Monday, November 17, 2014

Cast Iron Skillet Restoration

Skillets being made at Lodge's foundry in South Pittsburg, TN
It’s during the holidays that many cast iron skillets take their rightful place on the stove and in the oven. With heirloom recipes on menus for special occasions all over the country, it’s imperative to keep your skillet in pristine condition for the most joyous time of year.
I own more skillets than I can lift in 10 minutes and use them as much as I do my stainless pots and pans. Each time I teach cooking classes, I get at least one question about caring for cast iron. It can be confusing. I recently received the following email from Susie Pease, a friend that’s attended several cooking classes of mine and has a nice collection of my books on her shelf. With her permission, I’m sharing it below.

Hi Rebecca,
I have a question I am hoping you can help me with. This will make you cringe. I put my cast iron skillet through the dishwasher. I know I am supposed to just clean with water and salt and then season with oil, but I last used it to fry chicken and the pan set out dirty for several hours and I felt like it was covered with bacteria and needed sanitized. I brought the pan out of the dishwasher this morning and not only does the finish look washed off, even flaking off in places, but it is rusty too. Did I ruin it? Is it salvageable, and if so, what do I do?


I called my good friend Mark Kelly at Lodge Cast Iron to make sure I was offering Susie the most accurate advice. I haven’t seen a skillet personally that’s been through the dishwasher, but have heard stories of the horror all that hot water and soap can create.
Mark assured both of us that cast iron will live forever, even after “the unpardonable sin of putting the cookware in the dishwasher.”
Lodge has a video that helps bring back life to any skillet that’s seen better days, even at its owner’s hands. It’s really true – it does last forever. Your skillet will most likely outlast you.


Some of my favorite facts about cast iron are below.

1. Cast iron holds heat incredibly well.
2. Seasoning the pan means that the pores of the iron have absorbed oil.
3. Well-seasoned pans have a non-stick surface.
4. Cast iron is one of very few kinds cookware that will outlive you. They are commonly passed down from generation to generation.
5. Never, ever wash cast iron in the dishwasher.
6. If the pan feels sticky to the touch, the seasoning oil has gone rancid. Use soap-free steel wool to remove the sticky film. Then reseason the pan.
7. Season a pan by rubbing with vegetable oil and “cooking” the pan for 1 hour at 350˚ to 400˚.
8. If food is stuck on the pan, clean with a little water and a stiff brush. Heat the cleaned pan on top of the stove to thoroughly dry all the water and use a kitchen towel to rub on a light coating of oil.
9. For light cleaning, rub the pan with kosher salt and wipe clean with a towel.
10. If you’re stacking cast iron skillets, place a paper plate in between each one.

Video used with permission by Lodge Manufacturing Company. 
Text Copyright 2014 by Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC.