Common Mistakes Everyone Makes When Cleaning Cast Iron Skillets

Dishwasher, soaking, shortcuts...whatever you're guilty of doing with your other dirty dishes (no judgement here!), just don't make the mistake of cleaning your cast iron skillets the same way. These pans get a bad reputation for being fussy to clean, but once you know the tricks, you won't hesitate to pull your skillet out for every meal.

The first common mistake? Letting your cast iron skillet soak in water. Soaking may be the preferred way to get stuck-on food off our other pans, but it's a bad choice for cast iron. Kitchn explains that the surface of cast iron can absorb sitting water, and rusty patches will follow. Avoid the dishwasher for this same reason. Instead, Kitchn suggests this better approach to remove burned bits from your cast iron skillet: Bring a little water to a boil in the pan until the food residue can be easily scraped away.

Another mistake with cast iron skillets is to clean them with soap — although it's more unnecessary than a mistake. Serious Eats says it's a long-believed untruth that washing cast iron with soap will always strip away the seasoned surface. But why risk it? You can easily clean cast iron without soap, and Kitchn's trick for this is simple: Sprinkle coarse salt over the wet surface, then use a stiff brush or cloth to scrub it. The salt will scrape away food residue without affecting the seasoned surface.

Make sure your cast iron is dry. Really dry.

Putting cast iron skillets away when they're damp is another common mistake. For the same reason that soaking cast iron skillets leads to rust (that porous surface), cast iron that isn't thoroughly dried will also get rusty. Farmer's Almanac recommends setting the just-washed pan on a stovetop burner over low to medium heat, until all the surface moisture has completely disappeared in order to ensure a dry pan.

The last mistake you may be making with your cast iron skillet is skipping the oil. Meaning, not coating the pans with a new layer of oil after washing. As Southern Living points out, this seasoning step keeps food from sticking to the pan, making it all the more satisfying to use. Lodge Cast Iron recommends the oven method, which entails wiping your clean, dry pan with a very thin layer of vegetable oil. Place it upside down in a hot oven (around 450 degrees Fahrenheit) for about an hour. Once cool, you can put your pan away until it's time for your next cast iron pan creation.