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ruined cast iron

monica May 10, 2006 05:40 PM

some good tips were listed on a thread below on how to care for cast iron -

i had a roommate ruin my griddle - its got a couple of rust spots, lots of stuck on gunk -

is there a way i can start from scratch with a piece that hasnt been cared for properly?

  1. t
    toodie jane May 11, 2006 09:01 PM

    For rescued cast iron pieces, I build a good fire in the fireplace or BBQ kettle--use hardwood or something that will maintain some intense BTU's for awhile. Whent the wood is down to red hot coals, put your pan over it upside down and let the heat burn the crud off. It will turn to ash, and no scrubbing is needed. I wouldn't rec the chemical oven cleaner, or naval jelly for rust, for any cast iron piece you'll be cooking in.

    Once the crud is burned off, rub with shortening or use my Dad's trick, cook some bacon in it, over lowish heat, and really get the fat simmering. This will help seal the pores, though you'll have to clean the crusted sugars out of the pan. Avoid extremes in temps in your pans, anad they will last many years.

    2 Replies
    1. re: toodie jane
      JoanN May 11, 2006 11:33 PM

      Sorry, but I don't buy the "avoid extremes in temps" argument. I used to make Paul Prudhomme's blackened redfish a couple of times a month and the first line of the instructions reads "Heat a large cast-iron skillet over very high heat until it is beyond the smoking stage and you see white ash in the skillet bottom (the skillet cannot be too hot for this dish), at least 10 minutes." I'm still using those same skillets; they've never had to be cleaned and reseasoned and they're definitely the prized specimens in my batterie de cuisine.

      1. re: JoanN
        Jef May 12, 2006 02:41 AM

        Aside from rusting a pan all the way through, melting is the other way to
        destroy it. The melting point of cast iron is just over 2000 degrees
        fahrenheit. So as long as you stay below 2000F, you should be safe. Iron
        begins to glow red at about 1000F so even at that point there's little to
        worry about.

    2. s
      Seattle Rose May 11, 2006 06:16 PM

      You really can't ruin cast iron. If it has a lot of gunk on it, try using oven cleaner. Then wash it off well and reseason. You'll need to use the oven cleaner outdoors.

      BTW, I always wash my well-seasoned iron skillet with soap and water, contrary to what you may have heard elsewhere.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Seattle Rose
        Candy May 11, 2006 07:22 PM

        I am also a soap and water person. It will not hurt well seasoned CI. The salt adn paper towel stuff is nonsense and a little detergent and water and being gently warmed over a low burner and wiped out with shortening is the way to go.

      2. g
        gypsy May 11, 2006 02:23 PM

        I just occured to me that if you don't have a self-cleaning oven (or dont want to run it), you can probably achieve the same goal on an outdoor grill. I have never tried this to clean a pan but I have put cast iron on the grill for cooking.

        Burning the stuff off will save you from scraping.

        1 Reply
        1. re: gypsy
          Candy May 11, 2006 05:53 PM

          Well the very old fashioned way to clean up crusted cruddy cast iron in my grandmother's, g-grandmother's and so on was to burn the pan out in a very hot fire. My grill only goes up to 500 F. so I know that would not work for me, but I have cleaned up many cast iron pans and pots in the self-celaning cycle and they come out beautifully every time. It is not like you are needing to do this once a year or so. I just cleaned up an 8" skillet that was coated with 35 years of coating. I dare say it won't need it for another 30 or so years and I probably won't care much then.

        2. m
          monica May 11, 2006 01:39 PM

          thank you!! i knew it could be done... didn't realize it would be that easy - ill give it a try!

          1. j
            Jef May 11, 2006 01:29 PM

            You can't ruin cast iron. Unless it rusts all the way through, which
            takes some doing. In addition to all the other suggestions here, you
            could try a wire brush. If it's really bad, there are wire brush attachments
            to electric drills. Go at it with some muscle then wash it down good
            then cook a lot of bacon and you're back in business.

            1. n
              Nyleve May 11, 2006 10:21 AM

              If you don't have access to a self-cleaning oven (which would have been my suggestion too) try putting it on a gas barbecue and leave it there until everything burns off. Then scrub well to remove any residue, rinse and re-season by rubbing with oil or grease and heating slowly in the oven for several hours. If you love the pan, you owe it that much.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Nyleve
                MikeG May 11, 2006 11:25 AM

                Or if you don't have a grill and can deal with the smell & smoke, the same'll work on a stove. (Turn off your smoke detectors!)

                1. re: Nyleve
                  Pat Darnell May 11, 2006 11:44 AM

                  My dad found an old cast iron frying pan (which is at least 20" diameter!) and put it in the fireplace to burn off all the gunk. He then seasoned it as usual and it is in great shape.

                2. w
                  wabbitslayer May 10, 2006 06:53 PM

                  I found a couple of pans and a dutch oven in an my grandparents barn that had been put up for storage years ago; they were rusty beyond belief (and my wife told me I wasn't putting them in the car).

                  anyway, I took them to a local place that does sandblasting and they turned out great. Not the most delicate solution, but these looked so far gone I figured there wasn't anything to lose.

                  you might want to go ahead and start accumulating a good supply of fat, you'll need it.

                  1. m
                    Marie May 10, 2006 05:58 PM

                    You can probably salvage your griddle. If it were mine, I would try soaking it in hot water to soften the gunk. Then you can probably use steel wool, scouring powder and even sandpaper to remove the gunk and rust. You don't have to remove all of the rust. Dry it, heat it, oil it, use it. Eventually the rust will fade away.

                    1. c
                      Candy May 10, 2006 05:55 PM

                      If you have a self cleaning oven run it through the cleaning cycle. When cool, wipe off any discoloration and then grease the surface with lard, bacon fat or shortening and heat slowly, wiping again as needed with more fat or to remove excess. Then cook up some bacon. You'll bein business.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Candy
                        jdherbert May 11, 2006 09:14 AM

                        Yup- Had an ex-roommate who ruined a lot of my cookware (he was allegedly a cook...bwahaha).

                        I did everything everybody else here suggested, short of the sandblasting.

                        Long hot soaks, boiling quarts of water away in the pan, going through self cleaning, leaving it in a 500 degree oven for 2 hours, chipping with a spackling knife, and lots and lots of scrubbing with the coarsest steel wool I could lay my hands on.

                        Then I had to recondition.

                        Cast iron will forgive you a lot... but it's also pretty cheap...

                        1. re: jdherbert
                          Robert May 11, 2006 01:08 PM

                          I'd be suprised if Candys fix doesn't work. It has for me 4 or 5 times. Give it a try.


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