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Cast Iron: Scrapped and Rescued

February 14, 2010

Metal is a wonderful material.  Not only does it bring in our living, but it is versatile.  You can melt it and make new things, it can be hammered or welded into new items and if an item is made out of metal it is frequently repairable.  This is the case with cast iron cookware.  There’s a metal scrap yard that my husband regularly visits to source materials and he’s taken a few friends there.  I hear wonderful things about this place and yet in all the years he’s been going there, I’ve never been along for the ride.  Until yesterday.  We went on a pre-Valentine’s day outing, just the two of us.  I saw all kinds of wonderful things:  a vintage Schwinn bicycle, stainless steel milking containers, street signs, heavy-duty stainless steel kitchen racks, gates, fencing and toward the end of our visit, I cam across a stock tank with rusty coils and underneath were cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens.  I finally settled on the Dutch oven I would take home with me.

She appeared to be in bad shape.  Filled with water and solidly orange.  But I felt that she could be salvaged with some elbow grease and determination.  I couldn’t find a matching lid, but figured my husband could make something for me.

Rusty cast iron Dutch oven

The same evening he came home with a completely different-looking pot.  The rust was gone.  I could even read the brand on the bottom (Lodge, by the way).  He even made a wonderful lid, much better than I had imagined it would be, complete with a sweet message welded into the top.  It was seriously one of the best Valentine’s Day gifts EVER.

Un-rusty and unseasoned cast iron Dutch oven

To get from the rusty pot to this, took a lot of elbow grease and a grinder fitted with a wire brush.  Steel wool would have been effective on a less rusty pot.  I washed this pot and my new lid with steel wool and hot soapy water to remove the fine metal particles that were removed during grinding and then I dried them in a 300°F oven for 10 or 15 minutes until they were completely dry and hot.

Dry, hot cast iron ready to be seasoned

I rubbed lard into the hot pot and lid with a piece of cotton cloth, making sure to get into all the nooks and crannies, including the bottom and handles.  Other fats would work well, like peanut oil, coconut oil, or beef tallow. Don’t skimp, the metal is going to absorb some of the oil.

Cast iron, greased up and ready to go into the oven to season

When I got the entire pot and lid greased, I put them back into the 300°F oven for one hour.  After that hour, I turned the heat off and let them cool completely, then reheated the oven to 300°F and let them season for another hour.

Seasoned cast iron Dutch oven

The seasoning process creates a layer of carbonized fat.  Regular use is what will truly season a pan; I would even go so far as to say that this process is pre-seasoning the cast iron.  With regular use and proper care, it will develop a non-stick black surface.  Proper care includes wiping out after use and sparingly using water to wash it (when absolutely necessary, wiping will take care of most issues) and only using soap in extreme situations, because after you use soap you will have to re-season the cast iron.

With proper care and regular use, cast iron can last your entire lifetime and be passed on to the next generation.  I love my cast iron cookware.  I  use my two round griddles, one skillet and one large rectangular griddle all time, usually I use one piece at least once per day,and I look forward to using my new Dutch oven just as often*.  For an investment of $6-7 dollars for the pot, scrap metal from our shop and some elbow grease I now have a practical and long-lasting piece of new-to-me cookware.

*I don’t typically cook high acid foods in my regular cast iron, I do that in my enameled cast iron Dutch oven.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2010 7:36 am

    I love my cast iron pans. I have four of them. This year for Christmas I’m gonna ask for a dutch oven.

  2. Mom permalink
    February 15, 2010 7:08 pm

    Talk about a labor of love. That was wonderful for Lawrence to clean it up for you and it is beautiful after you pre-seasoning it.

  3. Jana permalink
    February 15, 2010 11:22 pm

    Beautimous.

  4. February 16, 2010 8:09 am

    Amazing! Thanks for sharing how you cleaned it up. I’m really impressed.

  5. February 17, 2010 5:41 pm

    Thanks! I cooked in it for the first time last night and it worked like a charm. No knead bread to be baked in it tonight!

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