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Celebrity chef shares his incredibly simple hack for cleaning dirty pans: 'I've wanted to know this for years'

"I've cleaned my cast iron with salt for years."

Michael Symon clean cast iron skillets

Photo Credit: @foodnetwork/ Tiktok

You've probably heard the adage that cleaning a cast iron skillet with soap is a bad idea — so what's the best alternative?

While the "best" is certainly subjective, Michael Symon of Food Network fame shows off his preferred method in a helpful TikTok.


all you need is SALT🧂thank you, michael!

♬ original sound - Food Network

The scoop

All you need to get started is a stovetop, some kosher salt, and of course, your cast iron skillet.

"If I'm inside the kitchen, I'll turn my burner on medium-high heat, and slap [the pan] on the burner until the salt gets hot, then scrub it out with a towel," Symon says in his video after covering the base of the pan with kosher salt. You can also use a grill if you're camping or cooking outside.

"For the scrubbing process, you don't want to use a brand-new towel," he adds, because it's not going to look pretty after this cleaning method.

Take your towel and apply it in a scouring motion to the pan. The salt acts as an abrasive cleaning agent and will start to change color as burned bits of food and rust are sanded away.

"If your hands are a little bit more delicate, you can also wear an oven mitt in this situation," Symon adds.

Once you've scoured out all the rust and grime, dump out the excess salt. Now it's time to add a thin coat of oil to the internal cooking surface and the outside areas of your skillet.

"Put about a tablespoon [of oil] in the [skillet]," he says. It doesn't matter what kind of cooking oil — just use enough that you'll be able to cover the cooking surface (a little goes a long way).

Symon then recommends putting the pan back onto the grill or stovetop for two hours to give it ample time to reseason. Make sure to not leave it unsupervised, especially if it's outdoors.

How's it helping

Looking beyond the skillet itself, many soaps actually contain harmful chemicals that can negatively impact lakes and waterways, so using them when out camping can have long-lasting harmful effects. Salt, on the other hand, is much easier to dispose of properly by throwing it into an empty container and packing it out.

What everyone is saying

"I've cleaned my cast iron with salt for years," one TikToker says, lending some validity to the technique.

"I've wanted to know this for years," another adds.

Others, though, offered some disagreements about whether water and soap would work just as well. 

"Salt? Cast Iron? No. Soap, water and heat to dry. People are just crazy about cast iron myths," reads one such comment.

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