Removing old grease from cast iron cookware.

Discussion in 'Pots, Pans, Grills, Other Cookware / Cleaning & Fo' started by Norfolk, Jun 4, 2011.

  1. Norfolk

    Norfolk Just let me fix this one last thing.....

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    Today's trip to the thrift store got me a 10" Lodge dutch oven and 10" frying pan for $5.00. Only problem is that whatever the previous owner cooked in them left a somewhat nasty residue. Is it possible to remove all old grease and re-season? If so, what's the best way to do it?
     
  2. electronflux

    electronflux Member

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    fill with water and boil on the stove for a good long while. If its still there when you dump it, repeat. If it's still there, you can pop it in the dish washer, but you may have to re-season the cookwear
     
  3. cuckoo

    cuckoo Active Member

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    Quickest and easiest way I found was a wire brush on the end of a Makita drill - wash well with soap and water - blow dry with compressed air and re season. Then folks told me this was all wrong and wire particles would get stuck in the cast iron pores and so forth... I'm still kicking and will most likely pass from the clogged arteries caused from the fried foods prepared in said skillets and not wire particles... [:)O]
     
  4. tsc

    tsc Member

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    If I buy an old cast iron that is "suspect". I run it in my oven with the self clean cycle. after everything has cooled, I will scrub it down with a nylon brush and dish soap (or steel wool, if there is anything still left on). I then season the cast iron and use it like normal.

    The only problem with this method, is that it will strip any and all season that is on the cast iron.

    Here is a link for re-seasoning.
     
  5. Dusty82

    Dusty82 Active Member

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    Here are a couple of links to the Wagner and Griswold Society's cleaning and seasoning pages. These guys are the pros and collectors who have become the definitive source on all things cast iron. Some of these people have over 1000 pieces in their collections, and have been collecting and restoring cast iron for decades.

    Cleaning/Stripping - Lye Bath:

    http://www.wag-society.org/Electrolysis/lye.php

    Cleaning/Stripping - Electrolysis:

    http://www.wag-society.org/Electrolysis/electros.php

    Seasoning (do know that there are as many methods for seasoning as there are Dutch Ovens out there - this is only one method, and it worked well for us:)

    http://www.wag-society.org/Electrolysis/seasoning.php

    Link to the message forum with lots of info on cleaning, seasoning, and restoring cast iron pieces. There are lots of pictures in the various threads.

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

    Cuckoo: That was probably me who mentioned embedding pieces of the wire in the cast iron. I never meant that it would be harmful to you - just harmful to the skillet/DO. I also don't remember if I said that directly to you or not - I very possibly could have - I just don't remember. If I offended you in any way, I do sincerely apologize for that - that is never my intention in any of my posts. It might sound like paranoia to some on my part, but I figure when I ask a pro a question, I should probably listen to his answer. I merely passed on that answer here when someone else asked a similar question, and I'll continue to do so if I can help.

    From my discussions with WAGS members and reading the info they host on their site, I do know that there are 3 huge no-nos when it comes to stripping the old seasoning and rust from cast iron, and I'm sorry to say those are heat, media blasting (sand, soda, bead blasting) of any kind, and abrasives - including sand paper and wire brushes.

    Now, those are suggestions intended to help keep from damaging the piece. It's your pan/DO - feel free to use any method you'd like. My intent was to help keep people from damaging their cast iron - possibly to the point of making it unusable. There are plenty of examples of pieces (some of them rather valuable antiques) with warped bottoms, cracks and chips, severe pitting/etching, damaged enamel or plating, and damaged cooking surfaces out there, that are now virtually worth only their weight in scrap - and a lot of them are for sale on the auction sites. If I can help prevent someone from making the same mistake, I will.

    In closing, I'll just say that if anyone has come across an antique or suspected antique (and this counts for anything - not just cast iron) it's generally better to consult with a specialist or professional before attempting to clean/restore a piece. If it's just a dime store cheapy that you plan on using daily, and you're sure it has no real value (intrinsic, commercial, or otherwise,) any method that works for you is the right method. In the end, however, it's still your item, and you're free to treat it as you wish. As always, feel free to take anything I post with as many grains (or pounds) of salt as you see fit.
     
  6. cuckoo

    cuckoo Active Member

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    No offence taken here... The only reason I mentioned it was the old CYA in case anybody was to get ill after using a wire brush.... [:D]
    and yes I did read those links you have posted and found them to be quite interesting... Keep supplying the info...
     
  7. jnjsawyer

    jnjsawyer New Member

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    Without reading what the professionals said, I really like the idea of the self clean cycle on the oven but I would think you'd want to put it in there upside down so the yuck could fall out. Any replies to this ide?
     
  8. tsc

    tsc Member

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    Mine are upside down, when I do it.
     
  9. EastBeast

    EastBeast NO soup for you!

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    For a "start over" re-seasoning I have seen a pass through the sandblaster at the body shop do a nice job.
     
  10. CaliforniaPoppy

    CaliforniaPoppy California and beyond!

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    I do what my grandma taught me. Heat it up with oil in the bottom of it, turn off the burner, let it cool a little, then pour in a bunch of coarse salt. Use a Chore Boy stainless steel scrubber to scrub all over (don't burn yourself!). Wipe out with a paper towel and let cool more. Rinse with hot water to get the rest of the salt out, and then dry over a low burner. Gets them nice and clean and glassy.
     
  11. Big_kid

    Big_kid Virginia Beach, VA

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    I have one that had a small grease fire in it last year, it's been sitting in a plastic bag on my workbench for quite some time now. I think I'll try what's been suggested here and see if it works, or if it waits until winter and goes in the oven for a self clean cycle.
     
  12. rabird

    rabird Howdy!

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    in lieu of an indoor oven, gas grill outdoors
     
  13. bdanntx

    bdanntx New Member

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  14. Dusty82

    Dusty82 Active Member

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    I sure hope folks aren't sandblasting or running spider bottomed Eries or unmarked Wagners through the self-cleaning setting in their ovens. Sand blasted pieces, warped bottoms, and cracked sides are worth their weight in scrap, and that's about all. I mean I know it's your piece - do with it what you will. I'd just hate to see someone turn a $200 skillet or DO into something worthless because they didn't know better, or listen to someone who did know better and just didn't care. Especially when doing it the right way is so simple it isn't funny.

    9 3/4 inch Unmarked Wagner Skillet before lye bath and seasoning:

    [​IMG]

    Same skillet after:

    [​IMG]

    10 inch BS&R (Birmingham Stove & Range) Dutch Oven before lye bath, vinegar bath rust removal, and seasoning:

    [​IMG]

    Same DO after:

    [​IMG]

    We use both of the pieces above all the time, and they cook fantastically. Stripping and reseasoning per the directions in the link above really are very easy. I wouldn't do it any other way now.

    Ok, off me soapbox...

    CaliforniaPoppy: That's the way my grandmother taught me to clean our cast iron too. She said she learned it from her grandma. I was skeptical at first, but grandma's still using some of the cast iron she got from her mother in the '30s, so it must not harm 'em. They do look nice, don't they?
     
  15. blondedriver

    blondedriver Member

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    I remember good old Martha Stewart put her old cast iron to be cleaned into a fire covering it well this the coals and letting stay in there till fire went out then clean and reseason
     
  16. electronflux

    electronflux Member

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    exposing CI to extreme high temps for extended periods warps it.

    the best way to clean it is vinegar solution, lye bath or electrolysis. But that's to completely strip it. The coarse salt cleaning method doesn't require re-seasoning.
     
  17. FC

    FC Central Florida

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    Blondedriver. That's the way they use to do it where I came from in NC. Throw them in the fire then clean and re Season. I now know there are a lot of different ways. But you are correct that's the way it was done for years.
     
  18. jeffsun

    jeffsun Member

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    The Lye method works really well. Do not put it in the dishwasher... the soap does not do good with the seasoning...

    The lye method is simple. Getya a tub, for every 5 gallons of water, add 1 lb of Lye.... ALWAYS add lye to water, not water to lye!!! Put in your iron. let it sit for a couple days to a week, WITH A RUBBER GLOVE, pull it out and rinse it off and scrub clean with either a SS Choreboy or I really like the 3M green scour pads.
    Before
    [​IMG]
    After
    [​IMG]

    Before
    [​IMG]
    After
    [​IMG]

    just becareful if you use the lye, its some powerful stuff!!
     
  19. nfisherman

    nfisherman Member

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    I agree with the lye bath recommendations. I got an old cast iron chicken fryer once. It was in great shape but covered with a nasty coating of dried and cooked-on grease. I sprayed it down with Easy-Off oven cleaner (lye) and then hosed it off. It took three or four applications but it came out great. I reseasoned it and it came out great.
     

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