One of the first things that you'll learn when cooking on cast iron skillets is that you need to clean these pans differently than you would with a nonstick-coated pan. Cleaning cast iron pans with a scouring brush, soap, and hot water will strip away the seasoning you spent time developing, leaving you with even more work.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, little bits of food particles get burned and stick to the surface of your cast iron pan. Cold water isn't going to cut it for removing that crud, so you need a scrapper that is safe for use on cast iron cookware.
In this article, we are going to show you the best pan scrapers for your cast iron skillet, griddle, or pan. Some of these scrapers are also great options for helping you clean nonstick pans without causing damage to the coating.
How Do You Remove Heavy Buildup from Cast Iron?
One of the best cast iron skillets we use was a garage sale find. The pan was rusty and had what looked like about 30 years of built up grease, filth, and burned-on who knows what. The price was right and the pan had a removable wooden handle, so it was simply a matter of getting the pan cleaned up. We've got an extensive guide to cleaning badly rusted cast iron if you are looking for safe ways to properly treat the problem.
When you've got a lot of heavy buildup in your cast iron pans, a scraper is the best way to quickly clean the mess without damage. Scrapers can be made from all sorts of materials. One of our favorites is the Lodge Pan Scrapers we mention further down this post. These are made from a polycarbonate material that won't scratch non-stick pans like Le Creuset and are strong enough to handle burnt-on steak on a cast iron griddle.
There are a few good options for scrapers made from metal. These are safe to use on untreated cast iron, but should not be used on any pan that has any type of coating. They are perfect for use on griddles, grill grates, and baking trays that have stubborn, stuck-on bits you need to remove.
How Do You Use a Pan Scraper?
Scraping pans with a scraper doesn't require a lengthy instructions manual, but there are a few tips to keep in mind to reduce the amount of effort you put forth and prevent accidentally damaging your pans.
Tips for Using Metal Scrapers
Don't use metal scrapers on coated pans. If you aren't sure whether your pan is coated, it's best to assume that it is and clean it appropriately. For cleaning a cast iron pan with a metal scraper, you can start while the pan is still hot. The trick is that you want to use just enough force to loosen stuck-on stuff but not so much force that you gouge into the metal. Cast iron is pretty hard, but it isn't indestructible.
If the pan has already cooled, you can simply use cold water and the scraper to remove bits of stuck-on food. Another method is to add a little water to the pan and put it on the stove top on high heat. Once the water begins to boil, use the scraper to remove the debris. You'll need to season the pan after this process, though.
Some of the most effective scrubbers for cast iron are made of links of stainless steel chain. These chain mail scrubbers are an excellent alternative to scrapers for removing gunk and rust.
Tips for Non-Metal Scrapers
If you are using a non-metal scraper, you'll want to wait until the skillet or griddle has cooled down almost completely. This is important because you don't want to melt or burn the scraper. Use cold water as needed.
Wooden scrapers are environmentally friendly, look nice, and work well when you use them properly. Most of the best ones out there are made from hardwood and are untreated. You should use a little butcher's block seasoning on them to help keep them in good shape.
When you scrub with a wooden scraper, you want to pay attention to the grain. Scrubbing on the short side of the grain may cause splintering. If your wooden scraper is getting rough and jagged, just sand it down and treat it with a little oil to keep it working like new.
The Best Pan Scrapers
These are some cast iron scrapers we've used and liked.
These are our favorites to use for most of our cast iron cleaning. They can be used to clean a cast iron frying pan daily. The curved edges fit the dish of most pots and the hard plastic construction makes them ideal for cleaning other cookware. They are even dishwasher safe.
Only use these when the cast iron has cooled down because they can melt. The scrapers do have an edge running all around the perimeter, so you might want to wear protective gloves when scraping aggressively.
These wooden scrapers are made from ash, a natural hardwood. Each of the corners is curved to match the most common shapes used in pots and skillets. These scrapers look nice and are environmentally safer than other materials, making them a great, natural choice for cleaning cast iron skillets.
It is best to use these when the pan is cool to prevent burned edges. The edge runs around the scrapper, but it is a thicker edge than you'll find on the Lodge so it isn't as sharp.
Okay, so this isn't a scraper, but it is also one of the most efficient ways to clean cast iron pans that have stuck-on gunk. The links of chain don't gouge into the metal and the texture of the mail simply destroys even heavy build-up. This scrubber also makes for a good choice to clean grill grates and griddles.
Because of the lack of a handle, this is best used on cool cast iron. A heat-resistant glove can help, but the pan shouldn't be excessively hot to prevent burning yourself.
This is one aggressive tool that has lots of uses. The scrubber side uses a coil design that not only prevents bristles from getting into your pan, they do a superior job of cleaning cast iron cookware. The scraper is stainless steel, so you can use it when the pan is hot without harm. Beveled edges allow this tool to also be ideal for cleaning cast iron grill grates.
The handle and wire frame are sturdy and can take a bit of force without bending. The combo is dishwasher safe, so cleanup is easier.
Keeping your cast iron clean is much easier if you stay on top of it. We always recommend that you clean it well every time you cook and regularly season your cast iron to keep it in optimal condition. Properly caring for cast iron cookware will provide you with tools that will last a lifetime and may even get passed down to the next generation.
Using the right type of tool in the right way protects the seasoning and reduces the amount of work you have to do to remove burned bits of food. It's a good idea to have a few different types of scrapers and scrubbers so you can handle any mess. There really is nothing quite like having the right tool for the job.
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