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In The Family
Is It Okay to Use Soap on a Cast Iron Pan?

Despite what purists say, you won’t wreck your seasoning with some bubbles.

No cookware endures more rules, myths, and outright lies than cast iron, and one of the most stubborn misconceptions out there is about how to clean it. If so much as a drop of soap spills on your pan, purists say, you risk losing all that slick seasoning you spent so much time building up. This is, frankly, hogwash; perhaps once true in 19th century kitchens that used caustic, lye-based soaps, and certainly true regarding modern dishwashers. But please, feel free to hand-wash your cast iron with soap.

Cast iron seasoning is made of polymerized fats chemically bonded to the iron’s surface; dish soap and gentle scrubbing can’t do anything to harm it. It’s true that early in your pan’s lifetime, soap can rinse away the oil films that form foundational layers of seasoning as you cook, but pretty much every cast iron pan on the market today has been pre-seasoned thoroughly enough in the factory that you shouldn’t have any real problems. Just be sure to dry your pan thoroughly after washing and let it sit on a medium flame for five minutes to wick away any remaining moisture.

RECIPE: No-Knead Cast Iron Bread

Max Falkowitz

Max Falkowitz is a food and travel writer for The New York Times, Saveur, GQ, New York magazine’s Grub Street, and other outlets. He’s also the coauthor of The Dumpling Galaxy Cookbook with Helen You.