How to Clean a Frying Pan

Or, how to keep your tools in tip top shape.

By Sasha Weilbaker
Apr 27, 2023
non stick pan cleaning
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Chances are, your frying pans see a lot of action on a regular basis. Whether you’re making eggs for breakfast or steak for dinner, your frying pan is likely going to end up in the sink by the end of the day. To help this kitchen staple withstand daily use in the long term, learn how to properly clean and care for it, whether you prefer non stick, stainless clad, enameled cast iron, or carbon steel.

In this guide we’ll dive into the basics of each material, including how to clean it and what to avoid (primarily the dishwasher, at all costs). In general, however, maintenance is light and follows a similar method across the board, regardless of construction.

Carbon Steel

Carbon steel’s unique surface behaves like a hybrid of cast iron and stainless steel. It’s a chef go-to and  the best of both worlds—it’s lightweight and non stick with seasoning, but durable and high-performance at even the highest temperatures. When it comes to washing your Carbon Steel, appeal to its Cast Iron side—meaning treat it carefully and avoid soap and water unless you’re planning to reseason.

In order to preserve its seasoning, start by blotting out any excess grease with a paper towel. If any bits of particularly stubborn food still remain, you can add a small amount of water, bring it to a boil and then scrape the surface with a spatula. Dry your pan fully and re-season it with a thin coat of neutral oil.

For more stubborn messes, you can also use coarse salt to scour the pan. While the pan is still warm but not hot, pour in about a cup of salt and use a folded dish towel to rub the salt into its surface. Discard the salt and rinse the pan with hot water before drying thoroughly (essential to avoid any rusting) and reseasoning. To reseason your pan, coat its surface with a tablespoon of vegetable oil and heat over the stove or in the oven. This will help maintain its naturally Non Stick cooking surface. Check out our guide to the subject for even more information on cleaning a carbon steel pan.

seasoned carbon steel frying pan 12 inch
  • Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pan
  • 12" · Seasoned
  • $129
or 4 payments of $32.25 with

Enameled Cast Iron

skillet chicken pot pie roux

Due to its smooth cooking surface, enameled cast iron is known to be easier to clean and care for than its unfinished counterpart. This is because unfinished cast iron is porous and requires seasoning to develop a non stick cooking surface. Enameled cast iron, on the other hand, is layered with a smooth, enameled surface that makes for easy cooking and clean up.

If you’re using an enameled cast iron skillet for everyday uses, such as frying eggs and sautéing vegetables, it’s likely that your skillet won’t be too difficult to clean. Simply let your pan cool after cooking (sudden temperature changes can damage your cookware), rinse the surface of your pan thoroughly, and scrub off any food residue with dish soap and the abrasive side of a sponge.

For more challenging stuck-on bits of food that won’t come off with soap and water, try soaking the skillet in warm water and following up with a Ceramic Cleaner.

enameled cast iron skillet made in red
  • Enameled Cast Iron Skillet
  • 11" · Made In Red
  • $149
or 4 payments of $37.25 with

Non Stick

turning pancake in nonstick

Our Non Stick Frying Pans are coated in a premium non stick coating which helps prevent food from sticking. Because of this feature, they are the easiest material to clean. After you’ve finished cooking, place a paper towel in the pan to soak up as much residual grease as you can while it cools.

To clean off stuck-on bits of food, rinse the pan with warm water and gently clean its surface with dish soap and the soft side of a dish sponge. It’s important to avoid abrasive tools, like steel wool, when cleaning non stick cookware, as its surface can be easily damaged. Check out our guide for in-depth advice on how to remove burnt-on residue from your non stick pan.

non stick frying pan 10 inch graphite
  • Non Stick Frying Pan
  • 10" · Graphite
  • $129
or 4 payments of $32.25 with

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel pans are known for their incredibly durable surface, as they’re constructed from thin layers of premium metals and alloys optimized for efficiency and conductivity. These are “cladded” together to create a durable and unfussy cooking surface with an attractive burnished exterior.

To clean your stainless pan, start with warm, soapy water and a non-abrasive sponge. To remove burnt residue, we recommend soaking the pan in hot water before scrubbing its surface with Stainless Steel Cleaner or similar.

If you don’t have a cleaning solution formulated for stainless steel, a little more elbow grease and common kitchen tools will do the job about as well—though it’ll take more effort. A vinegar rinse will help remove rainbow discoloration, while a paste of baking soda and water helps remove stuck-on food.

Make sure to avoid abrasive cleaning tools not specifically formulated for Stainless Steel, such as steel wool, as they can scratch your pan’s surface. For more information on cleaning stainless steel, take a look at our guide to cleaning your stainless steel pan in 3 steps.

stainless clad frying pan 10 inch
  • Stainless Clad Frying Pan
  • 10"
  • $109
or 4 payments of $27.25 with

Do I Really Need to Follow My Cookware's Cleaning Instructions?

Just as we do with updated user agreements, many of us take cookware’s often-specific cleaning instructions as “something to skim.” However, to prolong the lifespan of your pan, we advise actually reading your cookware’s instructions—and following them.

Ready to Cook?

Now that you’re an expert on cleaning a frying pan, it’s time to take stock of the pans currently in your kitchen. In need of a new one? Choose from our variety of materials to find the best fit.