just bought an old cast iron skillet - are there any downsides to a reused one? any way to "cleanse the surface"?

perri kramer
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13 Comments

Louisa January 15, 2012
I have (and love) my great-aunt's old cast iron skillet. The cooking surface is honed and smooth as silk. I never use soap, but if something's stuck or I've fried chicken in it, I use the above-mentioned salt and a scotchbrite scrub pad.
When I bake cornbread, I just wipe the skillet out with a towel.
 
sfmiller January 15, 2012
I prefer to burn off the gunk with extreme heat and save some elbow grease. If you have a self-cleaning oven, leave the pan in the oven during the cleaning cycle. Or put the pan directly on the coals of a fireplace fire or a charcoal grill and leave it till the ashes are cold. You'll have to re-season afterward, just as with any other cleaning method.
 
cranberry January 15, 2012
Something that always works to get greasy residue off of stovetops, pans etc is to use washing soda. Just sprinkle it on dry, and rub it with slightly damp rag or sponge til the surface comes clean, then rinse it off. You will likely have to reseason after this but it works amazingly well on old sticky grease. The only caveat is not to do this on aluminum surfaces or they will discolor, but that does not apply here.
 

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susanm January 14, 2012
i do what martha taught me a long time ago:
moisten with hot water, sprinkle a generous amount of kosher salt all over and use a sponge or cloth to scrub it in a circular motion. the abrasive salt will clean away all the gunk...repeat till its all clean. then dry in a warm oven and re-season, if necessary, every few cleanings. this is the ONLY way i have ever cleaned my cast iron grill pan and iv'e had it for at least 10 years.
 
pamelalee January 14, 2012
So washng cast iron with soapy water is ok? I thought it might leave a taste of soap in the food.
 
matchaflan January 15, 2012
I have to agree - the Lodge "user guide" said never to wash with soap. I think heat, salt, scrubbing should be enough to clean it.
 
pierino January 14, 2012
That metallic taste can be attributed to cooking in an iron pan that needs seasoning. Frying bacon in it works well. My own method for cleaning is to pour in coarse salt, wipe it out with a paper towel, wash in soapy water, rinse and finally burn it dry on the stove top.
 
susan G. January 14, 2012
Of course, the missing link. Thanks.
 
susan G. January 14, 2012
I have rescued so really iffy looking cast iron cookware. Previous questions posted elicited excellent answers -- there are many ways to do this! Search (top right of the page) 'season cast iron' -- in Hotline.
Unless your pot has reached the sandblast stage (as always resourceful Sam1148 suggests), what I did most recently was scrub under running water with a steel wool pad until smooth, then dry on low heat, then rub generously with a neutral oil (like canola) and leave on very low heat for a while, rubbing until it looks smooth and a bit dull.
 
susan G. January 14, 2012
...and consider yourself lucky to have it! I see old cast iron pans in good-looking condition going for pretty high prices.
Once when I did this, there was a metallic taste the first time or so I used the pan. I probably didn't get the storage residue out, sort of like a used book. It cooked out quickly. Just imprint it with your own personality.
 
perri K. January 15, 2012
thank you so much susan!
 
Sam1148 January 14, 2012
If it's really gunked up...take it to a mom/pop auto body shop. They should be able to sandblast it for you. You'll have to start re-seasoning from scratch anyway.
I'd walk in, pan in hand, and ask them in person instead of calling.
 
redcloudwinter January 14, 2012
No problem. Wash well in really hot, soapy water. Dry immediately with paper towels. Re-season. I resurrected my great grandmother's. Beautiful!
 
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