Please help me keep my shiny new stove nice and shiny
April 8, 2019 10:53 AM   Subscribe

We're getting a new electric range next week(!) and I want to make sure it stays looking its best. We cook a lot with cast iron and I notice the bottoms of our well-loved pans are covered in carbonaceous gunk. I am worried that this is going to immediately cover the new range in black residue and possibly scratch the glass. What's the best way to clean the bottoms of cast iron pans? Ideally without removing the seasoning on the top of the pans.

Prior to moving to our current kitchen, we used these pans on a gas range and probably never thought about cleaning the bottoms. We're pretty good at caring for the business side of the pan.

Now, when I preheat the pan on the current electric range, I notice the bottom of the pan sometimes smokes. I guess I could strip the whole pan back to bare metal to clean this, but they are really nicely seasoned. Any other ideas to clean these pans? Any other tips for caring for a new glasstop stove?
posted by beepbeepboopboop to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
If I wanted to restore the bottom of a cast iron pan, I'd probably run an electric sander over it. That would get it back to bare metal and remove any old residues. Maybe follow that up with a good seasoning in the oven, just to stop the new surface getting rusty.
posted by pipeski at 11:05 AM on April 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

A wire brush (manual), or a wire brush tip on a dremel or drill would also work. Steel wool and elbow grease also goes a long way.
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:14 AM on April 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Last year, I had friends over at the farm, where I have a new induction (glass top) stove. And one of my friends actually mentioned the perfect condition of my pans: I hadn't noticed but then I did, and it's true, one of the advantages of a glass top is the nice and easy to keep cookware. You can look forward to clean pans.
Since the renovation of our home took ages, everything spent a lot of time in the barn and had to be cleaned up afterwards. I went for very long soaks and then scrubbing with ordinary sponge pads aided by scraping with a metal scraper for the bottoms and wood scrapers for the interiors. I don't remember it as difficult, though it was time-consuming. The long soak was recommended here on the green, but I don't remember the context. I guess you can just soak the exterior if you don't want to re-season the interior, and then just oil and bake the exterior in the oven on baking paper.
posted by mumimor at 11:32 AM on April 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've seen recommendations to use a diffuser with cast iron on a glasstop stove. Biggest things to remember: don't drag the pan, lift it. When lifting, be careful not to drop it.
posted by XtineHutch at 11:32 AM on April 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

Glasstops are actually pretty resilient. I have nightmares of *dropping* my cast iron skillet on it, but using it is not a huge issue. Buy the CeramaBrite kit now, use routinely as directed, because you ARE going to get those carbonized rings on it and they're way easier to clean sooner rather than later. Everything you spill stays right there to burn, that's one of the downsides of glass.

But, I'm going to tell you something controversial: put some Dawn on a sponge and clean the bottom of your skillet so it doesn't smoke. The correct application of soap does NOT hurt properly-seasoned cast iron, and it is okay and good and fine to clean any post-seasoning/post-use grease off of it - inside AND out. Just use a brush or sponge, soap it, rinse it, pat it dry or briefly oven-dry with no oil on the bottom, and make sure when you put it away you're not setting it down in something dusty, dirty, or greasy (I started putting old tea towels down in my skillet cabinet so I could wash them periodically) that's going to smoke the next time you use it. OR just wash the base and dry it just before using it.

(My grandmother hand-washed the shit out of her cast iron because they lived in Army housing for 25 years and my grandfather's COs were allowed to inspect it any time they wanted and no, you absolutely could not have a greasy old skillet sitting around. Also it's nasty to not wash your pans, especially on a farm with abundant mice, like how she grew up. All that cast iron was highly contested property when the original owners died, it was perfect.)
posted by Lyn Never at 11:38 AM on April 8, 2019 [4 favorites]

I've done this with a scouring pad on a particularly nasty pan, occasionally engaging both a wire brush on a cordless drill, and a manual wire brush. I probably wouldn't use sandpaper. People are definitely overly concerned about soap and cast iron, but detergents aren't going to be nearly as helpful for this purpose as Bar Keeper's Friend or Ajax.
posted by aspersioncast at 1:24 PM on April 8, 2019

I use a couple different cast iron pans, two are probably better than 50 to 70 years old, and they've got somewhat gross bottoms, and I haven't damaged my glasstop stove after three years, so my experience is like Lyn Never. YMMV, but I wouldn't fret too much about gross bottoms -- if they're really gunked it's probably good to clean regardless of what your cooking surface is, so do some general scraping to get off excess stuff, but you don't need to strip and reseason them, that's overkill.
posted by AzraelBrown at 1:27 PM on April 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

If it's smoking when you put it on the stove, it's more likely that there's some grease or other deposit that was left on when you last used it rather than burning off "seasoning". I don't always pay that much attention to cleaning the outside of my cast iron, carbon steel, or woks, but I can tell when I don't because they smoke like this, even on the gas stove.
posted by advicepig at 1:42 PM on April 8, 2019

I can’t favorite twice so I am coming in again to tell everyone that XtineHutch has maybe the best advice here, to the extent that a diffuser and always lifting may preclude the need to seriously refinish your pan bottoms.
posted by SaltySalticid at 2:30 PM on April 8, 2019

I would scrub it well with a steel scrubby to remove excess crud. That's what I use on my cast iron. But I would not sand it down to bare metal. In my experience, cast iron is porous enough that some grease will seep through. That grease will provide some lubrication and help keep your pans from scraping the glass, just as is keeps food from sticking. I use dish soap as needed, but not much and I never let it soak with dish soap; cast iron picks up flavors.
posted by theora55 at 6:11 PM on April 8, 2019

Carbonized gunk on the bottom of your pans is actually softer than cast iron, and as such, less likely to scratch your glass top. It also absorbs radiated heat better, though it's a poorer heat conductor. Since cast iron contains ~2% carbon, carbide formation is a perennial problem in cast iron generally, though I wasn't able to find a discussion of the issue specific to cast iron cooking equipment, and carbides are much harder than glass.

However, the abrasive in sandpaper and various cleaning pads (such as green Scotchbrite pads) is harder than glass too, and will scratch the top used directly, and if particles happen to get embedded in the gunk on the bottom of the pans or otherwise stick, will also indirectly scratch the glass. So will grit from sharpening stones if you get that on your pans.
posted by jamjam at 9:41 PM on April 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I discovered this last year - Zep (brand) heavy duty orange degreaser.

Spray it on, soak, wipe off/ rinse off. It's as powerful as oven cleaner (alkali-based) without the alkali/ base-icity. Instead of saponifying grease, the orange-derived terpenes dissolves and solublizes grease.

Looks like we're semi-neighbours; you can get this stuff from Home Depot/ Lowes/ Canadian Tire.

Amazing stuff.
posted by porpoise at 3:15 PM on April 9, 2019

There's great advice here about keeping the stovetop happy.

Regarding the pans, just clean with regular dish soap, water, and your standard dish sponge. I promise it won't harm the seasoning. Get all those gross, old, carbonized food bits off the pan.

Dry it by heating it on the stove for a few minutes, then kill the heat and wipe it on all sides with a bit of oil. Let it cool, then store.

I like Serious Eats' article about this topic.
posted by aquamvidam at 6:32 PM on April 9, 2019

Thanks everyone! I did a deep clean on the pan bottoms, which started with steel wool and ended with me taking a sander to them down to the bare metal, followed by reseasoning. I am embarrassed to admit how much gunk was on the bottoms.

So far the glass top has been basically pristine! I've been cleaning it with ceramic cleaner probably a bit too often, but am still obsessed with keeping it shiny.
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 10:17 PM on April 24, 2019

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