Why You Should Use A Potato To Clean Your Cast Iron Skillet

A well-made cast iron skillet can quickly become an indispensable tool in your kitchen. They're suited to a wide range of dishes, from searing proteins to baking tasty dishes like skillet cornbread or deep-dish cookies, and will help you whip up a variety of seriously impressive, restaurant-quality dishes in your home kitchen.

There's just one problem — unlike many other types of pans which can easily be scrubbed clean or even just tossed in the dishwasher, you do have to be a bit more careful about how you clean cast iron in order to not remove the seasoning (at least, if you want it to perform the way it should). As Serious Eats explains, seasoning is something you do when you first purchase your cast iron cookware, and apart from some minor maintenance, you can continue using that seasoned pan for dish after dish without having to totally scrub it clean — it's one of the benefits to using cast iron.

However, that doesn't mean that you never need to clean your pan — it just means you need to be cautious about how you tidy up any messes or baked-on items that you'd rather remove. Food & Wine shares a cast iron cleaning tip that involves just three common ingredients that you likely have in your pantry. You do need a little bit of elbow grease, but the method is relatively foolproof as well as inexpensive and accessible because of the particular ingredients used.

The potato cleaning method

First, obviously you'll want to gather the three ingredients you'll need, according to Food & Wine — oil, a potato, and salt. To clean, you'll want to start by sprinkling salt into your skillet. The specifics of how much don't really matter, as it all depends on how dirty your skillet is and how much you want to scrub away during your cleaning — they simply suggest "a generous amount."

Once you have your skillet salted, you simply cut a potato in half and then essentially use the cut face of the half potato as a scrubbing tool. The salt acts as an abrasive, helping to dislodge any food particles, and the potato is hardy enough to withstand your scrubbing without disintegrating like some other tools might. Plus, if you're trying to tackle any rust that has formed on your cast iron pan, the humble spud is the ideal tool for that as well. As Kitchn reports, potatoes naturally contain oxalic acid, an organic compound found in a variety of foods, as per Healthline, that effectively breaks down rust.

That's not quite the end of the process though — once you've dealt with any debris and food particles you want to get rid of, you want to re-season it a bit by adding a very thin layer of oil to the pan and popping it in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for about an hour.