Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Restore and Reseason

  Every so often the need arises to restore and reseason our beloved cast iron. Cool winter nights offer the perfect opportunity to light the stove for all night. A little oil, a bit of salt, and a long night of curing are in order.  
  Heavy cast iron is a priceless treasure to be used and maintained year after year. In days of old there was a respect for things; you took care of what you had. Generations past held to the notion things were not disposable and not easily replaced. Their well used, well seasoned cast iron wares were often handed down to the next generations filled with memories of the home it came from.
     My family has been using cast iron ware as far back as I can remember. Grandmothers and great-grandmothers passed their wares on to us as we each married and acquired homes of our own. Virtually nondestructive, cast iron ware will no doubt outlast us, nevertheless, it does need some care.
     Iron ware is used every meal, every day in my kitchen. Most often it is maintained by wiping out debris with a dry cloth and swiping a bit of oil across the cooking surface. This keeps it clean and well seasoned for the next use. Deeper cleaning is done yearly..a good once over with salt and a luffa scrub, a rub all over with some oil and an overnight in the oven (100 degrees). Deep cleaning restores and nourishes the dark cast and deep seasons the surface.  
    Neglected or forgotten cast iron that may have rusted over or become chunk with debris needs some attention and some elbow grease. When I restored these cast iron treasures, I started by gathering a few old cleaning cloths, some salt, and oil. The farmhouse table was covered with paper; it's not necessary, but it doesn't hurt. The iron ware was given a good rub down with oil; a vegetable shortening or lard would work as well..always use what's available. Next, the inside of the pan was generously sprinkled with salt..scrubbed in to remove rust particles. Using a fresh towel, the iron ware was wiped down to determine if another scrub was needed; either repeat the process or move on to seasoning the pan with a clean cloth an some oil/shortening/lard.
   Let me add a note here. If there are layers of rust deep in the pan or if the pan is dimpled with gunk or rust flakes I slather it with oil and throw it in a fire or grill pit for an hour. Once it cools I use sand paper to scrub the surface well- removing the rust/gunk only until we have a smooth surface to work with. From here I start the oil/salt cleaning and then on to seasoning.
   Rusty pans need to be rust free before 'seasoning'. Once the salt/oil routine above is finished, wiping iwth a clean towel should show no signs of the rust. If it does, I the process again. After the pans give a clean towel it is time for a healthy seasoning. Here, I heat my oven or outdoor grill to around 400 degrees while rubbing down my cast iron ware inside and out with oil or shortening/lard. Aluminum foil on the rack of the oven or grill will help catch any dripping that occurs during the curing. Pans are placed upside down and left for one hour. Heat is then turned off and the pans are left until they cool completely.
   A well seasoned pan after curing will be dark black with a nice sheen to it. If the pan was extremely rusty or damaged (i.e sandpaper had to be used) the pan will look dry or "off" so repeating the seasoning process (oil/oven one hour) needs to be done until the pan develops a black "sheen" to it. The worst pan I ever restored only needed the process done twice. For a new pan that was unseasoned (grey when we bought it), this curing process seasoned the pan with only two runs.
   As my children grow and leave home, the gift of well tended cast iron goes with them.


Dolly Sarrio said...

I have two and would take nothing for them as well as an old wrought iron iron. I am unable to use the frying pan now with the stove I have can bake but not use on top of the stove and that I dislike. They are in good storage for now. Loved this post as all.

Michelle said...

I have a complete set of case iron pans. But I have to saw my favorite is my grandmother chicken pan. This skillet is so big it takes two hands to lift it. It also makes the best fried chicken you have ever tasted. My daughter really wants this pan. Maybe after my death.