We do a lot of cooking with Cast Iron pans at Olverindulgence. There are quite a few reasons, but the primary ones are (in no particular order):
- They have incredible heat retention. They are able to maintain high temperatures even as cold ingredients are added, unlike lighter pans that cool as new ingredients are added.
- They can be quickly transferred from the stove to the oven and back again!
- They are chemical free. In fact, using them can increase the iron levels in your blood. This is a double edged sword however…don’t make this your only pan choice!
- If properly cared for and used, they are quite non-stick.
- They are reasonably priced and last forever.
- They are easy to maintain and clean.
Now that I’ve (hopefully) sold you on wanting to dig your old pan out of your closet to make the perfect meal (click the “Cast Iron Cooking” tag at the bottom of this post to see a whole host of ideas for what to make), what if you run into a problem like my in-laws did when they found their old one? Well, with just a little grit, determination, steel wool, and vegetable oil, you can make your pan as good as new again! Here’s how!
Step 1: Decide that you’re all in on restoring your pan. Then, get it out of hiding, and don’t be discouraged by how it looks.
Step 2: Get some hot water going in your sink, and scour the heck out of all the rust with your steel wool. I also used some SOS pads for additional reinforcement. This is far and away the most labor intensive part, and if I’m being honest, I sweated quite a bit despite the air conditioning. It is worth it…and remember, you decided you were “all in” on this process during step 1. Don’t make it so you lied to yourself! After you’ve won your battle with the rust, dry your pans.
Step 3: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and put some foil on the bottom (pictured in step 4). Then, pour a little oil into your pan, and with a paper towel, spread it around until you have a thin layer of oil completely coating your pan (with extra focus on the cooking surfaces…but don’t leave the exterior out…it needs love too).
Step 4: Heat your pans until they start to steam a bit. Then, after a few minutes of that (this will take about 10 minutes), stash them upside down in your oven for about 40-50 minutes. This causes a pretty fascinating chemical change in the oil, as it polymerizes and bonds to your cast iron. This is your seasoning, and it’s what gives your pan its non-stick qualities.
Once your oven time is up, remove your pans, and allow them to cool (this will take probably 20 minutes). Since you will have stripped them down to their core, you will likely want to repeat steps 3 and 4 one or two more times to ensure a strong seasoning has formed. After that, you are good to go!
For general care/maintenance, we generally wash our pan with a non-abrasive wipe in hot water with a little soap after we use it. That said, sometimes, the pan is too hot to wash when it’s finished doing its cooking thing…in that case, we find it’s best to deglaze it (pour some water in it while it’s hot, and then use a spatula to unstick any stuck bits after cooking), and then let it sit while we eat. It makes cleanup much easier after!
I hope you found this useful and are emboldened to give your Cast Iron a new lease on life!