Cast iron cookware is pretty great. They can retain the heat for a prolonged amount of time, which lowers the usage of fuel or gas. Also, usually, the durability level will be reasonably high for them.
Even though there are loads of good sides, one thing that makes buyers think twice before getting cast iron cookware is the cleaning process. Yes, the cleaning process of these skillets does require a good amount of effort and time. Especially the exterior!
However, if you know how to clean the outside of a cast iron skillet, the process can feel as effortless as warming up butter on pans. But wouldn’t the correct procedure be hard to learn? Absolutely not! Do not believe us? Stick till the end!
Why Should You Keep the Outside of a Cast-Iron Skillet Clean?
Cast iron is not that well-known for resisting stains. In fact, if you have used a cast-iron skillet for a fair amount of time, you might have already noticed that there is a soot buildup on the exterior of the pan. And this is pretty natural. This soot can make the pan look pretty unsightly.
But the unsightly look of the soot buildup is not the only issue. Over time, the exterior can catch rust and corrosion. The smooth surface will not remain smooth if that happens. And this occurs because the material is being exposed to moisture.
That said, if regularly clean the outside of the cast iron skillet, the chances of both of these issues occurring will be significantly low. For that reason, apart from just cleaning the interior, you would also need to clean the exterior.
How to Clean the Outside of a Cast Iron Skillet? Top 3 Methods Explained
There are a total of three different methods you can follow to cleaning cast-iron skillet outside part. Depending on the severity of the stain, soot buildup, and rust on the exterior, you will have to choose either of the three. With that out of the way, let us get into describing the processes, shall we?
Method 1: Scraping with a Putty Knife
If you notice a black layer on the exterior of the skillet or a little bit of soot buildup, you would need to follow the scarping method. The process is relatively easy, but it is highly effective. And the steps that you would need to follow are:
Step 1: Heat up the Cast Iron Skillet
First and foremost, you need to heat the skillet a little. Set the pan up on the stove and set the fire medium-high. That will warm up the pan's exterior and loosen up the soot buildup.
In fact, you will notice that the soot layer will start to detach from the surface of the skillet.
Step 2: Get the Required Materials
While the pan is heating up, get yourself a towel or gloves. It will protect your fingers from burning while you try to get the soot out of the surface. Also, you would need to get a sharp putty knife. Do not use the regular knives because they will scratch up the exterior.
If you do not have a putty knife, you can use a wire brush. But make sure that the brush does not have a pointy edge.
Step 3: Use the Putty Knife to Scrape off the Soot off the Surface
Wear gloves or hold the putty knife with a towel. Start scraping off the exterior using the knife. Start with a slow and gentle motion. Follow the circular motion to clean off any of the excess soot buildups. Also, if you are using a wire brush, do not use too much force.
Carry out the motion for at least 5 minutes. After that, most of the buildups will fall, and you will be capable of seeing the cast iron surface of the pan.
Step 4: Wash the Skillet
At this point, most of the buildups will be off the surface. To get the remaining ones off the exterior, you would need to wash the pan. Use a mild dishwasher soap to get any of the residues.
Also, try to clean the surface as soon as you scrape it, or else the residues might stick to the surface again. Some might think that the soap might discolor or damage the cast iron coating, but that will surely not be the case if you are using mild dishwashing soap.
Cast iron is pretty tough. Mild soap will not cause any damage to the surface. On that note, if the residues are a bit tough or stubborn, you might need to use a non-abrasive scrub. Soak the scrub with dishwashing liquid and thoroughly clean the exterior.
Step 5: Re-Season the Skillet
Lastly, move along to the seasoning process when the pans are clean. First, dry the exterior thoroughly. User a clean cloth or towel to get off any of the excess water that might be on the top.
Get yourself a good amount of shortening or vegetable oil and pour it inside a small bowl. Now, you need to preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a cloth or towel to rub the shortening or oil all over the exterior surface.
When you are done rubbing the exterior, pop it inside the oven. To prevent any of the excess oil from dripping into the oven, you can put a large pan or skillet under the rack.
After a while, take the skillet out of the oven and keep it aside for cooling. That will allow the seasoned layer to settle on the surface and stick nicely. Once the pan is cooled off, you can use the skillet as you would regularly.
Method 2: Using Natural Lemon Scrub
What if we told you that there is a natural cast iron cleaning material right in your kitchen? Yes, we are talking about lemon. It is not only for cooking. This ingredient can work like a charm in exfoliating and cleansing different cookware.
That means you will be capable of removing the grease buildups and rust from the pan's exterior. And the steps that you would need to follow are:
Step 1: Make a Mixture of Lemon and Cream of Tartar
You would need two components for this cleaning process. The first one is the lemon, while the other one is the cream of tartar. Yes, the lemon can work on its own in terms of cleaning the exterior, but the cream of tartar will increase the cleaning potential.
The lemon contains malic and citric acid. Those two basically make the lemon juice highly acidic. Likewise, the cream of tartar is highly acidic as well. It will cling to the dirt and rust of the surface.
That said, for making this solution, you would need to juice two medium-sized lemons into a bowl. Add two tablespoons of cream of tartar. Use a spoon to mix the mixture properly.
You can make the solution more diluted by adding a bit of water if you want to. That will also make the application process a bit easier.
Step 2: Heat the Skillet up
Once you are done with making the solution, you would need to heat the pan up. Put it on the stove and light the fire in the medium-high option. This heat will soften up the rust, soot, and grease on the exterior. As a result, it will be easier for you to scrape them off later.
Step 3: Apply the Solution
Both the lemon and cream of tartar are highly acidic. So, we would recommend against applying the solution with your hand. Also, you will even risk burning your fingers off as the pan is pretty heated up at this moment. Instead, use a sponge or ladle or steel wool. Apply the solution thoroughly on the surface.
Step 4: Scrub
Now that you have covered most of the exterior with the solution, following the circular scrubbing motion would be time. But do not scrub with a high amount of pressure.
Instead of scrubbing vigorously, gently push the scrub or wool onto the surface and get all loose layers off the surface.
Step 5: Wash and Re-Season
After taking the grimes, rust, and soot off the surface, you would need to wash and re-season the pan. For this, follow steps 4 and 5 of method 1. Once you are done with the wash and seasoning process, you can use the skillet as you would.
Method 3: Baking Soda
Another cooking ingredient that you can use to clean off the exterior of the skillets is baking soda. You might opt for this if you do not have lemon and cream of tartar available in your kitchen.
And as you might already know, baking soda is well-known for being a fantastic alkaline cleansing agent. Other than that, it holds the ability to properly neutralize the fats, grease, and other food residues that are stuck on the exterior of the skillet.
It will also be capable of sanitizing the surface, thanks to the anti-bacterial properties of the ingredient. So, you would want to follow this method if you wish to clear nasty odor from the exterior and clear of intense grime and grease buildups from the exterior.
And these are the steps that you would need to follow for this process:
Step 1: Create a Solution with Baking Soda and Dish Soap
You would need three to four tablespoons of baking soda and two tablespoons of dishwashing solution. Mix them up with a little bit of warm water using a spoon. Ensure to mix the solution thoroughly, or else the solution will not work that efficiently.
You will not have to worry about the grains of the baking soda because that will act as a natural scrub.
Step 2: Rinse the Exterior of the Skillet and Apply the Solution
After preparing the solution, rinse the pan with some warm water. Apply the mixture to the outer surface of the skillet. Ensure that each area is covered with the mixture.
Step 3: Use a Scouring Pad or Sponge
Next, you need to use a soft sponge or scouring pad to rub the entire outer surface. Follow a circular motion and cover each of the parts of the exterior. Put a little bit of pressure while rubbing the areas where there is rust and a high level of grease and grime buildup.
Step 4: Rinse, Dry, and Re-Season the Skillet
Once the cast iron surface starts showing up, you would need to rinse the serface with warm water. It should look squeaky clean at this point. Then, dry it off with a dry towel or paper towel and re-season it.
Tips on How to Keep the Cast Iron Clean for Longtime?
As you can see, the methods are indeed straightforward, but these do take a reasonable amount of time. So, it would be better if you did not have to follow the steps every now and then, correct? Well, for that, you should clean the pan after every use.
By regularly carrying out the cleaning process, you will lower the chances of stubborn grease and grime buildups occurring on the surface. And for regular cleaning, we would recommend using a scouring pad with mild dish soap.
Other than that, we would recommend against storing the pan in a place where the humidity level is considerably high. That would substantially increase the chances of rust and corrosion occurring. Also, do ensure to dry off the skillet after you clean it. Leaving it wet will make it catch rust and corrosion.
Things to Remember While Cleaning the Skillet
There are a couple of things that you would need to consider while cleaning the cast iron skillet. Firstly, do not use an abrasive sponge. That will leave scratches and scuff marks on the surface. Secondly, always use mild dishwashing soap to clean the pans. The harsh one can ruin the coating on the surface.
Finally, to ensure that the cast iron looks excellent and does not lose its luster over time, we would recommend re-seasoning it from time to time.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often should I clean the cast-iron skillet?
We would recommend cleaning the pan after every use. However, many argue that cast-iron skillets should be frequently cleaned as they are prone to rust and corrosion. To avoid that from happening, you would need to dry the pan up properly after washing it.
What should I use to season the cast iron skillet?
High-quality vegetable oil is the go-to pick for seasoning cast iron skillet. However, you can use melted shortening and canola oil for seasoning the cast iron skillet.
How often does the cast iron require seasoning?
You would want to re-season the cast iron at least three times in an entire year. In other words, seasoning it after every four months would be ideal. That would keep the luster and allow the foods to easily release from the cooking surface.
Cast iron skillets are great when it comes to cooking different dishes. These can retain heat for a long amount of time, which makes it easier to cook different recipes on them. Also, the build quality of these skillets makes them last for a prolonged amount of time.
And now that you know how to clean the outside of a cast iron skillet, you will not even have to worry about using a pan that is full of soot, built-up grease, and rust.