Thursday, October 1, 2015

Restoring Cast Iron

Earlier I put up a post that described some basic steps for keeping your cast iron clean and in good condition. This time, I want to focus on what to do if, God forbid, your cast iron gets severely damaged. To demonstrate the resilience of cast iron I picked up this poor thing at a thrift store near me.

As long as the cast iron is not rusted all the way through or cracked, it's surface can be restored. Resurfacing starts with hot, soapy water and steel wool. Since you are entirely resurfacing, the soap and steel wool won't hurt anything. Scrub until you have gotten down to the bare iron.

Once the iron is bare and any loose stuff has been rinsed off, dry it thoroughly and rub on a thin layer of cooking oil or shortening. If you have too much on there the finish will feel sticky when cold and will get grimy and dusty during storage.

Place your piece of cast iron in the oven, upside down (to prevent any grease from pooling) with a piece of tin foil on a rack placed below it. Now turn your oven on to 450 F. Once the oven is at temp, bake the cast iron for an hour. Because of the heat involved, it can get a bit smokey, so you might want to make sure your vent hood is on.

The theory behind seasoning cast iron is to hold the oil coating at slightly above the break-down temperature of oil. This causes the oil to denature and form the plastic like non-stick coating on the cast iron.

After an hour, turn off the oven and allow the cast iron to cool in the oven. If it is all done correctly, you cast iron should come out looking something like this:

You can repeat the oiling and baking steps if you are not satisfied with the seasoning. Some people suggest repeating those steps 6 times. However, as long as you properly care for your cast iron, the seasoning will improve over time.

Cast iron is really sturdy stuff and unlike most non-stick pans, if the surface is damaged, that isn't the end of the pan. So please, if you see some rust, don't throw it away, save yourself some money and show your cast iron some TLC. 

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