Seasoning cast iron – without lard

As I said before, I am sorry I don’t have more skillets to give away because I wish I could give skillets to everyone who wanted them. As it turns out, Poopiebitch won the drawing for the skillets, and Lisa of Cravin’ Veggies won the bread pan. But as a consolation prize for everyone else, I decided to write up a tutorial on seasoning cast iron. Why? Because cast iron is very cheap and completely awesome and I want those of you who need skillets but are low on funds to consider it.

You can buy new cast iron pots and pans just about anywhere. Fortinbras wanted to pass on a tip for you: he suggests buying them in a camping store, where you can find the same pieces you’ll find in the fancy, expensive cooking stores for much cheaper. I bought a large Martha Stewart raw cast iron skillet at K-Mart for ten or fifteen dollars. “Raw” means the skillet is un-enameled and completely unseasoned. (Martha Stewart also sells reasonably-priced enameled cast iron pots.) Lodge is the most popular modern-day maker of cast iron in the United States and often what you will find in camping stores. Lodge also sells “pre-seasoned” cast iron. I have a pre-seasoned Lodge dutch oven. Buying pre-seasoned cast iron saves you the step of cleaning the pot or pan and gives you a head start on seasoning, but it also costs more money and in my opinion isn’t worth it. Lodge pieces are nice as far as modern cast iron goes and the pre-seasoned stuff isn’t bad, it’s just misleading because you still have to season it, and if you’re seasoning anyway, you might as well save your money and do it all yourself.

My favorite way to buy cast iron is to find the vintage stuff. Griswold is the most collectible and therefore the most expensive. Griswold stopped producing cast iron in 1957, so any Griswold pan is at least that old. My large skillet is a Griswold No. 9 from the 1930s. I LOVE it. Remember my omelette from a few nights ago?

The only oil I used in that pan is a very light spritzing of olive oil from my mister and that omelette didn’t stick one bit. People aren’t lying when they say properly seasoned cast iron is “practically non-stick”. I lucked out when I found that skillet; I think I only paid $50 or $60 for it and it barely needed to be cleaned; I just seasoned with one coat of shortening and began using it heavily and it’s now perfect. Griswold pans often go for more than a hundred dollars. But the point of this tutorial is helping you find cheap pans. So forget Griswold, unless you find it in a thrift store or yard sale where the owner doesn’t know what they are giving away (and in that case, grab it). There are reasons the quality of a Griswold pan is higher than others, but those reasons are very negligible.

The reason to buy vintage over modern is nearly all cast iron made before the 1950s is alleged to be of a higher quality than what they sell today. The main reason is the surface of modern cast iron is not entirely smooth; it is slightly bumpy. Run your fingers over the surface of a Lodge piece and you’ll see what I mean. The surface of my Griswold, on the other hand, is very smooth – often referred to as “glass-like”. The other reason to buy vintage is I just like old stuff. I prefer owning stuff that has a history. But that’s just me. If it’s easier for you or cheaper for you or if you simply prefer to find modern cast iron, go for it. You won’t have to work as hard to clean it at any rate. If you do buy vintage, don’t worry about superficial rust. In fact, you can often find amazing deals on rusty cast iron because the seller doesn’t realize how easy it is to remove and clean. The only thing you need to worry about when buying old cast iron is cracks or warping. The piece should sit level, and also not be cracked. Cracked cast iron pretty much can’t be repaired, at least not cost-effectively.

When I gave away my Calphalon skillets, the only real sacrifice I was making was the small skillet, which I sometimes used for toasting seeds and the like. I wanted to keep the set together, though, and also welcomed the opportunity to buy a small cast iron skillet. So yesterday I went to my favorite antique mall, where I got the Griswold, and found two No. 3 skillets. I couldn’t decide which I wanted. One was a Wagner, which is another really good brand, but it was rusty, and one was unmarked with a logo, but because it has what’s called a heat ring, is probably the older piece, and was also in slightly better condition. As they were only $7 each, I just got them both!

Now I’m going to show you how to clean and season these pans, but I want to make it known that I am NOT an expert at this. I’ve seasoned my cast iron wok, and I lightly re-seasoned my Griswold skillet, and I continued-seasoning my pre-seasoned Lodge dutch oven, and I didn’t run into any problems with any of them, so I think my method works, but I don’t have years of experience or anything.

A lot of people recommend seasoning cast iron with bacon fat or lard. And I have no doubt they are both excellent ways to season, and definitely the most time-honored. This would be how all vintage cast iron was originally seasoned. But obviously I don’t use animal products so neither is an option for me. Also, don’t think it’s out of the ordinary to not use animal fats because many people recommend using things like palm oil. If you research cast iron seasoning on the internet, you’ll find all kinds of conflicting advice. People advising vegetable oil; people saying vegetable oil makes cast iron sticky. People saying use 250 degree Fahrenheit ovens; people saying use 550 degrees – and anything in between. I’m not a scientist so I can’t tell you scientifically which methods are best. What you essentially want to do is oil the cast iron and then heat it up hot enough and long enough that the oil carbonizes, permanently adhering to the iron and creating the “non-stick” patina. I have found that using Earth Balance shortening and a 500-degree oven has worked perfectly. If you can’t get or don’t want to use Earth Balance, I would try palm oil, which the primary oil in EB shortening. You can pretty much season with any oil, but your results may be different than mine.

If you have a brand new or a dirty old pan (the non-pre-seasoned new ones come with a waxy covering that needs to be removed), you need to scrub them completely clean. The very fortunate of you who can find a vintage piece that is clean and has a nice, smooth surface, as I was when I found my Griswold, can skip this step. You can use a steel wool pad to remove the rust:

Just start scrubbing away!

I got rid of most of the rust in just a few minutes:

But then I scrubbed some more:

I got off all of the rust – that’s the most important thing – but I didn’t remove all of the old seasoning. I could have, and I’d have ended up with a smoother surface, but I was tired of scrubbing, and eventually after use, the seasoning will even out.

Next, get your oven ready. Place one rack in the upper half of the oven, with the second rack immediately below it. Place a large cookie sheet or piece of foil on the lower rack. This will catch any dripping oil. Heat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

(Yes, my oven needs to be cleaned.)

Heat the pan over medium-low heat and place a small pat of shortening (or a small amount, depending on the pan size, of oil) in it:

Allow it to melt as the pan gets warm. When it’s completely melted, take a paper towel and completely rub all surfaces of the pan, coating them in a THIN layer of oil. I didn’t bother with the handles of my vintage pieces, so I could grip them with my oven mitts (they were seasoned already anyway), but all other surfaces, including the bottom, should be covered:

Place the pan(s) in the oven, upside down, directly over the baking sheet/foil. It doesn’t matter if the oven is not entirely pre-heated yet.

Close the oven door, and optionally open any nearby windows. It may get a little smoky, in fact, you want a bit of smoke; it means the process is proceeding properly. It may also smell a little funky.

Let the pan bake for about an hour, then remove it and let it cool on top the stove for about 10 minutes. It should look darker than it did when you began, though it may still be gray:

Repeat the process, beginning at melting the small pat of shortening in the warm pans …

… and smearing on all surfaces. Note that after use, the paper towel is essentially still white. If after wiping with the shortening, the paper towel becomes dirty, one of two things probably went wrong: 1) you didn’t thoroughly clean the piece or 2) you didn’t bake it hot or long enough.

Repeat the oiling / baking process three or four times, depending on how much time you have and how thoroughly it was originally seasoned. As I said, I only baked my Griswold once, but I did these skillets three times. Here’s the end result:

When they are thoroughly seasoned, they will be completely black and their surface should be relatively smooth. You don’t have to complete all of your baking cycles in one day, though I find it relaxing to dedicate an afternoon to it; it gives me an excuse not to leave the house and I just spent the whole day reading and drinking tea.

It’s best to cook something pretty greasy the first few times you use the pan, I’m told, to help break it in and finish curing it. I sauteed some shallots in each of mine for dinner tonight and they performed marvelously. This post is getting long, so I’ll save cooking in cast iron, and taking care of cast iron, for one or two later posts if you guys are interested. I really do recommend that those of you who feel you can’t afford nice cookware consider cast iron. It’s one of the few instances in life where the best quality you can buy is some of the cheapest! It just takes a little start-up effort and a little consideration when cleaning, but the rewards are huge. Most non-stick cookware is pretty much disposable. It doesn’t last long, can’t be heated very hot, requires special utensils, often contains a known carcinogen, and has to be thrown out the moment the surface is scratched. Invest in cast iron and you’ll have an heirloom you can hand down to generation after generation of your children, and actually contains nutrients instead of carcinogens! That’s right – cooking in cast iron imparts nutritional iron – which vegans can be low on – to your food! It’s practically impossible to destroy cast iron: no matter what you do to it, the worst case scenario is you have to repeat this tutorial. Furthermore, after a few months of use, my cast iron skillet is more non-stick than the one Calphalon non-stick pan I have (most of mine are not non-stick because I don’t like or trust it)!

That wraps up the tutorial, but here are a couple of related photos for you. First, I mentioned I spent the day reading and drinking tea. I make most of my tea in a cast iron tea pot! (Man, I love cast iron!) Here’s my tetsubin, which I got in San Francisco’s Japantown, with one of the Chinese tea cups my mom gave me:

Next up is a pic that might make a lot of other cast iron aficionados shudder. I mentioned above I once bought a Martha Stewart brand cast iron skillet for next to nothing, despite the fact I said I prefer to use old items. The reason I bought this one new was it was cheap and I wasn’t planning to season it or cook in it. It lives in my oven as a steam pan for bread baking. I wanted cast iron because although it will rust, it will not warp, and it stays hot, producing the amount of steam I want. Here is what happens when you allow cast iron to remain in contact with water!

As bad as that pan looks, though, if I wanted to, I could clean it up with no problem.

I’ve mentioned before that I essentially have just one baking rack in my oven, because I keep a huge stone and the afore-pictured steam pan in there. I removed the stone today for my seasoning:

All that stuff is just baked on; the black splotches are pizza sauce. The stone is actually becoming seasoned itself this way. The only maintenance it requires is brushing crumbs out. If you are at all into making pizza or hearth breads, FibraMent baking stones are expensive but worth the investment. Yesterday I baked these two sourdough loaves at the same time on one baking stone:

Alright, more cast iron information coming up if there is interest, and I’ve got to get around to making dinner – using those skillets – now!

38 Comments »

  1. Josiane Said,

    April 19, 2009 @ 8:06 pm

    There is interest in your cast iron info, at least on my part! Thanks for demystifying them – I wanted an alternative to the teflon stuff, but wasn’t fully comfortable with the idea of cast iron, mostly for lack of knowledge about them. I sincerely appreciate that you are now filling that gap! I’m looking forward to reading your coming posts about it.
    Oh, and your loaves of bread are beautiful! Thanks also for the baking stone tip: I love making pizza, and I was thinking about getting one. When you’re not too sure what you should be looking for in a product, it’s nice to get a recommendation from someone who uses the product in question.

  2. kibbles Said,

    April 19, 2009 @ 8:13 pm

    Oh! Great post! My mom gave me two cast iron skillets that were my gramma’s and SHE got them from some other older relative, and they are super duper old. I don’t have them on hand but next time I am home I’ll check out what they are. They’re perfectly seasoned, but I’ve always been a little apprehensive to use them since everyone has told me that they cooked a lot of meat in them and because they’re cast iron I was also afraid of cleaning them thoroughly. But now I will clean them just to make me feel better, and I’ll season them. I’m so excited! My boyfriend is a butthead and has succeeded in scratching all of my very nice Teflon pans, so I hate using them because I’d rather not be poisoned. Plus, Teflon kills birds, and that can’t be good for me or my cats either. Yay cast iron! Please do more posts about it. And can you explain the steam/bread thing? I’ve never heard that.
    Ps. That bread looks SO AMAZING.

  3. Josie Said,

    April 19, 2009 @ 9:09 pm

    I’m not so smart.
    I have had people trying to give me old cast iron pans and I just had no idea they could be cleaned and reseasoned this way, I mean I knew about it but never researched to see that it was so easy, and I’m always a little yucked out knowing they’ve cooked more meat in their time than I want to know.
    I do love my cast iron, I found it at Winco and it was cheap cheap, I looked a long time for it though, bout drove my sister crazy looking in every store we went to. I use it all the time. It’s Wonderful, if you are not using cast iron, you are missing out.
    Thanks for the tutorial!

  4. renae Said,

    April 19, 2009 @ 9:18 pm

    Josiane, okay I will do more cast iron posts! As for the baking stone, if you really cook a lot of pizza, I’d definitely consider something big and thick like a FibraMent, instead of the small, thin, cheaper “pizza stones” you can find in cookware stores, which are prone to break because they end up getting put into the oven cold and/or taken out of the oven hot: they can’t stand the temperature change and crack. I had one that did this. The FibraMent can just stay in the oven all the time. The drawback is it causes your oven to take much longer to come to temperature: you’ll want to pre-heat for at least 45 minutes before baking a pizza, although I let my dough sit out for an hour before baking anyway, so that works out fine for me.

    Kibbles, I wish I had cast iron stuff that was handed down to me through my family – it’d be even better to know the history of my vintage stuff! I would definitely not scrub the seasoning off your gramma’s skillets, even if it was used for a lot of meat. You’re extremely lucky to have well-seasoned pans so don’t take a steel wool pad to them! What I would do in your case is – this once – clean the skillets throughly with soap, just to make sure they are clean and wash away any “animal residue”. Just use a sponge or at most a soft scrubbie. Then go ahead and season; you probably only need one bake cycle just to freshen up the seasoning.

    As for the steam pan, I should probably do a post on bread baking, but basically, when baking hearth breads (directly on the baking stone), I heat the (dedicated-to-this-purpose-because-it-destroys-it) cast iron pan in the oven while it’s preheating, then just before I’m ready to put the loaves in, I pour one cup of very hot water into the sizzling hot pan, then immediately load the bread. The water hitting the hot pan creates a bunch of steam, which helps produce a desirable crust. I’ll try to do a post on it next weekend when I’m baking!

  5. Mom Said,

    April 19, 2009 @ 10:44 pm

    I have a big cast iron skillet that I think that I got it from my mother. I never use it, so you can have it if you want it. There is also a very tiny one that I think I bought myself. I never use it either anymore.

  6. renae Said,

    April 19, 2009 @ 11:14 pm

    Yes, I will certainly take those, Mum! I think I remember you having the tiny one, but I’m not sure about the large one. I’ll probably recognize it when I see it. Although I don’t understand how it is you are getting a brand new kitchen and aren’t anxious to cook a lot of things in it using your cast iron skillets!

  7. mark Said,

    April 19, 2009 @ 11:51 pm

    “My boyfriend is a butthead and has succeeded in scratching all of my very nice Teflon pans”

    I’m not allowed to wash the skillets either. I always figure that the grime is just that, grime. So I spend a great deal of time trying to scrape it off. Apparently the old rotting food is called “seasoning”.

    Now when I leave plates and or bowls sitting in my office and renae yells at me I can say “No, honeybun, I’m seasoning it.”

  8. poopiebitch Said,

    April 20, 2009 @ 10:48 am

    “Now when I leave plates and or bowls sitting in my office and renae yells at me I can say “No, honeybun, I’m seasoning it.” ”

    Bwahaha! This made me laugh out loud.

    I am SO EXCITED about getting my new skillets! Eventually I would like to get a cast iron skillet (and now, thanks to you, I know what to look for and how to season it when I do!), but in the meantime I am thrilled to not have to use my toxic, peeling, ancient no-longer-non-stick skillet anymore. Thankyouthankyouthankyou!

  9. Jain Said,

    April 20, 2009 @ 12:14 pm

    Thanks for the great tutorial! Looking forward to more on cast iron and to a bread lesson!

  10. Jes Said,

    April 20, 2009 @ 2:09 pm

    This post was perfectly on-time. I have a small cast iron skillet that I need to season but I was too lazy to weed through the multiple options google would give me. I’ll just go ahead and trust you!

    And that tea pot is fabulous! It matches the sourdough oh so well. You should do a bread baking tutorial next! :)

  11. Courtney Said,

    April 20, 2009 @ 4:26 pm

    What a great post! I have always been scared of cast iron for some reason. I have a *really* dumb question, but I have always wondered, and maybe you will know, so…since you season the skillet with fat, then are you essentially using that oil/EB/etc. each time you use the skillet? As in, are you adding in oil to whatever you are cooking without having to add oil? If that makes any sense?!

    Thanks!
    Courtney

  12. renae Said,

    April 20, 2009 @ 5:03 pm

    Courtney, no, once you season the skillet, you won’t be imparting any oil or fat into your food other than what you might add at the time of cooking. During the seasoning process, the fat adheres to the pan. If it’s done well, in fact, it’s really hard to scrub off (it was easy for me to get the rust off my old pan, but actually tough to get the old seasoning off!), so it’s certainly not going to leap off the pan into your food. If you touch a seasoned pan, it should not feel sticky at all; it should just feel smooth, like a commercial non-stick pan would feel: the fat has actually become part of the pan.

  13. Courtney Said,

    April 21, 2009 @ 4:57 pm

    Thank so much! Like I said, I have always wondered that…I think I am going to look into buying a cast iron pan! Whoo-hoo!

    Courtney

  14. Isa Said,

    April 25, 2009 @ 3:50 pm

    Thanks for writing this, I’m gonna send people here when they refuse to believe in cast iron.

  15. Trena Said,

    April 25, 2009 @ 7:26 pm

    Love ….the tea cup!!!!
    Do you have any idea where your mom purchased the teacup?
    Im a sencha drinker :)

  16. robin Said,

    April 26, 2009 @ 11:46 am

    thanks so much for posting this. i just found a “vintage” griswold on ebay, for about $20 shipped. I’ve been wanting to use cast iron for a while, but didn’t really know anything about it. thanks for the extra push! I can’t wait to receive it and get to work seasoning and cleaning it!

  17. Mom Said,

    April 26, 2009 @ 6:04 pm

    This is for Trena – I got the teacups for Renae on eBay. They are vintage restaurant china. The black willow ones must be rare because I have never seen them before or since. Red and blue willow teacups are pretty common. Renae would have to check the bottom of the black ones to tell you the manufacturer, but her red willow teacups are by Sterling. There are a couple of red and blue Sterling teacups in separate eBay auctions right now.

  18. renae Said,

    April 27, 2009 @ 10:41 am

    Trena, the bottom of the teacup says “Jackson Custom China, Falls Creek, PA”.

    Robin, wow, that was a lucky find!

  19. Katy Said,

    April 27, 2009 @ 2:21 pm

    Thank you for posting this! I have a cast iron pan I was going to give up on, but thanks to you I just scrubbed it clean and now it’s in the oven getting all clean and shiny again.

  20. Einar F Said,

    May 25, 2009 @ 12:34 pm

    How often do you season your pan? Once a year? Twice? And under which circumstances? If they feel sticky? If you haven’t used them for a while?

  21. renae Said,

    May 25, 2009 @ 3:51 pm

    Hi Einar, I use my skillets frequently and find the seasoning only improves with use, so I’ve never re-seasoned them in the oven. I think the circumstances under which I would do so would be if something got so stuck on one of them that I had to scrub it with something abrasive (probably salt) or if during cooking, it just didn’t seem to be very non-stick any longer. Although it hasn’t come up in my use, I think you’d just sort of know when it needed to be re-seasoned. If you are cooking with oil – even a small amount – you’re really seasoning it every time you use it.

  22. Einar F Said,

    May 30, 2009 @ 2:29 pm

    I actually has something burnt into my cast iron piece. Maybe I should try to scrape it of and reseason.

    Again, thanks for the informative posts.

  23. brenda Said,

    July 15, 2009 @ 12:44 pm

    I just purchased a very old cast iron tea kettle with attached sliding lid from an antique store. It was slightly rusty on the outside but the inside is pretty grungy/yucky! I don’t know what to do with it in order to be able to actually use it. I really do want to use this piece because I love to cook in cast iron, but I don’t know how to clean or care for it. I know what to do with pots and pans, etc. Could you please help? Thank you for your time.

  24. renae Said,

    July 16, 2009 @ 10:59 am

    Hi Brenda,

    Your kettle sounds really neat! I’ve never worked with something like that; I’ve only done skillets and a Dutch oven, but I’ve been looking at this method by Black Iron Dude as a method for cleaning up a really messy or difficult-shaped piece. Since it would be hard to scrub the interior with sand paper, this method sounds really easy. If you try it, please let me know how it goes – I’d be really interested. And if have pictures, even better!

  25. Ultramegabob Said,

    September 15, 2009 @ 5:35 am

    I love my cast iron, Im going to let some people in on a secret how to make perfect corn bread. First, grease your pan with crisco wipe it on until it is completely even, no white streaks, then heat the pan up for 15 or 20 minutes until the pan is hot enough to sizzle when you pour the batter in, it sears the batter making a nice golden brown crust, and the more you make it that way, the easier the corn bread falls out of the pan. As far as seasoning goes, I have found that you can use almost anything, but solid fats work better for seasoning than oils (solid fats bake on hard, some oils dont completely harden making a gummy mess), and the higher the temperature you use to season your pans the better.

  26. Kerry Eliz. O. Said,

    December 1, 2009 @ 8:52 pm

    Renae,

    I bought me a little black preseasoned Lodge fry pan-the little 6 or 7 inch, and I’ll get the bigger one next. I read how someone was tired of their nonstick coatings messing up, yes they are toxic and so I’m going to pitch mine.
    I have a stainless steel pot set that I’ve barely used-will see if my cousin want’s it-probably not…
    I live alone but want to cook more-it is cheaper, cook enough to freeze for later, etc..it’s healthier.

    Thank you for posting this, I know Martha Stewart has info on this, thought I saved it on PC, ?? so Googled seasoning black iron pots and here you are. Thanks again for the interesting article, blog site.

    Happy Holidays…

  27. renae Said,

    December 1, 2009 @ 10:47 pm

    Thanks, Kerry! Good luck with your adventures in cast iron. It takes a slightly different mindset than other cookware, but I think you’ll really enjoy it! I lived alone when I got into cooking, too. Some people say it’s hard to cook for one, but actually it’s fun because you have total freedom to experiment.

  28. Mary Beheler Said,

    December 7, 2009 @ 6:04 am

    If for any reason you want to completely remove old seasoning from a cast iron pan, make some lye soap in it. Soap happens when you mix lye and and oil or grease together, and the lye can’t tell the seasoning from any other grease.
    I discovered this when I wanted to show my kids how real soap used to be made, and the only non-aluminum pan I had was a cast-iron skillet. (Lye will disolve aluminum.) Every molecule of seasoning disappeared into that nice brown soap!
    And, always make soap outside, with really good ventilation. Lye fumes are fierce, and the lye+grease combination heats itself really hot. No stove needed. I’ve never done it again – and certainly would not do it with kids around.

  29. Mary Beheler Said,

    December 7, 2009 @ 6:04 am

    If for any reason you want to completely remove old seasoning from a cast iron pan, make some lye soap in it. Soap happens when you mix lye and and oil or grease together, and the lye can’t tell the seasoning from any other grease.
    I discovered this when I wanted to show my kids how real soap used to be made, and the only non-aluminum pan I had was a cast-iron skillet. (Lye will disolve aluminum.) Every molecule of seasoning disappeared into that nice brown soap!
    And, always make soap outside, with really good ventilation. Lye fumes are fierce, and the lye+grease combination heats itself really hot. No stove needed. I’ve never done it again – and certainly would not do it with kids around.

  30. Mia Said,

    February 26, 2010 @ 12:45 pm

    Hi.
    I have a lot of cast iron pans and pots that were passed down through at least five generations of wiomen, and some look like they may have gotten thinner over time. My greatgrandmother’s time-honored way to clean cast iron was to use a sock full of salt. She kept this thing in a cup on the back of the stove, and after cooking in a pan, she would dump and scrape out anything in the pan with a metal turner (grease went in a can with a strainer, to be re-used). Then she would grab the sock and rub/scrub the surface, and then use her apron to wipe the inside of the pan. Then she would hold it up in front of her face to see if it was shiny enough for the next time. Also, she periodically would scrape “char” off of the outside (she cooked with wood, and later gas) as she said it would keep things from frying evenly. I still use her wonderful pots and pans, and love them as much as she seemed to. Also,- for vegetarians especially- if you put acid things (like tomatoes ) in them, you can get a super dose of much-needed iron! I cook all my tomato sauce in them, and afterwards just wipe with olive oil. This does not seem to interfere with the seasoning of old, and I can still cook pancakes in my pans without adding oil and they don’t stick! I’m glad to see cast iron making a comeback. The reason I got all of the cast iron handed down was that everyone else in my family headed for “modern” alternatives. I feel like the joke is on them!

  31. Mia Said,

    February 26, 2010 @ 12:45 pm

    Hi.
    I have a lot of cast iron pans and pots that were passed down through at least five generations of wiomen, and some look like they may have gotten thinner over time. My greatgrandmother’s time-honored way to clean cast iron was to use a sock full of salt. She kept this thing in a cup on the back of the stove, and after cooking in a pan, she would dump and scrape out anything in the pan with a metal turner (grease went in a can with a strainer, to be re-used). Then she would grab the sock and rub/scrub the surface, and then use her apron to wipe the inside of the pan. Then she would hold it up in front of her face to see if it was shiny enough for the next time. Also, she periodically would scrape “char” off of the outside (she cooked with wood, and later gas) as she said it would keep things from frying evenly. I still use her wonderful pots and pans, and love them as much as she seemed to. Also,- for vegetarians especially- if you put acid things (like tomatoes ) in them, you can get a super dose of much-needed iron! I cook all my tomato sauce in them, and afterwards just wipe with olive oil. This does not seem to interfere with the seasoning of old, and I can still cook pancakes in my pans without adding oil and they don’t stick! I’m glad to see cast iron making a comeback. The reason I got all of the cast iron handed down was that everyone else in my family headed for “modern” alternatives. I feel like the joke is on them!

  32. Cynthia Said,

    December 28, 2011 @ 7:03 pm

    Hi renae,
    I just found 3 cast iron skillets in my kitchen, 2 of them look normal, the other is as rusted as your martha stewart one (i belive it was used for the same purpose you use yours) it was still wet and had a rainbow/glossy layer on it..is that the “seasoning” coming off of it?

    anyway can you please tell me how to cleann this?? i tried scrubbing but all i get is black liquid pouring out of it and its freaking me out. as for the other two, im not sure how long they’ve been sitting so should i scrub them as i would any other pan and then go ahead and season?

    I have a billion questions on this subject so i would appreciate your help! Feel free to email me.

    thank you a million times in advance!!
    Cynthia

  33. ann marie Said,

    June 8, 2012 @ 8:16 pm

    Thank you for all the pics and details, I need to seasn clean and a neglected thrift store find also a new griddle. If you see this post and have any tips for the new one i would appreciate it! Thanks again for the post.

  34. renae Said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 8:41 pm

    Ann Marie, if you are looking for any new cast iron pieces, including a griddle, you can’t go wrong with Lodge. The have a great reputation. I have a few of their pre-seasoned pieces and they are high quality.

  35. angela Said,

    March 19, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

    my husband says he can not eat anything out of cast iron because of his liver, he is very detrimined that I do not use them. I don’t agree but his health and confidence is most important. What do you think? hep c and soroces (spelled wrong)of the liver is the reason he has concern with cast iron.

  36. Filip Said,

    May 19, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

    Hey Renae,

    thanks for the great tutorial! Would you mind if I translate some of your content and use a couple of pictures for a blog post? I couldn’t find your email address on your blog that’s why I asking here.

    Best regards,
    Filip

  37. renae Said,

    May 19, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

    Sure, Filip. Please just include a link back to my original post.

  38. marguerite cordice Said,

    August 5, 2013 @ 11:01 am

    My old cast iron grill pan gets so much gunk between the slots
    after grilling. Please help

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