How do I make sure that my refurbished cast-iron skillet has no oven cleaner residue?
November 12, 2012 4:20 PM   Subscribe

How do I make sure that my refurbished cast-iron skillet has no oven cleaner residue?

A little while ago, I rescued a cast-iron skillet from a thrift store. It had some pretty awful carbon buildup, so I drowned it in oven cleaner, left it to marinate in a garbage bag for a few days, and repeated the process a few times until it was nice and clean (with some help from a grill brush). However, after finally taking it out, thoroughly rinsing it, and letting it air out for a few days, it still had the scent of oven cleaner on it.

It's been a few weeks now, and I'm still nervous to use it, even though the oven cleaner scent is gone. After all, I ended up using about 3/4 of a can on it! Is there any chance that some oven cleaner is still left on the skillet, and if so, what can I do to make sure that the skillet is food safe?

Thank you!
posted by archagon to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
put it in the oven and let it heat to say 450-500 degrees for like 30 minutes to let it burn off anything that's left on it. let it cool, wash it and begin the seasoning process. that's what i'd do.
posted by elle.jeezy at 4:26 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yep, try burning it clean. You could do so on a hot grill instead of in the oven, if needed.
posted by cabingirl at 4:34 PM on November 12, 2012

I just took one down to bare metal by putting it in the oven (electric) and giving it a few hours on the oven's self cleaning cycle. Worked like a charm. And cleaned my oven!
posted by Balonious Assault at 4:36 PM on November 12, 2012

What is in oven cleaner? shouldn't the toxic stuff off gas over time, say a period of weeks?

Some of the stuff in oven cleaner.

If ya read the list there are materials, used to delay the evaporation of the chemicals, or VOCs, to make them effective. A week in a garage and a nice soapy scrub should be fine. Then cure away. Or the oven, grill sounds even better if you're worried about the trace amounts left.
posted by Max Power at 4:37 PM on November 12, 2012

The chemical in oven cleaner that actually gets stuff clean is lye, a strong base (alkaline). If you really want to make sure it's all gone, rinse the pan with a weak acid, such as diluted vinegar. (Normally you would not want to add an acid directly to a base, as neutralization reactions can be violent, but the amount of lye likely to be left over after the treatment you've given the pan is minuscule.) The scents will linger longer; they are likely oils of some sort, but if you can't smell 'em they aren't going to be harmful.
posted by kindall at 4:42 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Trace amounts of lye will do you no harm at all; as well as forming the basis for oven cleaner, it's used for curing olives.
posted by flabdablet at 4:57 PM on November 12, 2012

Seconding your oven's auto-clean cycle, then a 50/50 water/vinegar rinse. Something I've recently learned with my own cast iron: Safflower Oil does a really good job of seasoning-- noticeable better than any other oil. That, plus the high smoke point of safflower oil make it a worthwhile investment for a small bottle if you don't already have one. And just in case you don't already know this, a good resource for cast iron tips and knowledge is here. Renegade coder and permaculture gadfly Paul Wheaton is crazy-in-a-mostly-good-way, and on cast iron, I trust what he says.
posted by seasparrow at 5:02 PM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Clean the inside of the skillet with half a squeezed lemon and a few drops of olive oil .
posted by hortense at 5:03 PM on November 12, 2012

Cast iron is somewhat porous. If you heat it and it smells bad, clean further. Tomato sauce is pretty acid, so I'd but open big can of cheap tomato sauce, and simmer for a while. My favorite way to re-season cast iron is to cook bacon.
posted by theora55 at 5:42 PM on November 12, 2012

In the future, you can achieve the same results by filling the pan with ammonia (a weaker base than lye, and usually sold as a ~5-10% w/w solution) and wrapping it in a garbage bag for a few days or a week. Make sure you get the stuff without added perfume. Ammonia's safe, soluble in water and relatively volatile, so you won't need to worry about cleaning it up.
posted by pullayup at 6:05 PM on November 12, 2012

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