3 Easy Ways to Clean the Outside of a Cast-Iron Skillet

Cast-iron cookware is one of the most versatile options for your kitchen. It is durable, easy to clean, and has a long life span.

A traditional cast-iron skillet can be used both for stove-top cooking and baking. However, cleaning a cast-iron skillet is no less than a hassle.

While cleaning the inside is a no-brainer, it’s the exterior of the cast-iron skillet that needs your attention. Over time, stains and grease can harden on the outer surface.

But don’t worry! Read on to find out how to clean the outside of a cast-iron skillet in no time!

How to Clean the Outside of a Cast-iron Skillet

Using a cast-iron skillet is easy. However, cleaning and maintaining it is hard.

The fats and grease from the cooking oils don’t just stick to the inside of the skillet. They can often jump out and stain the outer surface of your cookware.

This is especially true when you’re using cast-iron on the stove. The fire chars and hardens this grease. The result is a soot build-up that can be a challenge to remove. If you’re mainly using the cast-iron skillet for cooking, it’s important to take care of it.

Many people also use a cast-iron skillet for baking skillet cookies and brownies. The intense temperature of the oven can also burn the outer surface. However, soot build-up isn’t the only issue. Your cast-iron skillet can also form rust on the outside.

Although rust isn’t harmful, it can look unsightly on your once smooth black skillet. Rust usually occurs when your skillet has been exposed to prolonged moisture. If you’ve been keeping your cast-iron skillet in a humid environment, you can expect some rust spots.

Many people ignore cleaning the outer surface of their skillets. They only focus on scouring and scrubbing away the grease that’s stuck inside. However, if you’ve identified stains and spots on the outer surface, it’s time to do something about it.

Luckily, there are many hacks that can save your cast-iron skillet. Here, we walk you through some of the best, easiest methods. So, without further ado, let’s learn how to clean the outside of your cast-iron skillet!

First Method – Scraping with a Putty Knife

This method is quite easy and effective. If you can spot soot buildup or a black layer over your skillet, here’s what you need to do.

Start by heating the bottom of your cast-iron skillet. Do it over a stove and make sure the fire is on medium-high.

The reason why you need to do this is to warm up the hard soot buildup. As it warms up, the soot layer will begin to detach from the skillet’s surface. Once the pan has been heated nicely, take a sharp putty knife.

Wear gloves or use a towel to hold the pan to avoid burning your hands. Using the putty knife, start scraping off the soot buildup at the bottom of the skillet.

You might want to start off gentle and slow. This way, the knife won’t cause scratches or marks on the skillet’s outer surface.

If you don’t have a knife, you can also use a wire brush. The point is to use a steel object to scrape off the black, burnt layer underneath the skillet.

Try to scrape off in gentle, circular motions. You can expect to be doing this for at least 5-10 minutes. This will ensure that all the buildup falls off, revealing a clean outer surface.

Washing the Skillet

Now that the soot has fallen off, it’s time to rinse your pan. Use a mild dishwasher soap to clean off any black residue sticking at the surface.

Most people think using soap on the skillet will damage its coating. However, a cast-iron skillet is quite tough and durable.

It has enough of a coating to withstand mild surfactants touching it. Washing the skillet thoroughly is extremely important.

It will ensure that all the bits and pieces of grease and food have been rinsed away. You need to do this before seasoning your skillet. This way, you will get a clean, smooth coating at the outer surface of the cast-iron skillet.

Re-Seasoning Your Skillet

Once your pan is clean, you’ll have to re-season it. Dry it off completely.

If need be, put it over the stove again to dry off any leftover moisture. Seasoning your skillet’s outer surface is just as important. You can use good-quality vegetable oil or shortening for this purpose. The method for seasoning the outer surface is quite the same as well.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Use a towel or a clean cloth to rub the oily coating all around the outer surface. Once done, pop the skillet in the oven.

When doing so, place it over a bigger pan or skillet. This way, you can easily prevent the oil from dripping and dirtying the oven.

Once done, allow the newly cleaned plan to cool for a few hours. This will allow the seasoning layer to settle and stick nicely. You can then use your cast-iron skillet for stove-top cooking and baking.

Second Method – Using a Natural Lemon Scrub 

Although steel wool is effective to clean the skillet, here’s something else you can do. Many ingredients in your kitchen aren’t just for cooking. They also have fantastic cleansing and exfoliating properties.

Lemon is a wonderful astringent and natural cleanser. It’s extremely acidic and contains potent quantities of citric and malic acid. This makes lemons an effective DIY solution for cleaning a cast-iron skillet.

However, to make this method even more powerful, you can add some cream of tartar. This substance is highly acidic and clings to dirt.

By scrubbing this solution on the outside of your skillet, you can easily get rid of any grease or rust. Here’s what you’ll need.

Mix the two nicely. If you want, you can add some water to dilute the solution and make it easy to apply. Before using the solution, heat up the skillet over the stove.

The heat will harden the soot and grease further. This will eventually make it easier to scrape off the layer in one go.

The lemon solution will be highly acidic. Therefore, avoid applying it directly. Instead, use a soft sponge or again, steel wool to apply the solution.

Make sure to cover the entire outer surface of the skillet. Scrub the burnt and rusted outer layer using the natural lemon scrub.

With the help of the steel wool, you’ll be able to get the grime off faster. However, make sure not to scrub too rigorously as that can cause scratches.

Keep to gentle, circular motions until you see the dead layer falling off the skillet’s surface. Continue scrubbing for at least 5 minutes or until the skillet looks visibly clean.

Now, give it a good wash and re-season it using the method described above!

Third Method –Using a Baking Soda Solution

If lemons aren’t available, you can always use baking soda.

Baking soda is a fantastic alkaline cleansing agent. It neutralizes all the grease, fats, and food residue stuck to the bottom of the skillet. It also possesses anti-bacterial properties.

Baking soda also helps in removing any nasty odor from your skillet.

For this method, you’ll be needing:

  • 3-4 tablespoons of baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons of a solution of dish soap and warm water

Mix a few drops of dish soap in warm water. Now, to this solution, add the baking soda and mix thoroughly. The grainy particles of the baking soda will act as a natural scrub. The dish soap, on the other hand, will help in cleansing away the grease.

Give your skillet a good wash. Next, apply a thick layer of the baking soda solution at the bottom and around the skillet.

Cover the entire outer surface, especially where you can see visible rust spots. Now, taking a scouring pad, scrub the solution in gentle, circular motions.

Baking soda will help slough off the entire residue and reveal a smooth surface.

Don’t be afraid to use dish soap. As long as it’s mild, it won’t hurt your cast-iron skillet in any way. Scrub for about 5-10 minutes and not any longer. Too much scrubbing can leave scratches on the skillet’s outer surface.

Once the skillet looks clean and smooth, wash it. You can use mild dish soap to clean away the residue or bits and pieces of food. Make sure not to soak your skillet in warm water as that can cause rust spots.

Dry the skillet thoroughly before re-seasoning its outer surface.

Taking Care of Your Cast-Iron Skillet

All the above-mentioned methods will certainly work to clean your skillet. However, the only surefire way to maintain the luster and durability of your skillet is regular cleaning.

It’s important to wash your skillet with mild soap and scouring pad.

If you can’t do this every day, make sure to clean it at least 3-4 times a week. Regular cleaning will prevent any greasy residue from hardening at the bottom.

Secondly, never store your skillet in a humid environment. Cast-iron can easily develop rusts when exposed to moisture for a long time.

Always make sure to dry it thoroughly using a towel or a cloth after each wash. Store it in a dry and cool kitchen cabinet.

A Final Word

Cooking on a cast-iron skillet is easy and fun. Because of its versatility, it can be used for a variety of cooking purposes.

However, you must look after your cast-iron skillet. Make sure to keep the inside and the outside clean and well-seasoned. Use the methods above to make sure your skillet looks brand new!

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