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Oct 26, 2010 08:49 AM

Sticky Cast Iron

I'm sorry to start a new topic as I know cast iron has been discussed very thoroughly, but I just want a quick answer to a specific question and I haven't found it yet in 20 minutes of reading old threads.

I botched the re-seasoning of a cast-iron skillet by not wiping enough oil out (and possibly baking at too low heat). I've found plenty of tips on how to properly season it next time, but what's the best way to strip off the sticky goo first? That stuff is tenacious! Any tricks, or is it just loads of soap, steel wool, and elbow grease?

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  1. Do you mean the sticky gummy yellowish substance? The following is what I do, but I am sure there are better methods somewhere. You can scrap most of the gummy substance with thin semi-flexible scarpes like an old credit card or a thin spatula. This will get most of the substance off. Then, I will put enough baking soda to thinnly cover the pan with minimal amount of water, maybe 1-2 drops of water. You want to form a thick paste of baking soda, while not dissolving the baking soda. The baking soda will loosen gummy substance with the pan and it will stick to gummy substance, making it easier to remove the substance. You may have to do this 2-3 times to get most of it off. Again use a scarper or a brush to remove it.

    I find baking soda to be much more effective than hand soap. You can use steel wool, but you may ruin it because the gummy substance will stick to the steel wool and will be very difficult to get all of it off. A metal brush or hard brush is better, but even then I will first scarp most of the gummy substance off withan old credit card off.

    Let me know if this helps.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      I'm not sure if it's yellowish-- I suppose it could be, once you remove it from the pan where it all just looks black. Scraping before washing sounds like a good idea, and yes, regular soap seems to be pretty useless in these cases.

    2. Assuming I understand you correctly and the gunky stuff is just vegetable oil that has gelled, so to speak, if it were my cast iron pan and I didn't mind smoking up the house a bit, I would just put it in the oven or on a burner and crank up the heat and let it caramelize. There's also some chance that heating it will turn the goo to a semi liquid that could be wiped out with paper towels and a very well protected hand, then heat to caramelize. Often times you can also clean a cast iron pan by heating it, then scrubbing it with plain old dry table salt. The sharp edges of the salt crystals will cut and polish the finish with very minimal (if any) damage to the cure. And my experience is that regular table salt has better scrubbing power than kosher or sea salt. Good luck! I think I'd try heating and wiping and/or the salt before cranking up the heat and letting the smoke settle where it may. But if all else fails and you have an outdoor barbecue.... '-)

      1. Agreed with the above. Toss it back in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes, then raise 375 for another 30 minutes, then raise again to 400 for another 30. Then turn the oven off, leaving the door closed, and let it cool. Voila. I'm saying 3 escalating temperature steps of 30 minutes each because if the layer is too thick, it won't de-gas properly and won't be as strong as it should be if heated too fast too soon.

        1. I have successfully removed by heating the pan on the stovetop and wiping with kosher salt, never tried the oven method. Stove top works very well. Good luck!

          1. Or, if you want to start over, spray it with Easy Off, put it in a sealed plastic bag, and check in in about 24 hours. (outside is best, but here, it's too cold, now...ymmv)

            3 Replies
            1. re: Beckyleach

              Do NOT use Easy Off on surfaces that will come in contact with food! ESPECIALLY porous surfaces like cast iron.

              1. re: Caroline1

                Easy Off and its generic equivalents are merely lye, long used in the manufacturer of both soap and things to eat, like hominy.

                A thorough washing--I soak my lye-cleaned cast iron in soapy water for about an hour--and then re-seasoning works just fine.

                I'm very picky about what I ingest (long ago quit chemical-laden foods, no HFCS, almost all natural fibers in my clothing and bedding, etc.) but lye doesn't worry me....admittedly, the FUMES are horrible, but I found that cheaper versions of oven cleaner were less nasty, and--of course--I never sprayed anything anywhere but outside, in fresh air.

                1. re: Caroline1

                  Previously, lye was among the many different alkalis leached from hardwood ashes.[1] ...
                  ... Lye is valued for its use in food preparation, soap making, biodiesel production, and household uses, such as oven cleaner and drain opener.