I bought a badly charred cast iron pan in a garage sale for 25 cents. This worked for me:
Set your cast iron pan on a layer of newspaper, in a heavy trash bag. Add a couple layers of newspaper on top of pan, and pour in a couple cups of ammonia. Seal the bag and set it in the sun. I let mine sit 24 hours. The next day, all the char washed right off. Wash well and season, and you are good to go.
By Jbing from Three Rivers, MI
Ammonia? Who wants to put that stuff on anything you cook in? So you have a bad cast iron pan. OK, soak it with baking soda, if you want to use water, which doesn't hurt for real cleaning and a little bit of elbow grease. When most of it is off, put a little bit of oil in the pan, rub it around, get it warm and use a lot of salt to clean the rest. It will come out nice and shiny and no chemicals.
After each use, just put some salt in, use a paper towel and clean it while still warm and it is good to go for the next time. No use for water (unless you burned something in bad). Always clean with oil and salt afterward. This is an old restaurant trick. (10/25/2009)
When the need is bad enough I put mine in the self cleaning oven, while I am cleaning the oven. Then I wipe it out and season it. Easy peasy. BJ (10/26/2009)
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