Ever since I bought my Lodge cast-iron pan, it’s taken up permanent residence on my stovetop. I use it to make just about everything except fried eggs (that’s still my nonstick skillet’s domain). There’s crispy hash browns for weekend brunch, chicken roasted in the oven with a mess of root vegetables, apple crumble, sausages with beans and greens.
Besides utter deliciousness, the one thing these foods have in common is that they’re very skilled at leaving a layer of gunk and/or blackened char all over the bottom of my pan. I searched diligently for a cast-iron cleaning method that would keep my cookware shiny and debris-free but that also wouldn’t take a lot of work, because I am lazy. I tried scrubbing the pan with kosher salt and a paper towel, hot water and a scrub brush, baking soda and a scouring pad, and even dish soap (a little is allowed if you re-season), but no method became habit. I was more likely to leave the dirty pan on the stove and pretend it didn’t exist until the next time I needed to use it. But I was determined not to let this skillet meet the fate of my first cast-iron pan, a cherry red Le Creuset square grill pan that met its untimely end after a pepper-crusted steak gone horribly wrong. May she rest in peace.
Then I found the Ringer—a cast-iron scrubber and miracle cleaning tool I discovered while searching for bottle brushes on Amazon, because this is my idea of a good time. This delicate 8″x6″ swath of slinky chain mail looks like it was hacked off the suit of a medieval knight. It is the easiest method I’ve found to clean cast iron of even the most stubborn crusty bits.
Made of rust-resistant and ultra-durable stainless steel chain mail, the interlocked rings create a textured surface that’s ideal for tackling crusted-on residue. Here’s how it works: After you’re done cooking and your cast-iron skillet (or griddle or Dutch oven) is cool enough to handle, fill it up in the sink with some warm water, then take the Ringer to town and scrub down every inch of the pan’s surface. Rinse and repeat if you’re working with some heavy-duty crust, then dry and lightly oil the pan like usual. That’s literally it. To clean the Ringer, you can either loosen up any stuck-on food by running it under the tap or just throw it in the dishwasher.
If you’re like me and sport a healthy skepticism of single-purpose tools (see avocado slicers, garlic presses), fear not. In addition to cast-iron cookware, this chain mail scrubber can also take on crusty pizza stones, sheet pans, woks, and Pyrex dishes. And unlike a normal kitchen sponge, there’s no need to worry about bacteria, and it’ll last a lifetime. Trust: If you use your skillet as often as I do, this cast-iron cleaner is the best $18 you’ll spend. Bring it, pepper-crusted steak!
This article was originally published in 2016 and was updated by Megan Wahn in 2023.