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Cleaning Cast Iron Skillets

I read on another board today that you can clean your cast iron skillet by placing it in a cold oven. Turn heat up to 500° and let it go for two hours; then let it cool and scrape off the residue.

Also, if you have a self cleaning oven - just put it the oven and set your oven for clean. When cool remove and scrape off the residue. Has anyone ever done this? Thanks for any information or thoughts on this.

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  1. i have a few cast irons, when they need cleaning I usually spread a thin layer of a good olive oil and put in a hot (450) oven for an hour - cool, wipe ot excess and enjoy - don't over wash them

    1. Sounds like a lot of trouble if you ask me. If I had to put my oven on self clean every time I cooked something or crank it to 500 for 2 hours, I think I would be quite annoyed. Just some hot water and a scrub brush for me. Wipe it dry and set it on the burner for a few mins to completely dry it out. A wipe of oil and it's good to go.

      1. Thanks guys. The inside is just fine it is the outside that is "crusty" from years of use. They were antiques when I got them some 30 years ago. A friend took them to work and sand-blasted them - came out fine, but now they need blasting again, but I don't have a source so I was wondering if the method I posted would work. I do have a self cleaning oven.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Shunick

          If you need a pan cleaned via sandblasting, any car dealer that does collision repairs will have the necessary tools to do the job. Machine shops or people who do weld repairs can also do the job.
          I have used their services to rescue non-stick pans that the coating has begun to wear off. There is no sense tossing a All-clad fry pan just because the Teflon is chipping. 10 minutes of sand blasting and I have a brand new regular fry pan for $20.
          P.S. Make sure to tell them to use walnut shell media, as sand it too aggressive and will eat into the surface.

        2. I'm in the same boat. Inside, beautiful. Outside, years of crustiness. I've been considering putting them into the oven next time I do a self-cleaning cycle.

          1. Hot water, scrub brush, soap if I have to.

            I can't see being bothered with self-cleaning them unless they were truly disgusting. Nor would I consider using good olive oil on them. IMO crisco is the stuff to use when you are seasoning them.

            1. When they are too crudded and crusted I do run them through the self cleaning cycle of my oven and they turn out beautifully. My ovenm generally needs cleaning but cleaning the crud off cast iron really does not need to happen more than once every 10-15 years. I have cleaned up a number of thrift shop finds that way. When my grandmother or great grandmother needed to clean up a pan they would just put it in the fire to burn out.

              1. The self-cleaning cycle! That's what we did with some heirloom cast iron that had been underwater for weeks after Katrina. Crusted, rusted and God knows what had been in that foul water. Then we just reseasoned them and they were fine.
                This is NOT something you do because you are too slothful to take proper care of your cast iron but, sometimes it's useful after a crisis or if you find a great buy in a thrift store or somewhere.

                1 Reply
                1. re: MakingSense

                  Candy and MakingSense are both absolutely correct. Don't put them thru the self-clean every time you wash them... that's not it. But man, I had some horrible crusty ones that came out of my grandmother-in-law's basement. I scrubbed and scrubbed with brillo pads, steel wool, & scraped them with metal utensils, and they were still awful. After running them through the self-clean, they were perfect ... absolutely like new. Reseason them and take care of them as all cast iron, and that's all there is to it. If you take good care of them, you shouldn't ever have to put them back through the self-clean cycle again.

                2. Thank you all. And my oven needs cleaning before the next two holiday cooking sprees.

                  1. Here is what i was tought in Cooking school. Heat pan over high heat Put 1/4 cup of kosher salt in the pan . Scrub pan with a towel rubbing the salt in cicular motion . When pan is clean remove salt rinse with water .Reheat pan coat with oil.

                    1. I usually use boiling water and a bamboo whisk/ wok brush, then reheat and re- oil. It works ok, except for things like eggs and salmon skin.

                      I tried FAL's method on a particularly difficult pan over the weekend (frittata remnants adhered to it). It is definitely superior method.

                      thanks FAL

                      1. Do try this on Teflon pr Stainless steel. I have a great one for cleaning Copper pots .

                        1. The oven cleaning deal works, but you don't do that to clean it every time you cook in it. As stated above, you do that when it's in scrufty shape. Put it on an oven rack upside down. Put some aluminum foil on a rack below the pan. When it's done, you will be able to wipe it clean with a couple of paper towels. Then re-season it with Crisco. Again, put it on an oven rack upside down and put foil on a rack below.

                          1. crumpled up tinfoil works well to scrub.

                            1. I learned the kosher salt method in cooking class as well. I sometime do it over a burner (carefully).

                              1. I just bought some unseasoned cast iron. I was advised to season by coating with safflower oil and baking in oven for 1 hour at 300. The oil coating is sticky and eggs stick in the pan. What do you suggest?

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Displaced California Foodie

                                  Cook bacon every day. Don't cook anything else in that pan for awhile. Just bacon. Wipe out with paper towels between batches. After about 5 or 10 pounds of bacon, you won't have any problems.
                                  Terrible job, but somebody's gotta do it.

                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                    well, it's good if you're planning on making those swedish cookies with a mess of bacon fat as the base. :)

                                    Hm... Maybe that's going to be on my list for next week. I've got to reseason my skillet.

                                    1. re: annimal

                                      As a Southerner, bacon drippings are my cooking fat of choice. (A friend says, "Vegetables should smell like bacon.")
                                      Maybe that's why Southerners don't have any trouble seasoning cast iron pans - we all use bacon grease for everything and don't think twice about it.

                                  2. re: Displaced California Foodie

                                    You have to wipe the excess oil off when you're done seasoning it, and don't put too thick a coating on in the first place. I think 300 is a little low, too - I would think at least 350 / 375.

                                    I've had good luck with shortening, such as Crisco (I don't use it for anything else, but it's great for this). A lot of people swear by it.

                                    Deep frying stuff is good as well.

                                  3. I do not like using home ovens above 400 degrees and leave the cleaning cycle alone.

                                    It never seems to fail that the oven goes on the blink and I end up with a $100+ repair bill.

                                    Now that I rent the landlord gave notice to the same, as he is a certified appliance and refrigeration technician. It is a wiring or element destroyer, and it sometimes gives the warranty a good exercise.

                                    1. There's a good thread on Ask Metafilter, http://ask.metafilter.com/mefi/53625

                                      Here's a summary of several threads here and on eGullet:

                                      Spread oven cleaner over the interior and put it in your oven at the recommended temperature. While you're at it, clean the oven, too.

                                      To remove burnt-on crud, put it on the stove, half-filled with water and bring it to a simmer, pour out the water and whisk it with a straw wok cleaning brush.

                                      Get that pan screaming hot, and while it’s still damned hot, scrub it with a heavy-duty stainless steel scouring pad and kosher salt. Scrub it down to the bare metal, which is actually pretty easy when the pan is so hot. Then schmear it with shortening and crank up the heat again, for a while.

                                      For ridged surfaces, use a welding brush with metal bristles.

                                      Remove rust from old cast iron by baking in a self-cleaning oven or scrubbing with steel wool. Barkeep's Friend also works. Scouring powder with a halved raw potato works for stubborn spots, or use a slurry of vinegar and salt. For otherwise unremoveable heavy rust, CLR works very well, but smells awful. The Best is Carbon-Off, http://www.discoveryproducts.com/inde...

                                      For pitted cast iron, have everything ground and polished out at a metalworking or cast iron shop.

                                      1. Wear rubber gloves and eye protection while cleaning cast iron since the methods require using caustic chemicals.
                                      2. Begin by spraying the pan with oven cleaner and putting it in a plastic bag.
                                      3. After a day or two, take it out of the bag and scrub it down with a brass brush.
                                      4. If all the grease doesn't loosen up right away, repeat the process concentrating cleaner on stubborn spots.
                                      5. If you have several dirty items, soak them in a solution of one and a half gallons of water to one can of lye mixed in a plastic container.
                                      6. Allow them to soak for about five days, then remove the pieces and use the same brass brush method to scrub them clean.
                                      7. Remove mild rust with a fine wire wheel on an electric drill.
                                      8. Crusted rust can be dissolved by soaking the piece in a 50 percent solution of white vinegar and water for a few hours.
                                      9. Once the pan is clean, begin the seasoning process by warming it in the oven for a few minutes then applying a little shortening, vegetable cooking spray, lard or bacon fat.
                                      10. Put the skillet back into a 225 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove and wipe it almost dry to eliminate any pooled grease.
                                      11. Place the pan in the oven for another half hour or so, completing the initial seasoning.
                                      12. The seasoning process will continue with use, especially if you use it to cook fatty foods (bacon, sausage, fried foods, etc.) the first few times it hits the stove.
                                      13. To clean after cooking, boil hot water in the pan. Let it soak for several minutes and then wipe dry with a paper towel.
                                      14. Reheat the pan and apply just enough grease to wet the surface before storing.

                                      Use the methods above only for cleaning iron.
                                      Don't soak pans in a vinegar solution more than overnight without checking them because the solution will eventually eat the iron.
                                      After cooking, do not use detergent or scouring pads to clean a cast iron pan since this will destroy the seasoning.

                                      What You Need:
                                      Rubber gloves
                                      Eye protection
                                      Spray oven cleaner
                                      Large plastic zip bag
                                      Brass brush

                                      Barkeep's Friend or Bon Ami plus a ScotchBrite pad will clean any surface, and convert a mirror finish to brushed, which takes less care.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: KRS

                                        HELP....I just started using a new Lodge grill pan. It is the original finish, not the new "Lodge Logic" pre seasoned.
                                        I did the season with oil , bake at 350 1 hour routine last night. Looked great.
                                        Today I decided to try it out on the stovetop. It is the size that fits over two gas burners, front to back on my stove. I made a simple grilled cheese and it turned out great, nicely browned did not stick. I wiped it clean and then a bit of oil.
                                        Then...STUPID ME....I meant to leave it with the burners low to cook the seasoning in again. I left the kitchen to do other things, and then noticed it was smelling a bit smoky. I come back, and realize that the back burner is on higher than I realized and the half of the grill on top of that burner is smoking hot, white hot, iridescent. I cool it down and there is still a black round area on the back half of the grill. I put more oil on it , and baked it again at 400 this time, and still there is a noticable round dark area. What should I do!!??
                                        Now my husband will be bummed that I have yet again , burnt a new pan....I am always doing this, a pyro in the kitchen I guess...any advice about how to return this grill to an allover finish, please don't say I have to scrub the whole thing with steel wool ...agghhh

                                      2. hey it's not the end of the world. I finally bought a timer on a string to put around my neck because I regularly leave empty pans drying on the stovetop. Unless you have a forge, cast iron is pretty indestructable.

                                        Rather than do the screaming hot oven trick try this:

                                        Wash the pan, do not dry, then set on the burners and turn the flame on medium. Stay there, and when the last beads of water are about to sizzle away, turn off the heat. Pour in some oil and swirl to coat. Take a wad of paper towel and wipe off the excess carefully. That's it.

                                        The next time you cook with the pan, sprinkle in a little water, then bring it up to heat. When the last of water is about to sizzle away, your pan is ready. Add some oil. I like peanut but use whatever works for you. If its something like grilled cheese, use the paper towel to coat it.

                                        The marks will fade eventually.