Chef Kardea Brown's Quick Trick To Clean Cast Iron Pans Without Soap

Cast iron cookware really goes the distance. Famed for their sheer durability and great heat retention, the handy skillets are also very versatile — able to cook up a delicious one-pan meal on the stovetop, in the oven, or even over a grill or open campfire. However, despite all of their cooking prowess, cast iron pans can still get sticky – especially if they're overseasoned — making them prone to the inevitable build-up of stubborn, stuck-on messes. Fortunately, Kardea Brown, host of Food Network's "Delicious Miss Brown," says all you need to use to tackle that pesky burnt-on residue is a little water and a bit of elbow grease.

The celebrity chef told People that her secret for banishing the gunk on a cast iron pan is to boil one to two cups of water in the soiled skillet for about 10 to 15 minutes, which will help to loosen all of the grime. Once the boiling water has done its thing, simply dump the dirty water out and scrub the pan clean with a cast iron scrubbing pad or brush until it looks as good as new.

Use a little salt or vinegar for tougher stains

If boiling water in your pan doesn't do the trick, fret not. All you have to do is sprinkle a few dashes of coarse salt into the pan and give it another good scrub. The salt will act as an abrasive agent, helping you to wash away the muck in a cinch.

However, if you find your pan still isn't looking spick and span, you can give your cast iron skillet a quick soak in a half-and-half mixture of water and distilled white vinegar for a much deeper clean. Soaking this type of cookware in vinegar works wonders for removing rust and other unwanted spots. However, keep in mind that submerging your pot in the cleaning solution for too long may cause damage to the iron material — so aim to soak it for no more than 30 minutes.

Then, once bathtime is up, use a brush or pad to scrub away any remaining residue in the sink under running water. If need be, you can use a heftier scrubber, such as a stainless steel wool pad, so long as you're careful not to strip the pan's seasoned coating.

Other tips for cleaning cast iron skillets

When it comes to getting some of your most cherished cookware spotless, the best time to clean a cast iron pan is while they're still hot. In much the same way that hot, boiling water can help loosen gunk, a hot pan also makes it easier to oust the grime because food residue tends to harden as it cools. Just be careful not to burn yourself while handling the still-hot pan.

Although some experts warn against adding a drop or two of dish soap to cleaning solutions, milder soaps are safe to use. However, they may lend a soapy sud taste to future meals, so opt for the boiling method or salt or vinegar cleaning hack first.

Another pro tip: Since iron is highly susceptible to rust, ensuring your pan is completely dry after washing it is essential. For this same reason, you should avoid leaving your cast iron cookware soaking in water overnight because it can promote the formation of rust. Once your pan is clean, don't forget to re-season it by rubbing it down with a bit of cooking oil. Then, you're ready to get cooking.