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May 21, 2014 10:51 AM

old oil in a cast iron pan

To make a long story short... I found a cast Iron pan in the garage that was used to fry chicken in about five months ago. The oil, about two inches, turned into a cross between soft rubber, Jell-O and, pine tar. This new substance will not come off even with boiling hot water. I got some of it on my hand and the only thing that would take it off was Lava soap. This pan is over 100 years old and, I would like to save it. Have any of you home cooks ever seen anything like this happen? If so, how can I clean it?

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  1. worst case scenario oven cleaner will do it but you probably don't need to get that drastic

    did you try heating the pan - heat pan gently on low heat and scrub with lots of kosher salt - adding white vinegar to break down the goopy oil - don't be afraid to use some elbow grease or very abrasive scrubbie you really cant hurt the pan

    1. I would scrape out what you can, and then put the pan in a strong plastic bag. Pour in 2 cups of household ammonia. Seal the bag. After 24 hours, remove the pan and rinse off the crud. It's possible that you'd have to repeat this process to get the pan completely clean. Then you'll have to reseason it (plenty of threads here on CH as well as YouTube videos will show you how to reseason).

      Another alternative is to put the pan in an oven and run it through the self-cleaning mode, but with all that oil stuck to it, it will likely generate tons of smoke.

      1 Reply
      1. re: MrsPatmore

        And if you go the self-cleaning oven route, put aluminum foil, edges turned up, directly beneath it or on a rack below the one the pan is on, so you don't have to clean crud off the oven floor.

      2. Those ideas sound very good. I was thinking about putting the pan in our back yard hard wood fire pit upside down. If I do that, will it ruin the pan?

        5 Replies
          1. re: josephlapusata

            That will definitely clean your pan, should not cause damage.

            1. re: josephlapusata

              Perfect solution, just let it cool down naturally in a safe place away from kiddies.

              Then you'll need to clean it again, re-season it and never let it sit around like that ever again.

              1. re: josephlapusata

                That is what I'd do. My husband once messed up one of my cast iron pans by baking on a thick layer of oil in the bottom and I fixed it by burning it off on the bbq. The next time we did a high heat cook I just put the pan on once the food was done and left it there until it was cool.

                1. re: josephlapusata

                  I use the self-clean cycle to burn crud off of cast iron pans. I avoid using the fire, though, since the one time I did this I warped a pan that did not have a flat surface on which to rest. So, if you go with the firepit, I'd make sure to have a level grate to support the pan. Can't hurt, anyway.

                2. I would soak it in a solution of washing soda for as long as it takes. This might be a few days, with changes of the solution daily.

                  1. I wouldn't go self-clean oven cycle with TWO INCHES of gunky oil!?! I'd try to gently warm up and hope to be able to scrape most of the stuff out of pan. Then I'd go "quick & dirty" with oven cleaner and reseason well. Temps have gotten to a point here in NJ where self-clean cycle is just too much heat for almost JUNE?!?