Alton Brown on the Best Way to Clean a Cast-Iron Skillet: ‘It’s Iron; It’ll Get Over It’

If you’re an owner of a cast-iron skillet, you’re familiar with its magic to transform dishes such as pizza and even fried eggs into mealtime masterpieces. How to care for the kitchen tool, however, can be confusing and intimidating for some home cooks. But former Food Network personality Alton Brown has you covered. The Good Eats host shared some no-nonsense advice on how to clean a cast-iron skillet.

Culinary personality Alton Brown, right, with 'GMA' host Robin Roberts, demonstrates a recipe using a cast-iron skillet.
Alton Brown shows morning show host Robin Roberts a recipe using a cast-iron pan. |
Lou Rocco/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Alton Brown explained that a cast-iron skillet can indeed handle soap

In a “Precise Advice” segment for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Brown was asked: “Is it really a sin to wash your cast iron with soap? What’s actually the best way to clean your cast iron?”

Brown pulled back the murky curtain on this topic, advising home cooks that they can wash their skillets. “It is not [a sin],” he said. “It’s iron; it can take some soap. I use some soap on mine all the time.”

How to clean cast-iron pans (at 3:06) plus other great culinary insights from chef Alton Brown

Brown shared how he gives his cast-iron pans a good cleaning

The Iron Chef host expanded on his cast-iron cleaning answer. Soap is good; harsh abrasives are not.

“What cast iron doesn’t like is high abrasives,” he said. “Because once you create what we call a cure, you know, you get it nice and black, you get that polymerized crust on there, you want to keep that smooth. That’s what keeps rust out. So you don’t want to use abrasives. I mean like a metal abrasive.”

He then explained step by step how he cleans his pans. “I usually deglaze mine, let it get really hot, deglaze it with some liquid, scrape around with a wooden spoon, most everything comes off,” he said. “Then I put a little oil on it and put it away.

“But if something’s really stuck on there, use soap and water. It’s iron; it’ll get over it.”

Alton Brown revealed his favorite cast-iron skillet

The former Food Network star, who clearly knows his cast-iron cookware, told SFGate about his preferred cast-iron pan and the brand he surprisingly considers top of the line.

“I collect cast iron, so I got a lot of really old stuff, stuff that isn’t made anymore,” he explained. “If I had to swear what my favorite was, it’d probably be a Griswold from the 1940s — but like I said, they’re not made anymore. From a metallurgical standpoint, Lodge is probably the best around.”

Lodge brand cast-iron skillets are among the most affordable, so it’s rather unexpected that the chef isn’t instead touting a pan costing three to four figures.

“There are people out there with foundries that are making very, very boutique metal,” Brown continued. “But for the money, it’s not possible to beat a Lodge 10-inch cast-iron pan. And once you’ve invested about 15 years into the surface for your Lodge, it’s hard to give away — even for fancier stuff.”

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