You Can Restore Old, Crusty Cast Iron Pans
There’s nothing quite so beautiful as the blackened, shiny patina of a well-seasoned cast iron pan. There are a few specific rules in keeping your pans in pristine condition. As a result, if you do, they’ll reward you with good service for many, many years.
But, what if you find gunky poorly used cast iron pans or you just didn’t know how to properly care for your pans? Is there a way to restore and keep them in pristine condition. Yes, yes there is! Seasoning new and recovering old cast iron pans can be achieved in just a few simple steps.
Restoring Old and Seasoning New Cast Iron Pots
I did not always know
I’ve made the classic mistakes – washed the seasoned cast iron pan with soap; not properly seasoning the pan and not properly drying and storing the pan. I’ve been there, I’ve wanted to do better and here’s what I’ve learned.
What You Need to Know About Cast Iron Pans:
Cast Iron Pans cook more evenly
their ‘seasoned’ condition is a non-stick condition that is good for cooking
Can be used on top of the stove and in the oven
Can last a lifetime
You can use metal utensils with cast iron
Easy to keep clean and seasoned
How to Restore/Season Cast Iron Pans using the Clean Oven Method:
Several of these I found at Estate Sales or Yard Sales. I was not put off by their crusty appearance. One of the biggest mistakes with the care of cast iron is too liberal a use of fat/grease/oil to season the pan. Consequently, this can gunk up over time and become a sticky mess.
- Clean and scrub as much as possible off your Cast iron in hot, soapy water. Dry completely with absorbent paper towels.
- Place in the Oven side by side and set the oven to ‘Clean’ for 2 hours. Allow pans to cool down.
- The residue can be scraped off with a scraper or the side of a butter knife. Wash thoroughly again with hot, soapy water. Dry thoroughly
- Check both the inside and the outside of the pan for any remaining seasoning or build-up. Try to clean it away with steal wool or 100 grit sanding paper. You can also use a metal scouring brush with a hand drill. You want the inside of the pan to be as smooth as possible.
- Place the cleaned pans in the oven and heat to 200° to warm the pan. With paper towels thoroughly rub in a thin coat of Flaxseed Oil. Flaxseed Oil creates a very hard polymerized surface. (Flaxseed Oil can be found in the Health Food Section of your store – refrigerated)
- Return the pan to the oven set at 500° for one hour and let the pan cool in oven. Remove and wipe down any residual seasoning. The pans will at this stage absorb a lot, but you’ll be surprised at how much you can still remove.
- Repeat. You can read Sheryl Canter’s explanation the reason to use flaxseed oil and of the process to season your cast iron here.
- Once again, wipe any residue. Your pan is now ‘seasoned‘. I’d recommend repeating steps 5-8 at least three more time Sheryl Canter recommends six times. As a result, you’ll be rewarded with a black, lustrous cast iron pan.
How to Maintain Your Cast Iron Pans:
- Never wash pans with soap when cleaning
- Never use pans to boil water or cook acidic foods.
- The best way to improve the seasoning is to use the pans. Cooking food with fat, such as frying, cooking bacon, or any type of cooking involving animal fat will improve the condition of your pan’s seasoning.
- To Clean:
- Remove all food residue.
- Use a scraper – Lodge provides one – I use my Pampered Chef Scraper
- rinse with hot water
- Dry thoroughly with paper towel – preferably lint free variety.
- Warm pan over stovetop burner and apply a light coat of Crisco Wipe residue off.
- If you have stuck on food, you can make a paste of salt and oil to scrub your pans. Dry thoroughly, warm and apply a light coating of seasoning.
Care in Storage:
You can hang your pots or use the modern white metal racks to lay them side by side through the slats. You can also stack them in the cabinet (carefully – stacking over time can cause pitting). Take care of your restored cast iron pans and they’ll reward you for years to come.
Collecting Cast Iron
The top three most desirable brands of cast iron include: Griswold, Wagner and Erie. Lodge makes very good cast iron. Some Lodge pans are not marked and you can identify them by the notches in the heat ring.
Does Size Matter
The most common size in cast iron pans is the 8. Sizes in cast iron skillets can range from 0 to 20! I like to use my 4 and 6 pans for scrambling eggs; my 8 and 10 for homemade cornbread; my 4,6 and 8 for personal size pizzas. There are a wide variety of dishes you can make using your cast iron – from savory to sweet dishes.
Do you like to use Cast Iron pans? Now, you can look at an old, crusty, rusty pan and know that you can bring it back to its glory using this method.
*why I don’t like the oven cleaner method: cast iron is porous. The residue from the cleaner can be toxic – I don’t want to risk it! You can find a variety of methods suggested. Tips if your pan has some rust – soak in a solution of water and vinegar for about 60 minutes and scrub with steel wool. Clean and dry completely.
Note: during the oven cleaning process and seasoning process there may be some smoke. Therefore, make sure you ventilate your kitchen. If your pans smoke when seasoning, you may need to increase the oven’s temp to 500.