When I first got into cast iron, I was under the impression that it was the most laid-back, easygoing of all cookware. Then I looked into the proper method of cleaning cast iron and was met with all sorts of outlandish and impractical rituals - throwing your skillet into a fire, dousing it in oven cleaner, never letting soap touch it, and keeping it away from water AT ALL COSTS.
For a while I had a routine that reflected these fussy cleaning methods, but then I remembered the reason I got into cast iron in the first place - to have a low-maintenance, durable skillet that would probably outlive me. So I stopped coddling my cast iron, and here's what I do instead: Cast iron salt scrub. This is the easiest, cheapest, and most effective method I've ever had for cleaning cast iron. It consists of 2 ingredients, reinforces the cookware's seasoning, and can remove even the most stubborn of stuck-on food (I'm looking at you, cheesy scrambled eggs).
So, if you're confused about how to clean cast iron, too, let me walk you through my routine.
Step 1: Make your cast iron salt scrub by combining coarse salt and oil. I use kosher salt but sea salt would also work. What's important is that it's a coarse salt -- you need something with scrubbing power! If you're into measurements, here they are:
- 1 cup coarse kosher salt
- 1/2 cup oil (I like vegetable or flax seed)
I like to make a big batch of this and keep it under my sink in a jar like these: Bormioli Rocco Set OF 2 Fido Square Clear Jar, 17 1/2 Ounce (affiliate link). It's great to have this on hand whenever you have a sticky mess in your skillet.
Step 2: Make something delicious in your cast iron.
Thanks, grilled cheese!
Step 3: Spoon a tablespoon of the scrub into your skillet and, using paper towels, wipe out your cast iron, scrubbing until all the food particles are loose.
You can add a little bit of water to the skillet if you feel like you need more liquid - I do this if there's something particularly stubborn stuck to mine - but this is completely optional.
Step 4: Dump the salt and any food remnants from the skillet. At this point, you may rinse it out if you feel like it, but make sure to dry it completely if you do!
Step 5: Smear some oil all over your skillet if it looks thirsty. I don't do this every time, particularly since I've started using the scrub which already has oil in it. Oil helps prevent rust and aids in making your skillet nonstick, so it's a good thing to do every so often. Now you're left with a clean, well-seasoned cast iron skillet that's all ready to be used the next time.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- It's okay if you use soap every now and then. Some people think this is the end all be all of cast iron seasoning, but I'm here to tell you that it's not as bad as they say. I do this every so often, and my seasoning is a-okay.
- If you use a dish towel instead of paper towels on your cast iron, be sure to have one dedicated to this job alone. Otherwise, all of your towels will turn black! ...Not that I'm speaking from personal experience.
- The only cast iron no-no that I feel strongly about is water. Obviously use it to clean your cast iron if you need to, but make sure you dry it completely and don't ever soak your cast iron in water. It WILL rust. Again, not speaking from personal experience (please don't judge, I told you I wasn't a coddler)...
- It is a lot easier to clean your skillet while it's still warm! You don't need to clean it immediately after you've finished using it. I mean, eat your food and live your life, but maybe after that come back and scrub it out.
Not only is cast iron cool and rustic and low-maintenance (especially if you're using easy salt scrub to clean it out!), but it's also a great way to increase your iron intake - Cooking anything in cast iron boosts its iron content. Additionally, if properly cared for, cast iron can last you your whole life.
If you're interested in trying out cast iron, I highly recommend it. Lodge is a good brand to start with to test out the cast iron waters because it is so inexpensive and well-made. This is the skillet I have: Lodge L8SK3 Cast Iron Skillet, Pre-Seasoned, 10.25-inch (affiliate link), and I've really liked it.
So go and fearlessly make a mess in your cast iron skillet! This cast iron salt scrub has got your back.
This post contains affiliate links to products that I have tried and that have made my life easier. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I will make a small commission (but you will pay the same price).