I have become a firm believer in cast iron cookware. I inherited a small skillet from Mom Clemens but used it rarely. My husband occasionally used it to fry his morning eggs, for nostalgic reasons. Then one of our cooks during our restaurant years requested a large heavy iron skillet for frying chicken. She said cast iron was the only way to get crispy chicken–and she was right. Now that big skillet comes down from the kitchen wall whenever I prepare French fries, sweet potato fries, chicken, fritters and pancakes. Cast iron crisps without burning. Eureka!
From over twenty pieces of cast iron at a recent auction, I procured a medium and small skillet at my price for our September sale. They were caked from years of use and had a patina of rust. I wish I had taken a “before” picture. The “after” picture is below. Using a method I learned from Pinterest, they are now like new.
- Place the cast iron pieces top down in the oven. Set for automatic oven clean. As your oven cleans, old buildup on the iron turns to a fine powder. Wipe off the powder with a wet dish cloth.
- The buildup is taken care of but rust remains. Ironware can rust if exposed to moisture.
- To remove rust, fill a basin deep enough to submerge pieces. Fill the basin with half water and half white vinegar. Soak iron for several hours until rust is loosened. As the vinegar works, it sends up small bubbles from the surface of the iron.
- Wash off rust residue with warm soap and water. Rinse and dry.
- Your iron ware will now have a silvery appearance but cannot be used for cooking until it is re-seasoned. Wipe the cookware on all surfaces with a paper towel dabbed in solid shortening. Coat all surfaces with a thin coat.
- Bake iron in a 350 degree oven for about an hour. Let cool. Wipe residue of excess oil from iron with a clean paper towel.
After using any cast iron, wipe with mild soap and water and rinse but do not scrub to avoid removing the “seasoning” that gives cast iron its excellent cooking surface. The patina of seasoned oil also helps to protect the iron from rusting. After cleaning, place your cookware in a warm oven to dry completely before storing. Re-season as needed.
Although every chef seems to have their own line of cookware, old-fashion cast iron worked for grandma and has benefits for the self-reliant lifestyle. Virtually every dish, including bread, can be cooked on a grill or over a wood fire with a cast iron Dutch oven and large iron skillet.