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Cleaning Cast Iron Cookware: Salt Method

Few clean-up activities will make you feel like a genuine pioneer woman or man than cleaning a cast-iron skillet without water. You might ask yourself is that even possible? The answer is yes, the process is simple, and here is what you need to do to get this dirty cast iron pan clean.

Dirty Cast Iron Pan

Dirty Cast Iron Pan


Step 1: Assemble cleaning supplies.

Cleaning Equipment

Cleaning Equipment

You’ll need salt, paper towels and a scraping tool (maybe what you used to help dirty the pan in the first place.)

Now scrap out the pan with your spatula or pancake turner or whatever you call it. Loosen up whatever bits come off and, if you are me, dump those crumbs into the sink.

Step 2: Add Salt

Cleaning Cast Iron with Salt

Cleaning Cast Iron with Salt

From the salt box rather than a shaker, add a light layer of salt to cover the bottom of the pan. Then use a bunched-up paper towel to scrub the bottom of the pan with the salt. You don’t need to use a lot of muscle, but rather move the salt around the pan, being sure to go around the edge as well as the center. You’ll notice stuck-on bits as you scrub; work a little extra on those or use your handy implement to free them from the bottom of your pan.

After a quick but thorough scrub, your pan might look something like this:

Cleaning Cast Iron with Salt

Cleaning Cast Iron with Salt

Drop the “soiled” salt into the sink *ahem* and …

Step 3: Repeat
Use another layer of salt to scrub the inside of your pan. This time, the salt shouldn’t turn as dark or collect as much moisture. Again, work around the bottom and along the edges, aiming for a smooth surface as the end result. Again, dump the salt into the sink. A good rinse will wash away the salt.

Here’s where I cheat just a bit: I usually end up swishing a bit of water around the pan to make sure I’ve gotten it clean enough. Then I dry the pan off IMMEDIATELY with a clean paper towel. If the towel doesn’t turn yucky, the pan is clean.

Drying off cast iron is really important. Water left on the surface of the pan can encourage rust, which is the enemy of cast iron. (Rust and re-seasoning will be dealt with in another post. But you don’t want to make extra work for yourself, so always thoroughly dry cast-iron after cleaning.

Step 4: Enjoy

Cast Iron Cleaned with Salt

Cast Iron Cleaned with Salt


Your pan should look something like this now. Maybe even better. Certainly, good enough!

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  1. Clean Cast Iron And Carbon Steel Cookware With A Salt Scrub | Lifehacker Australia linked to this post on October 30, 2011

    [...] Cleaning Cast Iron Cookware: Salt Method [Our 20 Minute Kitchen Garden] Tagged:cleaningclever usescookingkitchen [...]

  2. iHackBLOG linked to this post on October 31, 2011

    [...] is naturally nonstick, but any stubborn food particles can be removed easily with a salt scrub. Cleaning Cast Iron Cookware: Salt Method | Our Twenty Minute Kitchen Garden Article source: [...]

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    [...] Clean up. But do so using less chemicals. Explore the harmless cleaning power of baking soda or vinegar solutions. The internet is full of recipes and tips (see soft scrub and salt scrub for cast iron). [...]

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