CLEANING CAST IRON
HOW TO CLEAN & SEASON CAST IRON THE EASY WAY!
1) Apply a heavy coat of oven cleaner, such as Easy Off, to your piece of cast iron. Please be sure to follow all the safety precautions stated by the maker of the oven cleaner or any tools you use. (I just had to say that.)
2) Place the item in a plastic garbage bag, close the bag removing as much air from the bag as possible, then seal and leave it overnight. (The bag helps to keep the oven cleaner from drying out, the oven cleaner is working while it is wet.)
3) The next day, or the day after, if you forgot it was Super Bowl Sunday, rinse the oven cleaner off and scour with a good brush; plastic or wire as long as it is soft enough not to scratch the iron. (Stainless steel works best, but do not use a brass wire brush, it can leave a brass color on the iron.)
4) If the piece requires too much brushing to get off the really stuck on build-up, you don't have to work yourself to death, just repeat the oven cleaner process, on the areas that need it, until it is clean.
5) Dry the iron as best as you can then leave it until the next day so it is good and dry, or heat on the stove, so it is good and dry. Then brush the iron with any number of steel or stainless steel brushes of all shapes and sizes to remove the dull residue left by the cleaning process. Be sure to wear protective eye wear, mask, gloves, and clothing.
6) Depending on the shape of the piece, you may want to use a drill with a cup brush, flat brush, etc., just whatever fits your cast iron item. A 4 inch angle grinder with a soft cup brush works great for larger items like skillets, griddles and dutch ovens, just be sure to use light pressure.
7) Now I like to heat the cast iron dry, so I place it in the oven, stacking is ok as long as you don't nest items like skillets and dutch ovens tight together; stack them loosely. Set the oven to 450 degrees and when it reaches that temperature leave it for 30 minutes, then turn off the oven leaving the door closed.
8) As soon as you think you can handle a piece of hot iron wearing welders gloves and 2 pair of oven gloves, go for it. Take one piece out closing the door quickly, place the iron on a piece of plywood and apply a heavy coat of Crisco or lard while it sizzles and smokes. I use a brush, that looks more like a string mop, something that won't melt. Put enough Crisco or lard on that it is dripping from the iron being sure not to leave any dry spots then set that piece aside.
9) Continue the process until all the items are done. Then starting with the first piece, using paper or cloth towels wipe off the excess grease. Do not wipe them completely dry, they will continue to absorb more grease as they cool. After the iron is room temperature, you can wipe it down a little more. Your iron should have a rich dark color and is ready to use or display, the more you use it the darker it will get.
NOTE: If you use vegetable oil on your cast iron for cooking and seasoning, over time, it may build up leaving a sticky residue and the iron cannot be wiped out clean. If this happens, simply wash with soap and water and season the iron, as stated above. If food becomes stuck to the iron when cooking, just put some water in it and heat it up on the stove; the food should loosen then dry and apply a thin coat of cooking oil to the cast iron, I use Crisco.
10) Now if you are one of those people that just has to wash your cast iron with soap and water after every use, go ahead and do so, just remember, afterward you need to dry it and season it with Crisco or lard as I have instructed and it is ready for next time.
I hope I have been of some help, this is by no means the only way to clean and season cast iron. Everyone with iron thinks their way is best and which ever way you decide to use or discover on your own that works, is going to be the best way for you.
One thing for sure though, never, never, ever, throw your cast iron in a fire to clean it; that is one of the BEST WAYS TO RUIN GOOD CAST IRON. The cast iron Gods and all us collectors will find you!
Meet more cast iron collectors at Griswold & Cast Iron Cookware Association