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Cast iron cookware can become encumbered with gunk and rust. Thankfully, cast iron is very forgiving and with a little time can be stripped and refinished to its former glory. The method for removal is simple. The stripped metal gives you a good starting point to re-season your pan with a no-stick finish.

Use hot water and vinegar to rinse after using salt and baking soda to clean as much of the debris off of your pan as possible. Dry the pan and place it into your oven, face down. You may want to line the bottom shelf with foil to catch drips. Set the temperature to 500 degrees, open a window and turn on an exhaust fan. Leave it baking for 1 hour, turn off the oven and allow the pan to cool inside your oven. This helps melt the excess grease off of your pan by taking it beyond its smoke point.

I include this step because if you have pans with a LOT of buildup, you will want to reduce the amount of oil left on the pans before you actually strip them down. In cooking applications, you wouldn’t want to heat oil past its smoke point because that releases free radicals (which are carcinogens). However, to get the oil off your pans, you will need to do this. Keep the room WELL ventilated.

Technically, this step could be skipped, but pans that have a thick layer of grease could catch fire. I recommend reducing the buildup first in order to decrease the likelihood of a grease fire BEFORE you subject the pan to the heat of a self-cleaning cycle -- during which the oven door will be automatically locked.

When the pan has cooled, remove it, wash and dry.

Self-cleaning ovens are a convenient tool with which to strip your cast iron because they heat to approximately 900 degrees Fahrenheit (482 degrees Celsius). Such high temperature cycles burn off all food and oil debris. A safety feature keeps the oven door locked and closed during and immediately after the high-temperature cleaning cycle, which lasts approximately three hours, to prevent possible burn injuries. Usually, the door can be opened after the temperature cools to approximately 600 °F (300 °C).

You could actually skip the 500 degree baking and go straight to the self-cleaning step, but pans that have a thick layer of grease could catch fire. I recommend reducing the buildup as much as possible BEFORE you subject the pan to the self-cleaning cycle.

Many people leave their wire racks in the oven for this step, but it will strip and blacken your racks. Additionally, the consumer handbooks recommend removing the wire racks when using the self-cleaning cycle. I’ve found an alternative. Ceramic coffee mugs have already been kiln fired and can easily withstand the high temperatures. Simply position old mugs around the wire heating elements and perch the cast iron on top of them. Don’t use old bricks or stones, as these haven’t been glazed and may have water trapped inside, which would cause them to explode in the hot oven.

Keep the room well ventilated using an exhaust fan and an open window or door.

If you don’t have a self-cleaning oven and have access to a fire pit, there is another alternative. Build a hot fire with hard wood. Soft, resinous woods will leave a blackened film on your pans. Once your fire is roaring hot, put your pan in the hot coals of the fire. Keep feeding the flame for a couple of hours. Allow it to die down and cool naturally. Remove your pan and scrub it clean.

You may find that there is a film of rust remaining on your cast iron. If this is the case, scrub this clear with coarse salt and baking soda. Rinse with hot water and dry carefully.

Follow safety precautions when working with heated metals, kitchen appliances and/or fire. This article is for information purposes only. The reader assumes all liability when utilizing these methods.


cowgal jazzy said...

I wish I have known this when I had my cast iron skillet , I ended up throwing it away because I didn't take care of it carefully. but now I know and ty.

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