This is how it looks now, pretty amazing, isn’t it...
Yours truly, who abhored the thought of using cast iron for years, has rediscovered it again. I blame it all on my mother, I think I got caught up in asserting my independence at an early age doing all things different than she did, when often she really did know best, and I carried it to the extreme for most of my adult life. Not only did I shun cast iron, I also vetoed using Ball jars, but in the last five years, I’ve come to love, love love using Ball jars. In fact, I just bought more green ones yesterday. Green is best ever color for Ball jars, and it’s part of their Heritage Collection, it’s a limited supply, so if you’re a fan as well, scoop them up while you can still buy them to avoid paying major bucks later.
But back to the cast iron and my reluctance to use it. I had issues with everything sticking with cast iron and I just gave up. No matter what I would cook, it would stick. My sons, who are both great cooks and huge fans of cast iron (probably because of their grandmother’s influence) kept telling me, “Mom, never use dishwashing detergent on your skillets” but I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. But finally the light dawned, and apparently my guys also know best, because since I quit using detergent, my now much used iron skillets are smooth as a baby’s bottom, and nothing sticks, not even eggs when I fry them.
But it was Ryan who gave me my ah-ha moment. You have to preheat before you add anything, that’s the secret, if you get those skillets hot, and you’ve seasoned them, food just doesn’t stick. I just pop them into the sink after I use them, fill with a bit of warm water, soak for just a couple of minutes, then scour with my nifty Lodge Scrub Brush, a must have if you use cast iron, and dry with a paper towel. Yes, I know you want the link to the brush, too - here it is...
And now for the reconditioning. The first step is to take nasty, greasy, rusty skillets and put them in your oven, upside down, on the cleaning cycle. This can be a bit tricky if you don’t have an extra oven rack, because I’ve had bad luck in the past leaving racks in the oven, they warp and turn dull. But I do have an extra rack that I use when I clean skillets in the oven, where it came from I have no idea, but I’m glad I have it. After these skillets go through the cleaning cycle, everything is burnt off and you’re left with dry, rusty residue.
The next step is to clean the rust off with fine steel wool and/or fine sandpaperr, then rinse and submerge in a solution of half vinegar, half water. We bought disposable large foil roasting pans for this. Soak for four hours, no longer, as you don’t want the acid to eat into the iron, then rinse with water, let dry, rust will appear again, sand with sandpaper lightly, oil the skillets, inside and out with vegetable oil, and put in a preheated 350-400 degree oven, upside down on your middle oven rack, for 45 minutes. Put a large cookie sheet on the bottom rack to catch oil drips. The next day repeat this oil/oven step.
Okay, you’ve read this and you’re thinking, that’s a lot of work. It’s not that hard, well not for me it wasn’t, LC is the one who did it, I just took the pictures ;o) It’s just a little labor intensive, but so worth it because you’re left with better than new skillets and if you heat your food before you cook it, and just soak briefly in water before you scrub them, they will just continue to get more seasoned.
My skillets are Lodge, the best ones are Griswalds, pre 1950. You can still find them, usually in horrible condition, but that’s okay, the price may be right and you know the secret now to total restoration.