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Nov 17, 2012 04:39 PM

Used Cast Iron

I've scoured the other threads on the topic of seasoning cast iron but can quite find the answer to my problem. I discovered a used cast iron skillet in my grandmother's unused for 20 years kitchen. The seasoning was very warped, uneven, and flaking off in several places. So after an online search I decided to strip it and start over. (I'm foolish for not first turning to chowhound). I rested the skillet on a couple of bricks in my oven and set my oven to go through the self cleaning process. The result is what looks like a rusted skillet. At least its pinkish on the base and around the sides that true tell tale orangish sparkly rust appearance. Did I just ruin the skillet? Or are there some steps I can take to fix this?

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  1. If you scrub off the rust, what do you have? Did the old crusted gunk come completely off? If so, you can begin seasoning the skillet. If the gunk didn't come off completely, you will want to scour it off. I've never done stripped an iron skillet in a self cleaning oven, so I don't know what the outcome should be, but I understood the process would remove everything leaving a clean piece of iron.

    I strip my iron in the dishwasher, which does leave a little rusty residue, if memory serves. The seasoning you want to add will make the cooking surface smooth and also protect the iron from further rust.

    3 Replies
    1. re: sueatmo

      Thanks! I just grabbed some steal wool and started to scrub the skillet. Its definitely removing the rusty parts and seems to be changing the pinkish smooth base into a more iron color as would be expected. I don't have time to work on it anymore tonight but with thoroughly scrub it tomorrow. Perhaps the self cleaning oven trick would have left it completely clean if there wasn't years and years of uneven seasoning to contend with.

      1. re: khat mange

        All CI pans begin rusting the instant you get the seasoning layers off. They need to be greased/oiled immediately after the scrubbing.

        1. re: dixiegal

          Thanks, dixiegal! I did not know that. After finals I'll have more time to properly care for the skillet. Scrub the rust off and then season immediately.

    2. I'd scrub it with some steel wool and then season it. I don't use the self cleaning oven method either. I just crank up the grill with a good fire and then put the pan on the grate upside down with a thin layer of lard all over. You can just put it on bare to burn off stuff too, but in your case I'd use steel wool to get the rust off.

      1 Reply
      1. re: rasputina

        Thanks for the steal wool suggestion. I just started using it some and it seems to be helping. I'll give it a good thorough scour tomorrow.

      2. <I've scoured the other threads on the topic of seasoning cast iron but can quite find the answer to my problem.>

        There are many threads on this. In fact, a very recent one asking pretty much the same question. I will provide the link below.

        <The result is what looks like a rusted skillet.>

        Yes, it is, but it is normal. Nothing to worry.

        <Did I just ruin the skillet?>

        No, you did not.

        <Or are there some steps I can take to fix this?>

        Proceed to remove the rust and then season it. If you encounter any problem, then read this and see if it help:

        4 Replies
        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Thank you SO MUCH!! I spent three days reading the cast iron threads on this site to no avail (they all seemed to focus on seasoning newly purchased cast iron, even when I clearly stated "used"). I guess I have to get better at my search methods. That thread is fantastic! I feel quite confident I can proceed successfully now.

          1. re: khat mange

            I might also suggest finding someone with a big green egg. Oil the pan and have them put in it at the highest heat they can arrange. This does a great job of seasoning at a temp higher than you can reach in your oven.

            1. re: exvaxman

              I just went through the process with my.dutch oven. I first used steel wool and Comet to remove the old gunk. I then put a light coat of bacon grease on entire piece, including the lid. I placed it in the oven at 400, and let it cook for about an hour. I then let the pan come down in temperature in the oven as it's temp comes down. I let it sit for half day or more, then repeat the process. The Dutch oven is back to new. I use it for my no-knead bread, and nothing sticks.

        2. Thanks. I couldn't get the reply to Cam14 to work, so went the only route that would work. Just as a bit of a follow-up, if you plan to use your Cast Iron for soups, stews, etc., please be sure you properly dry it after washing. You should place on the stove on medium heat for about 5 minutes, or place in the oven at 350 for about 5 minutes. This will completely dry out the pores and prevent rust if you don't use it for a while. If you use these items for these purposes, you may also have to re-season a little more often. I only use mine for baking, so don't have that problem.

          4 Replies
          1. re: ClassicChef

            Wow! That dutch oven looks amazing! I will definitely follow your advice. I don't intend on using my skillet for soups and stews, more for frying and searing. Thanks, for the tip though.

            1. re: khat mange

              If anyone would care to try some of the "easiest, best tasting" bread of all time (thanks to our cast iron products), I would be happy to provide the link. The taste, texture, and lightness are incredible!!! I can't take credit, but I can say that after journeying through many renditions of the "best" recipes anywhere, this one is the best!!!

              1. re: ClassicChef

                I'd love the recipe! I haven't attempted bread yet since I don't have a stand mixer.

                1. re: khat mange

                  Here is the recipe. I hope it is to someone's interest. I find it to be the easiest, best, bread I have ever made. Enjoy.
                  No-Knead Bread

                  Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
                  Time: About 1½ hours (includes prep and baking time) plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising
                  3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
                  ¼ teaspoon instant yeast (heaping)
                  2 teaspoons kosher salt
                  1 ½ cups water (110 degrees)

                  1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 1/2 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18 to 24, at warm room temperature, about 68 to 70 degrees.
                  2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
                  3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
                  4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats (with lid). When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 10 to 15 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
                  If using a pan with removable plastic handle, be sure to remove the handle and place tin-foil in the hole before putting in the oven. Plastic typically cannot handle the 450 degree heat.
                  Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.