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How to restore and season cast iron cookware

If you are on a budget, or just like finding interesting looking cast iron cookware at thrift stores and garage sales here are some tips on how to restore them to useable condition.

The method of cleaning cast iron is something of tradition passed down to generations along with the cookware itself. Some cooks and cast iron diehards dare not let theirs near water, much less soap of any sort, and letting one rust may indeed fall into the book of unpardonable sins.

For severe rust that covers most of the cookware surface, take the piece to a machine shop to have it sandblasted and restored to raw cast iron, then season immediately.

Most commonly, neglect or moisture results in what’s called “profile rusting,” which can be seen and felt on the cookware. Thankfully, profile rusting is easily removed at home in an afternoon.

The following instructions are from “The Lodge” manufactures of cast iron cookware located in Tennessee.

Materials:

  • Steel wool
  • Dish soap
  • Scrubbing brush, scouring pad, or sponge
  • Dishtowel or paper towels
  • Vegetable oil (or cooking oil of choice)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Oven

Instructions:

  1. Remove all the rust: Use fine steel wool to remove rust from affected areas. Scour the skillet until the area returns to raw cast iron.
  2. Wash the skillet thoroughly: Wash the cast iron with warm water and mild dish soap. Scrub with a bristle brush, gentle scouring pad, or mesh sponge if needed.
  3. Dry the skillet: Thoroughly dry the cast iron immediately with a clean dish towel or paper towels.
  4. Cover the pan with a coating of oil: Apply a small amount of vegetable oil (or cooking oil of choice) to the entire piece.
  5. Don’t forget the bottom and handle: When oiling, don’t forget the bottom and handle. Use only a small amount to avoid a sticky surface.
  6. Place the pan in the oven: Place the cast iron upside down on the top rack of your oven. Place a sheet of aluminum foil or a foil-lined baking sheet on the bottom rack to catch any oil drips. Heat the cast iron for one hour at 350°F.
  7. Let the pan cool before using: Turn off heat, let cast iron cool, then get back to cooking!

Now that you have whipped your cast iron cookware back into shape how do you keep it clean going forward?

How To Clean a Cast Iron Skillet

Materials:

  • Cast iron skillet
  • Sponge or stiff brush – especially one designed for cast iron
  • Clean, dry cloth or paper towels
  • Vegetable oil or shortening
  • Kosher salt (optional)

Equipment:

  • Stove (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Get right to it: Clean the skillet immediately after use, while it is still hot or warm. Don’t soak the pan or leave it in the sink because it may rust.
  2. Add hot water: Wash the skillet by hand using hot water and a sponge or stiff brush. (Use tongs or wear gloves if the water is extra hot!) Avoid using the dishwasher, soap, or steel wool, as these may strip the pan’s seasoning.
  3. Scrub off stuck-on bits: To remove stuck-on food, scrub the pan with a paste of coarse kosher salt and water. Then rinse or wipe with a paper towel. Stubborn food residue may also be loosened by boiling water in the pan.
  4. Dry the skillet: Thoroughly towel dry the skillet or dry it on the stove over low heat.
  5. Oil it: Using a cloth or paper towel, apply a light coat of vegetable oil or melted shortening to the inside of the skillet. Some people also like to oil the outside of the skillet. Buff to remove any excess.
  6. Put it away: Store the skillet in a dry place.

Now that you know how to properly care of your cast iron, don’t be afraid to pick up solid (no cracks) pieces where ever you may find them and add them to your collection.

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