Cleaning and re-seasoning iron skillets

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Quint, Mar 28, 2005.

  1. Quint

    Quint Well-Known Member

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    Digging through boxes in the garage I found a rather heavy box in the corner that hadn't been opened in years. I opened it up and to my good fortune I found about a dozen cast iron skillets of various sizes from large 12 or 14inch to small single egg frying size. They have been in the box for quite some time and whatever seasoning they may have had is long since past help. They are filthy dirty and many of them have some surface rust on them. These would most likely be quite old none younger than 40 or 50 probably-maybe even older.

    I obviously would like to use these if possible and I was wondering the best way to clean them, re-season them and get them back into service.

    Any suggestions?
     
  2. WanderingOak

    WanderingOak Well-Known Member

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    I would give them a good cleaning with scouring powder, then dry them out on a hot burner (never let cast iron air dry- it WILL rust if you do that). If there is any remaining rust, use a wire brush or steel wool to take care of it. If the rust is really heavy, try using a drill brush. Once the rust is gone, take some bacon grease and give the pans a very liberal coating of it. Set the oven at 200F, and season the cast iron for at least 6 hours. Once the cast iron is seasoned, wipe out the last of the bacon grease, and you should be ready to go.
     

  3. Christine in OK

    Christine in OK Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I don't know if this is the best way to do it, but I can remember my dad taking my mom's cast iron and throwing it in the burn pile to burn it off, and them mom re-seasoning with bacon grease.

    One suggestion I read on the "cooking and crafts" forum indicated that animal fat of some type was definitely the best for seasoning, the vegetable oils get sticky and don't work well.
     
  4. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    I agree with Christine, fire the pans in a campfire or in an oven during a self-cleaning cycle. Then wash, dry and re-season.
     
  5. dla

    dla Well-Known Member

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    If the rust seems to be only on the surface, I'd first try scouring it out with salt. Then I'd move to salt with some oil. After that - or for the obviously hecvy-duty cleaning - I'd go for steel wool with NO cleaner.
    IMHO, scouring powder is really hard to get rid of out of a cast iron pan.

    Enjoy them!
    Debbie
     
  6. Mudwoman

    Mudwoman Well-Known Member

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    Once seasoned, NEVER use soap to clean them.
     
  7. vegascowgirl

    vegascowgirl Try Me

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    never use scouring powder, it's murder on cast iron. Using corse salt, or a wire brush, or steel wool is best. dry completely (I usually let it dry over low heat on a fire, or in an oven) Then coat with fat or oil which ever you prefer or have on hand. If using an oven, set the greased cast iron in @ 350 degerees for about an hour (or untill the grease is litterally baked on) . <Hint: make sure your oven is level if you have a range top oven.....if it is not level it will cause the oil or fat to slide to one side of your cast iron and will cause an uneven season....this also applies if you are seasoning in the fire, make sure your cast iron is set as level as possible> It may take two or three seasonings befor it reaches that non stick surface that is desired.
     
  8. Mrs_stuart

    Mrs_stuart Well-Known Member

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    Actually, you can put the skillets in a sink of half water, half vinegar...letting it soak for a few hours (at the very most)...take out and wash with hot soap and water...and make sure it is completely dry.
    This does wonders...you cant believe it. The vinegar is a mild acid but strong enough to eat away the rust with out harming the skillet if only left in there for a short time. NEVER leave it in the vinegar water for more than a few hours.

    Belinda
     
  9. ChuckinVA

    ChuckinVA Well-Known Member

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    I would remove the rust with a little steel wool, then if you have a gas grill, put the skillett on the gas grill on low heat and keep checking on it every 20 min or so. Shouldn't take more than an hour. This will remove the old baked on seasoning. Let the skillet cool and remove it. Take a wire brush and brush off any remaining powder. Take a paper towel or cloth and apply a very light coating of crisco or other shortening. Now you can bake it in the oven for about an hour to " harden" the finish. The best way to season it is to use it. bacon , sausage and never use soap to clean it. Good luck!
     
  10. farminghandyman

    farminghandyman Well-Known Member Supporter

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    on heavy rust I have used a 4" angle grinder with a wire brush on it to clean them up, wash and season,
     
  11. romancemelisa

    romancemelisa Well-Known Member

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    that is the way my grandmother taught me.
     
  12. TabletopHomestead

    TabletopHomestead Well-Known Member

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    Some will disagree, but with really messed up cast iron skillets I make up a good strong lye solution in a 5 gallon bucket and soak the skillet to strip it down to bare metal, then re-season with lard. It might take an overnight soak, depending on the strength of your soak solution. Oven cleaner is another lye-based alternative.
     
  13. unioncreek

    unioncreek Well-Known Member Supporter

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    If they have a lot of rust on them I would use oven cleaner and then a wire brush to clean it off. I use only vegetable oil to season mine, only a very thin layer wiped on and then once it's coated wipe lightly with a paper towel. Put them in the oven at 350* for an hour. I got mine from my Mom and she got them from her Grandmother, they have never had to be re-seasoned. I wash them (and yes sometimes I use detergent) dry good and put them in a warm over or on the burner to finish drying. The say not to use animal fats to season due to them becoming rancid. I feel that if you use just a light coating and then wipe off and put them in the oven that they would be fine.

    Bobg
     
  14. Ragamuffin2004

    Ragamuffin2004 Well-Known Member

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    This is really easy. Build a nice hot fire. When the fire starts to die down and you have some really nice glowing coals, put the pots in the fire pit with the rusted and dirty sides facing the fire. Might need to turn them over to get all sides - we use a nice sturdy rake for turning. Leave until the fire is completely dead and the pots and lids are cool. Brush off the ash. Rinse off with water and dry. Season with shortening or lard and bake in oven 350 or so for atleast 45 minutes. After that, you shouldn't need to use anything other than a dishrag or paper towel after each use - don't use those little wire or plastic scrubbies.
     
  15. DW

    DW plains of Colorado Supporter

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    I have seasoned mine with shortening in the oven & I once tried oil and it was sticky...just worked it over and got rid of the sticky. Here are a couple ways I've heard of but never tried. One was to put them in the dish washer with no soap and run it through, then season. The other was to use your charcoal grill to season.
     
  16. big rockpile

    big rockpile If I need a Shelter

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    I hadn't cleaned my Cast Iron for awhile.Took them put them in the wood stove,pulled them out scrubbed them good to finish cleaning them up,rubbed them down good with Shortning,put the m in my Smoker to get them hot.Set them out to cool.

    Took a bit for the seasoning to take but their good as new now.Won't let the wife clean them she uses soap on them,then wonders why stuff sticks.

    big rockpile
     
  17. Quint

    Quint Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for all of the suggestions. Looks like I will have some new cookware as soon as I can get around to cleaning it up.