My boyfriend and I live a little while apart from each other and on the way there is a big red barn with lots of…well really lots of junk out front. It’s an antique store out in the middle of the country, and that is waaaay up my alley. My boyfriend and I went last weekend to do some furniture shopping, mostly browse, but we were blown away with the quality of the stuff they had when we walked in. The inside was way different than what they had sitting out front! Unfortunately we didn’t find any furniture to take with us, but when I went into the knick-knack room I found a cast iron dutch over and then a maaaasive skillet. Both are huge but were in pretty crappy condition. But I was not deterred because I had seen a how-to site recently (http://www.ibelieveicanfry.com/2010/12/reconditioning-re-seasoning-cast-iron.html) and it really didn’t look too hard. I got some flack and skepticism for purchasing them in that state, but I knew I’d show everyone!
– Heavy duty oven cleaner
– Steel wool
– Garbage bags
– White vinegar
1. Take your cast iron items and cover completely in the over cleaner. You definitely need to wear gloves during this part, oven cleaner will burn your skin. I ignored it at the very end because I just wanted to get the bag tied up – oh, man. That was a mistake. I burned the crap out of my hands, they were dried and peeling for days.
2. Once the item is coated, put it in the garbage bag and seal tightly. The oven cleaner starts working immediately!! I kept them in my dining area because I don’t have a garage and I didn’t want to leave them outside on my balcony for fear of rusting or doing more damage to it in the southern humidity. The site recommends leaving them in the bag for 2-3 or a week for super grimy items.
3. I left them in the bag for 3 days. Then I removed them, cleaned them off with warm water (this was super gross but sooooo awesome seeing the change), and dried off with paper towels. They all needed another couple days of soaking so I reapplied the oven cleaner, put them back in the garbage bags, and let them sit for another 2 days.
4. Once they were ready I took them out again, cleaned them off with warm water, wiped them off with paper towels, and put them in a bin to soak in a bath of water and white distilled vinegar, 2:1 water to vinegar. The site recommends leaving them in for 30-60 minutes and I left each in for 60 minutes.
5. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F so it’s ready to go immediately.
6. This is the hard but fun part. When you take it out of the soak, it’s time to scrub with the steel wool. Scrub every inch of it! This takes some time and isn’t very easy to do. I tried to keep it wet at all times because I could see some rust beginning. Once you’re sure you’ve scrubbed it perfectly then clean it with soap and water, dry it off, and transfer immediately to the pre-heated oven. Make sure it’s upside down!
7. Bake the item at 250 for 15 minutes then increase to 500 and bake for 45 minutes more. Then turn off the oven and remove the item. Coat with lard, I dipped a paper towel into the lard and then coated it on. It’s ok if smokes a little when you do it the first time. With a clean paper towel wipe off any excess. This step smells super bad. As my boyfriend put it “vomit inducing bad.” I don’t think it was thaaaat bad, but it’s sure not pleasant.
Now return to the oven, always upside-down so the lard doesn’t pool in the bottom. Every 10-15 minutes wipe off excess, and every 30 minutes do a new coating of lard. After an hour open the door for a few minutes to finish cooling the oven.
8. Now it should be done!!
I did make one major mistake and that was try to do two pieces at the same time without realizing the baking steps. Since the oven needs to cool with the cast iron item, you can’t do the second with a cold oven and can’t cool the first with a hot one! But I was stuck since the second was already soaking, so I decided I’d have to wing it. I did the skillet first, and as you can see there is some color variation on the bottom and on the inside. It’s not much of a problem for me really since it’s not super bad, but it’s a lesson to learn from!