Before we moved I cleaned the oven, on self clean. But I didn’t check inside before locking it down and starting the cycle. Then I turned on the light and sighed. Cast iron dutch oven perfectly seasoned waiting for execution. After 5 hours I opened the door and took out the charred remains of my favorite cooking tool – ashen, grey, brittle, just like this:
Two months later and I can’t braise or stew over charcoal without my Dutch buddy, so today I reconditioned it. There are so many bad cast iron reconditioning methods out there I decided to contribute another post on the simple method. Ignore all the online traffic calling for aerosolized chemical oven cleaners, vinegar, rubber gloves, steel wool, power sanders, and a wicked variety of bad ideas. Instead, find a potato, cut it in half, grab your salt shaker and head outside.
- Pour salt into cast iron pan (fine or course – both work great, you can even do this with sand)
- Take your potato in hand, and scrub inside and out, special attention on any rusty spots
- Rinse out the rust brown clumped residue with a hose or bucket of water
- Rub cooking oil all over the pan (inside and out)
- Put pan on the range over low heat for about 10 minutes
- Lightly dab any oil from the pan with a towel for storage
Why does this work? The moisture in the potato works with the salt/sand like a wet sanding pad, rust removes rapidly with the moisture and abrasion, and in about 15 minutes you have a rust-free iron pan. Oil starts the reconditioning process to build up that rich patina again.
Now that your cast iron is reconditioned, don’t ruin it. Never wash cast iron with soap. Instead after cooking, simply rinse it out with water, add a little extra water (~0.5 cups depending on the pan’s size), and bring to a boil and reduce, removing the pan before all water evaporates and the pan burns. Then pour out the excess moisture and wipe down with a towel. This helps preserve the patina, is really quick, and saves all the scrubbing time. I’ll typically rub a little oil into the pan, pat it down again and store it.
If you don’t use cast iron, you should. It’s cheap and the best. Get a pan or a griddle at a flea market, recondition with salt and potatoes and you’re off.