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A t-bone steak being cooked in a cast iron pan.
Posted in  Outdoor Entertainment   on  August 2, 2021 by  Josh Brown0

About the author

After getting my Masters of Business Science I decided to share my experience online about country living and teaching my son about the things I did when I was his age. Join me as we take this dirt road together!

The Crockett Cooner Thinking About Cast Iron

Does Cast Iron Make My Burgers Better

We have all heard the old saying, that cast iron cookware makes better tasking food. The old story that floats around homes at family gatherings, about how Grandmother's cooked the beans years before in the same pot. This combination of the different flavors from the past meals cooked in the pot, has somehow seeped into the cast iron cookware and lends way for all of us eating, to remake how great the food taste. But!!! is this true can you really find an old, possibly rusted cast iron skillet, dutch oven, or muffin pan, refurbish it and have better tasking food? If you love cooking with cast iron, and want to know what all the fuss surrounding cast iron cookware is about, then this post is for you.I've cooked up some information on cooking in cast iron, that will keep your egg's sunny side up... 

Cast Iron cookware is a very versatile in the cooking game. You can cook on stove tops with electric and propane eyes,  out door grills, indoor ovens, and open camp fires. But there is always the worries that comes along with cooking in a cast iron utensils. That is the cast iron is NOT seasoned correctly and has began to rust. The fear that some type of food that is high in acid content will destroy the cast iron and make the food have a metallic taste.  Then, in the worst case of fakelore that someone has put cast iron cookware in the dishwasher and ruined the seasoning! 

Cast Iron

A Fish Fry Skillet That's Rusted

Is That Cast Iron Skillet Still Good, It's Rusted

Is cast iron really no good if it becomes rusted? In the above picture is a vintage cast iron skillet from my collection of cast iron cook wear, that I speculate is around 50 years old and has seen many different foods cooked in it. If you notice there is a light coating of rust in the bottom of the skillet. I have to say on first appearance you might think that this skillet would be worthless, but really it is NOT. Removing rust from cast iron can sometimes be very easy and other times can be a very difficult task, but cast iron cookware that is rusted can be refurbished. There are many different methods for refinishing cast iron to make it safe to cook in again. But, in this post I'm going to explain how I use white vinegar to refurbish my cast iron cookware.  

The number 14 skillet pictured above and might I add, that I personally love this skillet the most in my collection, was my Grandfathers. When I found it along with some other cast iron cookware in my grandmothers root cellar, I knew I had to have it. My grandfather's number 14 skillet was in need of some major work. I started with a close inspection of the skillet looking for cracks. Just about the only thing that can completely ruin cast iron is a crack in the cookware, but have no fear cast iron that is cracked can also be fixed. After a close inspection I found that all I could find wrong with the skillet, was major rust and small pits to the inside and outside of the skillet. I first started with a 5 minute soak in straight white vinegar. With some good rubber gloves, I scrubbed the inside and out with a very stiff brush, that was actually made to clean car tires. After my scrub I submerged the skillet once again into the the vinegar bath for about 10 more minutes.  

This is where I realized my efforts where working, but the large amount of rust would not come off in just a 15 minute soak. This is when I decide that a full 24 hours of soaking would be my best plan of attack to remove the rust, in the pitted metal in the bottom of the skillet. Most people will disagree with soaking the cast iron cookware for a full 24 hours. I personally believe with a good quality thick cast Iron, the meatal should be able to withstand the 5% acid in the vinegar, for much longer than 24 hours.  After the 24 hour bath I removed my vintage skillet to find that it was almost rust free! I once again scrubber the entire skillet with my stiff brush and washed it with a garden hose and dish soap in the back yard. I chose the backyard washing method because, the bits of rust that where removed can clog up plumbing.

After the 24 hour soak and the wash the skillet had somewhat changed color from a black and red rust color, to almost a light grey but, still needed a little more attention. My next step in the process was to use salt and a lemon cut in two pieces to hand rub the skillet. With the skillet air dried I sprinkled normal table salt in the bottom of the skillet and used a lemon half to scrub the rest of the skillet all over, but giving special attention to the inside of the skillet. When I finished I once again gave the skillet a good rinse with soap and water. I was proud when I noticed all of my efforts had worked, the skillet was rust free. For everyone that is interested in refinishing a cast iron piece of cook ware. Below is a quick list to show generally what it cost, to find and refinish vintage cast iron cook wear...  

A List On What It Cost To Refurbish Cast Iron Cook Wear

  • Cost of a used rusted cast iron skillet is normally about $20.00 (at auctions, thrift stores, and estate sales)
  • 128 fl. oz. white vinegar $2.67
  • Stiff tire brush $4.47
  • A large plastic pan or container for soaking the cast iron in vinegar solution $6.39
  • A plain 26 ounce bottle of table salt $1.39
  • A lemon is about $0.63 or $1.99 for a pound

Is It Safe To Use Soap And The Dishwasher On Cast Iron

Yep that's right I use dish soap on my cast Iron. I also, have put my cast iron in the dish washer. Now to answer the question will soap hurt cast iron cook ware? I've never had a problem with this before but, I believe its all about how you season your cast iron. I mean sure you will have some light rusting but, a good steel scrubbing pad will remove it after each wash and an food particles that have been missed. I'm a firm believer as long as the metal of the cast iron has been seasoned correctly and maintained. A good wash with a dish cloth filled with soap or a brisk water bath in the dishwasher should never hurt good quality vintage cast iron. The MAIN thing to remember is the OIL and SEASONING!!!

Call The Fire Department, The Cooner Is Seasoning Cast Iron

I season my cast iron cookware in a open fire pit in the back yard.  Now, I know that some of my readers don't have the option to start a roaring blaze behind their homes to season their cookware, but its O.K. You can also use the oven method in your home and get the same effects. I personally like the fire pit method because it seams to get much hotter and remove any remaining rust particles or food particles that the 24 hour soak did not take off.  If you decide to use the campfire method to season you cookware I suggest using just wood for burning NO store bought charcoal.  

"I tried charcoal for seasoning one time and the skillet ended up with a strange taste to the food and was always hard to keep seasoned."

But, with a good wood fire I place the cookware upside down right on top of the open flame. So that all the parts of the cookware that actually touches food would be getting direct fire/flame to that area. With the lids I would place them directly on the fire, just as if they where sitting on a pot. With the open fire method I let my cookware sit until the fire extinguish itself. (Note: Never remove the cast iron cookware while its hot in the seasoning process, or try to cool the cast iron quickly by using water or any other method while its hot. It can warp the cast iron and be dangerous, plus your skillet will never set level again!)  I then removed my cookware oiled with (only lard when I season cast iron outside)  and returned it to a new fire. I repeated this process about 3 times until the finial oiling is done with the lard and my skillet was finished and blackened the way I like it. (Another Specials note:  I noticed when my skillet was seasoning/ burning off on the open fire, it would almost turn red in color from the heat! No worries cast iron is tuff!)

Cast Iron on Fire

Cast Iron Cooking On A Open Flame At The David Crockett Days

Cast Iron outside

Cast Iron Outside On Grill

Oven Method To Season Cast Iron

When seasoning cast iron in the oven I usually place my pans upside down on the middle rack of the oven at 375 degrees. Using a light coat of vegetable oil on the entire piece of cast iron that is being seasoned.  A great point to remember is make sure to place tin foil on the bottom rack to catch the oil that drips from the heat( Note: This is why I only season with lard on an open fire and vegetable oil inside, Lard makes a mess in an oven). I usually bake my cast iron for 1 hour then let the entire piece cool in the oven, until its cool to the touch. I then repeat this process about 3 time to make sure that I have a build up of seasoning/vegetable oil on the pan. I personally always use vegetable oil when seasoning in the oven, but you can use canola oil, olive oil, or lard if you don't mind the mess to get the seasoning type you desire. 

At this point all your cast iron should be ready to cook with. I believe the key to keeping cast iron cookware healthy at this point is to always maintain the seasoning. Every time I use a cast iron piece of cookware. I wash it with soap and water, dry it thoroughly, put a light coat of vegetable oil or cooking spray all over the piece, wipe excess oil off with a paper towels, and then store it away. 

Even with so much preparation, work, and seasoning that goes into refurbishing cast iron cookware, I still love it.  I use it on camping trips, just around the house to cook chill on a cold winters night, or  when the holidays roll around and I cook grandmas specials bean recipe for Christmas dinner. Now one last thing I have to mention in this post is taste. Even after 40 years of use and the last 15 years of that was not on an open fire but rather has been at my home on my stove. The number 14 skillet in the first picture above, will often have a faint taste of fried fish. The funny thing is I've never fried fish in it before but, my Grandfather did 40 years ago. When you combine all of the taste from different foods that have been cooked in the skillet for the last 40 years and the oils that have penetrated deep into the pours of the cast iron. The taste you get each time you use a piece of cast iron cook ware is amazing, with so much flavor its hard to describe how good it is!!! 

Companies That Have Been Making Cast Iron Cook Ware For Years

If you are into cast iron cook ware and are looking for some good quality, vintage cast iron products there are a few names to keep in mind. One name that stands out first to me is the Lodge Manufacturing Company Located in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. Now you might think I hold a special place in my heart for the Lodge Cast iron products because, the ol' Crockett Cooner here is a Tennessee native!!! But, that is not the entire reason why I love Lodge cast iron cook ware so much. In my many years of outdoor activities such as camping, hunting, fishing, and hiking my Lodge cast iron skillet went along with me. After many camp fires  with my Lodge cast iron skillet above the flames. I believe the Lodge skillet held up the best to the abuse of being beat, banged, and scratched and always gave me a great flavor to any dish cooked in it.

So the next time you decide to buy a vintage piece of cast iron cook ware at an auction, antique store, or just want to refurbish a family heirloom and want to put this old cook ware back into use. Lodge, is a great name to look for, here is a quick link to the Lodge company to show you what cast iron products they produce, to this day Lodge Cast Iron Cook Ware Company.  If you have decided that you might be into refurbishing older cast iron and can't find that Lodge skillet you want. Below is a list of companies names that have made cast iron cook ware for years and are sure to have produced a product that will fit your needs and will give you years of use to come...

A List Of Companies That Have Made Cast Iron Cook Ware For Years

  1. Lodge Manufacturing Company
  2. Griswold Company
  3. Stuart & Peterson Company
  4. Wagner Company
Cast Iron Beef Stew

Beef Stew Cooked In Cast Iron In A Traditional Way On A Open Fire At David Crockett Days

Thanks so much for reading I hope you enjoyed this post on how to refurbish and care for vintage cast iron cook wear. I hope you all will take time to leave us a review at the bottom of this page, we love to hear from our readers. Please check out the rest of the site and if you like the Crockett Coonhound website and want to stay up on all the new post and everything that's going on here, take a second to sign up for our news letter. If you are ever looking around the old inner webs make sure to look for me, The Crockett Cooner and the Crockett Coonhound website on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Thank you all again for reading, have a great day and an even better tomorrow. 

Frequently Asked Questions

🔥 Can cast iron be seasoned in a fireplace, wood stove, or propane grill?

Yes, many people will use other ways to heat and season old cast iron. 

🍳 Are there different ways to refurbish cast iron wear besides using vinegar?

Yes, In times past I have seen many people sandblast vintage cook wear and  use other products besides vinegar to remove rust from cast iron.

🛢️ Can you you use olive oil, vegetable oil, or corn oil in the seasoning cast iron?

Yes, many people use other types of cooking oil for the entire reasoning process and to maintain their cast iron finish.

🧑‍🍳 Can cracked cast iron cook wear be mended and repaired to still be used?

Yes, cast iron cracked cook wear can be welded, but must be done correctly with the correct equipment to mend it. Here is a great link that goes a little further in depth to explain what cast iron consist of, and why it is hard to repair when cracked What Elements Cast Iron Consist Of.

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