Yesterday I shared the first steps of restoring your cast iron the way the old timer's used to do it (click on the link to read more). Today, we finish the process.
Here are the 3 pieces I put in the fire yesterday to burn all the ugliness from them. After letting them cool completely...
...clean with a steel wool or copper cleaning pad and warm water, scrub the charred pan(s) inside and out (this will be the last time your cast iron will see water except for extreme circumstances).
Now it is time for seasoning. If you discover that your cast iron does not have a smooth surface, you may want to repeat the cleansing by fire step. I considered putting them into the fire once more, but when I felt the surfaces, they were all bare cast iron with no remnants of crud. So I decided to move on to the seasoning phase, though there is nothing to say if I am not happy with the end results, that I can't go back to the fire pit and start all over again.
After all the pans are dry, put a little oil into the pan (I use olive oil, even though it has a low smoking point, I prefer the smell and the effect on the cast iron and I use a low temp/long baking approach so there is not enough heat to smoke the oil), though I've heard tell using a thin layer of cooking fat (like Crisco) is preferred by some. Spread the oil with a paper towel, inside and out. Put the pan(s) into the oven at 200 degrees for two hours. Don't open the door to peek in, even if you are sorely tempted to do it!
This is what I started with, before the fire pit cleansing...
...and this is where I am after 2 rounds of seasoning. I may do one more seasoning round tomorrow, but I'll wait and see how everything looks and feels. What you want is a smooth cooking surface with a nice glaze of baked on oil, no stickiness (if sticky, wipe that off with a paper towel and season again). Cast iron will continue to season with every use (it gets better and better!).
Now once you have your cast iron seasoned, how do you keep it that way? After each use, clean it with a paper towel (never use soap and water only if absolutely necessary), preferably while it is still warm. I sometimes use salt to help get up bits that are stuck to the pan; just put a little in the pan and scrub with your paper towel. After you have cleaned it, rub cooking oil into the pan while it is still warm, wiping up any excess (if it's already cool, rub on the oil and either put it in a low oven or on the stove top on low for a little while, just enough to "melt" the oil into the pan). Wipe out any excess oil and let it cool and then store. Do not stack your cast iron, if you must, put a paper towel between them to avoid moisture build up. Moisture is the enemy of cast iron! I hang my pans on the wall above my wood burning stove; this helps to keep the moisture away from them.
One other pointer for cast iron...seems contradictory, but the best way to ensure your cast iron continues to season properly is to use metal utensils when cooking. I used to think I should use anything but metal, but have since learned that it helps in making sure the bottom stays smooth.
There is nothing better than a perfectly seasoned cast iron pan. It is true, it takes a lot of effort and patience to get it to that point, but once there, cooking in cast iron is, well, perfection! One of my favorite recipes is good old fashioned buttermilk corn bread! Crispy on the outside, silky on the inside...deliciousness!
Do you use cast iron? Do you have favorite recipes you'd like to share? Please do, I'd love to hear them!
Thanks for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,