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Sometimes a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet needs more than just a simple scraping/wiping to get it ready for the next job. In those cases, I used to soak mine in hot water in the sink. Then I wised up and decided to boil water in it on my stove top. I believe the hotter water soaks and cleans the pan better. Just a few minutes at boil followed by brushing with coarse brush should do the job.
Then I wipe dry, finish the drying on low stove top heat. When totally dry, add a tiny dab of whatever oil you like and continue heating for another few minutes. I use a heavy-duty paper towel to burnish the oil in the pan once or twice before shutting the stove down.
My favorite skillet then gleams and I can almost see my reflection in it. The bottom is just as smooth as the proverbial 'baby's butt'.
By Chuck from Canton, OH
If your cast iron pan has food stuck to it, you may need to do a deep cleaning and then season it again. This is a page about thoroughly cleaning a cast iron fry pan.
A nylon brush and quick drying will keep your cast iron in great shape, but sometimes your pans may need some refurbishing. This is a page about cleaning a cast iron skillet.
Used coffee grounds and a bit of water do an excellent job of cleaning your cast iron cookware. This is a page about cleaning a cast iron skillet with used coffee grounds.
When you have a good or bad experience with a cleaning tool, you can help others by sharing your opinion. This product can be used like a sponge and will not damage the seasoning on your cast iron.
Cast iron cookware may need periodic seasoning, as would an old poorly maintained piece. Prior to re-seasoning you will want to thoroughly clean the pan. This is a page about cleaning a cast iron skillet to re-season.
Cast iron pots can pick up odors from the food you cook in them. This is a page about cleaning a smelly cast iron pot.
ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.
To clean your treasured but crusty cast iron fry pan, just pop it into your oven on the day you use the self cleaning mode. When the oven is clean, so is your cast iron fry pan or skillet.
By just stuff to share from Palm Coast, FL
My sister in law had a lot of old cast iron cookware. When they got some cooked on grease, she would put them in her fireplace and burn it all off. They turned out like new, then she just re-seasoned them. (01/25/2011)
By Sue Hadley
Be careful doing this to keep an eye on your pans; they can warp at high temperatures, and there's nothing more frustrating than having a bottom that isn't flat on a pan. (01/25/2011)
By E.A. Havens
I used to burn mine out by putting it/them into the wood-burning furnace overnight. A quicker way is to heat them red hot with an acetylene torch, but slowly. They don't like being heated fast (01/25/2011)
Cleaning cast iron pans in a campfire or fireplace sounds like a better idea than using a self-cleaning oven. ONLY because one side of my cast iron skillet broke off, a few days after I had cleaned it in my self-cleaning oven. I bought it in Fort Worth Texas in 1957 and had been using it for more than forty years. (01/26/2011)
Lodge Company has been around for many years and I would bet that they are the biggest manufacturer of cast iron pans. Go to http://www.lodgemfg.com/ for "use and care". I followed their instructions to re-season my pan and it is beautiful! (01/26/2011)
I inherited my mother's cast iron skillet and I'm afraid I have ruined it. I hope someone can help me fix it. I baked a pineapple upside down cake in it and after I cleaned it (or so I thought) with oil I put it away. I got it back out tonight and there is a gummy substance that will not come off. I'm assuming crystallized brown sugar.
I've tried scrubbing it with hot water and salt and I even took a razor blade to it thinking I could scrape it off. I am going to be heart broken if I have ruined the skillet.
Any suggestions would be very much appreciated.
By dobiemama from Fort Worth, TX
You have not ruined it. Boil some water in it to soften the gunk, then use a brillo pad or a copper scrubbie and get it good and clean. Dry it well, in a low oven, and let it cool. When you are sure it is clean, re-season it by rubbing it well with a good layer of shortening, and bake it at 350 for an hour. (12/29/2009)
I have used cast iron for 30 years. The important thing, regardless of what you hear, is not the way you clean them but the way you season them. Whether you use soap or not, you should never soak them and you should dry them right away. Then season with shortening, crisco is best. I do not cook with it. I do not like oil on the skillets. Another help is to use them as often as you can. Not using them causes them to rust. (12/30/2009)
I was going to say the same basic thing that Jilson said. To be honest it is hard to totally ruin a cast iron cooking utensil, unless you crack it. Just do the cleaning, and then re-season it, as described. I have cast iron that had been my late Mother-in-laws, and some that had been my grand-mothers', but it never loses it's quality if kept cured, and greased up. Just enjoy it, and use it with pride. You can't find its equal in the stores, when you think of the many meals it has cooked, or as with one I have, the many pans of cornbread it has turned out. (12/30/2009)
My sister-in-law had these very dirty(caked on food) cast iron pans and gave them to us because she had tried everything to clean them. My husband put them into the oven and "burnt' the food off. After several hours (on med.) turn the oven off when the pans are almost red. When cooled off take them out and wipe out. Food, dirt etc. comes right out. Condition the pan as others have said. We put oil and spread it around the pan. Put on stove to "cure". Put away. We have done this for years and they do not stick. We also wash them in hot water and detergent. and then re-condition them every time. (12/30/2009)
By Rita Murray
That sticky residue might not be sugar. It could very well be PAM (or some other brand aerosol spray). Don't ever use spray as the oil coating before cooking with cast iron, use as mentioned previously (Crisco). (12/30/2009)
There is tons of advice, not all of it the same, and some conflicting - use Pam, never use Pam; use soap, never use soap - and so on. The bottom line is - it is next to impossible to ruin a cast iron pan. Any gunk you have on them can be burnt off in a self-cleaning oven, or as described in several other posts, or can be scraped off with an SOS or copper wire scrubbie. After you get the thing clean, you season it. Several ways to do that apparently, as you can see from the archives.
The best thing to do is to use it all the time, and just rinse out with hot water. (12/30/2009)
By Louise B.
As I've posted before, I ruined my cast iron skillet that I had for years, when I tried to clean it in my self cleaning oven. It did come out nice and clean but within a few days of using it, a big piece on the left side broke off. I have another, that is larger that I bought on the Internet but it has never been as good as my original. What I don't understand with this one is that it has never developed a smooth surface. The bottom is still very rough and I have been using it for at least 10 to 15 years! The only place I see them at stores now are at Dick's sporting goods and they all seem to have a rough cooking surface. When can I buy a new one that will have and/or at least develop a smooth satiny cooking surface? (12/30/2009)
You can use salt to scrub out the sticky stuff. Best thing to do, go to Lodge Logic. com, they make the most durable cast iron that you can get right now (and a long time ago), the website tells you how to revive long since "dead" skillets. I know people have found "dead" ones at garage sales, rust and all and brought them back to life. They are a little more maintenance but once you get the seasoning set, it's old hat and you'll get a nonstick surface that can be heated to HIGH heats and won't leech crud into your food! (12/30/2009)
If your cast iron pan is all cast iron, with no handles made of other materials, you can use the old Scottish method of putting the pan directly on to an open fire to burn the dirt off. (01/01/2010)
By Julia in UK
I use cast iron pans to help keep our blood iron levels more normal. But sometimes when we forget to season them well things get stuck on the bottom, or even burned.
How can I clean cast iron pots?
I love using my old-fashioned cast iron cookware, especially my grandmother's Dutch oven for homemade soups on top of our wood stove.
Don't use dish soap to clean cast iron pans and don't run them through the dishwasher. Fill the dirty pan with water and bring it to a boil, then you should be able to scrub off any debris.