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Restoring and Seasoning Rusty Cast Iron

8/29/2013 10:25:00 AM

Tags: cast iron, thrift stores, Sarah C., Washington

rusty cast  iron skilletThere are a few tools that every cook should have in their kitchen - a great seat of knives, a heavy-duty stand mixer, a food processor, stainless steel nesting mixing bowls, a Dutch oven, and a cast iron skillet.

Cast iron is one of those things that people either LOVE, or it scares the beejesus out of them because they don't understand it. The reasons against cast iron are that:

1. "it rusts"

2. "it’s heavy"

3. "I don't know how to use it."

Once you cook with a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, all of the above reasons just fall away. The problem for most people lies with the “well-seasoned” part. Unless you have a granny ready to hand down some cast iron to you, you’re likely going to have to do some of the seasoning yourself. And what is better way to reduce resources, save money, and preserve a well-loved tradition, than to purchase cast iron at a thrift store or garage sale. Much of what is available out there is pretty rusty and damaged. Follow these simple steps, and you will soon be cooking on a well-seasoned piece of history.

How to Restore Cast Iron

cleaning cast iron

1. Clean the skillet with soap and water. In my humble opinion, this is one of the last times your skillet should need soap.

2. Then put it in a 300 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 10 minutes.

3. Remove from the oven and pour a puddle of oil (I used olive, but any kind will work) and a generously helping of kosher salt in to the center.

4. Using a rag you don't mind getting dirty, paper towels, a very stiff scrub brush, or pieces of newspaper, work the oil and salt in to all parts of the skillet. Pay special attention to the rusty areas.

5. Then, rinse off the skillet, and put back in to the oven until it is mostly dry.

6. Put it on the stovetop on medium heat with another puddle of your oil of choice and work it around with another rag. I used a pastry brush. Let it heat and "cure" on the burner for about 5 minutes. Careful, the oil will be hot!

7. Pour the oil off, and put just a dab of high-heat oil in the skillet. Some people prefer vegetable oil for this part. I'm not a veggie oil fan - including canola - so I used a dab of bacon grease. Let the oil melt/get hot, and then work it around to cover the entire surface of the skillet. Then, using a paper towel or piece of newspaper and remove all excess oil from the pan. Bake for 90 minutes at 300 degrees.

8. Then, everything from step 7, and bake for another 90 minutes at 300 degrees.

seasoned cast ironYou can keep adding oil and baking as many times as you want. After two times, this skillet was ready for its big debut in my kitchen. It made perfect eggs the next day.

A quick and final note on cast iron. No matter how much seasoning you give it, you'll always need a pinch of fat (butter, oil, shortening, etc.) in a hot pan prior to adding food to it. Always allow ample time - about 5 minutes – for the skillet to heat up prior to adding the fat and the food.

May your thrift store adventures bring you a cast iron gem of your own. The rusty and ugly ones need/deserve our love and help too.

Sarah C writes about doing more with less, gardening, wholesome from-scratch food, and DIY, with silliness and snark at beingfrugalbychoice.blogspot.com.



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Post a comment below.

 

Timothy Danielson
9/1/2013 1:27:40 PM
I know that this is essentially impractical to do, but when lodge logic makes their Cast Iron It is my understanding that they create a different form of "Iron oxide" that is by some called "Black Rust". It is my understanding that all it takes to create this is to heat it, fully submerged in water preventing oxidation from the air. The Best oil to season is one that I came across by Americas Test Kitchen. They mentioned how the feed of many animals were different nowadays and that one of the reasons pig fat doesn't work as well as it once did is the change in diet. Their suggestion was to use Flax-seed oil and get it quite hot. The reasoning? The omega 3's of the oil actually break down and tightly interlace with other molecules next to it.(which is good for making the surface durable.) This creates a hard, durable surface that can according to them take an accidental run through a dishwasher. (I haven't tested it, but I have at time used a light ammount of soap with no ill effects when I dried and re-oiled my pan afterwards.) the directions are to remove any non solid build up (IF there is any, if not, like me I just worked over the 'seal' the pans came with.) 1a)Use some oven cleaner to remove any sticky mess. You want to start either from clean steel or clean solid seasoning. 1b)Rinse, wipe dry and heat in 300 degree oven to ensure pans are dry 2) coat with Flax-seed oil (thin as possible while still coating it.) coat the inside and outside of the pan. 3) Place it in an oven with the bottom up and the bowl shaped interior down. 4) Heat the oven to 500-550 (as high as it will go on a normal household oven on bake.) 5) when it has reached that temperature (with the pan at the same temp as the oven,) Turn the oven off and allow to cool for at least 1/2 hour. Initially you may need to coat it a few times to build up a surface. But once you have one it will become QUITE hard and shiny and only need this treatment once in a great while. If it isn't supper glossy, don't worry, it will develop. The more TIMES this procedure is done the heavier and shiner the coat becomes. http://www.cooksillustrated.com/howto/print/detail.asp?docid=26897

Mink73a
8/30/2013 11:04:29 PM
... and if you plan on buying one at a flea market, I suggest buying it at the END of your shopping spree ... 'cause they are heavy

tonyd95010
8/29/2013 2:44:40 PM
The cast iron pan shown in this article is "bad". Anyone who really uses cast iron uses old cast iron pans. The old cast iron was "machined" so that the pan was smooth and wouldn't have the uneven, bumpy surface of the pan used in the article. A modern, bumpy surface means that the cast iron will never be truly non-stick -- even after years and years of use. Many used pans in the thrift store are modern pans. (If it says "Lodge", you probably shouldn't buy it. It will never perform as well as an old pan. I have seven pans and I paid between $3 and $9 dollars for each of them.)










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