Cast iron cleaning

Swamp_Yankee

New Member
Oct 18, 2018
59
Hunterdon County, NJ
An old well seasoned cast iron pan is great to cook with, but sometimes the seasoning coating gets funky and you just have to start from scratch. You can use pure lye (used for drain cleaning, soap making, etc...) from the hardware store to dissolve whatever baked on oils are coating the pan. Oils and fats are acidic and even the hardest most baked on oils are easily dissolved by lye, which is sodium hydroxide, about as strong a base as you can get. It goes without saying that you are made of acids and fats and will easily be dissolved by sodium hydroxide as well, so use caution. Safety goggles and heavy rubber gloves are a good idea. I use just enough water to cover the pans in a plastic container-in this case, a garbage can. Then drop in the pans and the powdered lye. Here's what it looks like after soaking two old pans for three days:



Dropped into a bath (about 1:5) of vinegar and water to neutralize the sodium hydroxide-you can see that the baked on oil has become soft and gooey:



Scrubbing in the sink with soap and an abrasive pad:



After thorough rinsing with hot water and drying with paper towels. You want to get the iron as dry as possible as quickly as possible-it will start to flash rust no matter what you do, but the quicker you dry, the less rust you end up with:




When Mrs. Yankee gets home from the store I'll knock the patina off of them with a dry abrasive pad, wipe with a dry paper towel, coat them with flaxseed oil, and bake them at 450°F for a few hours.
 

EatenByLimestone

Minister of Fire
Jul 12, 2006
7,325
Schenectady, NY
Griswold made a great pan!
 

Poindexter

Minister of Fire
Jun 28, 2014
2,160
Fairbanks, Alaska
Nice job.
 

PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
619
MA
Nice!

Do you know about WAGS? I'm cooking forum moderator over there.

http://www.griswoldandwagner.com/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.pl

If people have trouble finding lye (Rooto or the equivalent) ask for it in the hardware store. Some places have it put away since it is used in making meth.
 
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PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
619
MA
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PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
619
MA
I use my 9/609 griddle a lot. Pancakes Saturday morning. Grilled cheese yesterday. :)

Perfect size griddle when I don't want to pull out the two-burner griddle.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
82,426
South Puget Sound, WA
Nice pans. Griswolds had a really nice smooth finished surface to start with. I sold my Lodge pans and found a good old cast iron one at a yard sale that was pretty smooth, but would have loved to have found a Griswold. I think ours is a Birmingham.

You're doing it right with flaxseed oil. There's some science behind it based on fat polymerization. But it will take several coats to rebuild the layers for proper seasoning.
http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/01/a-science-based-technique-for-seasoning-cast-iron/
 
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EatenByLimestone

Minister of Fire
Jul 12, 2006
7,325
Schenectady, NY
I took a random orbit sander to a lodge skillet and have been thrilled with the results.

I can't get past using bacon to season the pans. Yeah, it doesn't work as well as some other stuff, but I'm committed to keep trying it. Eventually it'll work!
 
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semipro

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2009
3,792
SW Virginia
I left our CI griddle in our electric oven during the oven's high temp self-cleaning cycle once - not intentionally.
The griddle came out looking like it had just been cast new. The oven was clean too. ;)
 
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PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
619
MA
Roaster chickens are 59 cents per pound this week at my local supermarket. Roast chicken and vegetables in a no. 10 skillet (maybe a 12) tonight. :)
 
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Dobish

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2015
1,993
Golden CO
we have a few folks at our shop that have machined down their cast irons so they are nice and flat.... :)
 

Woody5506

Minister of Fire
Feb 14, 2017
769
Rochester NY
I've restored a bunch of my own by plastic media blasting them, only because I have access to that equipment at work. Plastic works as a way of stripping whatever is on metal without leaving any type of profile or alteration on the metal, unlike sand blasting. If I didn't have access to the equipment then I would definitely set up an electrolysis tank which really is the best way to restore them. I've seasoned a bunch of mine with flax oil and it's a pretty time consuming 5 step baking process. The last couple pans I got didn't get any type of seasoning, basically they were plastic media blasted, cleaned when I got home and went straight on the stove to cook, and they perform just as well as the flax seasoned pans, just as non stick even on their first time use. After I cook with any of them I usually clean them out, heat back up and re-season with Crisbee.

There is a 60+ page cast iron thread on the FHC board with tons of good info and pics which I attribute to my nerding out over this topic and building up my small collection.
 
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PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
619
MA
Used a breakfast skillet this morning. Handy piece to have. Sausage, egg, and cheese on a buttermilk biscuit with Creole seasoning. Yum! :)
 

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Dobish

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2015
1,993
Golden CO
trying to decide if I should surprise my wife with a new square griddle, or a round griddle... i am thinking square, since french toast fits better on a square pan....

we already have a 12" pan, a dutch oven, a 20" flat griddle, and a small fry pan....
 

PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
619
MA
The round griddle in the pictures above is a Griswold 9/609. We use it a lot: French toast, pancakes, Egyptian eggs (toad-in-a-hole), grilled cheese, and so on.

I also have the larger two-burner griddles. Convenient if cooking for more people.
 

Dobish

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2015
1,993
Golden CO
i went with the square pan... we will see if my wife notices :) I like to buy her presents that I get to use, and then not tell her about them for a while :)
 
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rwhite

Minister of Fire
Nov 8, 2011
1,612
North Central Idaho
I left our CI griddle in our electric oven during the oven's high temp self-cleaning cycle once - not intentionally.
The griddle came out looking like it had just been cast new. The oven was clean too. ;)
This is the easiest and best way to get a pan back to new. Done it several times and it works great.
 
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PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
619
MA

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PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
619
MA
i went with the square pan... we will see if my wife notices :)
:)

I was in a tire shop when I lived in NJ. Guy came in and said he really needed tires for his wife's car, "the tires could be square, and she wouldn't notice!"
 

PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
619
MA
Lots of beef stew leftovers for the week! :)

That's just a current Lodge 7-qt. Dutch oven. Played with the recipe above. Really good stew: beef, potatoes, boiling onions, carrots, celery, peas, limas, barley. :)
 

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