Hey! This site is reader-supported and we earn commissions if you purchase products from retailers after clicking on a link from our site.
A lot of chefs will talk about how brilliant a cast iron pan is, or how amazing a cast iron skillet is for cooking with. If you have taken their word for it and bought one, you may be in for a surprise when you go to wash it. You will notice that there may be a small amount of black stuff that keeps rubbing onto your cleaning cloth. Should you be worried about this black residue? What is it? Thankfully, all the answers you need are right here.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is The Black Residue?
- 2 Black Residue On Brand-New Skillet
- 3 Cleaning A Cast Iron Pan
- 4 Seasoning A Cast Iron Skillet
- 5 Should You Ignore The Black Residue?
What Is The Black Residue?
While there is not one single answer, there are a few reasons why your cast iron skillet is covered in a weird black residue. Cast iron skillets are loved for their versatility and durability. They can be used for searing, frying, boiling, sauteeing, and much more. Alongside this, they are also great for evenly spreading the heat and keeping the temperature consistently high, which is something that thinner pans fail to do. A lot of chefs also say that a cast iron skillet adds a flavor to the food that no other piece of cookware can.
The black residue you see on your pan is nothing to be alarmed about and is generally very harmless. One of the main causes for these particles is that they are carbon deposits. When using fats and oils in cooking, they can overheat which causes carbon deposits. Any fat or oil with a low smoke point will immediately carbonize at a high temperature which causes the residue from the pores in your pan to end up in your food. It looks bad and unappealing but is completely harmless.
Cast iron skillets are seasoned before use so that they do not have food sticking to them. This seasoning will eventually wear off and can be rubbed off easily when you are trying to thoroughly clean your skillet. When this seasoning is gone, food will start sticking to your pan a bit, so much so that you might not notice it due to the texture of the skillet.
There is a high chance that you have burnt some food while cooking it, which has gotten stuck to the pan and was then not fully cleaned off. This is fine, it happens to everyone and is difficult to avoid. The black residue will be bits of burnt food, meaning it is harmless and nothing to worry about.
Black Residue On Brand-New Skillet
If you are seeing the black residue on a skillet that you have just bought, you may be shocked and disappointed. After all, there is nothing worse than taking the wrapper off a new toy only to realize it is dirty or broken. Thankfully, this is not actually the case. Your pan is not broken, faulty, or dirty. It is actually caused by your pan being pre-seasoned. This is done to stop food from sticking to your pan and is not meant to last permanently. After the first few times you cook with it, the initial seasoning may start to lose effectiveness and flake off into your meal.
While annoying, this is completely natural and unavoidable. Just make sure you clean your skillet properly. It will eventually be seasoned again when you cook something like oil or fat in it.
Is The Black Residue On A Cast Iron Skillet Harmful?
You will be pleased to know that the residue on cast iron cookware is not harmful at all. While it is not advisable to eat as much of it as you can, you do not have to panic and scrub your cast iron pans as much as you can. Tiny flecks of the residue can end up in your food or in your pan and it is nothing to worry about.
If you are wanting to get rid of the black residue, wash your cast iron skillet and use a paper towel once the skillet is dry to see if there is any residue left. Gently wipe the pan and if the paper towel is tinted black then that means there is still a bit left. It is not easy to get the residue off cast iron products but that might be for the best as if you wash them too much, the seasoning will come off and they will be a less effective cooking surface.
Most cast iron pans have a thin layer of an oil or wax coating which is used to season them, enameled cast iron will also have this. Do not wash your pan too much, even if you can’t stand the black residue on cast iron skillets. You do not want to ruin the seasoning.
Cleaning A Cast Iron Pan
So before mentioning how to clean the black residue from a cast-iron skillet, it is worth noting that the buildup of this residue can be avoided if you make sure to use the correct oil for your cooking. Any oil with a high smoke point will be good and make sure to not overheat anything in the pan. You will notice that the black residue will be a lot less of an issue if you follow this.
To clean your pan, you have a choice of two methods. The first method is using salt to help remove the residue and the other method is a good old fashion scrub with a stiff brush.
To use salt to clean your cast iron skillet you will want to pour a quarter cup of salt into your skillet. Using a flat-edged utensil, such as a spatula, move the salt around so that you are evenly coating the pan in a thin layer of salt. Begin scrubbing this with whatever you want to and you will see the salt discolor as it picks up all the dirt and grime from the pan. Wash thoroughly with water to avoid the salt corroding your pan and then apply a thin coat of oil to your pan. This can be done by wiping the pan with an oil-covered paper towel.
To clean your pan with a brush, you will want to soak it in warm water for an hour. After this, scrub it with a stiff brush and use small amounts of dish soap when needed. Once you are satisfied, dry the pan with a towel and place it on the stovetop to evaporate all of the leftover moisture. Once the pan is cooled, apply a thin layer of oil to it.
Seasoning A Cast Iron Skillet
Owning a cast iron skillet is a labor of love. While it may seem dramatic, the pan provides amazing food for you and in turn, you must regularly service the pan and ensure it is in good condition. This ultimately means that periodically you should season your pan. This takes a bit of time but is very simple to do.
Firstly, you will want to follow the above instructions to make sure that your pan is clean and has all residue removed from it. If you are planning to season the pan yourself, you can really scrub it as much as you want and get all of the residues off. If you are just washing your pan in between uses, this is not recommended.
After this, cover the entire surface of the pan with oil. Apply as much as you think is necessary and then wipe off any excess with a paper towel.
Once covered in oil, place your pan in the oven at the highest temperature it will go. 500 degrees Fahrenheit is a good choice. Leave this in there for an hour before turning the oven off and allowing the pan to cool inside. This can be repeated up to five times depending on how efficient you want to be.
Should You Ignore The Black Residue?
The black residue, as mentioned, is not a huge issue. While it is understandable that you may not be overjoyed to see it, there is nothing wrong with a tiny bit of it appearing in your food or being eaten. If the residue does get to a seriously noticeable level, then maybe it is time to clean it, but until then, it is fine to be left alone.
FAQs On Cast Iron Skillets
What is the black stuff coming off cast iron?
The most likely answer for this is either burnt food or a carbon deposit from overheated fat or oil. Another likely reason is that it can be the seasoning wearing off and flaking away from the pan.
Is black residue on cast iron safe?
The black residue you may find on your cast iron is completely safe. It is not going to harm you if you ingest it by accident. That being said. if there are loads of it appearing on your food it may be best to give your skillet a thorough clean.