How To Clean A Cast Iron Skillet After Cooking (or Rusting)

My work is reader-supported; if you buy through my links, I may earn affiliate commission, at no extra cost to you. Full disclosure here.

Cast iron skillets are versatile and robust in the home kitchen as much as they are over the campfire. But burnt-on residue and rust can be a pain with these. Here are simple ways for cleaning cast iron skillets after cooking to get rid of hard burnt-on residue and for getting rid of rust on the surface.

Caron & Doucet - Cast Iron Cleaning & Conditioning Set: Seasoning Oil & Cleaning Soap | 100% Plant-Based & Best for Cleaning Care, Washing, Restoring & Seasoning Cast Iron Skillets, Pans & Grills!

How to clean a cast-iron skillet after cooking? To clean a cast iron pan, first allow it to cool, add water to cover the food residue, leave sit for 15 mins or longer, and then hand-wash with warm water, mild detergent, and a stiff nylon brush.

For tough burnt-on residue or rust, you’ll need a deep cleaning approach, described below.

How to clean a cast iron skillet after cooking bacon

First up, bacon tastes great, cooked on a good cast iron skillet. But…

Why does bacon stick to the cast iron pan? If the bacon has sugar added to it for flavor or as part of the curing process, the bacon will stick to the cast iron pan when cooking and leave a brown residue.

Other reasons given for bacon sticking to a cast iron pan include whether or not you’ve preheated the pan, you’ve tried to turn it too soon, or the pan may need re-seasoning or priming with a dob of oil or fat on the surface.

Priming does help to keep the pan seasoned and rust-free.

I always like to prime my pan before cooking.

When bacon sticks while cooking it leaves a brown or burnt residue on the cast iron pan, especially if it contained sugar.

See also: My article on the black residue from cast iron pans…is it harmful?

If you’re not fussed about that, you can just keep using the pan and it will eventually cook away. But if you are worried about the look or it attracting cockroaches or rusting while the pan is stored, you might want to try removing it.

Usually, baked-on or crusty residue is removed easily with a scrub after soaking the pan for several minutes. This will work best if your pan is well seasoned.

A seasoned pan is much easier to clean.

Try to avoid harsh detergents or scourers when cleaning. A stiff nylon brush is useful.

Always make sure your pan is dry before storing it.

Also, never run a hot pan under cold water! This applies to cast iron, stainless steel, ceramic, and non-stick pans alike.

Cleaning a cast iron skillet with rust or char

How to clean a cast iron pan with rust on it? Or charred remains? This salt method will clean a rusty pan and a charred one. Take a warm pan and then use coarse salt with a spoonful of coconut oil for lubrication to scrub it. Read on for scrubbing tips.

how to stop your pan from rusting
Rust appears on cast iron pan if not properly maintained. Image credit: ID 38246664 © Jaimie Duplass

To remove stubborn burnt-on residue or rust on a cast iron pan, a cut potato with the cut-side down on top of the salt is a clever way of moving the salt around to scour the residue away.

Use a paper towel to wipe it out, rinse, and dry in the oven or over a burner for a few minutes.

The important part of deep cleaning a cast iron skillet like this is to make sure you properly dry it and then apply a coating of oil to re-season it.


Recommended product

Lodge Canola Oil 8 Ounce Seasoning Spray
Available at Amazon

Info sources

Bacon & Food Safety |

Share on: