Saturday, January 24, 2009

Easy Cast Iron Skillet Reconditioning



The "finished" skillet. Ready for use and continuous improvement.

The purpose of this post is to demonstrate how one can recondition a piece of cast iron cookware using items you probably have in your house or apartment. This process uses no specialized equipment (like an electrolysis tank) or large amounts of a nasty chemical (lye). It also does not require power tools or very much elbow grease.

You will need:
  • 1 can of aerosol oven cleaner
  • plastic bags
  • ordinary white vinegar
  • a scrub pad or #0000 steel wool
  • olive oil and/or Pam cooking spray
  • patience
The skillet we are dealing with is a Wagner Ware 1056 {1935 -1959} that is in neglected condition.

There is abundant surface rust and lots of crud and gunk (if I get too scientific with these terms let me know).

I paid 9 dollars for this skillet at an antique store. I'm sure you could buy one just like it for less. Even after spending the time and money required to restore this skillet I still think it was a bargain compared to some crude, "Made in China", abomination endorsed by a bonehead celebrity chef. {See here for exhibit A. & exhibit B.}

If you are lucky enough to inherit some cast iron this may be similar to what you receive. Thousands of similar pieces are probably sitting in basements, unused and unloved for decades. Hopefully this post will spur a few people to restore their heirlooms and give these fine old pans some more stovetime.

The first step in getting this Wagner #6 cleaned up is to remove the old ruined seasoning. To do this use a heavy plastic bag and the aerosol oven cleaner. Spray the skillet and coat heavily with the oven cleaner and then place the pan in the bag and wrap it up. I'm using a sandwich bag to keep the cleaner off of my hands as it can burn your skin.The bag will keep the oven cleaner from evaporating so it can work longer. I reapplied oven cleaner every 2 days and it took a week before the old seasoning washed completely away. This is where you need patience. Let the oven cleaner do the work, it will remove all the caked on seasoning and no damage will be done to the piece being cleaned.Once the old seasoning is removed you can wash the piece in hot water and lots of soap.

The next step is rust removal. I used vinegar and hot water to soften the rust. Some people like Coca-Cola for this task.I used a quart of generic white vinegar in 2 gallons of hot water. The skillet sat in this mix for 30 minutes after which I lightly scrubbed the entire piece with 0000 steel wool. Some collectors like the Chore-Boy brand of non-metallic scrubbing pad for this job.
Whether you use steel wool or a scrub pad the point is to merely remove the surface rust. You are not trying to buff or polish the skillet. After washing towel dry the skillet.

At this point the skillet was ready to be seasoned. If you live in a humid environment (I don't) you may need to begin the seasoning process as soon as you have removed the rust. Untreated cast iron begins to rust immediately in a damp climate.

For this skillet I used the same method I wrote about here . The skillet was placed in a 250 degree oven for 20 minutes to dry completely. After this I turned the oven up to 550 degrees and let the Wagner #6 heat up for 45 minutes. The blazing hot pan was removed from the oven and rubbed with a medium coating of olive oil. The hot cast iron absorbs the oil and a decent dark brown patina is visible on the iron in just a few minutes. Keep rubbing the oil into the metal until it begins to build up. At this point grab some new paper towels and rub the oil off the skillet until it just looks wet. Put the piece back into the oven but turn the oven off. If the cast iron has a rough finish you can leave it alone until it cools. If the piece has a smooth finish wipe it down every 5 minutes to prevent the oil from forming droplets on the surface. After 30 minutes prop the oven door partially open to cool. Keep wiping the cooking surface with the oiled paper towels.


I hope I don't need to mention that cast iron heated to 550 degrees is extremely hot to handle so don't burn yourself. I use my cooling rack so I don't need to hold the iron.

After this one seasoning the skillet is smooth, clean, rust free, and a nice dark brown that will become shiny & black with use. (see the picture at the top of the post)

For other seasoning methods I like see this post. LINK

To clean the iron after cooking I follow these steps. LINK

A New Zealand reader used this method to restore a skillet that was in horrible condition. Take a look at the process. LINK

Do you have some old cast iron you need to recondition?

Another easy iron stripping method that some use is to put the cast iron piece into a self-cleaning oven and run it through a cleaning cycle. I think this is a fine method provided you can replace the piece easily. In other words, if the cast iron is modern and you can easily buy another identical piece, use the oven. On old pieces from makers that are no longer around I won't use the oven as I know of several people who have cracked older pieces. (The old pieces tend to be thinner walled.) My own brother cracked a Victor #8 skillet with the oven method. I've been told the self cleaning cycle on electric ovens can go from 800 degrees F to over 1200 degrees F. 1200 degrees F doesn't hurt cast iron but going from 1200 to 70 degrees too quickly causes the thermal shock that does the damage.

127 comments:

Eliza28 said...

Your site is so helpful and love the photos, for those of us who are new to using cast iron they make directions easy to understand. Thanks :)

Robin said...

I love your blog!!! I just happened upon it and it's wonderful. I love the advice to taking care of your cast iron cookware. I decided over the past year that all these teflon coated skillets were pure evil and I was not going to use one ever again. I do my cooking in my cast iron skillet and dutch oven. I need to get another skillet. Now, I won't be afraid of getting an old, neglected one! Thanks alot and I'll be tuning in for more wisdom.

Chilebrown said...

Right On Brother! I just reconditioned my e-bay find. 10 dollars well spent. Thanks for the info. I am jazzed on my new 90 year old cast iron skillet.

Zank said...

Way to go Greg! This is a very detailed concise procedure that will really help a lot of people. Great photos of the procedure as well.

Zank

Greg said...

Eliza28 - Thanks, 100 years ago I think most people knew how to do this stuff and then we got modern and in many ways dumber.

Robin - See the links section of my blog for some Teflon related reading. (I've totally stopped using it myself) and thanks for the comments.

Chilebrown - You got a beauty of a skillet and it is in hog heaven under your care.

Zank - Thanks, I hope people will use the info and start digging their own cast iron.

~FYI~
Zank writes a great blog called "Zank's Iron Skillet" that is a must read for fans of cast iron cooking.

Chilebrown writes the stupendous "Mad Meat Genius" blog which is acclaimed by all (including Vegans).

Jnette said...

I love this! Thanks for taking the time to post details and pictures on how to take care of cast iron!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, this is really helpful. Do you know if worn down (probably from extended use/abuse) enameled cast iron can be seasoned or saved in some way? I bought an old enameled cast iron pot but the interior surface is very rough.

Greg said...

Jnette,
Thanks!

Anonymous,
Just keep using it and don't worry about it. If you wore off all the enamel you'd just have a cast iron dutch oven (on the inside). It wouldn't be as nonreactive as a piece with intact enamel so you would need to cook different things in it.

The first enameled piece I bought is a Cousances and I screwed it up learning how to use it but it still works fine. You can almost see through the enamel on the bottom but it still gets plenty of use.

Jason said...

Greg,

Will your cleaning technique work in cold weather? I just found a Griswold Tite Top No. 7 Dutch Oven in BAD shape... lots of rust and crud everywhere. The inside is almost solid rust. I want to use your technique, but need to leave it outside my apartment (and its winter right now!) What do you think? Is it safe to do so?

Greg said...

Jason,
It would probably work but not as well as room temp. or warmer. You'd probably need to reapply the oven cleaner daily to keep it going.

Love the Griswold #7 DO.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Greg.

I left a comment in your Wagner Ware area. I have the #3, #6, and #8 "-O-s." Question,... I've removed 75% of the decades of build-up. The bottoms are completely clean. Remaining, still, is residue approx. 1/16", or more, thick around the inside walls and the outter walls of the skillets. What are your thoughts on using a 2" (aka 50.8mm) Fine Crimped Wire Wheel, attached to a hand-drill, to remove the remaining carbon (burnt stuff)? Your reply will be awaited, and thanks in advance.

Greg said...

Anon,

I'm inclined to say keep using the oven cleaner and plastic bags. The active ingredient in canned oven cleaner is lye and eventually it will do the trick with no chance of marking the iron.

If you want something a lot faster and you have a battery charger see the articles on Electrolysis on this site.

Lastly, I don't use a wire wheel but some do. IF you go this route the choice seems to be a SOFT stainless steel wheel. Brass will turn your iron gold colored and you'll regret it. Just get the carbon off and do not polish the iron. Did I mention that the wheel needs to be SOFT?

Good luck and remember, nobody makes iron like the three pieces you have anymore. Take your time and do it right.

Anonymous said...

Good looking out, Greg.

I'll take your advice, and resume the oven-cleaner method. Like another poster, I too reside in an apartment. Needless to say, the fumes-factor can be a bit much. There are some skin irritations that I'm dealing with as well.

I had to chuckle, as I'm certain that you detected my anxiety in being "done with" this project.

A brief intermission is in order to acquire the proper tools, and the necessary patience, to "do it right." Again, many thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hello,
I just bought an old le creuset #27 skillet for a dollar at a church yard sale. It doesn't look like it's in bad shape but inside there is about a quarter sized area that looks "eaten" into. Saying that, I was concerned about non-stick coatings, etc. Before I begin your skillet seasoning method how would I know if the interior of this piece or of another, old cousances #24 skillet I just saw today would have any dangerous non-stick coating that, once scratched up, would be too dangerous to use? As you can see I'm completely new to cast iron.

Greg said...

Anon - I am no expert on Le Creuset.

I think many LC skillets have a dark grey or black enamel interior coating. Others do have Teflon or similar PFTE based coatings.

If either is "eaten away" I'd probably try removing the interior coating with a wire brush on an electric drill. Go slow and you should soon be down to the cast iron which can then be seasoned.

I would bet the enamel would be harder to remove than the relatively soft Teflon.

striper1 said...

Hi Greg,just used this method to bring a #8 skillet back to life that me and a buddy unearthed while clearing his land,this is the first time i did this so i thougth it turnd out pretty well,just a few pits left from the rust,but i guess that will be ok.it does not have a name on it just "8 SK MADE IN USA D" on the bottom with the breaks in the heat ring at 12,3,9,and the handle as 6 do you think it might be a lodge? great site keep up the good work.

Greg said...

stiper1 - That pan sure sounds like a Lodge.

If anyone else used the 8SK designation with breaks in the heat ring I have not heard of it.

Use it often and I bet it will become a favorite. It has a cool story behind it.

Recycling at it's finest.

striper1 said...

greg,any idea of the age of 8sk designation on my skillet? just curious if you might know.

Greg said...

striper1,

Lodge pieces are really hard to date as even Lodge never kept very good records.

The 8SK designation is still in use today.

Heat Ring = pre 1993

Are the pouring spouts larger than what you see on curent Lodge skillets? If yes I'd guess it was made before the 1960s.

If they are similar in size that would indicate to me 1960-1993.

I would contact Lodge and ask them.

Another Greg said...

Greg,
Nice site. Found the info very useful. Just used this method 2 nights ago to clean/reseason three Wagner Ware skillets. I had several new Lodge pcs. and was very surprised how smooth the old pcs came out to be. I had a couple comments and questions:
1.) To speed the cleaning, I wiped the disolved gunk off the pans with paper towels and applied fresh oven cleaner several times over a week. I felt this sped things along.
2.) I found I had to towel dry the skillets before putting them in the pre-heated oven to dry in order to prevent flash rust.
3.) I noticed that my two smaller skillets (put on the top rack in oven) came out very shiny and black, while the big one (on the lower rack) came out dark brown but not so shiny. So I guess heat makes a significant difference.

So now a question, I've noticed that the big skillet has a convex bottom. It sits OK on a electric ringed stove element, but I doubt it would sit nice on a smooth top stove. Is this common, or is this piece warped from my seasoning (temps could have gone 600°F+), or its previous life on a gas stove?

Thanks,
-Greg

Greg said...

Hey Greg - cool name!

You are right about the multiple applications of oven cleaner and probably correct about wiping off the gunk before reapplying. It only makes sense but eventually the lye will do the work if laziness kicks in.

If you are dealing with nice old smooth pieces the towel drying should help. I do this myself but I guess I left it out. On the more modern, rougher castings I bet a significant amount of moisture would stay in the iron's surface.

Iron cookware seasons at different rates. I've seasoned some that turned black and shiny in no time and others stay dark brown even after repeated high heat use (but they work just fine).

If you want shiny cast iron it is tough to beat Crisco. A lot of sellers insist on using it for the shine it helps impart.

Warped cast iron cookware comes from someone either heating it up too fast or forgetting about it and leaving it at high heat for a long time. I ruined a skillet this way myself.

If you have an infrared thermometer you'd be surprised how hot a skillet gets if you leave it empty on a burner for a while.

Your 600 degree oven did not do this.

Thanks for reading the blog!

Anonymous said...

I inherited my mother's large cast iron skillet. It was lidded, so it may be called a dutch oven. Either way, I had it sitting on my stove top for display and my step-daughter turned on the wrong electric burner and instead had my skillet sitting on the burner on high for at least 15 minutes. She set off the alarm and I realized what had happened. I immediately took it off the burner. The lid was on it and I let it set for a moment and then poured oil into it rubbing it on all sides. After it cooled I poured out the excess oil and wiped with a paper towel. I inspected it and noticed small pits in it and it looks like a crack was forming on the bottom. (Does that happen or would it just crack?) Of course there is a visible ring where there was direct contact with the burner. It is somewhat warped as well. My question is, is it safe to cook in? I am already heartbroken that this happened, but I wouldn't want to run the risk of it cracking. My mother just passed away last month and there was a lot of comfort food coooked in that skillet. Any information would be appreciated.
~RA

Greg said...

RA - Sorry to hear about your mom's passing and the warped skillet.

We all ruin a piece (or two) of iron cookware. It happens and it is how we learn to be careful.

I've not heard of pitting resulting from overheating.I suppose it is possible. I have seen CI pans with an almost wok like bottom after overheating. It would be tough to cook in one like that.

As far as wondering if it will crack nobody can answer that. I had a Wagner Ware square skillet crack for no good reason and I've seen other pans suffer real abuse and not crack at all.

If it isn't too warped and you have a gas stove you could probably keep using it. If you are worried it may just be better to put it on display somewhere.

Kissamew said...

I was actually looking for decorative black iron and found your pages. Thank you for the time it takes to make a site like this! I have my Mom's amd Grandmother's cast iron, as well as other pieces from people who couldn't or didn't want to be lifting their cast iron any more. Mine is used regularly and lovingly. My Mom told me when I was really young that every woman should have a large cast iron skillet, but her reason was probably a little darker than the skillet... At any rate, mine is smooth from decades of use by many and will get use from some of your recipes here! I have cleaned mine in a gas self-cleaning oven, and have apparently been lucky, but since I use cast iron for a majority of the time I have not had to repeat cleaning drastically in that way. I only cleaned what was unused and grossly set pieces, and put them back to good use! New cast iron looks strange to me, I don't have a need to buy new and probably wouldn't, but thank you for explaining new use too!

Chef Jeff said...

Greg,
I have a special situation. I have a 48" Star resturant grill that uses cast iron grill grates. We use the grill for tailgating and the grill sits in a enclosed trailer and is exposed to moisture all year. I have had the grill for over 5 years now and the grates are getting rusted. I was reading your article on reconditioning the skillet and thought I could use this same approach.
Do you believe this is the best solution for my problem?
Additionally what do believe is the best way to perserve the grill in the trailer all year long? Any advice would be great.

Greg said...

Kissamew - Thanks for reading and commenting!

Chef Jeff - My Weber gas grill sits outside all year (for over 6 years)and it has cast iron grates.
The Weber is my bad weather grill when it would be too much hassle to light charcoal.

I use a brush with stainless steel bristles and I brush the grates when they are good and hot before I cook. It removes the rust fast. Cooking and spraying Pam on the grates seems to provide enough seasoning to keep them in decent shape.

You probably don't use your grill very often?

I would get a good brush and try scraping the grates down and then wiping them down with a paper towel soaked in olive oil. Do this when the grill is good and hot both before and after you cook. Tongs help with the paper towels.

Treating the grates like a skillet would be a lot of work!

If the grates are rusting in storage see if you can find some big desiccant bags to absorb the moisture and keep them near the grates.

Hope this helps and thanks for reading.

Jean said...

What a helpful blog! I can't believe it's taken me this long to find it but now that I have, I'll be checking in regularly. Many many thanks for your detailed posts and pictures!

Greg said...

Jean - Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I had tried to restore an antique cast iron griddle I had bought last year that was really rusty and ended up getting almost all of it off but I had used some chemical thing that my dad told me to use to get it off, well I haven't touched it since then and now there is like some yellow crud on it and I'm not sure what it is. WIll your method take that off and will it be safe to use on an antique? Will I be able to cook on it after I use your method? Please help!!! Thanks Austin.

Greg said...

Anonymous - I don't know what you used so I can't guess on what the "yellow crud" is.

Spray-on oven cleaner uses lye for the active ingredient and it is considered a safe method for removing carbon, grease and the other stuff that one finds on cast iron.

You just need to get the griddle down to bare iron and then wash it really well to remove any residue from your cleaning.

Anonymous said...

Ok but do I have to throw it in the oven and do those steps too or just spray it and then wash it off? Also, if I use that lye on it, will it be safe to cook on?

Greg said...

Anon - Yes, you have to season the iron after cleaning it down to bare metal.

You will wash the lye off and then apply seasoning over the iron so it will be as safe as anything.

flaxsseed said...

I got what I think is a grill on e-bay. It is smooth cast iron and big enough to span two burners on the stove. It smelled of auto grease and I think was used in a garage for something. It is too big to fit into the oven except kitty corner and very hard to manipulate when it is in there and hot plus the grease runs off onto the bottom of the oven. Can it be seasoned on top of the stove. Does every bit of rust need to come off before it is seasoned?

Greg said...

flaxsseed, It sounds like you won a griddle. I sure like mine.

1) I would definitely remove all the rust. Some people try to season over it but that is a bad idea and will cause you grief down the road.

The stainless steel Chore Boy scrubbers or even Brillo Pads will do a good job on the rust. Don't forget Coke or Vinegar and Water to soften the rust.

2) Yes you can season it on top of the stove. It just won't be as even over the entire griddle but in time it won't matter.

Another option is using a barbecue grill to season it.

mary said...

Thanks for the great articles on re-conditioning and seasoning.

I have several pans soaking in oven cleaner as we speak. One of them is almost ready after 5 days of soaking. You are correct that patience is the key to success. The plastic bags really help too!

I also enjoy your articles on different iron makers. I am new to collecting and had never even heard of Piaqua Ware. After reading your article on Piaqua Ware Favorite 'smile logo' pans, I bought one on E-bay. What a beautiful pan..and it cooks so well. I am hooked on Piqua Ware now. I also like Wapaks too. Maybe I am weird but I like the Piqua Ware Favorites and Wapaks as much as the early Griswolds...maybe even slightly better. The casting seems more consistant and I love the thinner walls. Since I am new to American cast iron...be kind if my taste is way off base ;) Prior to this, I had only Cousances skillets (which are very nice too...just not as old).

I would love to see more articles on your favorite makers...or favorite specific items from different makers.

Thanks for a great site.

Greg said...

mary - Thanks for reading the blog.

You aren't crazy. 2 of the nicest skillets I own are Favorite Piqua Wares.

Don't tell anyone how nice they are or people will start collecting them and the prices will go up.

Russell said...

Great post. I've bookmarked this for when I pickup some "slick" cast iron from ebay vs the new rough stuff.

Two questions:
- Any specific brand or type of olive oil that you use? (Extra virgin might get pricey. :)
- Most people seem to use veg oil. Curious why you like olive oil better?

Greg said...

Russell - No particular brand. I've been buying Costco's Kirkland brand lately and it is good enough for me.

I only keep 2 kinds of oil in the house for the sake of simplicity. Peanut oil and ExVirg Olive oil. You don't use more than a few tablespoons to season a skillet so I don't worry about the price.

Another plus in olive oil's favor is the low burn point which I think may help contribute to the patina.

Others swear by Crisco or original Pam cooking spray.

Good luck!

Colin said...

Hi there! I stumbled across your page recently while looking for info on some cast iron I had lucked into. In the lobby of my apt bldg, someone abandoned 4 cast iron skillets, in atrocious condition. I almost didn't take them as I already had one. I ultimately did, figuring if I didn't want them, I knew enough foodies who I'd just give them away to. Anyway, I cleaned the first one, using oven cleaner, and I saw "Wagner Ware" and googled it, and here I am. Bottom line, I am now in possesion of 4 Wagner Ware skillets that resemble the one you demonstrated reconditioning on-a #3, #5, #6, and #8. I cleaned the #6, but I need a breather from the cleaning before I tackle the other 3.

Now, I have a question about the cast iron that I originally had in my posession. I was curious about its manufacturer. There's no makers mark anywhere. The only markings on the skillet are on the back. There's a "No. 7", and "10 1/8 IN" on the back, near the handle. Also, there's a heat ring on the bottom. Any ideas about who might have manufactured it? My grandmother gave it to me, but I think she had found it at a yardsale-I've had it since the early 90's.

Greg said...

Hi Colin - Your skillet sounds like a Birmingham Stove and Range (BS&R for short).

Good luck on the Wagner Wares. I know what you mean when you say you need a breather from the cleaning.

Sometimes I'm gung-ho to work on iron and other times (like now) I just don't feel like it.

Erin said...

This is the best site! I was wondering if you could use CLR or ammonia instead of the oven cleaner.

Thanks!

Erin said...

And another question, is this mainly for Wagner ware? I just got some today at a yard sale. The skillets don't say a brand on them - only a number. The dutch oven is Cabelas. Does it make a difference?

Greg said...

Hi Erin - I would not use either CLR or ammonia.

This method will work on any cast iron cookware.

Greg

Toni said...

Great blog!! I'm new to seriously using cast iron. I inherited a skillet with a bumpy black exterior coating and the coating has "disappeared" from the center bottom. Where the coating is gone, it is rusting and seems to be a hot spot when cooking. Is there anything I can do to fix this?

Sm1nts2escape said...

Well after years and years of use my 1058a skillet that I inherited from my mother when I moved out is finnaly getting cleaned using this method.Thanks alot for the info and the beautiful pictures.

Greg said...

Toni - I assume you mean the seasoning is gone from the center portion of the underside? (not the cooking surface)

This is easy to fix. You need to get rid of the rust (steel wool or a SS scrub pad) and then just pop the skillet in the oven upside down and let it get hot for 30 minutes and add the fat of your choice. After this first attempt the rust should stop and as the seasoning builds the hotspot should go away.

Plan doing this a few times.

Sm1nts2escape - That is what I like to hear! One of my goals with this blog is to get people to discover the kick-butt cast iron they may have sitting in their basement and start using them again.

Erin said...

I followed your directions, and my pans look great, except there are a few spots that look like maybe they didn't have as much oil on them, because they are lighter. It's kind of splotchy with lighter spots. Should I just heat up again and add more fat to those spots?

Greg said...

Erin - If the pans are free of rust and caked on gunk and you have a good seasoning base laid down I would just park them on the stove and use them for just about everything.

Using them often will get you where you want to be with these pans.

Cooking in them is more fun than seasoning in my book.

Erin said...

Sorry I'm asking so many questions, I also wanted to ask about some spots where it looks like I had too much oil. They're a little sticky. Should I also just use them, and it'll all even out after cooking?

thunderball100 said...

This is THE BEST advice I have found on restoring old cast iron skillets.

I have read some advice that says to turn the skillet upside down in the oven over some aluminum foil - I suppose that would keep the oil from pooling - wondered what you thought?

Greg said...

Turning them over is fine but you should not use enough oil/fat to pool up to begin with.

Very thin coats is what you want.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your blog! The photos and detailed explanations on cleaning are great and very helpful. It looks like you have a smooth/glass/ceramic topped stove. Do you use your cast iron on that surface? Any problems? The instructions for my stove (which looks exactly like yours in the photos with the pan on the cooling rack) say not to, but sometimes I just have to - it is the perfect pan. I do try not to slide it across the surface. So far I have been OK, but I do use my cast iron (thank you granny) much less now. Do you think I will hurt my pans or stove if I keep using the cast iron?

Greg said...

Anonymous - I've used cast iron on it daily for years and I slide pans around all the time.

That being said I'm replacing the stove with a gas cooktop as soon as I have more free time to do the install.

Beth said...

just a question...is it healthy to use the Easy-off? won't the chemicals get into your food then?

Greg said...

Erin - In time it evens out or you can redo them. It all depends on whether it'll bug you.

Hi Beth - After using the oven cleaner you wash it off with soap and water.

Feel free to go nuts with the soap and scrubbing because you haven't got any seasoning to worry about.

After this the pan goes in the oven and if any oven cleaner remained you'd smell it as the pan heats.

Another thing to think about is the seasoning would never take hold if any oven cleaner remained. The active ingredient in spray oven cleaner is Lye.

Christopher Friar said...

Hi Greg, thanks for the good info. I have an allegedly new cast iron dutch oven that I've been trying to season for longer than I care to admit. The utensil is only allegedly new because I bought it at a thrift store with no tags, stickers, etc, but it was not black or tan or used-looking at all except for a few minor imperfections here and there. Either way, everything I've read online told me to clean it first (even if new), dry it, then continue with the seasoning. My persistent obstacle comes with the drying.

I'm pretty sure there was no visible rust when I began, but now every time I clean the dutch oven (with warm water, soap, and fine steel wool) and place it briefly in the oven or on a burner to prevent rusting, it comes out with a fine layer of rust covering most of the pot. Again, there is no rust apparent after I clean it, but as soon as it dries, there it is again! Aaarrggghhh! This rust layer will come almost completely off with just a dry paper towel (and basically disappears with more washing, of course) but has reappeared after every attempt I've made to clean and dry the utensil. So my questions are: do I need to keep scrubbing with the steel wool (or upgrade to the orbital sander)? If I clean it with veggie oil, I'm sure it will no longer appear rusty, but will it be okay to proceed with the seasoning? Where is the rust coming from? Does it form instantly after active drying? I think it must be left over from the scrubbing, yes? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

luis said...

Hi Greg,

Love your blog! I get hungry every time I see one of your posts. Thanks!

I have a quick question about the "easy off" method of cleaning castiron.

I got a couple of pans off ebay and they were fairly well crudded up with god knows what. so I did your plastic bag cleaning trick and after a week, no dice. after two weeks nada, after a month, we were finally getting somewhere.

then, i got busy with another project and 3 months later, i pulled them out of their bags and they just needed a bit of scrubbing with a chore boy and now they're pretty as sin.

but here's my problem: i'm paranoid about chemicals having penetrated the iron, and leaching out into my food.

ever heard of that happening?

another question: one of these pans has a slight wobble, which is fine but it irks me b/c it was advertised as wobble-free. any way to work that out with a hammer or something.

thanks!

lg

Greg said...

Erin - If the little bumps and dots bother you you can redo everything. In time they'll blend in.

LG - Lye is the chemical and it is a salt so washing it away with soap and water is easy.

Another way to look at it is this: If any lye remained the seasoning would never begin to build up. If the pan is developing a nice seasoning the lye is gone.

Greg said...

Christopher Friar - Sorry for not answering before.

I'll guess that you live in a humid area?

Try rinsing with cold water instead of hot. Someone else told me this helped them.

What you are seeing is flash rusting and it is easy to remove and you could proceed. Bare iron will rust in a humid environment in a nanosecond so there is nothing wrong with your piece.

me_as_a_project said...

greg thanks for the answer! that makes perfect sense to me. all the best. lg

msg in a bottle said...

I stumbled upon your blog in my search for how to clean/care for my cast iron solid element cooktop. I learned so much as it is only a year old and was rusting! I live on an island so the humidity factor goes without saying. I used some of your info, but if you get a chance I'd love some extended advice for my cooktop. (I would have read the care/instructions for my stove had they not been in Greek) Thanks! You're a very entertaining writer!

Greg said...

msg in a bottle - I hope someone else can chime in who has a similar stove in a humid/salt air environment.

Rust just isn't an issue where I live.

When I was a kid we had a wood stove with a cast iron cooktop. The rest of the stove got painted with wood stove paint but the cooktop was treated like any other cast iron cookware.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Greg. I actually live in the Alaskan interior, which supposedly is one of the driest places in North America in winter. I'll try the cold water.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your blog. I have been using it for the last few months in my attempt to get rid of all of my aluminum pans and switching over to cast iron. I have a question I hope you can help me with. I have a #9 Griswold skillet, 11 1/2", that I got off of Ebay. It looked great online, but when I got it, it had a gray, porous surface. I have tried to season it using your methods, but it wont get that nice amber patina. And it also seems to stick more than my other pans..... is there any help for this pan?

Anonymous said...

This blog is an incredible source of information. It gave me the courage to tackle some dirty cast iron. Worked on some old Wagner 6 skillet and a Griswold 8 skillet that I grabbed from a cool dude off of craigslist that scours estate sales.

Easy Off + bag method to get grimy stuff off. Worked great. Messed up seasoning on first run. Didn't babysit the iron and droplets formed. Battling rust in a damp NW climate, I was running into the insta-rust problem w/ hot water. I used cold water to close the pores of the iron as much as possible, and it resisted rust much better after wiping w/ paper towel and drying in oven for 20 mins @ 250f.

Another method I used to remove the rust when I ran out of vinegar was: Barely heating up the pan (opening up the pores I think in terms of), dump some table salt onto the pan, pour some cooking oil on the pile of salt, and scrubbed the pan down w/ a paper towel.

Thanks for all the time and effort put into this site!!
--Kevin

Lady M said...

I have tried your method twice now, exactly to the letter and both times the oil leaves droplets no matter how long they were in there or how hard I rub. Help?

Greg said...

Kevin - Glad to hear you got those old skillets working again!

Lady M - If the high temp method does not work for you then try 250 degrees.

What oil/fat are you using? What is the piece you are seasoning?

Droplets form when too much oil sits for too long at high temps. You want the piece to look barely wet.

If you want to try the high temp method again try dropping the heat to 450.

Anonymous said...

Have been working on an iron skillet for over a week. Using oven cleaner and the plastic bag. It's coming along great. Tonight I soak it for 40 minutes in white vinegar and water. Used 0000 steel wool to get it really clean. I noticed when wiping with paper towels I get a dark gray residue on the towels that tells me it's still dirty. Should I worry about the residue? Is this normal? I was ready to season it tonight but ?

Greg said...

Anon - It is probably just oxidation so I would proceed with the seasoning.

Tedi said...

Amazing blog! Thanks to the info on boiling a really skanky skillet full of hot water & vinegar, I rescued two 60+ yr old skillets of my mom's. I use mine almost daily & had quite a specimen of burned flour from browning beef. Viola, they're both beautiful! Hopefully my mom will keep her's out of the dishpan. Thanks-great info!

Mark said...

Greg,

First thanks for all the information. I am in the process of trying to get rid of all my crappy warped Teflon coated pans. I am new to cast Iron. My wife's family has cooked on it all her life. I found some pieces through a want at on craigs list. Lodge dutch oven, 10 1/2 inch skillet made in Taiwan, 2 Wagner skillets (6 1/2 K and 10 1/2 E) skillets that look to be newer?, One that appears to be Wagner (I can only make out the WARE on the underside but that is about it)that seems to be older, and then there are two I cannot find any markings on. The cooking surface is baby smooth and seems to be conditioned well. The undersides are covered in crap (one of those technical terms..). They have what appears to be a decorative dimpling along the outside sides. I have started the easy off/trash bag cleaning on the older Wagner but am wondering if there is a way just to do the undersides on the two really smooth ones without messing up the cooking surface? Or do I just be extra careful on the reconditioning and go for it?? Thanks for all the info.

~Mark

Laura said...

Greg, I noticed from the pictures of your reconditioning blog that you have the very same glass cook top that I do. Is there any way to "test" an old griswold pan before buying it to be sure it will sit flat on the glass top? I purchased one from Ebay and the discription said it sat flat but it spins on my stove and it has hot spots. It definately does NOT heat evenly

Greg said...

Tedi - Thanks and I'll keep my fingers crossed for your mom's skillet.

Mark - Lay the "crap" encrusted skillets on some newspaper with their undersides facing up. You should then be able to spray them with oven cleaner and not mess up the interior of the pans.

That dimpling is called a "hammered" finish.

Laura - If the seller described the skillet as sitting flat and it does not that sounds like grounds to return it for a refund.

If the seller is a butthead contact eBay and get them involved.

Mark said...

Greg,

Well, I tend to be a little on the impatient side. I started reading more on the electrolysis method. So I went out and picked up a few things and got it set up. So far I cleaned two skillets using the self cleaning oven setting. It worked well and if the pieces got hurt it would not have hurt my feelings. I have also cleaned two with the electrolysis tank (so much better that oven cleaner!!!) I found out one is a Wagner Ware 10 1/2 Chicken fryer and have one of the hammered pieced in the tank now. It has no identifying markings on it. Is that normal for these pieces? Thanks for the help on the ID of the hammered skillets. I was just hoping to find some way to identify and figure out how old they are. But either way they are great pans!! Now it is just getting them all time on the stove. :)

Mark

Jason said...

Greg,

I rescued a Griswold #9 11 1/4" skillet and stripped it down using a self-cleaning oven, steel wool, and some elbow grease. The unseasoned skillet is now glass smooth on the interior; however, it is so perfect I am almost afraid to start seasoning it! I have followed your seasoning method in the past with good success. Am I just being silly here? Should I just go season the skillet?

Greg said...

Mark - I agree about electrolysis being the best way.

My intention with this article was to get people to rescue some old cast iron and giving them directions using what they have laying around the house seems like the best way to make it happen.

I have almost 70 pieces of cast iron so I know how tough it can be to give them all stove time. But try we must!

Jason - You should send that skillet to me so you won't be tempted to mess it up.

If you fail to see the wisdom of this offer then you'd better season it and use it! Take care of it, nobody will ever make one that nice again....

sarabanjo said...

Greg, I've been looking through your blog for the last month and finally took the plunge and bought some old cast iron pieces that desperately need reconditioning. I have a question about using the oven cleaner. When you say to reapply it every two days, am I supposed to wash the old stuff off in between applications, or am I just basically spraying the pieces every two days for a week? Does the seasoning wash away by itself? (I've never used an oven cleaner, so I am pretty ignorant about all this!) Thanks!

Josh Meisels said...

Hi Greg, I want to add my thanks with everyone else's, and ask a question.

I recently purchased my first 2 pieces of cast iron at an antique store. They are both Griswold #6 skillets, one is 70+ years old and the other is 53+ years old according to some logo stuff I found online. I'm not sure what to do with them to get started.

I seasoned each by rubbing with oil and putting in the oven at 250 degrees as one of your pages suggests. They are black, and the bottoms are a little shiny, but having used each one once (mostly to make eggs) stuff definitely sticks. I am considering repeating the seasoning process a few more times, but I'm also tempted to re-condition them.

Besides still sticking to food they both are very rough on the inside sides (seems like you can chip off pieces of black stuff, which I assume is not metal). And the outsides are very rough, with the Griswold logos almost completely invisible because they seem to be filled with hard black gunk. They seem to sit fine on my electric stove and I am hesitant to re-condition such old pieces that must have so much built-up seasoning from decades of use.

Let me know what you think I should do about the sticking, rough sides, and gunk outside. And thank you again for all the amazing info!

Greg said...

sarabanjo - You can just respray over the existing layer of oven cleaner.

If you are curious about how the piece is progressing you can wash it.

Josh - Clean that crap off.

If you take care of the pieces they will be performing again in just a couple months. Leaving built up crud on them to preserve some seasoning isn't necessary.

Anonymous said...

Hey Blackirondude, love the blog! I can't wait to try your Apple Cider-Brined Grilled Rosemary Chicken recipe but first need assistance in reconditioning my Lodge 12" which I purchased almost a year ago. It had not been used much and I think I left too much oil on it, so there were sticky spots and streaks. I decided to use your oven cleaner method, sprayed it once, put it in the bag and took it out several days later. The pan was brown, I'm not sure if it was rust or what. Anyway, I soaked it in hot water w/vinegar and scrubbed it but I don't think I got all of the old seasoning off. I attempted to re-season it but every time I wiped it down with a paper towel, the towel turned black. I filled a plastic storage container with water, added 1lb of lye crystals, and put the pan in. This was about 3 days ago. Now instead of the water turning dark, there seems to be brown surrounding the pan which I assume is rust. Sorry for the lengthy post but if you could tell me what I did wrong and what to do now I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I took the pan out of the lye bath. Some rust was present, primarily on the bottom. I soaked the pan in hot water and vinegar for roughly 30 minutes then rubbed it with 0000 steel wool and a chore boy copper scrub pad. The wool and my hands turned black but the reasoning and some rust seems to still be stuck to it. I will now follow your instructions for electrolysis.

Carry said...

I just started to de-season my 12" Lodge using the Easy Off oven cleaner method. Purchased 0000 steel wool in preparation for getting it nice and pretty, but the last poster's messages are making me worried :(. I'm off to a camping trip next weekend, and I'm hoping to bring this and help get it seasoned up quite a bit. Figured I would wait until Saturday and then see how the pan is doing.

*Already plotting and planning for a Griswold collection, but want to screw up with a Lodge first*

Greg said...

Anonymous - I make that chicken quite often now.

The lye will get rid of the old seasoning but won't do much with the rust. Vinegar is effective against rust.

Electrolysis cleans the iron right down to bare cast iron.

Carry - I've bought used pieces where some chowderhead seasoned over rust. You need to get rid of it so don't worry about what you'll find.

Who knows, you may not find any rust in which case you'll have only half the work to do.

Thanks to all who read the blog and comment.

Carry said...

Just so I make sure I am not being an idiot - the oven cleaner will remove the manufacturer's "pre-seasoning" correct? It was so rough when I got it, I wanted to try and get it nice and smooth from the start. Is 2 days in a plastic bag a good time or should I expect many more days and more applications of oven cleaner before it budges?

Carry said...

Hey, my boyfriend returned from home with his grandmother's cornbread skillet after seeing how thrilled I was with the other skillet I was re-seasoning.

I am at a loss though. The skillet is sectioned to look like a pizza with 8 slices. It was totally encrusted and in desperate need of being stripped down and re-seasoned. It took 3 applications of oven cleaner and I finally got off the gunk, but in rinsing the oven cleaner off the rust immediately began to build up. It's so incredibly humid here in the northeast there was nothing I could do to stop it.

I tried a vinegar/water bath, which helped, but again in taking it out and towel drying it, the rust was there and a mess. I ended up letting it dry and going at it with 0000 steel wool - went through THREE pads because of all the nooks and crannies. Finally got it to what I THINK was ok to start seasoning, but I fear the corners may have still had some rust I just couldn't get at. By the time we got the last slice scrubbed out, the first few were already re-rusting.

I have it on the first "bake" right now. Should I have done something else to try and stop the rust? Should I have just sucked it up and scrubbed and scrubbed or is it usable even if the tiny corners may still have something underneath?

Greg said...

Carry - I don't know how long it will take to get rid of the factory pre-seasoning. I've never tried to remove it but it shouldn't be more than a few days.

In really humid places it seems like you need a light coat of oil before putting it into the oven. You can also use a mix of Kosher salt and oil to scrub out the rust.

GailOh! said...

Google finally let me register so I cold post a request- yipee-do-da! I rescued an dutch oven last week, and it is totally covered in rust. It is a large one with a still great fitting lid that has a big lip to hold the coals on it. I still think I can restore it with work and patience. I have cooked with cast iron my whole life and have brought several pieces back (like the one you demonstrate on your blog site). However, this baby is the worst I have ever seen - really covered in rust, so my question is: Should I skip the oven cleaner soaks and go straight to the vinegar bath first? I'm gonna take pics to document my progress.

joey reyes said...

hi. i'm from the philippines and i am so glad i came across your blog. i got my first cast iron from a thrift shop here in manila only three weeks ago. it was after i saw some lodge cast iron for the first time in one of our bigger malls here. from there, i did some research and here i am now, a happy owner of seven cast iron skillets, ALL rescued from our local thrift stores. among them are a wagnerware #6, a griswold #8 (erie pa 704G markings), and what looks like a lodge #8 skillet - there are breaks at 9, 12, and 3 o'clock locations. i still haven't cleaned out the gunk though, but i am pretty much excited as what other markings i can uncover later.

i have learned how to clean and season them from your blog and we have been using some of them already. i am totally replacing all my other cookware junk and going totally heavy metal.

i hope to try your recipes too and am looking forward to learning more of cast iron from you. thanks very much!!!

joey

Greg said...

GailOh! - I think I answered your question via email. Am I correct?

Seasoned cast iron shouldn't rust so your rusty piece probably doesn't have much old seasoning and crud to remove. I would proceed to rust removal as that sounds like the biggest issue with your Dutch Oven.

Joey Reyes - Thanks! Glad to hear you are saving these old pieces.

joey reyes said...

hi greg. i saw an enamel-coated cast iron skillet with the coating damaged so as to show some of the metal underneath. if possible, how can i totally remove the enamel coating so i can save the bare metal? will the oven cleaner trick work? thanks!

Colin said...

It's possible, but it's extremely difficult. You'll need diamond abrasive, and you'll need to do it underwater (or at LEAST wear a mask-powdered glass is very bad-can lead to sillicosis)

Colin said...

To further clarify, oven cleaner will not strip enamel off of cast iron-remember, the inside of an oven is enamel, so oven cleaner isn't designed to eat away at an enamel finish. The worst that it can do to enamel is etch it (maybe.)

I have worked with enamels on copper and silver, and so I know how frustrating it is to strip it away if I make a mistake *lol* Basically, I have to take a diamond burr and a dremel tool and just abrade it off.

There are acid solutions that can eat the enamel off of metal(like hydrofluoric acid, or a solution like "Dip and Etch"), but sadly, those are extremely toxic and would be soaked into the porous metal, rendering the cookware poisonous.

joey reyes said...

thanks, colin. i'd like to avoid the toxic part. i guess i'll just have to pass on the item and keep on hunting for the next one.

Kelley J. P. Lindberg said...

Thank you for this info! I have 3 pieces I'm about to get started reconditioning. But one of the skillets has a wooden handle. No identifying markings on it, but I'd guess it's several decades old. Can it go into the oven at 550degrees, or will the wood burn? And will the oven cleaner eat the wood? I'm thinking I need a different method for this baby.

FRETX said...

I just found a Wagner Ware 1056 skillet in the basement of my aunt's house. After I washed it I discovered that there are some cracks in the bottom, visible both on the inside and the outside. Do cracks make it unusable?

Greg said...

Kelly - The wood will at least char at 550 degrees and I doubt it would do well with oven cleaner.

Maybe you could mask the wood for the cleaning and then season the skillet like you do with a wok?

FRETX - Cracks usually make a piece unusable. If they are up near the rim you might get away with it but down lower near the heat will be trouble.

courseyrn said...

Hi Greg, Love the site, you are a wealth of info. I just acquired a Wagner waffle iron, stamped Wager, Sidney O, 9, 1910. It's in great shape with no visible rust, except on the saddle that sits over the burner. My question is that it has wooden handles. How should I go about re-seasoning this with those handles? Thanks for all you do.

Greg said...

courseyrn - I don't have any experience with skillets or waffle irons with wooden handles but my preference would be to remove the handles and then season.

If this isn't possible do what you can to protect them.

I'd head over to the Wagner and Griswold Society forum and ask this question. Somebody there has surely cleaned a similar piece.

PS - Waffle Irons are a lot of work.

Kitchen equipment said...

Thanks for this. I hear that antique iron cookware was made to a much higher standard so I'll be sure to lookout for some older, more neglected pieces and reinvigorate them with your method.

Thanks again for sharing,
John.

thenymph said...

Hi Greg, just found your blog by accident, so I'm very happy. I've been offered a 2nd-hand frying pan. What looks like the black coating is gone, leaving bare metal (apart from about 3cm around the top which still has the black coating).There are a few brown stains inside which I assume are rust and the base is cruddy and caked on. I'm happy just to start using it after first removing the rust and cleaning the base up. Do I need to do anything else ? Is it safe to use ? It is only for my use so I don't mind how it looks !
Thanks !

Julia said...

eg, I found your blog quite by accident, and I'm very glad I did. I recently picked up a Griswold, a Wagner, and an unknown skillet at a local flea mall for less than $25 total. I noticed you replied to a comment about a possible Birmingham Stove & Range skillet. The "unknown" skillet I bought has a heat ring; at the "top" (opposite the handle) says MADE IN USA. Just above the handle, it is marked NO 5, and 8 1/8 IN. I wonder if this could be a BS&R skillet because this was actually purchased here in Birmingham, AL where I live. Any thoughts??

Renee said...

I can't wait to try this! I've been trying forever to reseason my iron skillets. Can you give me some tips on how to keep a good finish on them and keep them from rusting? Thanks!

Greg said...

Kitchen equipment - Prior to 1960 cast iron was made without casting machines.

The really sweet stuff was made prior to WW2 from the "bog iron" found near the Great Lakes.


thenymph - It is safe to use bare cast iron but unless you fry everything your food will stick.

Seasoned cast iron is very nonstick without all issues with PFTE (teflon).


Julia - That certainly sounds like a BS&R to me. Good luck with it!


Renee - The trick to enjoying your cast iron is to follow what I call "The Trinity" 1) Season it 2) Use it a lot (it gets better with use) and 3) Wash it properly.

There are posts on this blog covering all 3. Have fun!

Julia said...

Thanks, Greg!! I ended up re-doing the BS&R one, along with a pre-1993 Lodge, a Griswold w/ large cross, and a Wagner Ware. All turned out beautifully, and your seasoning method worked like a charm.

I just purchased a NEW Lodge 5qt chicken fryer that comes pre-seasoned. Should I remove the pre-seasoning with your method and then season my way, or will a good scrubbing with hot water be sufficient before seasoning.

Greg said...

Hi Julia - Glad the techniques worked for you.

I would not remove the seasoning on the new Lodge. Give it some use and see how it performs.

Some of the Lodge preseasoned iron can have seasoning flake off but I've been impressed with Lodge's preseasoned iron for the most part.

It gives you a nice head start.

Julia said...

Thanks again, Greg. I will just give it a good hot water washing, dry it, and fry something in it later. The seasoning looks good on it, so I won't mess with it!

Thanks again for all your insight - love the blog!

Ed said...

This is great!

I'm the owner of a new Le Creuset skillet and the first week I didn't really season the pan correctly. This led to a build-up of brown spots, which I was told was normal, although looks a lot like rust! Can rust build-up this quick? Anyway, I coated it with olive oil and put it in the oven a few times and it's so much better now, food doesn't stick as much, but the brown spots are still visible. Any ideas?

Greg said...

ED - I haven't looked at an LC skillet in years. I thought they only came with either a Teflon or Enameled cooking surface.

Neither of those should rust.

Maybe someone reading this will know the answer.

Ed said...

Hi Greg - You're correct, the interior of the LC skillet is a satin black enamel.

From the LC website, "...whist in use it produces its own surface "patina". This patina takes the form of a brownish black "film" over the cooking surface. Eventualy the patina will cover the whole cooking surface.."

So it seems that this is normal. I've really enjoyed this pan and after the oven seasoning it seems to have improved. The tip on another post to use the pan as a roasting tray is a great idea! I'll report back :)

Michele said...

Thanks a million! Loved reading all the comments/questions on your site. I rec'd a couple of skillets SEVERAL years ago and, after a failed attempt at seasoning them, I put em away & forgot about them. Luckily, there was only some oil build-up on them - so I only had to let them sit for a few hours in the bag with the oven cleaner. They cleaned up beautifully and I just finished up with the seasoning. Gotta say, they look (almost) just like the ones my mom's been cooking with for decades!

BTW-didn't see any mention of the skillets I've got. They're Wagner 1891 Originals (My brother loves to cook & usually buys good quality stuff) I think I got them around 1991 (told you it's been several years!) They're just as smooth as they can be. Any comments?

Thanks again.

Dianne said...

Will your reconditiong method work on a Wagner Ware Sidney Round Roaster with the lid that has been spray painted black?

Anonymous said...

After lending my skillet out and getting it back as a scrubbed out mess, I tried your method using Easy Off. It looks fantastic and took minimal elbow grease. Thanks for posting this. This is what the internet is for!

thecat3786 said...

Hello Greg,

I tried your technique and what I found is that spotting developed on the cooking surface of the pan. It kind of looked like a spider web of blacker dots compared to everything else that was a deep grey---versus unbroken blackness that is pictured on your beautiful skillets.

What did I do wrong? I applied vegetable shortening and followed your instructions closely. Do you have any tips for making it have the uniform, shiny blackness as is pictured in your post?

I can send you a photo so you can see what it looks like? Is this normal? Will eventually the spotting become absorbed as the skillet is used and develops a uniform patina of the same consistent color?

Thanks for your advice and expertise!

Ecaterina

Greg said...

Ed - Sounds good!

Michelle - 1891s were some of the last items produced by Wagner Ware in the US. Some people really like their's but I don't have any.

Dianne - I don't think oven cleaner will remove paint but I may be wrong.

Anon - Glad to hear it.

thecat3786 - Just use the pan a lot. In time it will look uniform and ink black.

Dayspring Hardwood & Moulding/Ryan Smith said...

Help! I have a Grey & Dudley 1941 Large 21x32 Cast iron Skillet that I would dearly like to refinish. Problem. My oven is not even close to big enough. This was given to me by my Grandparents whoe are collectors and it means alot to me. To be able to use this wonderful piece again would be fantastic. I do have a large fire pit in my back yard that this piece will actually fit on top of perfectly but i doubt I can get the temp up to 500. Do you have any ideas?

Greg said...

Use a gas or charcoal grill with a thermometer.

I've done some camp dutch ovens in my Weber kettle.

Chris Miller said...

Greg -- this process worked great. I just reconditioned an on old Griswold and an old Wagner. Both were cruded up terribly, especially the Wagner. Took more time and EZ Off applications than I expected (3 weeks/10 applications) but I think that's because of the awful condition of the skillets. But I don't want to go through this again, so I'm off to build an electrolysis tank. Thanks for all the help!

Chris.

Anonymous said...

Hey Greg, My house has recently burnt to the ground and not much was saved. But I managed to save a dutch oven old wagner and will use this method on it, now my question is,I have a coated cast iron w/lid and it is all scorched. I've let it soak for days in hot soapy water, its not working...any ideas?

FYSavant said...

So glad you reopened your blog! Anyway, thanks for the tips in this article, I'm going through all of my inherited cast iron, from a 4" kleinen, to several old copco non-enameled pots (pics here: http://www.molfer.com/stuff/castiron/), to my 12" lodge skillet. Granted, it takes longer because my wife is super sensitive to smells, and I have to use a low-fume easy-off, and I live in a city apartment, but its getting there! Thanks again for all your info!

FYSavant said...

Update post-seasoning:

I recently used this method to strip and re-season my Loge 12" skillet, which had improperly cleaned cooking remains baked into the patina over time and under several layers. Took about a week, and re-seasoned the pan. WIthin 2-3 coats of oil and baking per this page's instructions, I let it alone for a day and decided to try to fry an egg in it.

I am pleased to say that without the addition of any additional oils, the egg separated from the pan cleanly once the albumen was solid, flipped like a champ, and cooked nice and evenly on the other side, with a nice over-easy soft yolk in the center. No stick, wiped down with a paper towel and then again with one lightly dipped in olive oil, then wiped clean and let cool on burner on low.

The surface is like mildly coarse (due to the rough finish of lodge cookware) glass, slicker than snot on a doorknob and a nice dark brown, on its way to black.

Thanks Greg! I was able to rescue this pan and now its going to be a focal point of my cooking again!

Marty said...

Wow, I am so thrilled to find this blog! I saved a disgusting #8 deep Wagner Ware skillet from my mother's Goodwill pile (probably picked up at a garage sale and never used). After several weeks of oven cleaner/garbage bags it looked new. Did a couple of my WagnerWare skillets at the same time - use them sometimes but had never really cleaned them and wasn't sure of the brand because the bottom was so caked. Shame I didn't take before pics.

Biggest kitchen change though - a Staub crepe pan my mom gave me about 10 years ago. I could never get it to work well so always used the non-stick variety. Finally got sick of the non-stick coatings peeling and unhappy with the health issues so gave up on crepes. Your blog inspired me to pull it out, clean it up, re-season it (wood handle meant I had to do on cooktop) and try again. Beautifully seasoned, preheating the pan before adding anything, it works WONDERFULLY. Amazon has a similar pan available so I wrote a review and referenced this great blog as the way to get it right. Thanks so much and keep cooking and blogging.

Le Creuset said...

This article was just the thing I needed to help me revive some old pots I found in my grandad's shed!

They're looking much better now and I cooked up a wonderful batch of pancakes this morning for breakfast.

Thanks for taking the time to explain everything.

Molly.Clark said...

Hi Greg, thanks for your blog. I truly appreciate the time you spend sharing your knowledge and passion for cast iron with the rest of us.

I'd like your opinion as to whether I should/need to use the oven cleaner method on my 10-yr-old Lodge 12" skillet.

I haven't used it in 3 years. After our remodel, I noticed it had rust on it. It was in the outline of a spoon.

I think I removed the rust with a mixture if oil, salt and baking soda. The pan now has uneven coloring and much of the old seasoning remains on the bottom, sides and everywhere else.

If I use the oven spray method, how do I know all of the seasoning has been removed?

Should I leave it alone and just give it a new layer of seasoning,

I'm willing to put in the work. I miss my skillet and plan to introduce it back into my kitchen! I use stainless steel for most of my cooking, but have been lazy and relying on a Caphlon non-stick when I should be using my skillet!

Greg said...

Hi Molly,

If the seasoning has been removed you will be looking at a bare grey cast iron surface.

In your case I doubt it is necessary.

I'd start using the skillet again and I bet you'll see it improve in no time.

See my post on cleaning (washing) cast iron. When you are trying to establish/recover seasoning you have to be careful about cleaning it.

Good luck and thanks for reading the blog!

Molly.Clark said...

Thanks so much, Greg!!

Your insight helps tremendously. I definitely scrubbed down to the grey cast iron on a few spots.

I'll follow your instructions to reestablish the seasoning on those spots.

After reading your blog, I want to look to getting a few finds at local second hand stores. I'm now inspired to do individual-sized corn bread in those smaller pans, etc.

Thank you & take care! I'm sending a link to your blog to my friends.
Molly

Kayla said...

I bought a skillet at a yard sale last week, googled to figure out how to clean it up, and ended up here! Thanks so much for all of this information!

Now I have a question! My skillet is the same as you have here...Wagner Ware 1056. I started the oven cleaner method Saturday, so I've sprayed it 3 times so far. Before I sprayed it today, I washed it off so I could see how it was doing, and it looks to me like the handle and the outside of the skillet is painted. There's still gunk on it, so I reapplied the oven cleaner and wrapped it back up...but should I do anything about the painted part? I don't like it (it's silvery) but I guess it won't hurt anything to leave it. I'm just guessing it's paint because it's chipped a little on the tip of the handle and I can see the cast iron gray under the paint.

The before picture is here: http://crazykcreates.blogspot.com/2011/10/yard-saling.html I don't know how much you can tell from those pictures though!

Thanks!

The Cast Iron Castaway said...

Love the blog! I just got a Wagner 1892 waffle iron. Did you ever get any insights on removing the handles? They are the only thing preventing me from doing some stripping and seasoning. Thanks so much for doing this blog.