How to Clean Black Residue off Cast Iron Skillet?

We are again in front of you with yet another solution for your problems!! We are sure you have turned all your cleaning towels black up till now and you are planning to either bury your cast iron skillet deep in the storeroom or to buy more bunch of cleaning towels for the kitchen.

We are here to let you know that using these towels and getting rid of your cast iron skillet is not the solution to the problem of collected black residue. That black residue is actually the result of preseasoning which is done by the manufacturers of every cast iron skillet.

There are a lot of people out there who would recommend you to get rid of it as soon as possible so that your cooking becomes more clear in that cast iron skillet. Once the seasoning is removed you can season it by yourself after wards in order to keep your cast iron skillet non-stick and long lasting.  

The other reason behind the formation of the black layer on your cast iron skillet can be either the burnt food, burnt fat such as oil, grease or rust. This type of residue unlike the black residue of the seasoning oil is meant to be cleaned off before it ruins your cookware. We will be explaining the causes of the black residue later in this article in detail.

What Causes the Black Residue on Cast Iron Skillet Other than the Seasoned Oil?

1. Burnt fat, such as oil:

There are certain types of oil that have a low smoke point. To give a clear understanding we have come up with some examples: pumpkin seed oil, flaxseed oil, walnut oil, olive oil, grape seed oil, etc. The low smoke point actually means that you should not heat it at high temperatures. If overheated, they can form a layer of carbon which takes the form of black residue over your cast iron skillet.

2. Burnt food:

Most of the people commit the mistake of not adding oil while cooking. The absence of the cooking oil can cause your food to get burnt and stick in the form of black residue.

Other than this, the food items which are rich in carbohydrates or proteins can also ruin your skillet if overheated.

3. Unseasoned skillet:

If you have removed the seasoning from the surface of your pan then you might have experienced the problem of black residue which is the result of sticking of food.

Is the Black Residue on Iron Skillet Harmful?

Many people are confused that is cast iron black residue harmful or not. We have mentioned the process of seasoning above. This preseasoning is done by a type of oil that is not at all harmful for one’s hygiene and this is the very reason it is used as a black coating before being sent to the command area. This black layer forms a non-stick surface on your cast iron skillet.

There might come a time when the black residue starts to collect over the surface. This can happen due to all of those causes which we have mentioned above. But this type of residue can also not be harmful. The only thing which makes a difference is the taste of your food. Some people seem to have no problem with the additional and a different type of taste and some would choose to clean off the black residue. But then after cleaning off there is a need to season the pan again.

How to Get Burnt Food off Cast Iron?

Below are some of the easiest ways to bid farewell to the cast iron skillet black residue and get rid of it in the least amount of time.

Method 1): Use Salt:

use of salt

This type of method is the most popular one found. Salt is something that every household has in the stock and this is the reason it has proved to be the easiest method.

This method is especially implemented when one wants to retain the seasoned layer and just wants to get rid of the black residue including the burnt oil.

Step1: You have to pour some salt, about a quarter cup.

Step2: Add dish soap and then water in the cast iron.

Step3: With the help of the scrubber you have to start scrubbing thoroughly. The dish soap helps to scrub the oil and on the other hand salt helps you to get rid of the black residue.  

Step4: After scrubbing it completely wash the cast iron skillet with hot water and dry with a paper towel.

Step5: We would suggest you to either place the cast iron skillet after washing in the oven or stove top. The process of heating it on low temperatures would make the cast iron completely dry.

Method 2): Use Vinegar:

Use Vinegar

Step1: You have to fill the sink with water and add white vinegar in it.

 Step2: Dip your pan in it in such a way that the main cooking part of it is completely in water.

Step3: Keep it in the mixture of water and vinegar for about one hour.

Step4: Now the time comes for a thorough scrubbing.

Step5: If you think some more cleaning is needed then you can sub-merge the cast iron skillet in the same water for another complete hour. Then scrub in the same manner.

Step6: Repeat the same process 2 to 3 times for a completely satisfying result.

Step7: Use a paper towel to dry the skillet and then put it either in the oven or stove top at low temperatures. This will dry the skillet further and will make sure that there is no moisture left on it.

Some of you might not have a sink large enough to sub-merge the whole skillet you don’t have to worry. The mixture of vinegar and water can also be poured in the pan only.

One thing which you have to keep in mind is the time period for which you keep the cast iron skillet in the mixture of vinegar and water. If you will keep it sub-merged longer then the above mentioned hours then you might end up with a badly affected cast iron skillet because of the presence of vinegar.

Method 3): Use of the self-cleaning oven:

Use of the self-cleaning oven

This self cleaning oven is manufactured for the purpose of cleaning the inside of the oven. Any type of burnt food, burnt oil etc can be cleaned off the oven.

The same could be used to clean the cast iron skillet and it has proved to be the best for this purpose. It leaves a shining iron behind for your use.

If you have a self cleaning oven at home then this method is perfect for you. And for the ones who don’t have one at home then we can introduce this type of oven to you.

Self cleaning oven uses very high temperatures to burn and then peel off all the leftover food particles. It can work on electricity and gas both. One of the most liked feature of this type of oven is that it doesn’t make use of any cleaning chemical keeping everything hygienic.       

Step1: You have to first put all the racks placed in the oven at the bottom. The cast iron skillet is to be placed on the uppermost rack, that too upside down.

Step2: Then you will have to start the self cleaning cycle in the same manner as you do to clean your oven.

Step3: In this step there is a need of a little more patience. You will have to forget it for 3 to 4 hours. We have given the number of hours on the basis of the time majority of the ovens take for self cleaning.

Step4: Once the self-cleaning process comes to an end you are suggested to let your pan cool down a little before taking it out.

Step5: Take out your pan and scrub it a little. This additional scrubbing is needed to make sure that there is no residue left.

Method 4): Use of Spatula:

Use of Spatula

This method might not prove to be the best in the case of cleaning burnt oil. If you are planning to clean your skillet from brunt food then we can put it in the category of the simplest method.

Step1: First you have to scrub your cast iron skillet with a gentle scrub which is also called as non-abrasive.

Step2: You then have to pour water in the skillet enough to sub-merge the burnt food.

Step3: Heat it till the water starts boiling.

Step4: Once the water gets boiled you have to use the spatula to scratch the brunt food and throw it away.

Step5: If you can still spot the traces of that black residue then repeat the step 4.

Step6: Once you are satisfied with the results rinse the skillet with warm water. Use a paper towel to dry and then keep it on the oven or stove top.

How to Avoid the Accumulation of the Black Residue Again?

We already mentioned above that heating the oil having a low smoke point at high temperatures can cause the formation of black residue. So you have to avoid turning the flames high when you are cooking in low smoke point oil.

The other way to prevent the black residue is to scrub the food as soon as it gets burnt. If some particles of food have got burnt you should shift the food to another pan meanwhile you clean off the burnt residue. You should not wait for your cooking to finish because till then the burnt particles would get stiff and dry.

The last way is to season it immediately after cooking. Seasoning is the process that involves the spreading of oil in the form of a thin layer. Seasoning helps in avoiding the food or oil to get burnt. Below are some steps to season your cast iron skillet.

Step1: Pour vegetable oil or shortening and spread it with the help of paper towel. You will find a thin layer of oil on your skillet.

Step2: Preheat the oven to 375 degree F

Step3: When the preheating is done then put the cast iron skillet upside down on the topmost rack.

Step4: You have to keep the pan as it is for almost one hour or longer then this is you want.

Step5: Turn off the oven and wait till the pan cools down.

Step6: Pull the skillet outside and put it back at its position. That is it!!

If you have kept your cast iron skillet in the cabinet or in the store for a very long time then there is surely a need to season it. But the more frequent you season the pan with the oil the longer it will last and your cookware will turn out to be the easiest to clean. That is the reason why we suggest you to season it before cooking and after a thorough cleaning session.

Our Final Say:

We hope you have decided a method to implement for the cleaning and which best suits you and your cast iron skillet. We have played our role by answering your question: How to clean black residue off cast iron skillet? Now is time for you to play your role and get ready for a small cleaning session. A warm goodbye to the burnt food and accumulated black residue!

Happy Cleaning!!   


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