Cleaning and Seasoning Cast Iron Skillets

Teresa Ambra

I love cooking with cast iron. It’s a lot healthier than cooking with aluminum, T-Fal, teflon and other manufactured products. If you learn how to season them properly cast iron can work really well for you. I love baking in it, especially cornbread. I fry Fried Potatoes in cast iron skillets several times a week!  I also have a Chicken Parmesan dish that uses a cast iron skillet to melt the cheese over top of the chicken. Cast iron is a little heavy to use, but the outcome is wonderful.

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My cast iron skillets are somewhere in the attic. I’ve hunted through all the boxes a few times and still can’t find them. I know they made the trip from Cedar Hill when we moved last year but I still can’t put my hands on them. So because I wanted to make a recipe that requires a cast iron skillet I went hunting for some at thrift shops this past week. I found a large 12 inch, a 9 or 10 inch and a Dutch oven with a lid. I also bought a Lodge cast iron skillet to see what I thought of it.

I found my cast iron skillets last year (2013). They were hiding in the back of some cabinets where I keep a lot of extra cooking gadgets and cookware. So, now I have double the cast iron cookware that I need. But I love the stuff and won’t get rid of it!

Cleaning and Seasoning Cast Iron Skillets - IMG_4585

Cast iron skillets are great for baking breads, cakes, cookies, or for frying and sauteeing meat, veggies, eggs, pancakes – almost anything!

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My thrift shop finds.

The Dutch oven had rust (mostly inside the lid) which I started cleaning with Kosher salt and a scrubbing sponge, but it didn’t come out until I used steel wool. After scrubbing up all the pans, I applied a coat of Crisco shortening inside and out and placed them in the oven upside down with a cookie sheet to catch all the drips so I didn’t start any fires!

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You can see the rack on the bottom catching drips. The lid to the Dutch oven is on the left, and I actually went ahead and reseasoned the Lodge skillet even though you’re not supposed to have to do this.

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Here’s a view of the pots cooling after baking in the oven for 1 hour with Crisco shortening (I put inside and outside).

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This was after seasoning 1 time. I am probably going to season some of the pans a couple of times to get a really nice and smooth finish on the inside.

Here are a few tips.


1) Don’t soak cast iron skillets in water like you would aluminum. Rinse out with hot or warm water and towel dry immediately. If you leave any water on the skillet it may rust.

2) Most websites tell you not to use soapy water on your skillets. I will tell you my mom always did and it never bothered hers. But she kept her pans well seasoned. They were slick on the bottom surface and she didn’t allow them to get yucky with corrosion and goop all over the outside like you see on some of the old pans just out of someone’s attic. Nor did she ever allow her pans to rust. It is probably a good motto to leave off the soapy water unless you’re a really experienced cook with cast iron. I wash my pans quickly in soapy water, rinse, and dry immediately. You can then add a about a teaspoon of oil to the skillet and wipe the entire inside surface with a paper towel. Allow the pan to sit out a little bit before putting away.

3) If you can’t get stuff off the back or sides of the skillet they can be soaked in a mixture of 1/2 water and 1/2 vinegar for a very short period of time. You will probably have to reseason them anyway if they have gotten into that kind of condition.

4) The best way to clean them after use is with a wash cloth and Kosher or coarse salt. If there is rust or sediment in the pan you can use steel wool pads.

5) To season a pan once it has been cleaned, using a paper towel, coat the pan with a thin layer of oil (or lard if you have it). I coat mine inside and outside. Then lay them face down on the oven rack with aluminum foil on the bottom of the oven to collect any drips. Laying them face down protects the pans from pooling the oil into certain spots. Bake in your oven about 1 hour at 350-400. You may need to regrease/reseason and reheat the pan again a couple more times to get a good finish especially if it has not been well cared for.

6) Take care of your cast iron and it will take care of you. Keep it well seasoned and food doesn’t stick. It’s also much healthier than cooking with aluminum or teflon.

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I found my old corn pone pans in the garage. After cleaning off the rust I reseasoned them by applying a coat of oil with a paper towel.

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Now I’ve coated the back side too.

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I had to redo one of my old skillets while I was at it because the surface was sticking.

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Cleaning and Seasoning Cast Iron Skillets

Teresa Ambra
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Cuisine American
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!


  • Babar Saddique

    September 8, 2020 at 7:10 am

    Put the cast iron skillet on a burner set on low. Throw in a teaspoon of ghee or refined coconut oil and let it melt. … Once the oven reaches 400°F, place a tray with aluminum foil on the bottom rack to catch any grease from the pan.

    1. Teresa

      September 8, 2020 at 2:18 pm

      Thanks for the tips.

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    January 5, 2016 at 7:05 pm

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  • Fried Sweet Potatoes with Apples – Can't Stay Out Of The Kitchen

    November 23, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    […] my mom’s era) and other pieces I have picked up at thrift shops. Cast iron is really easy to restore and season, and once you learn how to use this cookware it’s hard to go back to anything else. […]

  • best cooking book

    October 21, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    Howdy! Would you mind if I share your blog with my zynga group?

    There’s a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Thank you

  • Pumpkin Butterscotch Croissants with Pecans and Coconut | Can't Stay Out of the Kitchen

    October 13, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    […] one viewed post as of last night. I was starting to think no recipe would ever overtake my “Cleaning and Seasoning Cast Iron Skillets” post which I only posted up as a lark, but everyone seemed to love! Anyway, this mini […]

  • Brandyn Miller

    September 14, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    I did this last winter on some of mine. Takes some time but it’s well worth it!

    1. Teresa

      September 14, 2012 at 5:51 pm

      Yeah. I really like pulling out those old cast iron skillets. But as you get older they do seem to get heavier!

  • locaholic

    September 13, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    This information was really helpful! I’m in the market for some cast iron pans, and thanks to the tip I will search thrift shops and see if I can give some a second life and save money at the same time! Also, now I know how to take care of them when I find some. Thanks for stopping by my blog and liking my post on Groundcherry-Apple Pie!

    1. Teresa

      September 13, 2012 at 9:33 pm

      You’d be amazed at the kinds of cool things you can find at Thrift Shops! I’m glad the post is helpful. It’s really interesting. I threw that post together more on a lark and it has been my most read post to date!

      I like cooking with cast iron and its healthier than aluminum. I’ve read studies that aluminum causes memory loss! Yikes. I need all the memory I can find at my age!

      Thanks for following my blog! Enjoy.

  • effie speyer

    September 12, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    thanks for the tips and for looking in on my blog.

  • petit4chocolatier

    September 10, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    I have some cast iron pans; and haven’t used them yet. Thank you for the great information!

    1. Teresa

      September 11, 2012 at 10:39 am

      You’re welcome.

  • Linnell

    September 4, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    Thanks for the information! Perfect timing, too, because I just bought a cast iron skillet at a flea market!

  • Mama’s Gotta Bake

    September 4, 2012 at 11:55 am

    Great info…I’m bookmarking this!

  • flyfishbrat

    September 1, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    I am so thankful you have posted this. I have a couple of old cast iron skillets and had no idea how to clean and re-season them. Thanks to you I can now fix them and continue the tradition of cooking in them.

    1. Teresa

      September 1, 2012 at 9:37 pm

      The ones in the picture are from a thrift shop and I really had to clean the rust off the lid of the Dutch oven. I finally found my own skillets my mom gave me today. Yay! When I re-seasoned the ones from the thrift shop I cleaned them first, then oiled them down twice and heated them twice. They came out pretty nice.

      The key is cleaning them up and drying them immediately after washing so they don’t get rusty or yucky on the inside.

      Depending on how bad they are – I used steel wool pads to clean up the ones I got. I used one whole pad just cleaning out all the rust on the inside of the lid for the Dutch oven! Plus I used Barkeeper’s Friend also!

      1. flyfishbrat

        September 1, 2012 at 9:43 pm

        I can use Bar Keeper’s Friend on cast iron? That’s great, I love that stuff. We have an old 10″ and two 6″ skillets that were put away and now they smell and feel like someone has painted them with lacquer. I didn’t know how that happened then my cousin looked at them and told me I needed to scrub them and re-season them. I had no idea how to do that, since my large cast iron skillet is in use everyday it’s has remained beautiful. Your post explained exactly how to fix the other skillets. Thank you again.

  • pinkwhen

    August 27, 2012 at 10:01 am

    guess what? We have the same cast iron skillets! My husband received our set from his grandmother. They work wonderfully, and we always clean and season them well. I will have to post the recipe to his famous cornbread he makes in the skillet! It is the best I have ever had.

    1. Teresa

      August 27, 2012 at 10:40 am

      Hey I’d love that recipe! See my Carolina skillet Cake for another great coffeecake recipe made in a cast iron skillet. I also have a recipe from john’s mom for fabulous chicken or veal Parmesan that I’ve been wanting to make but haven’t been able to find my pans!!

      Sent from my iPhone

  • gingy55

    August 24, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    My husband loves cooking with cast iron outside and from time to time inside, too. He keeps them seasoned very well.
    Now, I like to work with them in the house, and yes, like your Mom, I clean with warm to hot water and dry, then season.

    1. Teresa

      August 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      Glad you enjoyed the post. I just remade the recipe I uploaded last week for Carolina Skillet Cake with one of my new cast iron skillet finds. You can go look at all the new pictures! 🙂

  • kat

    August 24, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Oooh great tips!

    1. Teresa

      August 25, 2012 at 2:45 pm

      Thanks,so much.

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