Cast Iron Cookware: Reseasoning & Refurbishing

So maybe you’ve decided to use cast iron, but you’re not sure how to season the pan after buying it from the store. Or maybe you have an old cast iron pan lying around somewhere, and you’re wondering if you can still use it. Maybe your well-meaning cousin’s boyfriend’s grandmother hands you an old pan covered in rust as a gift.

Yes, you can still use it, with a little reseasoning. Read on to find out how!

(Read Part 1: Using Cast Iron and Part 2: Why You Should Use It for the full story)

Once I decided to use exclusively cast iron and stainless steel cookware, I needed to expand my cast iron collection beyond the single 12″ skillet. But even though cast iron isn’t expensive, I don’t like to spend money.

So of course, I waited until I found a good deal on a pan at a garage sale…a 10″ skillet for $3. It had a small rust spot on it, so I scrubbed the rust off, reseasoned it, cooked some bacon, and now it’s perfect. I have since added a dutch oven (free from someone’s basement) and waffle iron (received as a gift) to my collection. Combined with my trusty stainless steel skillet and saucepan that I use for highly acidic things (like tomato sauce), I figured I’d never buy another pan.

Until now.

No, none of my pans broke. They all work great, and I’ll probably have them until I die. But I discovered that you can roast coffee beans in a cast iron pan…but your pan will taste like coffee forever. So I decided that obviously, I needed a pan specifically for coffee beans.

My “New” Coffee Roasting Pan

Ironically, the price I paid for this pan was twice what I paid for all of my cast equipment combined – a whole $6, from a yard sale.

It was also, by far, the dirtiest, most disgusting pan I’ve ever seen. Rust covered most of the bottom of the pan, as well as the handle, and it was filthy with literal dirt. When you touched it, you got what looked like axle grease on your hands. You know, the black, icky stuff from the car or lawn mower. This is what happens when dirt meets grease. To make matters worse, it had cobwebs on it. And in it.

It was gross.

But it was a pan. And it was $6. And I was too impatient to wait for a cheaper or a better pan. Besides, now I can write a blog post about refurbishing a cast iron pan.

Part 1: Making It Not Broken

Remove the Ick

For all of my love of not “cleaning” cast iron, you don’t want dirt in your pan. If your pan has been sitting in a garage or a garbage dump for awhile, you need to clean it. And I recommend cleaning it really, really well. In order to do this, I washed it in the sink with a whole lot of dish soap. It turned my sponge black and ran black water into the sink. It was gross. But when I was done, the cobwebs, dirt, and “axle grease” was gone. I washed both the inside and the outside of the pan. Actually, I washed it three separate times because that is what it took to get off all the ‘ick’.

If you have a rusty pan that is otherwise not dirty, you can skip this step.

Remove the Rust

I have read online that you can run your cast-iron pan through the “self-clean” function on your oven to remove rust. In theory, this is easy and great. But it practice, I hate using the “self-clean” feature on my oven. It runs for, like, five hours. It uses a ton of power. And it emits so much heat that I would never think to do it in the summer. I was certainly not going to run this feature on a clean oven just to remove rust from a pan, especially when there is no guarantee that is actually works. But I mention it because you can feel free to try this.

I used good ol’ elbow grease. I turned on the radio, got a piece of steel wool, and scrubbed. And then I scrubbed more. And then my arm got tired, and I kept scrubbing anyway.

Did I mention there was a lot of rust?

Rusty cast iron pan
This photo was taken AFTER I’d washed the pan and scrubbed off some of the rust…..

If you have one little rust spot, it’s pretty easy to scrub it off with steel wool. It probably won’t take more than a couple of minutes. But if you have a lot of rust, it’s harder and it takes longer.

Basically, you want to rub all of the rust off of the pan. You might see shiny black finish underneath. You might see silver steel. Either way is fine. When I was done, this pan mostly had black shiny finish, with a few spots of silver.

Don’t neglect rust spots on the outside of the pan when you do this!

Part 2: Reseasoning The Pan

Once you get all the rust and dirt off of an old cast iron pan, you can go about reseasoning it. You should also do this when you first buy a cast iron pan. Sometimes cast iron cookware comes “pre-seasoned”, but in my experienced that shiny black finish from the store isn’t very good, and you should season it again. Other times, it comes without any finish at all, and looks silver and metallic. If you don’t season the pan to get the nice black finish, everything will stick terribly and be awful.

1) Preheat your oven to 450.

2) Smear liberal amounts of grease or oil on the inside of your pan. You can use paper towel, or an old rag, or your fingers. It doesn’t matter. The raw iron will soak up the grease, so don’t be shy.

3) Smear a SMALL amount of grease or oil on the outside of your pan. You want the outside of your pan to be seasoned as well as the inside, to prevent rust, but you also don’t want the outside to feel greasy. The outside isn’t getting washed or cooked on regularly, so a tiny amount should do you just fine.

4) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper to prevent a pain-in-the-neck cleanup

5) Turn the pan upside down, put it on the baking sheet and bake for 1 hour.

6) Let the pan cool.

7) Repeat a few times. For a brand-new, already store-seasoned pan, one time through this cycle is probably enough. One time is probably also enough if you’re just cleaning up one or two tiny rust spots on a pan. For a completely “raw” iron pan, or a badly damaged pan, 3-4 times may be required. You don’t need to do all this on the same day, although you can if you want. After the initial “seasoning”, your pan will be relatively resilient. I typically will season it 3-4 more times over the next few weeks, waiting until I’m already heating up my oven for some other reason to run the pan through an additional seasoning cycle.

Basically, each time you complete these steps, you get a thicker patina on your pan.

Reseasoned pan
See that shiny black patina in the pan?

If you have a rusty old pan that you scrubbed clean, keep in mind that you may have missed a spot or two. Examine the pan after the reseasoning process, and make sure you don’t see any rust. If you do, get the rust off and run it through the oven again.

I’d also recommend re-oiling your pan (see: cast iron care) the first few times you use a new or refurbished pan. You just want to make sure that the patina is as pretty and non-stick as possible, and cooking grease into the pan is how that happens.

Why Should You Do This?

Uh…because you can?

I’ll admit – this process isn’t quick or fun. It’d be easier to buy a pre-seasoned pan from the store, run it through the oven once, and start cooking. And you can certainly do that.

But personally, I think there is something satisfying about preserving an old pan. This week, I was able to take something that is essentially dirty trash, purchase it for a few dollars, and turn it into something usable that will last me for many years. To me, that’s worth a little elbow grease.

There may also be sentimental reasons to do this. Perhaps your grandmother has an old cast iron pan that has gotten rusty after years of disuse. Perhaps you find a pan with a really cool story behind it that you want to preserve. Whatever the reason, now you know how to do it, and can enjoy your antique iron pans.

Cast Iron Cookware – Why You Should Use It

PS. Throw Out Your Teflon Pans

You read all about how to take care of your cast iron pan (or maybe you didn’t, in which case you can click here), and now you’re wondering why on earth you should bother. You already know how to take care of a Teflon non-stick pan. Why go through the learning curve to use cast iron? Why do all these homesteading websites insist that cast iron is amazing? Are people just crazy? Do homesteaders just like extra work?

No. Most homesteaders do not like extra work. It seems like we do, but we don’t. Really. Also, cast iron pans are not extra work.

Continuing My Cast Iron Tale

Continue reading “Cast Iron Cookware – Why You Should Use It”

Cast Iron Cookware – Care & Use

Cast iron is often lauded as the kingpin of a homestead kitchen – and for good reason. Cast iron is awesome. Welcome to a 3-Part Series on Cast Iron! We are going to start by explaining USING your cast iron, on a daily basis, as well as how to clean you pan (it’s easier than you think!).

A lovely 10″ skillet, moments after frying my morning eggs

My Introduction to Cast Iron

I received my first cast iron pan – a 12″ Lodge – as a Christmas gift when I was a senior in college, and honestly…I had no idea how to take care of it. The person who gave it to me claimed that you just washed and dried the pan like normal; no special care required because it came pre-seasoned from the store. You just couldn’t put it in the dishwasher. So I washed the pan with soap and water, and left it to dry in the drying rack with my other pans.

Ha. Ha.

Yeah, it rusted terribly, overnight. Horrified, I googled cast iron pans and found that you never, ever should leave them to air dry. I also found conflicting advice on what oil to use to re-season it, how to clean it, what to cook in it, and just about everything else. I scrubbed of the rust (since it had only been 1 day, it wasn’t hard to get it off), oiled it, and baked it in the oven, per the Internet’s instructions. Then I put the pan away and didn’t use it because all the conflicting advice was overwhelming and I didn’t want it to get rusty again. Continue reading “Cast Iron Cookware – Care & Use”

Build Your Own Grow Shelf!

Oh my gosh. I can FINALLY do a post on gardening.

Growing my own food is a¬†huge passion of mine (albeit a somewhat recent one), but y’know…it’s been winter.

My grow shelf!

There is no gardening in the winter.

Well, unless you count “pick up fallen tree limbs from the ice storm(s)” as gardening. Which I don’t.

However, this year I DID start a semi-winter gardening project that I FINALLY get to share because…y’know, it’s working so far and there’s something to show to the Internet besides some bare dirt.

I decided to make a grow shelf. Continue reading “Build Your Own Grow Shelf!”

DIY Cleaning Solutions – Toilets

Frugality has always been a big part of my life. I like to buy things used when I can, and I hate spending money on consumables. My family has some pretty ambitious homesteading goals that require us to save up as much money as we can, and it’s pretty bad for the environment to waste stuff – especially plastics. On top of that, I try to keep my home as chemical-free as possible, because chemicals are bad for you. I learned a whole bunch of tips and tricks from my mom, and more on my own as an adult, and I thought I’d share a few of them here.

Why Make DIY Toilet Cleaner?

Of all the parts of my house, my toilet is probably the thing I am most anal about cleaning because it’s where you poop. Guys, poop is gross. Like, actually gross with icky bacteria and stuff.

Heh. ANAL about keeping clean. POOP.

I’m funny.

Anyyyywwayyyy……. Continue reading “DIY Cleaning Solutions – Toilets”

Meet My (Fur) Babies & Check Out our DIY Scratching Post

Somebody drew attention to the fact that I have a cat picture on the homepage of my blog, and have shared cat pictures in my previous post (a meatloaf recipe), but never explained or introduced my cats to you guys.

So here goes.

Prepare for a fun post about cats, and little tutorial for a making a scratching post (since I didn’t want to give you guys a completely impractical post). It doesn’t really have anything to do homesteading…

Well, actually I think cats have a lot to do with “home” part of homesteading, but that’s just me. Continue reading “Meet My (Fur) Babies & Check Out our DIY Scratching Post”

Monday Meal Plan – How To

I’m going to be sharing another meal plan today, but this time, I’m going to explain how I do my meal plans. I don’t use any fancy templates or print-outs…I just grab a scrap piece of paper and a pencil or pen. A pencil is smarter – you may need to change things around – but a pen shows up better in pictures, so I chose a pen this time!

Step 1: Look at Your Calendar.

The first step is take out your calendar or appointment book and write down what you have going on this week. I have a fairly busy week, with a wedding on Saturday and a Superbowl party on Sunday (GO PATRIOTS!). Plus, I am working late on Wednesday. These are all important things to know about before you start planning meals because they affect what meals you are cooking for, and how much time you have to cook them. Continue reading “Monday Meal Plan – How To”