taste metal).
Beth, I am stumped. My first impulse is to ask if your pan is truly cast iron. Aluminum pans are known to discolor some foods, as can carbon steel (p.s. I love my carbon steel crepe pan). If the pan is indeed cast iron (it’s aluminum if a magnet won’t stick to it), perhaps try stripping it and re-seasoning it : https://redirect.viglink.com/?format=go&jsonp=vglnk_155371072052111&key=8706c34907fb807707a11c5a8d2786cd&libId=jtrj3r4a0102elqz000DAipxj9ev3f47c&loc=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.simplyrecipes.com%2Fhow_to_clean_and_season_cast_iron_cookware%2F&v=1&out=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.hobbyfarms.com%2Fclean-rusty-cast-iron-no-self-cleaning-oven-required-5%2F&title=How%20to%20Clean%20and%20Season%20Cast%20Iron%20Cookware%20%7C%20SimplyRecipes.com&txt=strip%20away%20the%20seasoning
Can you tell me how to clean a cast iron skillet that has crusted outside?
Really helpful! Will try re-seasoning.
Thank you so much! Really needed this guidance. Have a great day