The last time I pulled out my Teflon skillets, I noticed the non-stick coating had begun to peel. I have many reasons for turning my back on Teflon since then, but to stay on topic, I’ll just say a replacement was needed. So, I went with the best non-stick, durable, life-lasting option I had… cast iron!
But, there was a problem. Cast iron cookware is EXPENSIVE!
But, if it’s supposed to last a lifetime…
that means there has to be plenty of it out there that no one’s using!
So, I made a trip to my local thrift stores and second-hand shops to collect a few new pieces. But, once again, there was a problem. The pieces I found looked like they’d seen the last of their cooking days. They were covered with grease and many of them looked disfigured and beyond help.
After a bit of online research and some trial and error, I finally have a good handle on how to completely restore these aged beauties!
Step 1: Take your gross, filthy looking pans and place them on the center rack of your cold oven, face down. Close the door and run a cleaning cycle. The oven door will lock for your protection while this cycle runs. My oven runs a 4 hour cycle on 500 degree heat.
**Note: I once read a blogger’s post that said her pans caught fire inside the oven. I’ve done this process many times now with over 10 pans and this has never happened to me. However, if it does, logic tells me that as long as you keep your oven door closed, the fire would self-extiguish. This is what happened for the previously mentioned blogger, although she said it really freaked her out regardless.
Once your oven cools and your pans are cool enough to be handled, they should like this. You’ll notice all the lumpy, bumpy crud has completely disintegrated.
Step 2: This may go without saying for some of you, but Cast Iron is iron, which means once it’s dry and unprotected, it will rust the moment the surface comes in contact with air. Wipe of the rust and use steel wool and water to scrub off any remaining exterior rust. It may take a bit, but be sure to scrub it all off.
Step 3: Dry your pan with a towel and heat it on the range until it’s completely dry, or pop it in a 200 degree oven for a couple minutes.
Step 4: Coat your pan with a THIN layer of flax oil.
When I say thin, I mean so thin that you wonder if you’ve wiped off all the oil you just put on, thin. Also, it’s important that you use flax oil if you have access to it. There’s a lot of science behind it, but basically, flax oil is a drying oil, which means non-stick, tough-coated protection for you! If you want to read more about the science behind why flax oil is so important in your initial seasoning, read this article.
Step 5: Bake your pan face down on your oven’s center rack at 475 degrees for 1 hour. Repeat steps 4-5 about 6-8 times. Yep, I know. But, it’s a process that you can’t rush. If your oil coatings are too thick, your pan will season unevenly, form baked on oil spots and the surface of your pan will become sticky. If you’ve gotten this far, don’t cheat. It’s not worth it!
Step 6: You’re done! You now have a pan that will last you a lifetime with the right care! Cleaning cast iron requires no soap. There’s lots of different thoughts for cleaning cast iron, but I think this web video instructional is pretty on the mark.