Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Collecting and Restoring Antique Cast Iron Cookware

Buying old cast iron cookware is a great way to build up your cookware. What's more, the cast iron cookware you use today can be passed down from generation to generation as long as the cast iron is well cared for.

Why Use Cast Iron

Cast iron pots and pans are the most durable cookware you can get. What's more, if you search around at yard sales and flea markets, you can get used ones for very little money. There are numerous more reasons to buy, collect, and use cast iron cookware:
  • Cooking in cast iron adds iron to your food. This is great for people who suffer from anemia. However, people who are supposed to refrain from ingesting iron should avoid cast iron cookware.
  • Cast iron pans are great for browning meat. Hamburgers and steaks become caramelized when cooked on a hot cast iron skillet. Cast iron also distributes heat more evenly than other pots and pans.
  • Durability. Cast iron cookware will not only last you a lifetime, it will be used by your children, grandchildren, and, if taken care of, your great-grandchildren.
  • Cast iron pots and pans can be used on the stovetop as well as in the oven.
  • When camping, bring along a cast iron skillet for making pancakes over an open fire.
  • Cast iron pots and pans can be used on old fashioned wood cooking stoves.
  • Skillets can be used on the barbecue grill.
  • Hang cast iron pots and pans in the kitchen for decoration.

Buying Used Cast Iron Cookware

I have 13 cast iron skillets of all sizes and a cast iron dutch oven. They are all either hand me downs or ones I bought at yard sales. When searching for used or old cast iron cookware, you will want to follow these simple rules:
  • Plan your yard sale days. Go to each yard sale as soon as it opens up.
  • The same for flea markets - get to the flea market at opening time.
  • When you see a cast iron skillet or any cast iron cookware, examine it for rust. Rust can be cleaned up, but the cost of the item should reflect the condition of the skillet.
  • Examine the cast iron cookware and make certain there are no cracks or nicks in it. If it has a crack, it is worthless unless you just want it for decorative purposes.
  • When you go to lift the cast iron cookware, remember to lift it with both hands. Cast iron cookware is heavy and you can hurt your wrist if you use just one hand.
  • Some cast iron skillets will have there size stamped onto the handle. If the size is not shown, measure the cast iron skillet across the top, not the bottom, for the currect size in inches.
  • Cast iron cookware can be bought online. Please be aware of shipping prices as cast iron is very heavy.
  • If you want new cast iron cookware, visit the online store of the last US maker of cast iron cookware, Lodge Cast Iron Cookware.

Remove Rust from Cast Iron Cookware

Boil Hay
A relatively old fashioned method for getting rid of heavy rust in a cast iron dutch oven is to fill it with hay. Next, add water up to the brim. Boil for a few hours to remove the rust.
A quicker method is to just scour the cast iron with steel wool. Usually, a light scour will do the trick. Dry and season the cast iron immediately afterwards.
Salt and Oil
Another easy method to get rid of light to medium rust on cast iron pans is to coat the bottom with vegetable oil and then warm the pan on the burner. Remove from burner and add about a tablespoon or two of salt to the oiled pan. Using bunched up paper towels, scrub the pan with the salt. When finishes, wash the pan off in hot water. Dry and season.

Seasoning Cast Iron Pots and Pans

When my two teenagers were small, I hated cleaning and seasoning the cast iron skillets I had. I eventually stopped using them and packed them up. Several years later, I unpacked my cast iron cookware and began a regular routine of caring for the cookware. I've even collected more cast iron cookware to add to my collection because food is so much more flavorful when made in cast iron.
To season your cast iron cookware:
  1. Use a paper towel to rub on a light layer of vegetable oil, lard, or shortening onto the cast iron cookware. Use a clean paper towel to take off any excess oil - you don't want oil pooling inside your pan.
  2. There should be two racks in your oven. On the bottom rack, place a sheet of aluminum foil across it. This will prevent oil from dripping off your pan and onto the oven.
  3. Place the cast iron cookware upside down on the second shelf in the oven, overtop of the aluminum rack.
  4. Bake the cast iron cookware for 30 minutes at 450 degrees F.
  5. Repeat this process several more times to create a strong seal.

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