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Jul 14, 2012 02:40 PM

Help! Cast Iron Pan

What's the easiest way to get all the hard bumpy carbon stuff off the bottom of my cast iron?

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  1. Probably have it sand blasted then re season. Should not be expensive.

    9 Replies
      1. re: JB BANNISTER

        Never, ever, sandblast a cast iron pan! (See

        1. re: GH1618

          I am not a collector. I'm a cook and will pass my stuff down to my kids as they learn to cook with it.

          1. re: JB BANNISTER

            Be that as it may, abrasive methods are overkill. Sandblasting will damage the pan. Chemical cleaning is much easier on the pan, and vintage pans are worth taking care of, in my opinion.

            1. re: GH1618

              "Pan Man" doesn't think much of a lot of chemical cleaning either.

              1. re: GH1618

                A self cleaning cycle in your oven is simple and effective. No chemicals or abrasives are needed. You will need to reseason though.

                1. re: Sid Post

                  Probably the least aggressive method is to bake it out (like in an oven). As for chemicals and abrasives both of which have their uses. Abrasive can remove what others cannot remove, but in this case, abrasive is not required.

                2. re: GH1618

                  D'accordo GH (I agree)! I have several cast iron skillets of different sizes plus a chicken fryer and a Dutch oven. Sandblasting will be the end of the skillet. At one time I put a cast iron skillet on the hot glowing charcoal of a grill and let it burn the stuck gunk to a crisp. The skillet was given to me by a friend who didn't want to be bothered with the chore.

              2. re: GH1618

                The term "sandblast" is similar to Kleenex or Coke. "They" don't always use sand, for example, ground walnut shells are used for aluminum. It could be expensive, based on my experience with "media blasting", probably cost $20. In my area, there are lots of EPA regulations covering "sand blasting". A local shop relocated out of state rather than modify their facility. So, one might have to add UPS charges. Body (car collision) shops often have the ability to media blast.

                Based on my experience with extruded aluminum, the proper media will not damage a cast iron pan.

                I think a wire wheel would be easy.

            2. Hmmm, it depends what you mean by "easiest" and what tools you have with you. If all you want to do is to remove the thick burned out carbon, and you don't care about anything else to the rest of the pan, then burning the entire pan is the easiest. You can either do this in a big campfire, or do this in your self cleaning oven. Burn everything off. No skill is required, no chemical is required, and no power tool is required.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                @Chemicalkinetics, Thanks for replying:)
                If I were to use tools, what tools should I use?
                By easy, I meant little to no effort, and I really don't want to have to deal with that black stuff all over everything in my kitchen if I were to scrape it:).
                If I do the oven method, that"ll hafta wait till a cooler time of year:)
                I do have a Big Green Egg that gets Super Hot! Guess I could give that a try!

                1. re: Pedge_KY_MT

                  >I do have a Big Green Egg that gets Super Hot! Guess I could give that a try!<

                  My suggestion after a very hot oven would be a grill. I say give the Big Green Egg a try. Once the carbon is burned, it is easy to scrub off with a stainless steel wool scrub. But be prepared to immediately wash, dry completely (as in a warm oven) then grease the pan up and bake in the oven. Otherwise it will rust. Acctualy you will see some rust form before your eyes as you dry and grease your pan. Bake on a few coats of seasoning before you try to use the pan.

                  Oh, and if all the coating doesn't come off with the first scrubbing, but it back on the grill and heat it again. Sometimes if the build up is really thick, and/or you don't leave it in the heat source long enough, it won't all bake off.

                  1. re: Pedge_KY_MT

                    The self cleaning cycle of the oven works very well.

                    So does setting your skillet on a gas BBQ grill until it gets screaming hot.

                    Both will require re-seasoning but, are easy to get rid of the carbon build up.

                2. Why can't I just leave it there? My CI pans have some of that carbon buildup on the exterior but not enough to affect their performance. Frankly, I'd not thought of trying to remove it. Should I? I am not a collector and I use them frequently so interiors are all nicely seasoned with no heroic efforts on my part.

                  I don't really care how they look.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: tcamp

                    You can. I have an old cast iron pan of no great worth with many decades of buil-up crust on the exterior. The interior is fine and I don't consider it worth cleaning.

                    On the other hand, when I get my mother's Griswold, which is in near perfect condition, I intend to keep it looking good.

                  2. FOund a Griswold a month or so ago at a thrift store... less than $5. It wasn't terribly crusty, but wanted the unknow "season" off before I started using it. Have had EASY success in the past with cheap-o, dollar store spray oven cleaner. Wanted outside as clean as possible and inside CLEAN... with as little elbow grease as possible required. Whatever the crud was on inside... even 2-3 doses of oven cleaner didn't loosen it. Just at the right time, we had a few days of almost chilly weather, so I cranked up self-clean cycle of oven. At the end of the cycle, all that was left was a powdery residue. I gave it a good rinse in HOT water and stuck on burner to get really HOT. Then generous dab og bacon grease... that's what my grandmother always used. I wiped out excess with paper towels and also gave outside and handle a good coating.

                    Key to getting the most outta cast iron is... USE IT!! I know it's heavy and some might think old-fashioned... those people don't know what they're missing. If cooking something like eggs... usually only end up with bits that will easily wipe out with paper towel... NO washing needed. If anything does stick... HOT water, cheap table salt and a scrubber... followed by HOT rinse, back on burner till hot and a bit more lubrication.

                    1. LOL..I know this thread is really old. But I would like to advise against using a self cleaning oven. We initially thought it was a brilliant idea. But after an hour of self cleaning our old cast iron frying pan we heard a noise and looked through the oven window and the frying pan was in flames!!!! Luckily we were able to stop the self cleaning and its cooling off now. My hope is that we didn't destroy the inside of our oven. I think we are going to put the frying pan on our barbecue grill and let the flames there remove the black crust on the outside of the pan