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cleaning up Cast Iron skillet after pork chops - a real mess

I have a 6 month old Wagnerware - really smooth bottom, and have only been cooking with lard. Got good seasoning layers built up from lots of bacon, eggs, toast, pancakes. Avoided anything acidic so far.

Been cooking pork chops on it, with lots of lard, and after cooking, the mess it leaves is very hard to clean up. I've been using cheap salt to help scrub the hard stuff up, but it seems to wear down the seasoning in the center quite a bit, and then takes weeks to get dark again if I go back to just eggs/bacon, etc. Each time I cook pork, it really tears up my pan

Is there a better way? (cooking it, and cleaning it)

Thanks much!

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  1. My method to clean any pan with your dilemma.....first is to drain the grease and wipe out with paper towels. Second, I simply soak it for a while, and any food build up is released easily most times. For really tough stuck on mess, I return it to the burner on a low flame with about a quarter inch of water. When the water heats up, I scrape the pan with a wooden spoon.....similar to deglazing when making sauces or gravies. Works every time.

    2 Replies
    1. re: fourunder

      Agree, try putting hot water into the pan and let the stuck on stuff soak for 5-10 mins. Most of it should come out.

      1. re: fourunder

        +1. The last method, boiling and scraping with a spoon always works well with me, too.

      2. I just turn my burner on all the way and crisp all the gunk out. When it gets dry I use a compound knife to scrape the pan. Of course I have a very powerful vented range hood to clear out the smoke, so I don't suggest doing this if you can't get the smoke outside. I have also stuck it inside my oven and set it on broil for twenty minutes as well.

        1. As for cleaning it, you can use the salt method as you have. You can also use a plastic scraper to scrap the carbonized crust (assuming that is the kind of mess you are talking about).

          This is a cast iron cookware. We shouldn't have to baby it. If we are, then we are missing the point -- I think.

          1. The salt should be a coarse salt such as Kosher salt. Saturate the salt with some oil in the warm pan. Rub the entire inside of the pan with this mixture and a paper towel, not just where you have the residue. This will help maintain an even seasoning throughout the pan.

            Hot water into the pan can help to deglaze it prior to cleaning.

            I use a griddle scraper to remove lots of gunk from my cast iron during and after cooking. A good example is if I want to cook breakfast sausage and then fry some eggs. Without the scraper the eggs will stick to the residue left from the sausage. But like Chem said I'm not in the baby the cast iron camp. I normally use some sort of cast iron everyday. It does what I want, when I want and I never lose sleep over it.


            1. Let me tell you why this is most likely happening - the pan is not hot enough when you start your sear. And here's the deal - with cast iron and if cooking reasonably thick chops you are almost always going to have to sear and then finish in the oven - cast iron is not supple enough to put a quality sear on a thick chop and then respond to lowering the flame to finish the chops on the stove top. IGet the pan hot, use a small amount of oil and put a sear on them. Finish them in a 350* oven for twenty minutes or so depending....

              Relatively low heat, pork chops, and cast iron always equals those little mealy stains I know you're getting. Very maddening. The only answer is high heat and a hard sear IMO.

              You won't get these clean without losing some of the seasoning. The goal is not to get these stains at all.

              1. I just soak my CI for a few hours and sometimes (BLASPHEMY!!!) even scrub it out with the scrubby side of a sponge and a little dish soap. It seems to still be fine and I have a nonstick surface for eggs.

                My CI is an antique hand-me-down from my grandma though. YMMV

                1. I put it on the burner, high heat, and pour a cup of water in. Let boil until the gunk softens up. Might have to use a scrubby. Best to lightly oil after this.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: jaykayen

                    Thanks everyone for the tips!

                    Yes, I used to have an old-old handmedown, but lost it in a move. So now I'm in Hong Kong, with no oven to do some of the things I used to do. But that old one had a good seasoning, and I didn't really have a problem with it with chicken or pork chops. When I did have gunk, I did use the soak in water / boil water if needed, and that worked fine. However, this "new" 60's pan, which has been seasoning beautifully with my "just lard and eggs/bacon/toast", and now I'm starting to use it more. I did use the soak/boil method about 3 months into it, but it started softening up the center seasoning layer (like you would see when you put paint remover on old paint - not big bubbles, but very small fine "wrinkles", which eventually came up. So I backed off that method, and tried the salt, after pouring out most oil, and that had a similar effect of clearing out the center area. By the way, when I used the thick paper towels, it would still tear them up at bit - that's how crusty and stuck on it was - so I would do a combo of scraping with my flat cooking (metal) spatula, and the salt.

                    I'll try the boiling again. But I'm starting to think that the flame pattern on the pan may be part of my uneven seasoning problem!

                    Not a big deal, I'm not babying it, but I am challenged with seasoning on a stove (gas flame) with no oven.

                    1. re: asiajason

                      Actually seasoning on a stove is what I prefer. I seasoned my cast iron skillet, my carbon steel frying pan, my carbon steel wok... all on stovetop. The only thing I don't do on stovetop is a Dutch Oven for very obvious reasons. In my opinion, you get much more stable seasoning from stovetop seasoning due to higher temperature. In fact, even though I do the initial seasoning of my Dutch Oven in the oven, I always perform another one on a stovetop later (not necessary on the same day).

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        So what is the correct way to do this - I've read around some other threads here about this subject, and I don't take away one crucial element (how high / long flame) that I've trying to learn the hard way (experiments!)...

                        after cooking and cleaning the pan out, do I turn on the heat high.. *just* until the pan starts smoking, and then turn off the heat, and then use a towel to spread around a thin layer of oil (just to keep it "wet")? That's what I've been doing and it's worked pretty well so far, except in the center - I can't seem to keep a good layer there - so my thought is I'm getting the pan *too* hot?

                        Any insight?

                        1. re: asiajason


                          There are many variations to perform cookware seasoning on the stovetop. This includes:
                          i) putting a layer of oil in the skillet, bring the oil to smoke point, and swirl the oil around the pan
                          to the method you just described
                          ii) putting a thin layer of oil in the skillet, bring the oil to smoke point, turn down the heat, and applying the oil with a paper towel

                          This method you described is a very good method. Keeps the pan hot so that the oil smokes (but not excessive), and constantly uses a tong and a paper towel to spread the oil around and adds more oil when the necessary. If you think the center is not good, then just focus the center next time. Use the paper towel to wipe the oil in the center more often, just keep apply oil there. When the paper towel start to look dry, add some more oil to the pan. Again, keep the pan hot, but not excessively hot. Use a tong to hold the paper towel just to be safe. I used to use my hand, but I think in hindsight that wasn't a good idea.

                          No, I am guessing "too hot" is not the main reason (though is can be a secondary reason) Oil tends to move to the edge of the pan (as opposed to the center) during seasoning, so the center simply just wasn't see much oil.

                          I also don't think we need a perfect seasoning surface before we start to cook. Once the pan is seasoned, I would just start to cook and the cooking will nicely seasoning the entire.