Saturday, August 2, 2014

Cast Iron: The last Pans I'll Ever Buy (and how to salvage and re-season it)

Her is my cast iron collection hanging above my wood cook stove where they stay nice and dry.  Also handy for cooking.
I have 3 medium frying pans, one large skillet, one dutch oven with lid, one grill and one wok and a big griddle for making multiple pancakes on.
I cook allot, and I tend to go through one medium quality pots and pans set every two years.  I always buy copper bottom stainless steel because I don't like the idea of daily doses of aluminum from the non stick kind.  This made frying anything difficult because stainless steel is not non stick.

But then I discovered (or rediscovered?) cast iron pans.  Ahhh how I love them now.  They never wear out and with proper care they will last generations.  Yes they need love and attention, but hey what good things don't?  I keep my big stock pots for boiling things or canning but I have my cast iron for frying, sauteing, pancake making, and even baking. Now I would never go back and I pick up cast iron pans anytime I find them at yard sales.  Many people get rid of them because they don't know how to pamper them.  Good for me, too bad for them!

Cast Iron has many benefits:

Will last for a hundred or more years if properly cared for

Can be used on a wood cook stove, in the oven,  or over a fire

Adds iron to your food so if you have kids who are low on iron its a bonus

Doesn't add toxic chemicals to your food

Evenly distributes heat so cooking is more even and it also uses less energy because it retains heat so well

Can be used as a weapon in a pinch! ;)

I'm sure everyone here has seen that forlorn cast iron pan that is sitting at a yard sale or thrift store. It's covered with what looks like toxic hardened sludge and has rust over that. "What a loss" you think. Ahh but is it? What if you could actually remove all that gunk and then have a perfect looking pan? Many people recommend using oven cleaner to remove the gunk but remember that cast iron is porous. So it will absorb those very toxic chemicals. There is an even better way that is easy.

Here's how to do it

Make a nice fire outside in a fire pit or in your wood stove. Your going to need lots of coals. When just a big pile of coals is left bury the cast iron into it. Leave until all coals are cool and pan is cool. Remove pan. The old grease and food has been burned away. Now wash in hot soapy water and scrub any ash or film off. Rinse well. Now place on a burner turned to medium or on you wood cook stove to dry the pan well. Once the pan is totally dry let cool.

Now time to re season. Take some lard or cooking oil on a clean rag or paper towel and coat the outside, inside and handle of the pan. It doesn't need to be so much as to run off the pan or form a puddle. Then set in a 200 oven for three hours to four hours. Let cool and wipe off any excess oil.

You can re season as many times as you want. I have salvaged pans this way and now my cast iron is so well seasoned I can make scrambled eggs in them without it sticking. I always dry my cast iron on our gas stove after cleaning because it ensures complete dryness and re seasons at the same time. Then I hang the pans over my stove so that they don't sit on stuff and rust from accidental moisture (like my two year old hiding a leaking sippy cup in them).


  1. I just discovered cast iron skillets. I love them! I'm still trying to get them REALLY seasoned. I'm almost there. Great post! I think people have forgotten about cast iron. Pitty.

  2. Approximately how much would you pay for a medium sized skillet at a yard sale? I love cast iron and have couple but would like to get more. Thanks for the cleaning tips!

  3. I love my cast iron skillets. I really need a dutch oven. Boy, are they heavy though!


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