Bring New Life To Old Cast Iron!

English: my own photo, freely released

English: my own photo, freely released (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cast iron cookware is amazing and a pain in the butt at the same time. It’s affordable, durable, environmentally friendly, and cooks really well. But maintaining it can be a bit of a nuisance. Obviously preventative care, like seasoning your cookware periodically is crucial to keeping it in top shape. But sometimes you come across a piece that is a bargain, but in need of TLC, or sometimes you just get too busy and food gunk and rust build up on your pans. So today we have some tips we recommend for cleaning and seasoning cast iron that has seen better days.

First and foremost we’d like to strongly advise against the prevailing advice on the internet that spraying your cast iron with aerosol oven cleaner is a “good” idea. Oven cleaners are full of toxic chemicals and soaking your cookware in them for days seems like a sure-fire way to get those toxins into your food. If the pan can absorb oil through seasoning, how can it not be absorbing the chemicals in oven cleaners? Okay, so now that we got that out of the way…here are some steps for naturally and safely restoring your cast iron!

Supplies:

  • Cast iron cookware
  • Steel scrubber
  • Soap
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Vegetable oil
  • Dish towel or rag
  • Cookie sheet
  • Bucket (optional

Directions:

  1. Give your pan a thorough cleaning. There is debate about whether to use soap or not. If this is a normal cleaning then avoid soap because it removes the seasoning. But if your cookware is in disarray then go ahead and use a mild soap with a steel scrubber to help remove built up gunk and food. If you really want to avoid soap but get all the mess off try the Chain Mail Cast Iron Scrubber (available through Amazon for about $19). This scrubber comes with a lifetime guarantee… and promises to remove all the food and gunk without hurting your hard-earned seasoning.
  2. Soak your pan in a vinegar water solution to remove rust. Mix up a 1:1 solution of white vinegar with water in a bucket, or your sink and let your cookware soak for at least 30 minutes. Depending on how much rust has built up you can soak for 1-4 hours… but don’t soak longer than 4 hours!
  3. Rinse your cookware under running water. When it looks like the rust is gone you can strap on a pair of gloves and pull out your pan and rinse it under running water to wash away the rest of the rust.
  4. Dry your pan thoroughly. Dry your pan first with a kitchen towel then place in the oven at 250 for a few minutes to ensure it is dry.
  5. Sand off any additional rust. Use fine grit sandpaper to remove any additional rust and then brush away the debris with a soft cloth.
  6. Take a clean rag and coat with vegetable oil. Use a clean towel, rag, or paper towel to immediately apply a thin coat of vegetable oil to your pan to prevent future rust.
  7. Season the pan. Now that the rust and grime has been vanquished it’s time to re-season the pan. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Apply another thin coat of vegetable oil to your pan. Place a lined cookie sheet on the lower rack to catch any dripping oil, and place your pan in the preheated oven upside down on the upper rack for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  8. Repeat the seasoning process a few more times. If your cookware was in bad shape at the start its best to season at least 3 times before cooking with it again. After a few seasonings the cooking process will continue to develop the cherished smooth black coating.

Do you cook with cast iron? There are a lot of differing opinions about the best way to clean and care for it. What are your thoughts?

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