Cast Iron Confession

This is my cast iron collection.

Turns out, I’m one of those people who likes the concept of using cast iron, but in reality, I find myself woefully inept. Don’t get me wrong. I cook — a lot. However, cooking with cast iron just tends to take a little more effort that, I’ve found, I’m not willing to put forth.

I know, I know. It’s not that much more effort. That is true, but… It’s just one more thing on top of a huge pile of “one more things” that I never seem to dig myself through. Yesterday, however, I picked up a shovel! That’s right! I decided to season all of my lovely cast iron cookware that I’ve been completely ignoring. Since I’m not milking Sienna right now, I find I have more time for other household projects (that never end, by the way). 

In lieu of using my cast iron skillets, I’ve been using my stainless steel ones. I’m a firm believer in healthy cookware. (No Teflon in this house, please!) I’ve also still kept my cast iron Dutch oven and flat skillet in frequent rotation, because who doesn’t need to bake sourdough and fry bacon every single week? 

This is the pan from the garage before treatment but after washing it. You can see it’s still wet.

What sparked my sudden interest in my sorry-looking cast iron skillets was when I cleaned my garage this week and found a very rusty skillet that I had never used. I decided to see if I could bring it back to life. I will spoil the ending and just tell you now that it looks… better. Not perfect, but better. I wish I would have taken a photo of it when I first laid eyes on the sorry thing. It was filthy, dusty, completely rusted. I washed and scrubbed it and then took the photo. 

This is after the treatment. You can still see a few spots that wouldn’t come completely off.

I searched YouTube for videos on “how to season a rusted cast iron skillet.” I would like to brag that my skillet looked much, much worse than any of the ones on the videos I saw. Isn’t that something to brag about? No, probably not. Anyway… I followed the directions of two of the three videos I saw. (Each of the videos had a slightly different technique.)

These are my pans, before treatment, that needed the most attention. I find this embarrassing to show.

The technique that worked the best for me was to soak my pan in half water and half vinegar for an hour before sprinkling baking soda all over it. Then you use a steel wool pad to scrub like the dickens. Yes, I know you usually don’t use steel wool on a cast iron skillet… or soap. But, when you are trying to take off deep coats of rust, you’re not worried about the pan’s prior seasoning. I was able to get most of the imbedded rust spots removed. There was one big spot that never came completely off. I’m guessing it just ate that much of the pan away. However, I figured that once I put the seasoning back on, it would be fine. 

These are the same pans after treatment. Hooray!

I seasoned the pan with two coats of coconut oil and then one final layer of vegetable oil. It’s not perfect, but it is definitely usable now. I plan to use it for when we go camping. It could take another layer of seasoning for sure, but I was also trying to get all my other pans through. I only have one oven, people!

Many people suggest seasoning your pans for an hour at 500° F in the oven. I did 20 minutes at a time with at least two pans in the oven at once. I had too many skillets that needed some TLC. I did not use the baking soda/vinegar technique on my other pans. I either scrubbed them with salt and a non-abrasive scrubber or baking soda and the scrubber, depending on how bad they were. Then, as always with cast iron, you thoroughly dry and start adding the oil. 

I wanted to use coconut oil, because I know it’s a healthier oil. However, even though a relative suggested doing so, I don’t think coconut oil is the best oil to use. Vegetable oil worked better. Most people suggest canola oil, but I didn’t have any.

In summation, this experience has taught me that I should take better care of my cast iron and just put forth the extra effort after each use rather than taking up half my day with scrubbing, drying, oiling, and seasoning all of my pans at once. However, if you decide to do it my way, I would suggest doing so in the winter, not when it’s nearly 100° F outside at the end of July in Texas.    

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