Apparently There’s More Than One Way to Care For Your Cast-Iron Skillet
What did I discover this week? Those people LOVE their cast-iron skillets. We have varying opinions on how to care for them, but you responded in such a positive way, I wanted to share everyone's thoughts and amazing suggestions. Thanks again for taking the time out of your busy day to write to me with your cast-iron care and seasoning techniques. I promise my iron-skillet looks a whole lot better today than it did in this photo.
COMMENTS FROM READERS
From Don Heil:
Good morning. I use cast iron every chance I get. Once you cast iron is seasoned, it is very easy to maintain. Run hot water in the skillet for a minute to rinse out as much as possible. If there is food stuck to the pot, use a stainless cleaning pad and scrub as hard as you want. This will not damage your cast iron. Do not use a Brillo pad or any soap or detergent. Rinse the cast iron with hot water. Dry with a towel or paper towel. Heat the cast iron slightly on the stove then apply a thin layer of cooking oil. This will keep your cast iron seasoned and perfect for future use. Make sure you clean it soon after use. Do not let it sit overnight. Good luck!
From Deloris Daugherty:
I have several cast iron skillets I have used regularly for decades: yes, I’m old. After I’m done cooking, if anything sticks (which is rare) I put some water in the skillet and boil any stuck food residue off the skillet, pour that out and wash with hot soapy water and rinse thoroughly with very hot water. I then wipe it out, dry it on the stove, and very lightly spray with nonstick spray or wipe it very lightly with oil.
What you have listed as THE PROPER CLEANING TECHNIQUE FOR CLEANING YOUR CAST IRON is actually how you initially season cast iron. Most modern cast iron pieces are sold preseasoned. The only time you should ever have to reseason cast iron is if it has been allowed to rust.
You will also find there are various techniques to restore cast iron that has been allowed to deteriorate. My husband and I have restored several skillets over the years. This usually involved removing rust and build up then reseasoning.
From Robert V:
People seem to be overthinking this.
You only need to bake your cast iron to redo the seasoning.
However, if you take care of the cast iron you shouldn't need to bake it that often.
What heating/baking the pan does is polymerize the oil which is essentially creating a sheet of plastic to protect the pan and create that nonstick surface.
So how do I clean my cast iron: I wipe it out while the pan is still warm using moist paper towels. If it is really dirty I'll use soap and water but remember that soap will remove the seasoning which is not ideal. If you haven't figured it out seasoning is oil.
Once the pan is clean, pour about a teaspoon of oil in the pan and using a paper towel spread it all over the pan: inside and out.
Use a clean paper towel to remove the excess. You will always have excess so always wipe it down with a clean paper towel.
Finally, place the pan on the burner with high heat until you start to see it smoking. Remove it from the flame and let it cool.
Once cool follow up with a quick wipe down using a clean dry paper towel.
Store the pan away for the next use.
You can use cloth towels instead of paper towels but I find paper is easier.
There's a large debate over what type of oil to use. In my experience, any food-grade oil works but canola is my favorite followed by cheap olive oil. Just remember that different oils have different smoke points which will affect taste depending on how hot you get the pan.
Also if you fail to remove excess oil it will gel and become sticky. Just wash the pan again and reapply oil not forgetting to remove excess.
From Cathleen Ryan:
I’ve always wondered as well about cleaning my cast iron skillet.
I could never imagine baking it for an hr.
I would imagine it would need to be done often?
I made this up to clean mine. ( no soap and water)
After each use I soak it a few “ of water overnight.
In the morning I bring it to a boil for 5 min.
I then scrub it while still pretty hot with the rough side of the sponge.
I rinse really well and dry with a paper towel.
Then oil inside and store it away. ..
It has remained pretty well seasoned as I use it lots.
Hope this helps 😊.
was reading your article on cleaning cast iron and wanted to give you some feedback. I primarily use cast iron because I love the results! When cooking I always preheat the pan to temp before adding food. It doesn't stick as much if the pan is preheated. When cleaning it, coarse salt helps to remove any burnt-on morsels. I use a chunk of potato or a washcloth to rub the salt into the pan. Heat is always a friend! I DO use soap and water over just enough heat to get the water to start steaming while cleaning the pan. As suggested by nearly everyone else, I then return it to the heat to dry. Finally, I do wipe down the whole pan with a little oil. If it looks oily I will heat it up one more time until the new oil starts to smoke a little.
The only time it needs to sit @ 400 degrees freshly coated in oil would be for seasoning the pan. I do this about once a month since I use mine a lot but I don't think I really need to do it more than every few months.
Best of luck!
I read your article on cleaning cast-iron pans. I do what you do, wash with soap and water, heat to dry, oil every third time or so. Whether bacteria or just cleanliness I'm not comfortable with just wiping.
When you mention grandma and how she did not use soap, you need to think about the soap.
Grandma's soap, maybe great grandma for some, was lye-based. Those soaps would, indeed, ruin the pan's seasoning. Today's dish detergents won't have the same effect.
I wouldn't leave the pan soaking overnight, but a fast wash is OK. It only takes but a drop of soap. Scrub with kosher salt to get off any stubborn bits.
Because I don't use my pans every day, I don't use cooking oil to season. I use this
Caron & Doucet - Cast Iron... https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01GT43AAW?ref=ppx_pop_mob_ap_share
Very happy with the results after regular use.
I'm not surprised that this topic raised a lot of comments. Cast iron pans are coming back in vogue for many. They're healthier than non-stick, are great to use, and are trans-generational, they can last almost forever and be handed down for as long. Along with the pans, also handed down are traditions. Everything from recipes and such menial tasks as cleaning a pan, so it is not surprising that you jogged many fond memories. Every grandma is different and everyone's grandma was right.
You can use my comments if you wish, but there is no need to give me any attribution. This is not proprietary info or anything I came up with on my own. Just knowledge I've gained over time from here and there.
I'm just a fan of history and language, and I know that words today carry different meanings than they did 100 years ago. Soap is just one.
Think of the word "phone". From the (relating to distant) and phonic (relating to sound) but more than that it was a novel communication device for grandma. It held such importance at the time that they built special furniture for it. I remember my grandmother's telephone table that sat in a nook in the hallway of her Bronx apartment. It looked similar to this,
Today the phone is a handheld pocket device that is the access point to the entire compilation of mankind's knowledge (although we mostly use them to watch cat videos). A far cry from the party lines and telephone operators of the past.
Thanks for stirring up the memories of grandma's brown lye soap.
From Jeffrey Rogers:
I have a fun story about my skillet. I am an engineer, and one time a well-known tech company reached out to me about a special project. As part of the interview process, they wanted me to bring in a picture of something I thought had an elegant design. Instead, I brought my cast iron skillet to the interview. When the interviewer asked to see my photo, I pulled out the skillet instead, and we talked about the elegance of using a simple heavy chunk of metal to cook delicious food. The interview apparently went well, and the rest of the day each additional interviewer started by asking why there was a cast-iron skillet on the table.
It was also fun to fly with the skillet as a carry-on for that trip. It formed a perfect opaque skillet shape on the x-ray display, and the TSA agent looked around for the owner then gave me a big smile.
Since you asked, here is my understanding of cast iron skillet maintenance. I've been using my cast-iron skillet for about 10 years or so.
When you coat a cast iron skillet with oil and heat it up to around its smoking point, it "polymerizes" into a solid coating. That's what seasoning is. This coating is what makes the skillet non-stick.
You only need to wipe and bake the skillet when that polymer coating is worn down or damaged. If you can't easily fry an egg without it sticking, then it's time to re-season.
The coating can be damaged by cooking acidic or overly wet foods, overheating the skillet so that the coating completely burns off, or physically scraping too hard with metal utensils. Additionally, dish soap is very good at stripping off the coating; dish soap is specifically designed to break down oils.
I clean my skillet between uses by putting a bit of water into it and bringing it to a boil, then scraping it with a spatula. If there's a particularly stubborn mess, I'll use a bit of dish soap and a scrubbing pad, but I'll only scrub until the mess is off, and then I'll immediately rinse out the soap.
If you leave cast-iron wet, it will be prone to rust. So, drying off the skillet is a good idea. Wiping it down with oil after drying it will further prevent rusting. Also, regularly keeping it oiled between uses will help keep the coating in good shape and minimize the need to re-season it.
I've had the best luck using bacon grease or coconut oil to season my skillet. They both have very high smoke point temperatures. Some people believe that low-temperature oils are better, such as flaxseed oil. I've tried both, and the higher temperature oils tend to form a more robust coating that lasts longer. I only re-season a few times a year.
I'm not surprised your article got attention; Cast Iron really has a faithful following! If you ever get the opportunity to have an antique skillet, jump on it! Skillets made today skip the polishing step to save time and money. They still work, but don't have the same glass-smooth finish. Antiques can sell for hundreds of dollars... I was lucky enough to be gifted 3 and they are amazing!
The steps you listed (coating both sides with oil and baking for an hour) are NOT cleaning steps. These are steps for "seasoning" your pan. Seasoning is the process of creating a polymerized coating of hardened oil that serves as a non-stick surface for your pan.
Seasoning is not something you do every time you use the pan. If your pan is seasoned properly when you first buy it, and when cared for properly, you may never have to season it again!
This is where the "never use soap" rule comes into play. Soap can dissolve your polymerized seasoning over time, and then you can end up needing to do it all over again. Over scrubbing with harsh abrasives or chemicals can also remove your seasoning, as well as badly burning something, or cooking certain foods that are high in acidities like tomato sauce or vinegar. So if you do any of these things, you may need to re-season your pan.
In between uses, the cleaning process is much simpler! Everyone and their grandmother have an opinion about proper cleaning, and there are several methods to choose from. My favorite is to scrub the pan with oil and salt. The salt acts as an abrasive that won't scratch your non-stick surface and the oil as a lubricant that won't dissolve the salt (like water will). Once all the food bits are scrubbed clean, just rinse well with hot water, dry with paper towels, and set on the hot burner to dry completely so it won't rust.
Hope this helps,
From Thomas Reid:
Kelly, part of what you posted and read in your article is partially true. I use soap and water on my Cast Iron with no ill effects. My Cast Iron is daily use. If I have a lot of food stuck on I will fill my pan with water and put it back on the stove and heat it up to a boil and turn it off and let it sit for a while. After the water has cooled off I will take it to the sink and dump out the water and run hot water over it while taking a nylon scrub brush and scrubbing the food off. Usually does not take much to get it off. After the food is off I will take a washcloth with just a little soap on it and wash the pan and thoroughly clean it and rinse. Afterward, I will take it back to the stove and heat it up to dry. Once it is dry and still hot I will take a paper towel with some vegetable oil on it and wipe it down. You do it while it is hot because the pores in the metal are open and the oil soaks in. Once the pan cools the metal contracts and the pores close. You should reseason your cookware every so often as the soap will remove the seasoning as will any food that is acidic like tomato sauce or high vinegar content. To reseason your pan make sure your pan is clean and put a very light coat of shortening or vegetable oil on it top to bottom inside and out. The temperature you turn your oven up to will depend on what type of oil you use. I would recommend turning it up to 460° F that is above the polymerization point of most oils. Which is the point of seasoning. Then bake your Cast Iron for an hour upside down. Turn your oven off and leave the oven door shut and allow your Cast Iron to slowly cool down. You can place a sheet of tin/aluminum foil on the rack below your Cast Iron to catch the drips. The results should be a hard shiny finish. You can repeat seasoning your Cast Iron multiple times to get a smooth hard layer. But above all clean and oil your cookware and if you store your lids with your cookware place a snake of rolled-up paper towel between the lid and the bottom to allow air in and moisture out.
From Gale Griego:
I struggled with the same question about cleaning cast iron cookware. You may find this link helpful:
(Rio Rancho, NM)
From Paul Brookman:
If it can not be just wiped out and re-oiled, I boil a small quantity of water, maybe a quarter-inch with a lid on the skillet. Then after a spatula scraping, I dump the water and then use a skillet brush over the sink and brush it clean. Finally, it's back on the stove and heat to evaporate all water. With the heat turned off, I spray it with a backing oil that contains olive oil and let it cool before wiping out any excess. I also use actual olive oil.
But, never clean a skillet with water and forget to oil after. I have a skillet that lost all seasoning and rusted at one point. I have it cleaned up well but have not done the oven thing yet. I have to say it is my favorite pan; something about the now uneven cooking surface due to water damage makes it an awesome pan for eggs. Mostly I wipe it out and that's all. But, if it gets cleaned and not heated and oiled, it will develop rust so I watch that carefully.
I hope that helps
From Norm Carriere:
I always make sure the pan is properly seasoned, cause without that you just have a need waiting to happen. With a properly seasoned pan, and ensuring it's heated up properly. Adding a little oil to the cooking process makes it fairly stick-free.
I find that a lot of sauces if they have sugar can cause gumminess that is difficult to clean.
But for cleaning, I'm a firm believer in course salt. That's it. I keep a box of course salt and dunno it in after, grab a paper towel and rub it all in. The salt helps to loosen any stuck-on food, plus it absorbs smells too. The paper towel helped absorb the excess oil and food. You will know when you have done it right. Dunno the salt in the trash and pack it up.
Leaves the pan with a nice base ready to go again. Water is the enemy of the cast. But every now and then if I get a mess too big, I will use soap and water. Immediately dry, and then reseason.
From Paul Esterline:
I have been a blacksmith for 41 years. I just want to go crazy every time I see articles on what you should not do with cast iron. I have at least 8 cast-iron pans all of them are washed with soap every time they are used, towel-dried, (it is not necessary to dry them on the stove, a good friend burned herself badly doing this) then I use spray oil and wipe the excess with a paper towel.
It is cast iron, it is nearly indestructible! Yes you can declare your cast iron with cold water it will not crack, I once heated a cast iron pan to 1500° (red hot) just to test and it did not crack. You got it 500° (I highly doubt you will get it hotter without some serious heat output!) on a stove or in an oven is nothing for your pan. You should only need to season it 1 time unless it has not been used forever and has some serious rust on it. The best way to keep your pan seasoned is to use it. Here is what happens when you coat your pan with oils snd put it in a hot oven for an hour. The pores in the iron open up and suck that oil deep inside. It is there permanently unless it is neglected for a long time or intentionally removed. Soap and hot water are not going to do it!
You can and should use something to scrub off stuck-on food. I use a "scrubby" sponge on all my pans the bottom of my pans are as smooth as silk, all are non-stick and I even use steel a spatula or a spoon on all my cast iron!
Please stop being afraid of cast iron it is incredible stuff that can take anything you have in your kitchen!
From W. Rom:
Cleaning cast iron is quite easy. You'll need a natural bristle brush. Mamma used a bundled of straw with twine wrapped handle. With the difficulty of finding straw, I purchased bamboo skewers. Grab about 8-10 and wrap a Rubber band around it. Bring the pan to medium heat and add a bit of hot water. This is the same as deglazing. The rapidly boiling water will help to lift food off of the seasoned surface. Use the bamboo brush to scrape and scrub any tough bits. Rinse with hot water and repeat until clean. The bamboo can be scrubbed with soap to remove any particles left on it. Just NEVER use soap on the pan. Salt or sand can be used as an abrasive cleanser if no water is available. Once clean, warm the pan, wipe with oil, then Heat to 400°-500°. It is the slow building of layers that will eventually make cast iron as nonstick as any ceramic, Teflon, or Diamond dust frying pan that can be passed down for generations to come.
From Phyllis Blickensderfer:
I don’t have my mother’s. I do have my mother-in-law’s small cast iron skillet. She passed away in 1968 and I inherited it. Mom passed away in 1995, and I had my thirty-four-year-old wedding present skillet when Dad sold out and bought a travel trailer.
I treat both of mine the same - wash in hot water, scour a bit when needed, dry in the stove, then wipe a small amount of olive oil over the interior. My daughter does hers the same way. I wish I could get my husband and my sister to do the same. Every once in a while I find the large skillet well scoured with soap and water 😢!! and have to re-season with oven time.
There was a time when Mom thought hers had been abused and asked Dad how best to clean the outside. He worked for American Airlines at the maintenance facility in Tulsa. Aircraft engine parts that needed degreasing and cleaning were put through a process where they were bombarded with nut hulls - and came out as clean as new. So Mom said to hang the skillet and put it through that process. It came out the cleanest, softest gray you’ve ever seen. It took her a long time to get it re-seasoned to work as the non-stick skillet a cast-iron one should be.
I’ve been married sixty years this year, and wouldn’t give up my cast iron skillet. Follow the advice given by the manufacturer of the best selling and a cast iron skillet will last decades.
From Miri Ann:
I always clean right away. Either I wipe the oil out with paper towels and put it away or I scald out with hot water then dry and put it away. Never leave sit in water or food.
After making chili or fried chicken iI transfer food to another container like an oven-safe tureen and skald out my cast iron dry and put it away
If I cook bacon I wipe out oil and put it away
For health quality of food and taste is the best option
From Becky Hunter:
I read your article "Is your Grandma’s Advice About How To Clean Your Cast Iron Skillet Really Sanitary?
I am not sure how I ran across it, but it did catch my attention. I think of how my mom & grandmother describe "cleaning" a cast-iron skillet and it seems gross to me. Growing up in WV, I was always taught to simply wipe out the skillet and stick it back in the over to store it. I am not sure who invented cast iron cookware, but they have always had widespread use here. I remember being corrected as a child for using soap on my mother's skillets. My mother claims that Grandma's food always tasted better because of all of the flavors that comes through from the previously cooked food. I am not sure that is so appealing. That being said, I love my cast iron and I try to use a mixture of what I was taught with things I have just found to work for me. I do not find a paper towel sufficient for wiping them out. I keep a small nylon scraper handy in my kitchen to scrap my skillet after I use it. I have even been known to use a razor blade at times. Like I was taught, I do not use soap. I have found that even the smallest amounts of soap reduce the black gleam that is on a well-seasoned skillet. In order for a skillet to not stick, it needs to have absorbed all those oils. Soap breaks them down and washes them away. I do sometimes use a minimal amount of cold water with a wire sponge. After each use, I do wipe it, at least on the interior, with some avocado oil. I use avocado oil because it has a higher smoke point. I think I used grapeseed oil to initially season but it has been so long ago I don't really remember. If I feel like I have used too much or too warm of water I will leave extra oil to soak in the skillet. I still store mine in my oven. I have used my skillets for years and they have a wonderful black gleam to them. I never use my skillets to cook highly acidic foods such as spaghetti sauce. I mostly use my cast iron for meats and this probably has added to how well-seasoned mine is because I almost always use avocado oil or bacon grease to cook in it. Did I mention I was raised in WV and bacon grease is a must, haha? I do use them to bake cornbread or pone in too. Just remember that you really can not mess up an iron skillet. Even if they are rusted you can clean them up with some steel wool. Just clean it with soap and water and start the seasoning process from scratch if you need to do so.
That's just my two cents. I will also say the WV Department of Agricultural is a great source. You may also find information with the WVU Extension Service. Have a great day!
Meadow Bluff, WV
From Chris Schultz:
I always cook with it, then wipe out everything I can after it cools enough to handle. I run hot water in it and let it soak for a couple of minutes ( anything that doesn't just wipe out then comes off easily with a plastic scraper, I have a set from Lodge). Then I wipe it dry, heat it, and wipe it with Crisco inside and out. I wipe off any extra oil as it heats to the smoke point, then shut it off and let it cool. When it's cool it isn't sticky or tacky at all and I have never had to reseason the pan after the first time as my process seems to be a mini-seasoning. Getting it hot through the whole pan and wiping off the extra oil is key though.
Fran Campbell says:
Hi Kelly. I found your article about cat iron skillets really interesting. I'm 77 years old and have used these amazing skillets all my life... Currently, I have a 10" and a 14" that I keep in my oven and actually use nearly every day.
As far as the care of these skillets, opinions vary. One of my grandmothers Never cleaned hers... Oh my, that was furnished. However, I absolutely do clean mine, after every use. This is my method:
After each use, I rinse the skillet in the sink with hot water and a little Dawn liquid. Using a small scrub brush, I clean the inside and outside, then rinse well. Then, I put the wet skillet on my gas burner and watch carefully while it dries. I put a very small amount of olive oil in the pan and rub it all inside and outside with a paper towel. Then, I just store it in the oven till the next use. Mine do not rust. I believe the drying part is imperative. Plus, my stove is gas, so the oven is usually a little warm.
I hope this was helpful. Blessings on you!
From Rev. Charles:
I have cooked with a cast-iron skillet all my life and I learned how to maintain my skillet from my grandmother who was born in 1902 and a cast-iron skillet is all she ever used and she learned from her mother who learned from her mother etc. you can clean your skillet with either cold or hot water with a light bristle brush to remove the debris then wipe it down to eliminate excess water put your skillet on the stove or fireplace and let it heat up until you cannot leave your fingers on the bottom of the skillet then add vegetable oil or laud to the inside bottom and sides of the skillet then removed the skillet from heat and let it cool down naturally this will clean and sterilize your skillet plus it will add another layer of seasoning to your skillet so chances are you will only have to re-season your skillet once a year. Rev. Charles
Hans Henriksen says:
Enjoyed your article. Figured I'd write to let you know why you never use soap on cast iron.
Cast iron is porous. Seasoning fills the pores, but just as you'll transfer iron to your food while cooking (cooking with cast iron keeps your diet iron-rich), soap will attach to the iron that is near impossible to rinse out. Using soap will start adding a soapy flavor to your food.)
As far as cleaning goes, I have a rag and a scotch bright pad that are only used on my skillets. I use heat to dry after they are cleaned. I stack my cast iron with a handkerchief between each pan. They are best at not leaving lint. I season my iron after about every third cook and only use grapeseed oil (high temp) applied with a handkerchief that is again dedicated to the job. And for best seasoning results it should be done for an hour in a 500-degree oven.
Hope this helps,
From Jim Garrison:
I came across your article on my news feed and thought I'd share my tips on cast iron skillet cooking/cleaning.
My grandma would cook most of her food in a cast-iron skillet and I never saw the appeal as it was heavy and dated. Seemed like there were always better options. She passed away a while ago but I never really asked her about using it.
Fast forward to 3 or so years ago and my wife was diagnosed with celiac disease. It was tough to adapt to a gluten-free diet but as part of that, you need to trash a lot of your cookware; especially the nonstick skillet as gluten is a protein that sticks to most all things like nonstick surfaces, silicone, wood, plastic, etc. I used the opportunity to add a cast iron griddle to my kitchen as well as a smaller 9" pan which we would use on the go as a safe vessel for cooking at relatives' houses or camping. The pandemic added to more at-home cooking as well and I started to realize that I gravitated to the cast iron more and more as my preferred cookware. The more I used it, the better it got. Part of it was laziness as I didn't need to really "clean it" so I found it a lot faster. Also, i noticed that using butter was the best for cooking which made all foods taste great and kept things well seasoned. Pancakes, eggs, fish, stir fry, etc all worked well as long as I did a few things every time.
Know the right temperature to cook things on. If you see the butter smoking, you're too hot. If you need to go hotter, you can use vegetable or grapeseed oil. You just don't want the oil/fat you're using to burn which causes it to turn into a brown polymer that is sticky and hard to remove.
After cooking, wipe the pan with a paper towel unless there is stuff stuck inside. If there are things stuck, (after removing heat) add some butter or oil and let that sit to help loosen things up. Use a metal spatula or knife if needed...one of the benefits of cast iron is using metal tools. Once the oil/butter is in there for a bit in the warm pan, stuff should come off. If not, you may need to really scrub it with a brillo pad, clean, and re-season but I've never found this to be the case. They sell chain link scrubber pads for cast iron that are very helpful and should be used before soap/water.
After wiping the pan post-cooking, let it cool down and then rinse it in really hot water to melt any residual excess oil you didn't get out before. Wipe again with a dedicated towel or paper towel and it's ready for next time.
If you have just cooked fish or something that is a little stinky, you should add a step to the cleaning routine. After the last "hot" rinse I mentioned, sprinkle the pan with baking soda and scrub it into the pan's surface with a scrubber that does NOT have soap on it. The baking soda should remove any stink. Then rinse and dry. You may need to use a little extra butter next time to get things going.
That's about it. I love my cast iron griddle. I make pancakes and eggs on it every weekend and usually go through a half stick of butter each time for a family of four. Little did I know that the cast iron cookware my Grandma Eleanor used was not really a sign of dated technology, but rather just simple, straightforward cooking using stuff others had been doing for centuries.
Hope that helps.
From Michelle Welch:
My name is Michelle and although I don't live in Minnesota, your article came across my Google feed and I just wanted to share what I have learned. I have a few cast-iron pans: 3 different-sized skillets, a griddle pan, 3 loaf pans, and a dutch oven. I use my skillets almost every day.
Quoting your article:
Coat your entire skillet, which means the inside of your skillet, as well as the outside of your skillet, with oil or shortening.
According to an article from the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, THIS IS THE KEY: After you've coated the entire skillet, bake it at 400 degrees FOR AN HOUR.
Okay, some important information has been left out. This is the process you use to season your cast iron BEFORE you use it. Even though most cast iron comes pre-seasoned from the factory, I always do this when I get a new pan. Scrub your pan with hot soapy water and dry thoroughly. A few minutes on a warm burner is a great way to make sure all the water is gone. Then coat your pan with a thin layer of oil or shortening, then wipe it all off with a clean cloth. (I know -- WHAT? I just put that on there! - but trust me, there is a thin coat left). Place it UPSIDE DOWN on the middle rack of your hot oven with a baking sheet or foil on the lower rack to catch any drips. I do mine at 500' and, equally critical, after the hour, turn your oven off and let the pan cool completely inside the oven. Do not open the door till it's done.
Again, quoting: From time to time, you may need to re-season it to maintain the skillet, but this all depends on how often you use it.
The more you use your skillet, the LESS often it will need complete reseasoning. The fats and oils used in cooking add to the seasoning layer, so if you use it only occasionally, you will need to reseason it more often.
I do wash my pans with soap and water. I try to dry them right away, sometimes life happens and I don't. Easy fix, I just put my pan on the stove, wipe the interior with a bit of oil, turn the burner on low and let it get warm. Then I wipe it out and back in the cabinet it goes -- usually until dinner time and it gets used again.
I love my cast iron and I hope this helps!
From Benjamin Newman:
In regards to your question on cleaning techniques, I would like to submit mine.
I was my cast iron with soap and water, getting the majority of particles off. I then dry my skillet with a towel. I heat it on the stove until dry and then coat it with oil using a separate towel that's not in the same wash rotation as my others. I use flaxseed oil to coat the pan and coat it all over. I keep it on the stove for a bit, until it stops smoking, and coat it again before letting it cool on the stove and then storing it.
From Matt Kenney:
I wash it with soap and water.....only takes a second half-ass dry it with a towel then throw it on the heat of the stove and oil it. I am the cook in the house and use it often and it is my favorite. I've heard all the same advice you have but my way works perfectly! I've been using the same cast iron flat top and pan for over 20 years.
From Linda Maddox:
Cleaning my cast iron skillet.
I've had my skillets for fifty years, when l finish cooking in them I always rinse them out while the skillet is still warm, a little dish soap every now and then does not do any damage to the skillet. If for some reason your skillet gets rusty, rinse it out with soap and water dry it out and grease it inside and out, put it in the stove or on the eye of the stove turn heat on a low setting, two hours and your skillet will be the season. I grease them every time I finish using them.
The instructions you found using oil on all surfaces and baking for an hour at 400 degrees are instructions on how to season your pan. Those are not cleaning instructions at all.
My cousin and I both clean and reseason old pans we find and we both use that method. After we get the pans cleaned down to bare iron, place the pan in a 200-degree oven for 15 mins to make sure it's completely dry and to open the pores. Remove and apply Crisco to all surfaces and then wipe every bit off that you can. The pan should not look oily. Then place in the oven at 400 for an hour. Shut off the oven and let the pan cool in the oven. I repeat this process 3 or 4 times to get a decent layer of seasoning on the pan before using it.
Cleaning the pans after cooking I just run under hot water. Use a soft scrubby to remove any stuck bits of food. Dry with a paper towel and then place on the stove over medium heat to make sure all the moisture is evaporated. Then rub a little Crisco on the cooking surface of the pan and wipe out excess with a paper towel.