Alex Guarnaschelli Just Busted This Cast Iron Cleaning Myth

What do you know about cleaning a cast iron pan? Or, more to the point, what do you think you know? The accepted "wisdom" is that soap, water, and iron don't mix — so whatever you do, don't treat your pan like any other dirty dish. The belief here is that soap will remove the layer of oil that seasons your iron pan, protecting it and creating a nonstick surface. While soap's one job, essentially, is to remove oil with the help of water (via PATH), the truth is, a little soap isn't going to remove an iron skillet's seasoning. As J. Kenji López-Alt explained on Serious Eats, a pan's seasoning actually consists of polymerized oil that is more like plastic than oil and is bonded to the pan's surface. A little soap isn't going to hurt it.

Still, the no-soap-on-cast-iron myth persists. Even Rachael Ray perpetuates this belief on her website, advising her fans to apply kosher salt with something nonabrasive, such as a wooden spatula or a soft, dry cloth. Following Ray's cleaning method to the letter, you wouldn't even let water touch an iron pan.

Alex Guarnaschelli says you can scrub a cast iron skillet with soap and water

Alex Guarnaschelli wasn't trolling Rachael Ray by any means, but she has spent time on Twitter debunking the cast iron myth preached by Ray and others. Someone asked Guarnaschelli back in 2016 for the best way to clean a cast iron skillet after cooking meat in it. Her response at the time was, "What I'm going to say is complete heresy. Ready? Scrub with soap and water till clean. Dry thoroughly. Oil it."

Guarnaschelli's old tweet was dredged up in a much more recent Twitter conversation about cleaning cast iron, which happened over the past few weeks. This recent rerun of the 2016 Guarnaschelli tweet even included an old reply from Cutthroat Kitchen judge Simon Majumdar: "Stop mollycoddling your cast iron, people." It took Guarnaschelli almost five years, but she finally did reply to her fellow Food Network celeb's quip on March 1: "There is to be no mollycoddling @SimonMajumdar."

That is a fun word, and appropriate. No reason to treat your cast iron in an indulgent or overprotective way (via Lexico). Soap is okay, and so is a stiff bristle brush (via Lodge Cast Iron), so no soft cloth required, Ray. The two big no-nos, as the experts at Lodge will tell you, are these: Do not soak a cast iron skillet in water, and never put it in the dishwasher.