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Reconditioning a Cast Iron Pan

Kurt Huber

Last weekend I picked up a little project at a garage sale... a cast iron pan that needed some love.

 Here is a closeup.. That is not painted over rust, it is some very solid grease

Here is a closeup.. That is not painted over rust, it is some very solid grease

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I have never reconditioning cast iron before, but the pan was cheap and idle hands are the Devil's plaything, so...

Step one in reconditioning cast iron is removing the old accumulated crud. Cast iron is suppose to have a  coating of baked on oil that provides protection and the non stick like cooking surface, but this but this pan has acquired too much of a good thing.  After some research on the internet there seems to be several ways to get rid of the old coating... One method is to burn it off using your oven's self cleaning cycle. There seems to be some debate if this is good for the pan, and also there is some chance that it could ruin the oven, so this was not really an option. :) 

Option 2 is using spray on oven cleaner (such as Easy Off). Since I already had a can on hand that is what I went with. I coated the pan with the oven cleaner and wrapped it in a plastic bag and let it sit it the garage. They (the internet) says for really grimy cast iron you might have to wait a week, but since this is my first pan I was not that patient. I checked on it every day, wiping off the oven cleaner and the loosened gunk and then reapplying some more oven cleaner and sticking it back in the bag. After four or five days  this is what it looked like...

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I started to realize that oven cleaner alone may never clean this pan, so I broke out the power drill with a wire brush attachment and went at it.. Below is what the pan looked like after the power tool therapy...

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If I had to do it again I would start with the wire brush and then do the oven cleaner.  Even after the wire brush, I thought it needed one more day in the plastic bag with the oven cleaner.

After this final day in the bag with the oven cleaner the pan was soaked for 30 minutes in a bath of hot water and vinegar (to neutralize the  lye in the oven cleaner). I then gave it a  final scrubbing with some steel wool to remove any surfaces rust and a final wash with soap and water. This is what the pan looked liked...

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After drying it off, I coated it with some cooking oil and stuck it in the over at 350 degrees for an hour. Here is the result the semi final result.

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You are really suppose to do this cooking oil and heat cycle 3 times, but I decided to try cooking some fried eggs after the first time ...and they stuck to the bottom of the pan :(. Obviously I still have to keep going but I  will be doing it on the BBQ outside, because the inside of my house ended up with a bit of a smog when I did it in the oven.