Baked on grease in a cast iron skillet may look hard to clean, but fortunately, it’s not. There are several methods to use, depending on personal preference and the severity of the grease problem. You can boil water in the cast iron, scrub the grease with a scouring pad, or use an abrasive scrub. Each method will be discussed here.
1: The Boiling Method
The boiling method is the easiest and most effective method to use without causing damage to the cast iron skillet. Baked on grease is stubborn and the other cleaning methods could cause you to scrub the seasoning off if you’re not careful. After you are done using the cast iron and it has grease stuck on it, scrape whatever food bits you can with a stiff, plastic, or wooden, spatula. Then, add just enough water to the cast iron to cover the bottom and boil the water o the stovetop.
While the water is boiling, scrape the stubborn grease with the spatula, being careful not to splash the boiling water on you. After the grease is removed, pour the water out and wipe away any remaining grease with a paper towel. Dry the cast iron skillet completely and reseason the skillet using the oven method.
2: The Scouring Method
The second cleaning method for removing baked on grease is by scrubbing the cast iron skillet with a scouring pad. The first step is to wipe away any food bits and grease as you can with a paper towel. Then, try to remove any other cooked on bits with a wooden spoon or plastic spatula. This preparation helps the stubborn stains lift off and makes less of a mess while cleaning the cast iron.
Next, pour enough warm water into the cast iron to barely cover the bottom. Scrub the grease with a scouring pad, gently, in a circular direction. As the water becomes muddy, toss the water and wipe the cast iron with a paper towel again and repeat the process. This is not a common method because, if you scour too hard, the seasoning could lift off. If this happens, the cast iron will have hot spots due to the bare cast iron being exposed and food will not cook evenly. Plus, the bare spots will cause food to stick to those areas. The solution here is to strip the cast iron and start the seasoning process over.
After the grease scrubs off, check for bare spots in the cast iron. If the cast iron is seasoned properly, it will be obvious. Seasoned cast iron has a glossy sheen to it whereas non-seasoned cast iron will be a flat black color. If the cast iron has these spots, they can be reseaoned, usually. Just treat the bare spots as you would non-seasoned cast iron. If this doesn’t reseason the cast iron, scour the entire surface to remove all seasoning and reason the entire cast iron. If there are no bare spots, reseason the cast iron using the oven method.
3: The Soft Abrasive Method
If scrubbing is required to remove baked on grease and the scouring method is not preferred, a milder solution is to scrub the cast iron with a soft abrasive such as baking soda or salt. Baking soda is the least abrasive and is good for minor cleaning. Salt is coarser and is better for harder cleaning jobs but both will not usually remove the cast iron’s seasoning.
To scrub the cast iron with baking soda, first, remove the stuck-on food bits and excess grease with a paper towel. After the surface bits are gone, add baking soda to the dried pan and scrub with a soft-bristled brush or an SOS pad. Once the baking soda is dirty, pour it out, rinse the cast iron, and repeat the process. If this isn’t working, go to the salt method.
The salt method is the same process as the scouring method, only with salt added. Salt will protect the seasoning as it provides a barrier between the scrubbing tool and the cast iron’s finish. Salt is also abrasive which assists in the scrubbing method. Once the water becomes dirty, pour it out and repeat the process. Whichever method you use, reseason the cast iron using the oven method.
How Do You Remove Old Sticky Grease From Cast Iron?
Old sticky grease and gummy residue on a cast iron skillet is a sign of too much oil being used in the cast iron. Generally, only 1-2 tablespoons are necessary to cook most dishes (deep frying being excluded). If the cast iron is properly seasoned, this amount of oil is sufficient. Another cause of gummy residue in cast iron is from seasoning a cast iron while it is still cold.
It is best to warm a cast iron before it is seasoned. The warming opens the cast iron’s pores and allows the oil to seep in and polymerize with the natural metal. If you have gummy cast iron, you can scrub it. The easiest way to resolve this issue is by baking the cast iron.
The baking method is simple. Place a drip pan on the bottom of the oven to catch any potential drips, place the cast iron upside down on the middle rack, and bake at 400℉ for one hour. This allows the cast iron to open its pores and release the excess oil.
How Do You Remove Black Grease From Cast Iron?
Removing black grease from a cast iron skillet is straightforward. Boil water in the cast iron and scrape it with a wooden spoon or plastic spatula. Once the water dirties, pour the water out and wipe the cast iron with a soft cloth or paper towel. Repeat as necessary. After the initial cleaning, reseason the cast iron using the oven method.
My name is Jason Phillips and I cooked for many years, primarily aboard Merchant Marine vessels and in fast-paced commercial kitchens. My passion for culinary arts led me to attend a culinary arts academy in 2019 where the instructor piqued my interest in food and beverage writing.