You already know how revolutionary a cast-iron skillet can be in your cooking repertoire. It’s one of the most versatile tools that’s capable of handling a wide range of recipes, from buttery cornbread and seared meats to sweet desserts and charred vegetables. Not to mention, cast-iron cookware can be used both on the stove and in the oven. It can also withstand incredibly high temperatures so that you always end up with the perfect one-skillet dish.
For all of its versatility in the kitchen, though, there’s still the problem of cleaning it. If cast-iron pans are part of your weekly dinner rotation, we have good news: you don’t have to resort to a stiff-bristled brush, baking soda, and elbow grease to clean it. Turns out, the cleaning solution can be found right in your pantry. And the best part? The surprise ingredient pulls double duty to both clean and season your skillet. All you need are coarse salt, oil, and a humble potato. That’s right, a simple spud is all that stands in the way of you ensuring your skillet lasts for generations to come.
Before we walk you through the steps to cleaning your pan, you should know that potatoes contain a natural oxalic acid, which can also be found in various household cleaning products. In addition, the acid acts as dissolving agent to clean rust. When you cut the potato in half, the moisture combined with something abrasive like salt creates a useful and inexpensive scrub to get rid of stuck-on food.
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According to PureWow, to clean your pan,first coat the pan with salt. Next, cut the potato in half so that it fits nicely in the palm of your hand. Lastly, place the potato, flesh-side down, onto the skillet and scrub in a circular motion. Once all those crispy bits are removed, rinse with water and dry the pan thoroughly with a towel. When you’re ready to use the skillet again, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and season your pan by rubbing the it with a very thin layer of oil before placing it in the oven or on the stovetop. Heat for one hour or until the pan is heated through. Just make sure you buff away any excess oil after it’s heated all over.
WATCH: How To Season A Cast-Iron Skillet
There you have it—a ridiculously easy way to clean and season your cast-iron pan with an unassuming potato. Now, get on with baking Mama’s golden brown, Southern cornbread.