Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ta-Da Finally !!!! Cast Iron Tutorial

Good Afternoon Everyone,

Well I am trying to get the tutorial posted.  I have been down on and off this last week, the cable company is having issues here.  We have a something short somewhere around the neighborhood with cable, and the techs cannot find the problem.  Thursday afternoon, I ended up with all new wiring for my cable phone, and Internet, but there is still a glitch somewhere, so I am hoping I can get everything posted before everything goes down and everything I post will be lost in Internet purgatory forever.

Update: Fixed, hopefully.  The cable line way down on the main street that runs close to the park had two transmitters failing and was causing a whole lot of trouble clear over to the south side of town. Wow, now that's a problem and a couple of bad gremlins.

Update: Tutorial

Well here goes the tutorial.  I hope that I don't mess it up.

Photos posted to the left of the post photos 1-3 show two pans, one is a newer Lodge pan, the other is a newer Wagner 1891 original, these were new ones that were on sale at a farm store that we had here at the time, called Wheelers.  I had totally forgotten about these pans, and found them in the storage shed looking for something else.   I bought them probably 25 yrs ago, when I first moved back from Denver CO, about  summer of 1985.   When I moved to the modular, I had put a lot of stuff into storage as I do not have garage here and little room.  And then like usual, I forget things.
Well anyway, photos 1-3 show a lot of rust and moisture gunk on these pans, and they look like you should just toss them.  If you have pans like these or worse, please do not chuck them, just clean them, and use a little elbow grease and they will come clean and beautiful.

Photos 4-5-6 show the Wagner pan needing a lot of help.  Also shown are  the tools I use.  Now, some people use different tools, for me, this is what I had at hand at the time.  I have small wire brushes, a larger wire brush (D's brush, borrowed) a pumice stone, like what you use to get lime deposits off in the commode and in sinks  and some drywall sandpaper. Some people use a power sander, or a hand held grinder, but I don't have the nerve or the steady hand to run one.  Now, all of this you can find at a good hardware store or Menard's, or Lowes or what ever hardware or man store you have around your area.  Some farm goods store carry stuff, like a Tractor Supply.  In photo 5, it shows the drywall sandpaper.  I had 180 grit and 120 grit.  Now, the higher the grit, (180) the finer the sanding, the 120 grit is a coarser paper.  All this is, is sandpaper used on drywall to smooth it out before prepping. I am sure lumberyards carry this also.  All you do is, take your brushes, and clean the surface of the pan, don't gouge into the pan, just scrape the bad spots, and rust off.  I use the big wire brush first, to clean the majority of the rust and dirt off, then dump the gunk out, then take your small brushes, and clean rough spots off, getting into the rounded edges and handle. If you have some spots that the brush can't get, use your pumice stone, and lightly rub out the spots.  Then take your grit paper, and rub the bottom, sides, and inside if needed until you have a clean surface, shown in photo 6.  Remembering, not to gouge the surface.  Cast iron is very durable, but you can gouge, and scratch too much getting stuff off.  If it needs a little soaking, use HOT water, and dish soap, to soak it a little, and then brush out the gunk and crap out.  It depends on how dirty your pan is.  Photo 7 shows you the pan after the drywall paper has been used, and it cleaned up pretty good.  Photo 8 just shows the Lodge pan is really rusty and rough, but you will see later, it is clean and comes out very nicely.

Photo 9 and 10 are a little mixed.  9 is the pan being washed in hot water and soap, and I use my little dish brush to scrub the surface and really get it clean.  You may have to wash and soap up several times to get a clean surface and no rusty deposits on a clean towel or paper towel.  You want it as clean as you can get it.  Photo 10 is just the pan inside again, cleaned with the wire brush, and the pumice stone and the drywall paper. I think that I used 180 grit on this.

Photo 11 and 12 show the pan freshly washed.  I washed this about 5 times, to make sure all grit and surface dirt is  out of it.  Photo 12 shows the application of a vegetable oil.  Now, here is where there are differences with people.  Now I use Crisco solid shortening.  I take a blob on my fingers and just smear it all over the surface. Coat inside and outside, even handle.  It helps also if the pan is warm from its bath in hot water.  Make sure every inch is covered in shortening.  Now my grandmother at the time used bacon grease. I find it leaves a rancid odor after a while, maybe its me, but it puts me off.  I have always used shortening.  I am going to experiment with using a liquid vegetable oil and see how it turns out.  I have a few more pans to clean and season.  I have found that liquid vegetable oil leaves a stickier bond than shortening, but that's me.

Photo 13  shows the pan in the oven with the shortening coating.  Now I bake my pans at 350*F for several hours.  Now, if you get more shortening in your pan, let it bake a little, then take a paper towel, make sure you have several layers, and be careful of burning yourself.  Mop up some of the shortening that is pooling, what you want is a smooth surface, not globs of vegetable oil pooled on the surface, because, as the pan heats, the vegetable oil forms a bond somewhat like a polymer, and it bonds with the metal, so to speak, and as it bakes, it produces a smooth, lustrous surface, which forms the non stick surface that you want in cast iron. Throughout the baking, keep checking your pans and distribute the oil throughout the pan surface and the back also, use your hot pads and take it out, and coat spots that show less oil, you will see the spots that you have missed. As it bakes, it should not be sticky, but getting slick, again, sop up oil that is pooling.    Now, new pans and older pans, as you use them more, and more, will produce a beautiful black, slick surface, and if you take care of them, and when you are done cooking with them, let them cool, and then just clean with hot water and a sink brush and you are good to go.  Newer pans you have to use for a few times, then you need to re-season them to keep them in shape.  But I assure you, as you use them more, they will turn black, and get better with use and age.  Also, PLEASE, do not wash a hot pan right after cooking, it WILL warp the pan and sometimes break it, from a temperature fluctuation.  So please do not wash a hot pan. It is also dangerous.  Also, when you are baking these pans, it will give off an odor, and if you have fire alarms, sometimes, it will make them go off.  I know some may complain of the odor, but this is the oil and the pan. As you get your pans in shape, you won't have to do too much if this.  Just some normal common sense care. You may have complaining occupants in the house also, so open the windows, or run the vent fans or overhead fans.

Photo 14 and 15 show a finished pan. Photo 14 is right out of the oven, with a going over of a paper towel to catch some small spots of pooled oil.  Photo 15 is the pan, cooled off for about an hour, and I buffed it with an old kitchen towel.
Now, I am using this pan, and I will have to re-season it,  What you have to do is make sure that the oil penetrates the surface and forms the bond to the cast iron.  It takes time, but it is so worth it. 

Well, that is my tutorial.  I am sorry that it may seem a little ADD, but I hope that it explains the steps.  Please, if you have any questions, please email or make a comment, and I will get back to you to answer your questions.

Well,  I am tired, and I have a new magazine to read, so I may get ready to head for the feathers and see what other problems I can come up with. I hope that you enjoy the tutorail.

Enjoy and hugs to all.


  1. Great job! I wish you were closer, I'd have you do up my pots! I have a couple left in my travel trailer that have rusted up...that's what I get for not taking the trailer out for a few years!

  2. Great tutorial. Thank you.
    I have several pieces but the skillet is the one I use almost daily. I have the inside nice but their is a layer of baked on crud on the sides and bottom.

    I need to try to get that off. It doesn't hurt cooking, but it offends me just looking at it!

    I think I have a much smaller pan stored in the milk parlor. Need to get it out too.

    You don't wash yours in soapy water after you cook do you? I just use hot water.

  3. Great post!
    My skillets are in good shape, it's the cornbread wedge pan and the cornbread stick pans that give me problems. Maybe just keep oiling them?