Life gets busy, man. There’s Top Chef to binge-watch, Instagrams to style, and all sorts of other crap to deal with. You get distracted for a minute and now that cheese is totally welded to your cast-iron skillet. You could just throw it in the dishwasher, let it soak in the sink, or… STOP. NO. A million times no. That's not how to clean a cast-iron pan. Urban legend has it that if you even consider those particular moves, the ghosts of Edna Lewis, Justin Wilson, James Beard, and your very own great-grandmama will materialize in your kitchen and bop you upside the head with that very skillet.

Cast iron is crafted to last a lifetime, but it can be tricky to maintain—or so many home cooks have been led to believe. Toups’ Meatery chef/owner and Top Chef season 13 fan favorite Isaac Toups says all it takes to keep your skillet squeaky-clean and seasoned are a few pantry staples.

Whether it’s scorched-on cheddar, egg residue that you forgot to scrape away, or some other mega-mess that you’ve been dreading dealing with, all is not lost. You may have to use a little muscle—consider it penance paid to the culinary gods for your neglect—but Toups swears you’ll end up with a skillet that’s as good as new. (And we guarantee you won’t let it happen again.)

What you need to clean and season a food-sullied cast iron:

  • Spatula
  • Steel wool
  • Medium-grit sandpaper
  • Salt
  • Old kitchen towels
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Heat source

Watch the video above to see how Toups works his Cajun cast-iron cleaning magic, then learn how to bring one back from the dead.