Restoring Cast Iron Cookware (1 of 3)

Look after them and they will provide a lifetime of use, improving with every meal you serve from them, neglect them though and they soon deteriorate into a rusty mess. All is not lost though as cast iron cookware is a hardy product and even the most neglected of rusty cookware can be revitalised and given a new lease of life. In a series of three blogs we will look at bringing back to life rusty ironware, seasoning it and finally maintaining it. In this blog we will look at what it takes to bring back a poorly maintained cast iron paella pan back to life.

IMG_9747Much needed TLC required

Cast iron cook ware has been with us for centuries now, from as far back as 1100AD. It has become a firm favourite for those that enjoy cooking in the big outdoors, from pans, Dutch ovens, skillets, camp ovens or poijkie pots to name a few. They all have their fans, all being robust, versatile, easily maintained with the added benefit enhancing the flavour of anything you desire to cook in it.

Rust or Iron Oxide is different to the iron that can be naturally found in our food which our body is able to absorb. Iron Oxide is insoluble and so passes through our body. Regardless of this, rusty particles in our food is hardly desirable and the rust reduces the non-stick and seasoning benefits too.

Finding an effective means of removing rust and seasoning it again will restore its non-stick qualities and begin to allow the build up of the seasoned non-stick surface which impregnates its self into the surface of the metal, benefiting the food cooked within it by imparting its flavour into it.

Ask a number of people the best way to rejuvenate rusty cast iron and you will soon discover there are many. They vary from baking them over a fire, scraping them until all the rust flakes off, soaking them in vinegar for twenty four hours and removing the rust with a nonferrous metal sourer, wire brushes, power tools, even some salt rubbed in with a potato can help. In this blog we will have a look at two of these methods. Firstly the potato and secondly the wire scourer.

IMG_9749Potato & Sea Salt

IMG_9750Start working into the pan

Firstly the potato, the process is as simple as it sounds. Take your rusty cast iron ware and add a generous amount of sea salt. Take a large potato and cut it in half. Using the potato scour the surface of the cast iron. You will begin to notice the salt takes on the rust as you work it into the surface with the potato. When you are satisfied that you have removed all the rust, rinse your cookware clean. This is best suited to a light surface rust. something more ingrained and pitted will require a little more persuading to become free of rust.

IMG_9751A little effort yields results

IMG_9752Rinse the pan and repeat as necessary

IMG_9755Potato on the Left, Metal scourer on the right

On the above image we can see that although the potato and salt combination have made a valiant effort in cleaning the worst of the rust off, it is best suited to light surface rust removal than heavily pitted rust. We can see that using a wire scourer on the right of the pan has managed to lift all the rust.

IMG_9757Metal scourer getting to task

You now need to dry the cast iron to prevent it rusting again, this can be achieved by suspending it over the fire (in the case of Dutch ovens with a bail arm), or directed at your fire with skillets, pans and lids etc. If you are doing the maintenance at home you can do this on a gas hob or in the oven on a low heat until dry.

IMG_9761Looking like new again

Once dry you will need to season it again to create a fresh non-stick coating, protecting the surfaces from further corrosion. If it is not possible to do that at this point simply oil to prevent it rusting again and so undoing all your hard work, until you can.

In my next blog we will have a look at how we can season our dutch oven to produce a non stick surface, which will impart it’s subtle flavour into  the meals you cook with it and help to prevent it rusting again.



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