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Restoring Rusty Old Cast Iron Pots & Pans With Fire & Vegetable Oil

Prior to the 1960s, cast iron vessels were an especially favored form of cooking. Most every household had at least one cast iron pot or skillet in an always-seasoned form ready for that next great meal. These days, non-stick coated cookware has taken over, but it proves to be more costly, less flavorful and, of course, prone to surface scratching which negates the non-stick aspect and puts potentially dangerous toxins in your food and body. One of the best aspects of cast iron is the ability to move it straight from the stove top to the oven, saving you from the mess of multiple pans and baking dishes. Plus, there's nothing like a cast iron piece for cooking over an open flame.


Rusty old cast iron frying pan to be restoreed


Fire is also good for reconditioning cast iron. There are other methods, such as cooking with vinegar, using a lot of elbow grease and a good scrubbie, or going over it well with a wire brush. This article concentrates on using fire because I had recently acquired an old, quite rusted pot that had spent years in a basement (which I will be dedicating to soap making), and I also have another salvaged skillet and a wok that had been invaded by rodents and left outside during part of the winter months.


When using this method, be sure to have a rake on hand to safely hook onto and rotate the cookware. It's best to build up a fire and let it burn down to coals. If in a hurry, actual flames can be used, but the slower method cuts down on soot and smoke and makes it easier to see the progress. As the pieces are shuffled and pressed down, the coals do their work, the rust will convert to ash, soot will burn off, and the clean metal will begin to shine through. Varying degrees of rust will, of course, take more or less time, but when you feel the high heat has done its job of separating the dirt and rust from the metal, it's time to let them cool, wipe them down and season them.


Rubbing restored cast iron frying pan with oil


Removing the residue from the iron can be done initially by blowing off with an air compressor, brushing lightly with a wire brush, or you can skip to the final step of wiping down with a paper towel and your choice of cooking oil. It may take some patience and several paper towels to get it complete, but the results will be immediately noticeable. When finished, the last thing to do is routine cleaning and seasoning. Coat the interior with oil and place over a wood stove or in a 300 degree oven for about an hour. The piece should come out looking like it was just brought home from the store, and it will be just waiting to be put to use.


Cast iron frying pan fully restored and seasoned


See the full video here: YouTube Video


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Troy Reid


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