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Old 10-01-2010, 02:08 AM   #1
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How to revive an old cast iron pan

Hi

I have a great cast iron pan with a lid that I haven't used in 20 years. It has a bit of rust on it. A few years ago I tried to bring it back to life by putting oil on it and putting it in a very hot oven but I'm not sure if that was the right thing to do. The oil became sticky as I remember. I'd like to start using it again but I'm not sure how to treat it.

Sorry this question is so vague. I just have a sense that it's not usable right now because the oil on it is rancid and old. Any thoughts greatly appreciated.

cheers,
David

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Old 10-01-2010, 04:32 AM   #2
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I would give it a good washing with a mild soap and hot water. Dry it well. Then wipe it all over with some oil. (The lid as well) Then put into a 350 degree (or so) oven for about 45 min. Turn the oven off and let everything cool down slowly. Take the pan out of the oven and wipe the outside good. The first few times you use it I would cook bacon or fry fish, etc. in it. I have used this method of a piece of CI cookware that I found at the bottom of a wood pile. Lord only knows why it was there or for how long. I use this pan at least three times a week. Good Luck!!
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Old 10-01-2010, 06:00 AM   #3
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You can't hurt Cast Iron
I have gotten many pieces from garage sales for pennies and Let me tell you some we disgusting and no one would want them, but a wire brush on a drill and some time they cleaned up like new. Good hot soapy water and ready to go

I do the same put in oven heat up and wipe down with oil or On some of the worse pcs I picked up I do outside on my gas grill so not to stink up the house.
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Old 10-01-2010, 08:19 AM   #4
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Your question was not vague at all. This is actually a somewhat common problem. the stickiness was probably because you used too much oil. the good thing, like letscook says, is that you can't hurt cast iron.

What I would do is start from scratch. That means you will want to wash the pan in hot soapy water and get all the sticky oil and anything else off. After that you want to get rid of the rust. Do this by sanding it down to bare metal. once you are down to bare metal then you are ready to season again.

the best way I have found to season is to turn your oven on to about 350-400. Get your pan nice and warmed up. Take a paper towel and wipe every surface, inside and out, with Crisco. You want to use just enough to coat with a thin film. Any more than that and you will get gloppy sticky spots. That is not the end of the world if it happens, but it is easy to avoid if you don't use too much fat. Once you have the fat covering every surface you can put the pan in the oven upside down with something under to catch anything that drips off. Let it cook for about an hour then turn the heat off and leave the pan in the oven overnight to cool. You pan is now ready to be used. Seasoning builds up over time though so it will get better and better the more you use the pan. For the first few uses cook things with a high fat content. That will help. Cooking up a few batches of bacon is a favorite method of many people.
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Old 10-01-2010, 08:28 AM   #5
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I have found the easiest way to clean a pan so you can start over is to put it into your gas grill and turn it on full blast. Anything that isn't cast iron burns off and you can create a new surface as GB described.

You could also use the self-cleaning cycle in your oven but be prepared for some smoke.
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Old 10-01-2010, 10:16 AM   #6
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I've done the self clean cycle on my oven for old CI pans with great results. After the cycle is over, I wash the pan in some warm plain water to rinse off the ashes that form. Then put it in a 400 degree oven to dry a bit then I put oil on a paper towel and rub it all over the pan. This helps to keep the oil from being applied to heavily. Back into the oven for about an hour then turn off the oven. Works wonders every time. Last time I did my cast aluminum pot too and it came out just as lovely.
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Old 10-01-2010, 10:19 AM   #7
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You never ever wash as cast iron pan with soap. Never. That's what dries it out. And you also never season it with any kind of veg/olive oil. It has to be seasoned with an animal fat, duck fat is best so buy a duck breast, score the skin with a knife and render out the fat. Coat the pan with tue fat and put it in a 300 degree oven for 15 minutes. Pour out excess fat then put it back in the oven for 2 hours.
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Old 10-01-2010, 10:22 AM   #8
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I respectfully disagree chefmagnum. Soap has its place with cast iron. Before seasoning for the first time soap should be used. And once a good seasoning is established a little bit of soap wont hurt anything.

Animal fat goes rancid quickly. I think veg fat is better for the initial seasoning.
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Old 10-01-2010, 10:35 AM   #9
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I use soap on m CI skillet from time to time with no ill effects. I know some who put a CI skillet in the dishwasher with no damage done. A quality seasoning protects the CI.

The Lodge Manufacturing website recommends seasoning with vegetable shortening. That's what I used and have enjoyed great performance.
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Old 10-02-2010, 07:40 AM   #10
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I use soap on mine many times, after washing it, i put it on the stove with heat to throughly dry it and when dry and warm I take a paper towel with Canola oil or even vegetable oil and wipe it - I never have a problem with my cast iron. I especially use hot soapy water after cooking fish.
Like I said I use a wire brush on the end of a drill or your can use steel wool, even on a brand new piece before seasoning it. it get any roughness off. Wash it and then season it. all my CI pans have a very smooth finish to them and nothing has ever stuck to them. Love them better then any non stick set I have owned.
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Old 10-02-2010, 08:21 AM   #11
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I like the grill idea. I love CI and have smoked/stunk up my house many times! I've also heard that you can put it in a bonfire and pull it out the next day, when cooled and clean the build up crud off with a wire brush. That just seems so cruel! I also use crisco, it makes the surface nice and ssmooth with a beautiful shine. I love my CI and want to be burried with all of it!
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Old 10-02-2010, 10:08 AM   #12
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Modern dish washing soaps (Dawn, Joy, etc,) are very mild, and mostly rinsing agents..Used sensibly they will not harm the surface of a well seasoned CI pan.

IMO the Myth is a hold over from days gone by when Great-Grandma used Lye soap...Lye soap is/was very caustic and would degrade the surface....

To the OP...If your pan is very bad, (rust, and heavy build up of "crud" on the exterior etc) Lye can be your friend...Go to the hardware store and buy a box of Household Lye...Fill a 5 gallon bucket with water..add the contents of the box of lye to the water. Repeat...Add Lye to the water...Not water to the Lye. Fill the bucket with water first.. Lye is very caustic and will burn your skin. Protect your skin and eyes....Attach a sturdy piece of string to the pan and lower it into the lye solution...Depending on the build up of crud, outside temperature etc. it can take from 3-4 days to 2 weeks..This process will totally, 100%, completely strip the pan from all carbon build up (seasoning).. the metal will be a dull gray....it's original color and is now ready for seasoning...I just finished two 10 in. skillets using this method, and they are well on their way to being beautiful well seasoned pans...

Most any type of oil will work to season with....A Sticky/tacky surface is caused by not completely turning/burning the fat into a carbon...Too low of a temperature, or not enough time exposed to the temperature,(or both) causes this condition...Not the type of oil...A very thin coat of oil/Crisco is best. Create layers of carbon by repeating the seasoning process two, three, or more times....HTH

Enjoy!
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Old 10-02-2010, 11:28 AM   #13
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I remove the old seasoning on newly purchased CI since I have no idea what it was used for last or whether the seasoning is rancid or not. I use heat, the BBQ or a torch, and burn off the old residue. A wire wheel will then remove the residue. I season like most, a light coating of oil in an oven.
Secondly, I've don't buy into the carbon build up theory. Carbon is oxidized material, and is not at all tasty Also, 350% will not oxidize oil, and if it did, that sticky residue would be black.
Surfaces become non stick by becoming slick. Teflon has little porosity, and therefore little sticking. CI, on the other hand, is very porous. What I think happens with seasoning is that as heat is applied, the pores close, and when cooling, oil is drawn into the metal, filling the pores. If the metal will not absorb all the oil, you get the sticky mess. Well seasoned CI can be scraped without damaging the surface, my preferred method of removing built up food residue, or carbon build up. I use an old broken off spatula blade, and a little water for lubricant.
This is also why I am not a fan of new CI. You cannot get a smooth surface with all those dimples.
All above my opinion.
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Old 10-04-2010, 01:09 AM   #14
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Hey thanks for all the replies. Very interesting. Seems there's hope for my pan yet.
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Old 10-04-2010, 07:56 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Bigjim68 View Post
...
This is also why I am not a fan of new CI. You cannot get a smooth surface with all those dimples.
...
You can, it just takes power tools and a certain amount of elbow grease.
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Old 10-04-2010, 08:18 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dpwell View Post
Hey thanks for all the replies. Very interesting. Seems there's hope for my pan yet.
There is always hope for cast iron. There is almost nothing that you can do to it that you can not come back from.
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Old 10-04-2010, 06:26 PM   #17
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I've used coarse salt, a halved lemon and elbow grease to get the crud out then rinse it well, dry it in a hot oven, spread crisco over it and "bake" for 30 or so minutes then wipe it out and let it cool on the stove. I've heard the "No soap" rule too so did this instead. It's nice to know Dawn would be fine!
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Old 10-04-2010, 06:39 PM   #18
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I agree wholeheartedly with JMEDIGER ,not sure of the lemon thoough.,in fact americas test kitchen did the same thing,or very near to it. check them out for the TNT way.
I would tend towards boiling water in it /lid on til clean and then reseason it ,just the easy way around.
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Old 12-25-2010, 08:36 PM   #19
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Hey there, not sure if you were able to figure it out, but below is a great site, I have used this method and it worked great.

How to Remove Rust From Cast Iron | eHow.com
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Old 01-01-2011, 03:09 PM   #20
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Hey there, not sure if you were able to figure it out, but below is a great site, I have used this method and it worked great.

How to Remove Rust From Cast Iron | eHow.com
Thanks!
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