**Please note: To see the photos contained within a post, you must click on the title of the post to open it separately. Why? I don't know. I just know that it needs to be done to see the pics. :)

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We are often asked about how to clean pans after use. There seems to be this myth that cleaning cast iron pans is particularly complicated or hard. It’s not!

We do know, however, that if you don’t get your pans cleaned and all the food bits off, that future dishes will stick to the remnants of the food, and you will end up sooner or later with a pan covered with baked-on crud. At that point, you’ll need to clean the pan to bare iron and re-season. That is why you need to be sure to get all food bits off after cooking.

Today I made a lovely lunch (again, via Blue Apron). In my Griswold slant logo #8 with heat ring I sautéed spinach, zucchini, and beef in three separate cycles. Between each batch, I wiped out the pan with a paper towel, but did not clean it. I set the pan back on the cooktop and ate lunch, did some chores, listed a couple of pans on the website…before you know it, several hours had passed. Usually I like to clean my cast iron pans while they are still warm, but this pan had cooled.

So. Here’s what I did:

Warm water. Dawn blue dish detergent – just a drop or two. Chain mail scrubber. Rinse. Dry with paper towel. Spritz of Pam. Wipe pan down with paper towel.

That’s it. It took less than 2 minutes. Not so complicated, right?

9ALye2

I acquired a Griswold “ERIE” second series skillet no. 9. This is a very old pan; manufactured between 1886 and 1892 by the Griswold Mfg. Co. in Erie, PA. The “ERIE” skillets are highly prized; they have lovely thin walls, heat rings, and are great cookers.

When I obtained the pan, it looked like this:

“ERIE” second series cast iron pan no. 9, as found.

“ERIE” second series no. 9 cast iron skillet, as found.

We put the skillet in the lye bath and let the lye work its magic on the crud-encrusted pan. Linda is our post-lye-bath cleaner, and she worked on this pan at least twice. Oftentimes, when pans are particularly cruddy, Linda will let the pan soak for a while (sometimes weeks), pull it out and rinse it, then scrub with stainless steel brushes or scrubbies and Dawn blue dish detergent. Rinse again, and back into the lye for the lye to finish removing the crud. It is not unusual for this process to be repeated many times. Linda is very particular about the pans she cleans; she is proud of her work and wants her work to reflect that pride.

Linda at work cleaning the skillet after lye bath.

Bottom of pan after lye bath.

Maisie the Maltese likes to supervise Linda as she cleans.

It appears that Maisie is trying to get Linda’s attention to point out an issue that Maisie has with Linda’s methodology.

Once the pans are finished being bathed and scrubbed by Linda, they are off to the electrolysis tank for rust (and stubborn crud) removal. You can learn more about electrolysis here.

Post-lye, pre-electrolysis

After electrolysis, I again use elbow grease, Dawn, and necessary tools to clean the pan. Rinse well, dry thoroughly, and season. You can find more information about my cleaning and seasoning process here.

Cleaned, seasoned, ready to list!

 

BEAUTIFUL pan.

Have a Question?

Larry S. from Idaho wrote to Ask The Pan Handler and said:

“Hello, I am the cook here, about 10 years ago I began tossing all my aluminums and new aged post and pans out due to the fact that i thought they were poisoning the family, I still believe that. My stuff is all cast iron and I cook on a really great Gas stove. None of my things are worth very much to anyone else. Tonight though I found this! I think it’s glorious and i cannot wait to use it. :O) It’s [a] corn bread pan, has a number 20 at the bottom and no other marks really. I don’t want to sell it, I thought it was probably really old however, like one other of my pans with a lid (chicken fryer/ pop corn) I was wondering what year these were made. I can’t seem to find a year. on line anyway. I thought id run it by you. If for nothing else just to show someone who cares about these things. i have already been thinking how cool single serve pineapple upside down cakes will be with this. LOL.”

Larry attached these photos:

Larry, what you have here is a wonderful old unmarked Lodge number 20 shell (also sometimes called “Turks head”) gem or muffin pan. I love it that you are already talking about making individual pineapple upside-down cake in it – yum!

Your pan appears to have a gate mark on the bottom – that long slash that you see in the third photo on the middle cups. If that is correct, that suggests to me that it is an antique piece; likely made before the 1900s. I have seen a Lodge catalogue from 1916 that contains this particular gem pan. Lodge began business in 1896. Pre-Lodge, the foundry was the Blacklock foundry.

Larry, I’d suggest that you use a vinegar/water bath (see blog post here) to remove the rust. Re-season, and put that pan to good use! I’d love to see photos of your individual upside-down pineapple cakes, if you care to send them along.

Thanks for your inquiry!

 

Have a Question?

Kat S. from New York wrote to Ask The Pan Handler and said:

“I just received a french cast iron pot from my grandmother. She and my grandfather bought it in France about 70 years ago. The initials on the cover are CA which I understand is a very old company. When I got the pot it was very crusted with carbon buildup (not much rust) so I went about scrubbing the lid first to see what was going on with a 00 steel wool brush and got most of the sticky gunk off of the interior of the lid. Now I can see that the buildup was hiding a grey/silvery/blue coating that has many pock marks. I wasn’t sure what to do and put it down for a week. I just looked at it again and the spaces between the coating are rusted so I think I may have coated coquette.

I’m not really sure what to do now… I want to use it and keep using it for many years (I’m not concerned with sale value – just memories!). Should I have it sandblasted to remove the coating? Or does the rust signify that the beneath the coating is bad?

I am attaching some pictures so you can see what I have going on.

I really appreciate your help. I don’t want to compromise this piece being used for generations to come!!”

Kat attached these photos:

Kat, thanks so much for your inquiry. Isn’t it wonderful that your grandparents are handing down a treasured set for you to use?

I have seen that marking before; I know it is “early,” but I do not know the manufacturer. It is hard for me to tell from the photos whether you have an enameled piece or whether you just have a lot of crud build up. I suspect the latter, but I cannot be sure – the second photo looks like it might be enameled, but the lid is not.

I would try sandblasting only as a last resort…I would try every other method first. And if you did decide to try sandblasting, know  that it will likely permanently change the texture of the set and drastically reduce its collectable value.

I would suggest starting with the “Easy Off” oven cleaner method. You can see that method described in more detail here and in the FAQs section of the site. If that did not work, I would next move to a lye bath method. There are many different ways to accomplish a lye bath – it is my “usual” first-step process in cleaning. You can find a description of the process all over the web; one method is found here. My guess is that if the Easy Off process does not remove the gunk, the lye bath will. I hope so, anyway; I hate to think of you having this treasured family heirloom sandblasted.

Good luck to you – do let me know how it turns out for you, and thank you for your inquiry!

Have a Question?

Joe A. from Texas wrote to Ask The Pan Handler and said:

“I found this lid in a pasture back in 1993 while doing some historical research. The lid is cast iron and the only markings I could find was #16. From surface to top of outer rim is 1 3/8″, including handle would be about 3″. From Top view the diameter is 16 1/4, the inner circle in which the handle is located has a diameter of 5″, the handle itself is 4 1/2 ” wide.The inside rim that keeps the lid from sliding off is 14 3/4″ and about 1/8 ” thick.”

Joe attached these photos:

Joe, thanks so much for providing the great specifics about the lid and where and when you found it; that does help me to identify pieces. Thanks, too, for the good photos.

What you have here is an antique cast iron lid in a size 16. It would fit the size 16 “oven” or pot that was made by the same foundry. The lid has a raised flange on top, which suggests to me that it was made to fit a chuckwagon, or camp oven. These pots typically had three legs. The raised flange would hold coals or another heat source on top, to enable heat to be placed both on top and beneath the camp oven (see my post on cooking in a camp oven, here). Some old handled deep skillets, called “spiders,” were also used in this manner. Those old skillets also typically had three legs.

Your lid has a gate mark – that slightly raised slash on the underside of the lid which presents as kind of a long scar. That gate mark tells me that your lid is very old; likely around or before the 1880s. There were many, many cast iron foundries in existence throughout history, and unfortunately it is impossible to tell with certainty which foundry produced this lid. It is a cool piece, though; a vinegar/water soak would get rid of that rust, and you would have a nice lid that just needs a pot to sit on!

Thanks for your inquiry; sorry I was not able to provide you with a specific identification.