And for years I believed it. And then I didn’t anymore. Because common sense took over. It takes a little time to get a cast iron skillet seasoned properly so that it, in effect, becomes a nonstick pan. The theory behind not washing the pan is that it will remove the seasoning (layers of oil that seep into the iron to make it slick) and ruin the pan.
Lookee, here. My cast iron skillet is 20 years old and it’s had more bubble baths than a baby. I know, I know. Some of you are saying, “My mother (grandmother, aunt, whoever) never washed her skillet.” Well, maybe she didn’t know the proper technique. Heresy, heresy!! But think about it this way. Would you trim a piece of pork tenderloin on a cutting board and then just wipe the board off and put it away? I understand that the application of heat to a cast iron pan kills whatever wiggly bacteria thingies that are in the pan, but they’re in the pan.
So here’s the correct way to clean a cast iron pan. Start while the pan is still hot and only use the soft side of a sponge and some dish detergent. Don’t let the pan soak. Go quickly and then as soon as the pan is clean, dry it thoroughly both inside and out. Turn the oven on to about 200 degrees while you’re doing this. After the pan is dry, add a little vegetable oil to it and wipe it over the inside surface and sides. Then put it in the oven and turn off the heat. What this does is it lets the pores of the cast iron open up to absorb the new oil.
By the way, the pan will continue to be too hot to touch with your bare hands through this whole process so stick a dish towel on the handle not only so you can pick it up but also so you don’t forget it’s hot. Don’t ask me what I did to come up with the dish towel technique but, yes, I forgot.
So, there you go. Don’t hate on me, non-cleaning cast iron skillet cooks. And if you do end up with a lot of baked on crud in your skillet, here’s a nifty video about how to get it out.