Taking Care of Your Cast-iron
Do you have an old piece of cast iron passed down in your family or use one that needs more than a little cleanup? We will give you some tips and tricks on how to get your old worn-out cast iron usable and functional again.
One of the things that people with cast iron do is not ever use water or soap on them, thus not needing to worry about rust getting to it. You certainly can clean cast iron without using them, and therefore you won’t have to worry about rust either.
If it is too late and you already have rust, take it to a machine shop and have it sandblasted. Once you get it back from them, season it immediately.
If you only have some minor surface rust, you can take care of that yourself at home. No need to take it anywhere.
The following instructions are from “The Lodge” manufactures of cast iron cookware located in Tennessee.
- Steel wool
- Dish soap
- Scrubbing brush, scouring pad, or sponge
- Dishtowel or paper towels
- Vegetable oil (or cooking oil of choice)
- Aluminum foil
- 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.
- 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.
- Dry the skillet: Thoroughly dry the cast iron immediately with a clean dish towel or paper towels.
- Cover the pan with a coating of oil: Apply a small amount of vegetable oil (or cooking oil of choice) to the entire piece.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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)
- Stove (optional)
- Get right to it: Clean the skillet immediately after use, while it is still hot or warm. Do not soak the pan or leave it in the sink because it may rust.
- 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.
- 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.
- Dry the skillet: Thoroughly towel dry the skillet or dry it on the stove over low heat.
- 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.
- 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 wherever you may find them and add them to your collection.
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I have been collecting and using cast iron cookware for >35 years. Major brands that I have used are vintage Wagner and Griswold. I use dishsoap and water on them every time they are used. No damage just clean cast iron. I do oil it after washing. When I find old cookware that has caked on grime and burnt oily gunk. I put it in a woodburning stove on hot coals, usually at bedtime. Next morning the skillet or Dutch oven has a powdery residue on it. I wash it in soapy water. Dry it and oil it. Looks brand new!
Here in my area, they can be found in thrift shops or on Marketplace from the community.
Good advice, I’m looking for some old cast iron now. If you can help, please send me a message.
When I buy a really pitted, or burned on deposits, I use a sanding disc on my right angle grinder and smooth out any pits or buildup, Then I reseason. Looks almost as good as new.