If you're kitchen is stocked with old cast iron cookware, you can put it to use after if you've taken some measures to clean it thoroughly and preparing it for renewed use. The cleaning process is not very complicated and you can use materials which are already stocked in your home, there's no need to go out and buy expensive, specialist cleaning materials or other equipment. Just follow the instructions listed below.
Materials and equipment required.
- Any standard oven cleaner in spray form
- Gloves and eye goggles
- Brush made of brass
- Large plastic zip bag
- White vinegar
- Large plastic basin
- Small amounts of shortening or cooking spray or grease such as bacon fat or lard
Safety measures. Always ensure to protect your hands and eyes with gloves and goggles. Chemicals in the cleaner or stray spurts of vinegar or hot grease or cooking spray can damage your hands and eyes.
Adding the cleaner. Spray a liberal amount of oven cleaner on the full pot or pan and pack it in a large plastic bag, preferably one with a zip lock. Allow the cookware to stand in this state for about 2 days.
Clean with the brush. On the third day, remove the cookware from the plastic bag and use a brass brush to scrub the cookware vigorously to remove all the stored grime and grease stains. If there are some stains which are still covering the surface, repeat the cleaning process as above for another additional couple of days, or until the strains completely disappear.
Alternative solution for removing old stains and accumulated grime. If you have more than a couple of cast iron pots or pans, you can use the following method for cleaning:
- In a large plastic basin, mix about 2 gallons of water with one can of lye
- Add the cookware pieces which need to be cleaned and let them soak thoroughly in this solution for at least 6-7 days
- At the end of this period, scrub all the cast iron cookware with a brass brush or steel wool until they're fully clean
Removing rust. Iron does tend to rust over long periods of disuse, hence, to remove any rust spots from your old cast iron cookware, mix white vinegar and water in a 50:50 proportion and soak the cookware in this solution for a few hours.
Seasoning the pan. It is important to season old cast iron cookware once it is cleaned, especially if you intend to use it for cooking. Place the cleaned cookware in the oven and warm it for a few minutes. Next, spread a thin coating of vegetable cooking spray or shortening or bacon fat or lard on the insides of the vessel, then place it in the oven pre-heated to 225 degrees for half an hour. Once the 30 minutes are up, remove the vessel from the oven and wipe out the grease, leaving a thin coating on the cookware. Season the cookware for another 30 minutes and then store for future usage.
Cleaning after use. Once you begin using the cookware for your daily cooking purposes, clean the pots and pans in the following manner:
- Pour hot water in the cookware and allow it to soak for about 10-15 minutes
- Wipe the cookware dry with a paper towel or kitchen towel
- Reheat the pan as in the previous step and apply a thin coating of grease,
- Ensure the grease coating completely covers the cookware surface and then store it until later use
- Do not use any cleaning solutions or scrub pads for cleaning cast iron cookware, since these can strip the seasoning from the cookware
Cleaning old or new cast iron cookware is a fairly simple and inexpensive proposition. Just follow the cleaning instructions listed in this article and enjoy cooking in your own set of cast iron cookware.