Cleaning & Seasoning Cast Iron Cookware

Cleaning & Seasoning Cast Iron Cookware
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Cleaning Cast Iron CookwareBy David G. Smith

CAUTION: Wear rubber gloves and eye protection while doing this!!

Begin by spraying the pan with oven cleaner and putting it in a plastic bag for a couple of days. The bag keeps the oven cleaner from drying out so it will continue to work. After a couple of days, remove it from the bag and scrub it off. I use a brass brush purchased at a super market, or my favorite, a brass brush I purchased at Rite Aid Pharmacy in their automotive counter.

This brush is marketed for cleaning white wall tires. It is just the right size for doing pans. If all the burned on grease doesn't come off, repeat the process, concentrating the cleaner to the areas not cleaned.

For bulk cleaning, you can prepare a soak of one and a half gallons of water to 1 can of lye in a plastic container. Lye like oven cleaner is very caustic and will burn you.

Always wear rubber gloves. Mix enough in the plastic container to cover the items to be cleaned. Leave the pieces in the soak for about five days. Then scrub the piece. You can use the lye mixture several times. Do not use oven cleaner or lye on aluminum! It will eat the aluminum! Lye and oven cleaner will also eat the finish off wood handles and japanned pieces, and will dull porcelain finishes.

To remove rust, buff the pan with a fine wire wheel in an electric drill. Crusted rust can be dissolved by soaking the piece in a 50% solution of white vinegar and water for a few hours. Don't leave it more than overnight without checking it. This solution will eventually eat the iron!

After removing the burned on grease and rust, you are ready to season the piece. Put the pan in the oven to warm it. Remove it and apply shortening. I prefer solid Crisco. Pam spray also will work. Some people prefer lard or bacon fat. Put it in the oven at 225 degrees for half an hour.

Remove it and wipe it almost dry. You don't want any pooling of the shortening. Place it back in the oven for another half hour. The initial seasoning should be accomplished at this point. However, typical of cast iron cookware, the more you use it (and don't abuse), the better it will be. It is generally recommended that you cook fatty foods in the pan the first few times you use it, as this adds to the seasoning process.

After cooking in the pan, DO NOT use a detergent to clean it. That will destroy the seasoning. Put hot water in the pan and bring it to a boil. CAUTION: Do not put cold water in a hot pan! Let the pan soak for several minutes, then wipe it out with a paper towel. If something sticks, scrape it with a spoon to dislodge it. Do not use a brillo pad to scour it! An abrasive pad cuts into the seasoned surface. Then, reheat the pan and apply a fine coating of shorting, oil, or Pam. Do not apply enough to run. Just enough to wet the surface with a fine layer.

About the author

David G Smith, well known as the "Pan Man", who resides in the western region of New York State, is both a collector and dealer of Cast Iron Cookware. He has been collecting for over twenty years during which time he has assembled one of the finest collections of Iron Muffin Pans in the nation. Not content with only collecting early cookware, David Smith became keenly interested in the history of cast iron cookware and its manufacturers. He spent hundreds of hours researching both. In addition to collecting, he has been actively buying and selling iron cookware for over a decade. Visit David at his website for quality castiron cookwear, plus information on his newsletter, Kettles'n Cookware. You can also email David at if you have any questions.


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About The Author

Amanda Formaro is the crafty, entrepreneurial mother of four children. She loves to bake, cook and make crafts. She is the craft expert for and You can see her crafty creations on Crafts by Amanda and her delicious recipes on Amanda's Cookin'

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