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Have I ruined my cast iron? (Sad)

So I finally bought a lodge cast iron skillet which I love and I had the bright idea to make a string bean dish in the other night which had parm cheese as part of it. Trouble is I now have cheese residue stuck to the upper ridges of the pan which I can't clean using the boiling water technique because they're too high on the edges.

Is there any way to clean it out safely without ruining the finish? I'd hate to think I did damage to this wonderful pan.

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  1. I would just scrub the hell out of it with a copper or steel scouring pad and then re-season it. But if you don't want to do that, you could turn it upside down in a pan of boiling water and see it it will soften up enough to come out.

    I brought back a Lodge skillet that was 1/4 inch deep in rust (left outside for months at a camp) - it came right back after scouring and re-seasoning. Great pans.

    3 Replies
    1. re: elenacampana

      So I could use steel wool on that section, and reseason it in the oven?

        1. re: darrentran87

          me too. Did you already try rubbing with kosher salt? I have never had anything that would not come out of cast iron that way.

      1. Or heat it way hot and burn it off.

        1 Reply
        1. re: sal_acid

          Heating it up to burn off the cheese is also going to burn off the seasoning. I agree with just scrubbing it off with a metal scrubber. Then just reseason the part you scrubbed. I do stuff like that all the time.

        2. I've also heard of people having success with putting it through their oven's cleaning cycle.

          1 Reply
          1. re: adventuresinbaking

            That is the last straw as it will burn off all seasoning and get down to bare CI. Not that that is such a bad thing. It just requires some work and time to start over

          2. Have you washed it with a scrubber with dish detergent? If that doesn't work you can use steel wool. Try using it lightly at first, you may not need much pressure to get it off. I've only used steel wool a few times and it's always on the rim of my griddle that tends to accumulate gunk over time. I've never had to reseason it after. I do my usual heat to dry and a tiny amount of lard.

            8 Replies
            1. re: rasputina

              Ok I wasn't sure if I could use steel wool or not. I was worried about that. I'll look into the kosher salt method too, that might seem like a good thing to try first.
              I thought I should try to avoid detergent.
              Thank you.

              1. re: Nocontact

                Detergent will NOT wash off your baked on seasoning. If seasoning was than easy to get off, no one would need to use extreme high temps to bake it off, or lye, or power tools or dynamite. The only thing detergent might wash off is the oils and food that you were cooking in the pan. This 'detergent washes off the seasoning layers' misinformation makes me nuts. I wash mine in detergent almost every time I use my CI. It washes off the food and flavors so I can have a fresh pan for my next meal. My baked on seasoning layer is left completely in tact. I have don this for well past 30 years.

                1. re: dixiegal

                  and I'm guessing, so did your mother, and your grandmother, and her mother before her....just like a lot of the rest of us.

                  My grandmother would have had a conniption fit at the idea of not washing her cast iron skillet - I have it now, and can attest that not a single one of those washings has ever damaged the jet-black shiny seasoning a bit.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    When I first came to Chow and read all the fuse about cast iron care, I asked my great aunts about it. (family of 13 kids, lived on a farm) They were horrified at the idea of not washing cast iron pans and said they most certainly washed them after every use.

                    1. re: cleobeach

                      >They were horrified at the idea of not washing cast iron pans and said they most certainly washed them after every use.<

                      Yep, and I will tell ya'll somethin' else too. Their CI pans would get put on the brush fire about once a year or so, to burn off the the built up layers of seasoning, get scrubbed down, and begin the reseasoning process. Those pans were also scraped daily with the use of metal spatulas and spoons. And scrubbed when needed with anything abarasive. That folks, is why those old CI pans are so smooth. When you use a rough CI pan, at lease twice a day, every single day, scrubbed scraped, heated, etc. It doesn't take long to smooth it out and only and years of this wears it down smooth as silk.

                      I saw watching my grandmother in-law frying chicken, when a hole was worn through her CI skillet. She took the chicken out, threw the skillet in the trash, grabbed another CI skillet and finished frying it. All with out missing a beat.

                      And yes. CI can, with enough use, actually be worn out..............................

                      So enjoy your CI and don't worry about it. Brand new CI, older CI, vintage CI, or antique CI. It is all made to enjoy. So just do it.

                      1. re: dixiegal

                        That is something to aspire to - wearing a hole in your CI skillet.

                        1. re: tcamp

                          >That is something to aspire to - wearing a hole in your CI skillet<

                          LOL isn't it though? I can't tell you the regrets I have for not getting that skillet out of the trash to hang on my wall. I actually thought about it at the time. But, thought my husband's family would think I had lost my mind. That he had a goofy girl for a girl friend. I was but a teenager and not yet married at the time.

                    2. re: sunshine842

                      >and I'm guessing, so did your mother, and your grandmother, and her mother before her....just like a lot of the rest of us.<

                      Yes, mam. They always, always, washed their cast iron, just like all their other dishes and utensils.

              2. The thing to remember is that you're dealing with two entities: the seasoning of the pan, which is a little delicate (no soap, etc) and the pan itself, which is nearly indestructible. You can always burn off the seasoning (and any mishaps that may have damaged it) and start fresh with bare cast iron. Reseasoning is not a quick job, but neither is it complicated. I once stuck a 40-year-old pan in the fire until it glowed red, let it cool in there, and then reseasoned it. No problem.

                Having said that, it sounds like you could try a few less drastic fixes first!

                8 Replies
                1. re: Tartinet

                  Haha, the glowning red pan does sound fun but I think I'll go with the kosher salt fix first! Thank you though.

                  1. re: Nocontact

                    Awww man, I used the kosher salt scrub and now my pan is all scratched to pieces like a cat went at it or something. What a drag. I guess it's just cosmetic but still...

                    1. re: Nocontact

                      reseason it. Turn your oven to 450, coat the pan with a thin layer of canola or peanut oil (olive oil smokes too low) and leave in the oven for 2 hours, cool and repeat...

                      1. re: dyrewolf

                        Ok, just did it for an hour. Still looks rough. No oil dripped on the foil, does that mean I didn't use enough?

                        1. re: Nocontact

                          less is more. I put about a tablespoon in a 12" skillet and wipe it around with a paper towel... and 2 hours at 450.

                          1. re: Nocontact

                            Ok, now I see you have already use the salt to scrub off the cheese. Yes, you can re-season the pan in the oven. The most common mistake of seasoning is that people tend to put too much oil. You only want a very thin layer of oil. Apply the oil on the pan, it should look glossy and feel barely oily or wet-like when you run your finger over, but it should not be dripping oil and you should able to see the oil in any thickness.

                            1. re: Nocontact

                              If oil drips off, you put too much on there. I never use drip pans and rarely turn the pans upside down. The oil should be thin enough that it does not drip at all.

                          2. re: Nocontact

                            nope, you scratched the seasoning -- I promise you didn't scratch the cast iron with salt. Reseason.