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Sep 27, 2013 07:15 AM

Cast Iron Skillet Conundrum

Hi everybody! This is my first post here on Chowhound. I've been lurking for a while but never had much to say until last night when I created a bit of a problem for myself. I used my favorite skillet (an old cast iron skillet that my grandmother gave me with years worth of seasoning built up.) After I used it I rinsed out and put it on the burner to dry it thoroughly before putting it up. I got distracted and to make a long story short came home from class several hours later to find the skillet still sitting on the burner with most of the seasoning on the cooking surface burned to ash. I used kosher salt and oil to scrub all of the damaged seasoning off of the inside of the pan. The outside is still a bit peely and crackly but I'm not super concerned with the outside of the pan as it spent 50 years of its life as a camping skillet with tons of burned on crud and ash. I've abused this pan pretty badly since I got it 10 years ago (letting it get rusty, letting it go rancid, even running it over with my jeep) and it has almost always sprung back after a few seared pork chops, although on a few occasions I did have to re-season it. I've never actually burned off part of the seasoning before so I'm not sure that my old methods will still work. Since I live in a small apartment with poor ventilation and I don't want all of my stuff to be greasy and smelly typical of re seasoning cast iron. Do you all think that I need to fully strip the seasoning and start the process over (I have never fully stripped it when reseasoning in the past) or just start frying more stuff and the seasoning that burned off will get re-polymerized with fat and after a few more years of good eating be back where it was yesterday? I'd like to avoid having to remove the remaining seasoning if possible since my oven doesn't self clean and I do not have a good workspace to remove it with abrasion.
Thanks in advance for any expertise that you all share with me.

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  1. Here are a few photographs of the carnage...

    1. You don't have to fully strip it and start over, but if you choose to, you might find this helpful:

      2 Replies
      1. re: GH1618

        Thanks for the link. I might just be lazy, but if I don't have to strip it and start over I doubt that I will. Messing with lye or oven cleaner sounds it could turn into a huge pain in the butt.

        1. re: MucousMembrane

          I don't know about a burned pan, but you can usually strip a CI pan in the dishwasher.

          FYI, my mom used to strip her CI by putting it in a burning backyard incinerator.

          The major worry I would have is if the pan has warped.

          Good luck!

      2. Aw, I am glad to know that I am not the only forgetful one. Been there, done that.

        Just start cooking in it again, and after cooking, dry on the burner (don't wander off!) and wipe a little oil over the inside.

        Might be time to do some fried chicken.

        1. If my seasoning gets compromised, I just heat my skillet well , wipe it with a paper towel with some bacon grease , let it cool down, repeat couple times, then start cooking again while avoiding foods that produce juices during cooking until seasoning has a chance to get back in a shape. Pancakes would be perfect re-seasoning food for the people who eat it.

          1. Your pan is in great shape after the burning. I am currently renewing a large pan that fell off the cabin roof during a storm. 6 months later I finally found it by stumbling on it in the murky salt water. I slowly cook lots of fatty pork. After a half dozen iterations, it is looking pretty good. Still a few hills and valleys, but the pans only last me 5 years or so being washed in sea water.