Found treasure

by Patricia on June 22, 2009 · 6 comments

I live in an apartment complex and from time to time, a neighbor leaves “junk” near the dumpster. For example, just the other day someone left a tray with matching stand. It looked like it was made of wicker and wood (bamboo or made to look like bamboo), and it looked pretty well used. I’m in a mode of not taking on more stuff. I have a lot of stuff. But I thought and thought about that tray and finally decided it could make a nice little bar table for parties. So I went outside to nab it, but it was gone. That’s what I get for hesitating.

On a different occasion, I did not hesitate. And now I am the owner of a cast iron skillet in need of re-seasoning. 

IMG_7425

I love cast iron. The way it cooks. The way it looks – rustic and rugged. And durable. If cared for properly it can last for generations. This skillet is the same size as the one I already have, but I couldn’t leave it sitting there. So I brought it home with me with the intent of showing it some love. But I’ve never actually seasoned cast iron myself before.  So… I’ve been putting it off.  

But now Dan has a cast iron skillet in his camping gear that after our last camping trip also needs to be re-seasoned. I thought I’d do them both at once. Does anyone have any tips for seasoning cast iron?

{ 5 comments }

1 Amanda June 24, 2009 at 11:57 am

Excellent advice David! Don’t forget too, after successfully seasoning your skillet, don’t wash it with soapy water as that can undo all of your work to get it there. Wash it out with warm water and a sponge or rag, dry immediately (don’t let it air dry or it will form rust spots) and season again with Crisco in the oven.

GREAT FIND!! I have a cast iron Dutch oven and a skillet, love them both :)

2 David June 22, 2009 at 6:33 pm

Oh, I forgot to ask, what brand is the skillet? There should be some markings on the bottom of the skillet to indicate this. There’s a chance you may have stumbled upon a real gem. I know a thing or two about cast iron so if you post some more pictures I can tell you more about it.

3 David June 22, 2009 at 6:28 pm

Before even attempting to season cast iron, it must be thoroughly cleaned all the way down to the bare metal. You can do this rather easily. I’m guessing you do not have an electrolysis tank, which is what avid collectors of cast iron use to clean away all the filth on an old pan, so you have two options for cleaning: self cleaning cycle in the oven followed by a scouring with an SOS pad; or, Easy Off oven cleaner.

Depending on how much gunk the skillets have it could take 2-3 rounds of cleaning before you get it down to raw iron. If the photo above is indeed the actual skillet it will definitely take some time to get it clean, but it will be worth it. Whichever method you choose, be sure to be very careful as great care is always required when using your oven or spray on oven cleaner. Follow instruction labels carefully.

After cleaning you’ll want to give your cast iron a vinegar bath. Using a plastic container large enough to fit the skillet, mix one part water to one part vinegar and submerge the skillet in the solution. This will remove any lingering surface rust. Be careful not to leave the skillet in the solution too long as the acid will eventually corrode the metal. You want to leave it in just long enough to remove any rust. Once this is done, wash the skillet with hot, soapy water and dry thoroughly. I like to warm the dried skillet over a medium flame for a minute or so to ensure that all the water has dried.

Now for the seasoning. DO NOT FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS ON THE LODGE MANUFACTURING WEBSITE. This will leave you with a gloppy, sticky residue all over your skillet. 350 degrees is not hot enough to polymerize the fats to the metal. I recommend Crisco (i.e., shortening) for seasoning. Once you have dried the skillet and warmed it over a medium flame, carefully use a paper towel to apply Crisco to the surface of the skillet, inside and out. Remember, the pan will be hot so do this carefully. Once you have Crisco applied to every bit of surface on the skillet, use an old cloth (old t-shirts work great for this) to rub over the skillet (think of it as buffing out the shortening) and remove excess shortening. You are striving for a thin layer of shortening all over the skillet. Once you have achieved this, place the skillet upside down in a 450 degree for two hours. After two hours, turn the oven off and allow the skillet to cool in the oven for three hours. This will produce a much better result than a 350 degree oven for one hour. The goal is to “carbonize” the fat so that it polymerizes with the iron to form a protective coating. A 350 degree oven cannot accomplish this.

Once you have seasoned your skillet I really recommend leaving on your range top at all times so that you cook in it constantly. This is where the real seasoning takes place. Any cooking that requires fat for sauteing or frying is ideal for cast iron and will improve its qualities. With proper use and care your cast iron will develop a rich black patina and a glossy smooth finish. Once you get there, you’ll say goodbye to Teflon and $200 pots and pans forever.

Enjoy!

PS- For anyone out there who isn’t absolutely confident that you can clean and season cast iron as I have outlined above, SAFELY, then do not attempt it. I assume no responsibility for any accidents you may have without my supervision.

4 Wendy June 22, 2009 at 1:32 pm

It’s a piece of cake! Scour the pan well with steel wool to remove all rust, wash and dry well, liberally coat all surfaces with vegetable shortening, and stick it in the oven on relatively low heat (250, maybe?) for an hour or two … I have an entire collection of “rescued” cast iron that I wouldn’t trade for all the high-end cookware in the world :)

5 Tami June 22, 2009 at 12:05 pm

The Lodge website has good information on reseasoning your cast iron.

http://www.lodgemfg.com/use-care-seasoned-cast-iron.asp

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