Clean Your Cast Iron Skillets with Salt

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When I first heard my Grandma tell me (I had just bought a new set of cookware) that, “You should clean your cast iron skillets with salt,” I thought she was joking. She wasn’t, and proceeded to show me by example with one of her own old skillets she had cooked with last night and was still on the stovetop.

Within two minutes, and with incredible ease, she turned a skillet that looked like this …

clean your cast iron skillets with salt public domain

… into this:

Cast-Iron-Pan public domain

I was flabbergasted!

For years I had been scrubbing away with hot water and soap and lots of elbow grease to clean my old set of cast iron cookware. Thank goodness I had decided to go and stay with Grandma for the summer, to help out around the house while Grandpa rehabilitated from a serious surgery procedure. “Clean your cast iron skillets with salt” was ringing in my delighted ears.

Overall, the advantages of using cast iron cookware are numerous. They are very inexpensive, durable and, if properly seasoned and maintained, work just as good as any expensive “non-stick” cookware.

You can fry meats, fish, scramble eggs, make omelets, prepare a stovetop quiche, sauté vegetables, scramble eggs, heck – you can even make pizzas in them! A cast iron skillet heats evenly, all over the bottom and up the walls, with no “hot spots” where you can inadvertently burn your fried chicken. Maintained properly, cast iron cookware will last for hundreds of years, and can be passed down from generation to generation as a family treasured heirloom.

Okay, enough of why cast iron is a great choice for the kitchen. Here is how to-

Clean your Cast Iron Skillets with Salt:

A simple two step process will keep your cast iron cookware clean, seasoned, and maintained properly-

  1. First, and while the pan is still warm, pour 1 cup of coarse kosher salt, or coarse sea salt into the bottom and spread it around evenly. I usually use Kosher salt, just because it is cheaper than most sea salt products, and works just as well. Use either several thicknesses of paper towel or a folded kitchen towel to scour the pan. You will be impressed how easily even tough burnt bits and cooking residues will scrub right off. Discard the salt and then rinse the pan with hot water – do not use soap! Cast iron and soap do not go together. You will destroy the skillet’s wonderful patina and flavor imparting properties. Dry it right away, again with either fresh clean paper towels or a kitchen towel. Or, you can place the pan on the stovetop over medium-low flame and evaporate the moisture. Just be careful to cut the flame off as soon as the pan is dry, and not leave it “frying air” any longer.
  2. To properly season the skillet, rub about 1 tbsp. of flaxseed oil all over the cast iron. You can also use regular vegetable oil, or lard, but flaxseed oil is my personal favorite. This procedure is what helps the pan to develop that beloved, attractive glossy patina. It also prevents the advent of rusting, and it ensures that the pan will retain its nonstick properties.

For all you people who pick up ideas and learn things better by use of visualizing, here is a very good, short video to watch. It is a clip from one of my favorite cooking TV shows, starring the fun and talented Rachael Ray.

You will note that, in this video, it is recommended that you do not even wash the skillet after cleaning it with salt – just wipe it out clean of the salt and put it away. Some people adhere to this regimen, and it apparently works fine to do it that way. I am with the camp of cooks who prefer to wash out the salt residue with (non-soapy) hot water, dry the pan immediately, then coat it with a thin layer of oil. To me, this keeps the flavor imparting properties impartial (not extra “salty”) and aids in the development of the rich patina. But which method you use is your choice.

And that, my friends, is how you can effortlessly clean your cast iron skillets with salt. I hope you enjoyed this short post, please do leave a comment, let us know if you have cast iron cookware and whether or not you’ve used this technique, and if not – would you try it now?

P.S. – for more information about cast iron cookware, click here. If you would like to purchase some cast iron cookware at excellent prices for the value, click here.

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18 thoughts on “Clean Your Cast Iron Skillets with Salt

  1. You know I’d heard about this, but wasn’t convinced until reading this article. Makes sense now, thanks.

  2. Hey Marvin:

    Thanks for the reminder. I’ve got one nice griddle pan that we picked up at a garage sale. It hasn’t been used in a long while and really needs to be bricked and salted. I tend to do it outside over a grill fire when it’s really bad.

    (I don’t really use a brick, just steel wool to scrub off the rust with a bunch of oil that I let soak in.)

  3. Perfect timing to have read this post. My husband just bought a cast iron skillet. I will make him read all your information. I don’t enjoy cooking very much and therefore don’t know much about all that jazz. I had no idea cast irons were ‘special’ and required different cleaning techniques. Luckly I haven’t used it yet so it’s still in good shape. Thanks for the info!

    • Summerly, you are most welcome. Good for you that you have a husby that loves to cook, lol. I hope he finds this information helpful.

  4. Even though I don’t have cast iron cookware, I have a friend who is a chef and when he comes to my house, he always brings his own cookware as if mine is not sufficient. He says cast iron cook wear is the only way to cook. Now, I have something new to share with him. Who would have thought that salt would do the trick. He will probably come back with the fact that he already knew this….

    • Matt’s Mom (I love your name, btw, lol) if your friend is a chef who prefers his own set of cast iron cookware, my money is betting he already knows about the salt cleaning technique. Thanks for the visit and comment!

  5. Ok, SOLD! lol – I not only learned how to clean cast iron easily, this post has given me enough reasons to buy a set! Lotsa thanks, Old Silly!

    • Margo, you are most welcome, and remember, if you want to buy a set of them, just click on the link at the bottom of the post – you will find some awesome prices and values at our online store, okay?

  6. I have a full set of cast iron cookware, that is nearly 100 years old, belonged to my Great Grandma and has been handed down from her to Grandma, to my Mum and now to me. I wouldn’t trade them for the most expensive new set of ANY kind of cookware!

    And yes, I (like my Mum taught me and her Mum taught her) “wash” them with salt. I also, like you, Marv, prefer to dry them after cleaning and rinsing on the stovetop, and then lightly oil them. The patina and flavoring properties of these old skillets and pots are unparalleled by any other cookware implements in my kitchen!

    • Barb, you are so fortunate to have such a wonderful heirloom. Cast iron cookware that old, that has been properly seasoned and maintained for that long, an produce dishes with a flavor that no new set of any kind of cookware can. You said you had a full set, and mentioned “pots” – would you care to tell us what all you have in your set?

      • Oh sure, Marvin, my set includes 3 skillets: 8″, 10″, and a 14″, and two saucepans, 1 quart and a 2 quart, and also a Dutch Oven. And I wouldn’t trade ANY of them for all the expensive copper cookware or non-stick cookware sets in the world!

        • Wow, Barb, now that’s what I call a full set! A 14″ skillet?! I bet you can make some monster omelets in that baby, and probably fry a complete batch of whole chicken parts all at one time, eh? Not to mention a large, 14″ pizza!

  7. Clean your cast iron skillets with salt, huh? I woulda never thunk it, lol … but it makes good sense, and the video helped a lot, showing how well it really works. Thanks a lot, Old Silly, you just saved the wife and me a lot of soap and elbow grease!

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