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Old 08-06-2014, 05:47 PM   #1
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Seasoning a cast iron sauce pan

I own a Le Creuset cast iron sauce pan. Most of the pan is enameled, but the bottom exterior of the pan (the part that actually touches the heating element of the stove) is raw cast iron. The pan has a wooden handle that I can't remove. The bottom was originally seasoned, but over the years the seasoning wore off and the bottom now is rusted. I know how to scour off the rust and how to season cast iron (coat with oil, bake in oven), but the presence of the wooden handle makes baking seem like a bad idea.

How can I re-season the bottom of the pan? I posed this question to Le Creuset customer support. They offered to replace the pan (possibly for a fee), but offered no advice about re-seasoning the bottom. I prefer, if possible, simply to restore the pan to its original condition.

I searched the Internet for advice. I found one suggestion that was relevant to my situation: wrap the handle with a damp cloth, wrap that in foil, then oil the bottom and bake in oven. However, I don't have lots of confidence in that advice, since the person making the suggestion hadn't actually used that technique. Does it seem reasonable?

I had one idea: Wrap the wooden handle in foil and coat the bottom of the pan with oil. Place in an oven whose door is open, leave the handle sticking out of the oven with the bottom of the pan facing up and then turn on the broiler (it's electric). Might that work? Any other suggestions? Thanks in advance.

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Old 08-06-2014, 06:00 PM   #2
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Seasoning is usually done @ 350F. At that temperature, wood doesn't burn but may darken.

If you have a gas grill, you could leave the handle stiking out from under the lid and season the pan that way.
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Old 08-06-2014, 06:42 PM   #3
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Well I've never done this either but I think that original idea was pretty good if you use enough cloth to hold enough water that it won't dry out for a while and wrap it in foil to hold in most of the water. As long as the rag's wet the part of the handle touching the cloth can't get much above 212. The part that touches the cast iron though, will get hotter and it will get hotter even if the handle is sticking out the oven door because cast iron is such an excellent conductor. Is 350 hot enough to damage the wood and loosen the handle? I don't think so, but I'm not buying you a new pan if it does. You could probably hedge your bet a little by setting the thermostat a little lower than 350.

I use cast iron skillets on electric burners a lot and sometimes the seasoning gets burned off the bottom and it gets a little rusted. After washing I just rub grease or oil into the bottom as well as the top. It will smoke a little next time you use it to remind you not to burn it anymore.

The real reason for replying to your post wasn't to share my ignorance on the topic but to say I admire your restraint for not grabbing the new pan from Le Creuset. Any reason besides good breeding?
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Old 08-06-2014, 06:59 PM   #4
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The pan shouldn't rust if it's maintained properly. After cleaning our un-enameled cast-iron pans, we put them on a stove burner for a few minutes to evaporate the moisture on the bottom and sides. It won't rust without moisture.
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Old 08-06-2014, 07:10 PM   #5
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@skilletlicker - Le Creuset even offered to pay for all the shipping charges. I just figured it'd be less of a hassle to restore the pan myself (and I like working with cast iron).

@GotGarlic - Absolutely agree that the bottom shouldn't have rusted if properly cared for. But what's done is done, and the pan is 35 years old.
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Old 08-06-2014, 07:40 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Petek View Post
@skilletlicker - Le Creuset even offered to pay for all the shipping charges. I just figured it'd be less of a hassle to restore the pan myself (and I like working with cast iron).

@GotGarlic - Absolutely agree that the bottom shouldn't have rusted if properly cared for. But what's done is done, and the pan is 35 years old.
So have you tried evaporating the moisture off the pan after removing the rust?
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Old 08-06-2014, 07:59 PM   #7
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I would use GG's dry out the pan after removing the rust and Skilletlicker's oil the bottom and use it on the stove.

If Le Creuset is like Copco (Danish enamelled cast iron), then the wooden handle has a metal centre that the hook on the end is attached to. That would heat up as much as the cast iron and could burn the wooden handle from the inside. My Copco stuff survived a bad apartment fire, but the wooden handles were gone. That's how I know about the metal running through the middle of the handles.
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Old 08-06-2014, 08:25 PM   #8
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GotGarlic is spot on. When you wash the pan, dry it over heat, i.e. put it on a burner until it is dry. It will not rust if it is dry before you store it. Caveat: if you live where the humidity is high, you might need to apply a light (very light) coat of oil to the bottom. In any event, even if there is a little rust on the bottom, it will not hurt the pan or the food cooked in it
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Old 08-07-2014, 12:45 AM   #9
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Thanks all,

What I'm understanding is that it's not necessary to season the bottom of the pan, since it's not a cooking surface. Simply drying the bottom after washing should suffice, and it may not even be needed to remove the existing rust (though I think I'll do so).

@taxlady - Yes, the handle has an interior metal rod to which attaches the hook at the end, just as you said.

Thanks again.
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Old 08-07-2014, 09:47 AM   #10
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...@taxlady - Yes, the handle has an interior metal rod to which attaches the hook at the end, just as you said.

Thanks again.

I'd bet you can unscrew the metal rod that holds the handle on. Since the pot is 35 years old, it may not be easy. While you may not have to season the bottom, it might be smart to do so. Then you don't have to deal with it every time you cook.
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