Re-Seasoning Cast Iron

A step-by-step for Anna, my cousin John’s lovely bride. Eat well and be happy!

Clean

First, you’ll want to clean them well with very hot water and soap, scouring out any dust and debris. This will be the last time you use soap on them. If there is lots of crusted gunk, you can put them in your oven and use the self-cleaning setting to not only clean the oven, but the pans! If the cooking surface isn’t smooth, you will want to polish it smooth with steel wool or sandpaper. No need to do the whole pan, just the inner area. If you do this step, clean the pan after to remove any grit.

Oil

Take a paper towel, dip up a dab of crisco on your fingertips (about a half teaspoonful, it doesn’t take much) and rub it all over the pan. Cover the inside, out, and handle with a thin coat of grease.

Heat

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees (any hotter and the crisco may smoke, not a desirable result) and put the pans in. They should be upside down, with a layer of aluminum foil under them to catch any excess oil. Turn off the oven after fifteen minutes and allow to cool with the pans inside. This is a great thing to do just before bedtime, so you can just leave them in there overnight.

Cook

Fry up something delicious! the black, satiny seasoning will not stick. When you’re done using it, you can either simply wipe it clean, or give it a quick scour under hot water (no soap!) and wipe it dry. If you cook something like a casserole in the dutch overn and it did stick (acid foods will do that) scour and dry, and wipe with a little oil on a paper towel to preserve the seasoning.

Cooking with Cast Iron

I’ve been cooking with cast iron all my life, as my mother and grandmother, and great-grandmother before me all did. I know they did, I learned to cook in their kitchens by watching them, and then cooking at home. Now that I’m grown up, Dad and I have amassed quite the collection here on the farm, from tiny six inch skillets to the massive 24-qt dutch oven Dad brought home from Muster on the Mountain this summer. We haven’t used that one yet, but the lady that sold it to him told him we will be able to roast five whole chickens in it.

 

Cooking potato pancakes on the griddle.

Most of our pieces were acquired used, found at junk shops, yard sales, and barn sales. I love barn sales, you never know what you will find. Used cast iron con be intimidating, I know. The beautiful seasoning that makes them gleam like black satin is gone, leaving a crust of flaky iron oxide instead. Don’t be afraid, most pieces can be saved. Pick it up and heft it, first (what? you’re junking, surely you’re wearing grubby clothes and don’t mind getting your hands dirty.) a good piece will have some weight to it. Check to make sure the botton isn’t warped, or worse, cracked. While a light coat of rust is not a problem, deep pitting is, as it ruins the cooking surface.

 

Deep frying dill pickles

Once you’ve bought your new find and gotten it home, scrub off the rust and prepare it for reseasoning. A very stubborn coat of rust may need a light going-over with a wire brush. We usually slather ours in crisco and then put it in the grill while it’s still hot, and leave it overnight with the lid closed. Of course, we only grill with charcoal, so this is possible, it wouldn’t work with gas! Once it’s cool in the morning, any remaining oily residue can be washed off with hot water and paper towels to dry and blot afterward. Your shiny new pan is ready to use!

A few pieces of my collection, ready to go.

 

Frying up very fresh pork chops and wild chantarelles.

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