How Do You Clean a Burnt Cast Iron Pan?

If you have a burnt cast iron pan that needs some TLC, there are several ways to clean it and keep it in good condition for cooking. Use only non-metal tools (plastic spatulas and wooden spoons are best) when cleaning to preserve the coating of oil that makes cast iron so easy to cook with. Avoid using metal brushes, steel wool or any other scouring pads as these may scratch your pan and remove its seasoning. It’s important to keep water, soap and acidic foods (like vinegar or lemon juice) away from your cast iron, as they will cause it to rust.

For most everyday cleaning jobs, your best bet is to soak the pan in warm water. Then use a non-metal brush or the abrasive side of a sponge to remove most food debris and grit from the pan. If the burns are bad, try boiling water in it. This will loosen gunk and gummy residues and can help dissolve a lot of the char. After a quick rinse, you can wipe the pan dry and apply more oil.

Alternatively, you can deglaze the pan with hot water or vinegar. This is an effective way to loosen gummy gunk and will probably work even better than boiling water alone. Just be careful not to splash yourself. You might want to take this step in the kitchen, or put a large bowl underneath your pan to catch any spills.

Baking soda is another good option for cleaning your cast iron. It has mild abrasive properties and its alkaline nature can help neutralize acids that have burned onto your pan. To use baking soda, sprinkle it liberally into your pan. Use a paper towel or cloth to rub the burnt-on food until it starts lifting away.

If your pan is rusted or crusty, you can soak it in an equal mixture of water and distilled vinegar for about an hour. Rinse and scrub it with a clean, non-metal brush or the abrasive, non-stick side of a sponge. For stubborn rust spots, you can also sprinkle the pan with steel wool or a metal scouring pad (don’t use the scented ones as they contain detergents).

It’s important to thoroughly dry your pan after you’re finished cleaning it. This will help prevent spotting and staining. After you’ve wiped it down with a paper towel or cloth, you can set it on the stove over low heat to drive off any moisture that might otherwise cause it to rust.

Once the pan is fully dry, you’re ready to start cooking again! Make sure to re-season it with more oil before you store it. It’s always a good idea to store a well-seasoned pan in a cool, dry place. This will help to prolong its life and protect your investment. You’ll thank yourself later for keeping it in good condition and avoiding the hassle of buying a new pan!