This post contains bacon. You know you want to read it.

This post contains bacon. You know you want to read it.

by Kerry Scott on 6 February 2010

I’m working on restoring my great-grandma’s old cast-iron pans, which are nearly 100 years old.  I inherited a big skillet, a little skillet, and a Dutch oven.  The Dutch oven has tiny specks of yellow paint on it, because apparently my grandma kept it on the stove, and my grandpa once painted the kitchen ceiling without moving the pan.

Unfortunately, the pans had been sitting for a while before I got them, and they’ve been sitting ever since, because I didn’t really know how to rehabilitate them.  I finally did some research.  Apparently the process involves scrubbing the rust off with coarse steel wool until my arms fall off, then cooking something fatty and dead in them until they’re seasoned again.  I’m a vegetarian, so I don’t generally cook fatty and dead things, so this is a stretch for me.  I picked bacon, thinking that would be the least icky thing.  Now my entire house smells like smoke.  Dead pig smoke.  Also, the angry dead pig splattered hot grease all over the place, including my hand, and it freakin’ hurt.  I’m amazed the smoke detector didn’t go off (Note to self:  That’s probably bad.  Test smoke detector later.).

You bacon people are crazy.  I’m sticking to broccoli.

DISCLAIMER:  I’m not actually a judge-y vegetarian.  Meat isn’t for me, but I don’t care if you eat it.  My husband eats it.  My kids eat it (well, if nuggets and fish sticks count).  I’m only posting this because apparently I need to wait for this bacon grease to cool before I pour it in a cup to get rid of it.  I figured I’d use the time to write a blog post about it, because if there’s anything I’ve noticed about the internet, it’s that people love to talk about bacon.  My theory is that the word “bacon” is apparently a guaranteed traffic generator.  So I’m testing this hypothesis.  I probably should have used this time to steel-wool the next pan, but I’m pretty sure I can’t move my arms anymore.  The first pan took 45 minutes of hard scrubbing.  This totally counts as my workout for today.  So now I can go to Kopp’s tomorrow, where the flavor of the day will Super Bowl of Custard (chocolate frozen custard with a rum caramel swirl, chocolate covered peanuts, chocolate chips, and roasted almonds).  You know why they call it that?  Because it’s the SUPER BOWL OF CUSTARD.  For real.  Take that, bacon.

DISCLAIMER ON THE DISCLAIMER:  Kopp’s didn’t pay me anything for mentioning them.  In fact, they charge me every time I go there.  Shouldn’t they be giving me free custard or something?  Geez.  Freeloaders.

Photo by Olddanb

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy Boland February 6, 2010 at 11:55 am

BACONNNNNNNN!

Yes, the price of bacon is the splattering and the thin film of hog fat that coats your entire home in a 10′ radius from the stove. It is bad for you, too.

But it’s so EFFING DELICOUS! Bacon is one of the top five reasons why I will never give up meat entirely.

That said, you may in fact have to scour the carbonized pigflesh off the bottoms of your pans and try seasoning them again. There is an easier way. You do not have to fry dead things. You can rub a coat of shortening or olive oil or any kind of fat on them and then cook them in the oven until the fat bonds to the metal. There will be smoke.

Good luck.
.-= Amy Boland´s last blog ..They Can’t All Be Champions =-.

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Lance Haun February 6, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Mmm… I love “seasoning” my cast iron because it gives me a good excuse to cook bacon.

In my book, nothing beats seasoning cast iron than using pig fat though. I’ve tried olive and vegetable oil and I end up reseasoning or having to waste precious bacon to get a funk off of it.

Being that you’re in the midwest, you could just pick up some lard and that would take care of most of the smoke and smell. You can freeze it too and just cut off a hunk. And it isn’t like anybody is going to eat it so you’ll always have it handy.

Okay, I am done with my meat talk today.
.-= Lance Haun´s last blog ..Podcast: Multi-Generational Workforce =-.

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Kerry February 6, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Amy—I’m going to try that for the lid to the Dutch oven. The underside of it was actually the rustiest piece of all, and obviously I can’t fry anything on it, so that’s a great alternative.

I’m unclear on how much I’m going to actually be able to use these pans after I’m done with this process. Most of my cooking involves sauteeing vegetables in a small bit of olive or vegetable oil, so I always use nonstick pans. Cast-iron seems to be mostly meant for cooking meat, which obviously has more fat. Are my veggies going to stick to the pan? And am I going to have to go through this baking-the-pan and/or cooking lard/bacon thing every time I use them?

I really want to use the pans, because I know my grandma and great-grandma used them daily, which is cool. It seems like a lot of work though.

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Em-Dash February 6, 2010 at 1:24 pm

I’ve found that shortening works best and do it in the oven (twice), followed by the frozen pork fat technique described by Lance. Also, I agree with him — when I was a vegetarian, I used olive oil and the pans never seasoned well.

When seasoned well, you don’t have to redo it every time — just don’t let water stand in it.

As for what to cook in them — anything! A properly seasoned skillet is actually great for russian blini (crepes) or corn bread, or ANYTHING. I can’t live without one (or two or more). I found that unlike modern nonstick pans, you can get away with adding less oil b/c heating the pans without anything in them isn’t a big deal like it is for a lot of nonstick ones.
.-= Em-Dash´s last blog ..Life at -40 =-.

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laurie ruettimann February 6, 2010 at 2:10 pm

This post has bacon and custard in it — so it’s perfect. Just perfect.
.-= laurie ruettimann´s last blog ..Guest Post: UNC Grad Seeks Non-Lameass Job =-.

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Ask a Manager February 6, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Yes, you can cook anything in them and they are naturally non-stick. One of my favorite cooking blogs just did a post on what makes cast iron so great:

http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/cookware-tools/strong-and-sturdy-what-makes-cast-iron-so-great-107761
.-= Ask a Manager´s last blog ..and we’re going to strip-search you before the job interview =-.

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Ed Armour February 7, 2010 at 9:13 am

My mother was also an aficionado of cast iron. Probably doesn’t have all of those chemicals shed by teflon coatings either.

TIP: next time you have to clean a substantial amount of rust off a pan, go to your favorite hardware store and buy a brass wire wheel for your drill motor (yes, wear eye protection). Comes off in a jiffy and you won’t get Mike Tyson forearms (or the tattoo). NEVER use sandpaper. Season (I prefer using the oven) as previously described.

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rick February 7, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Challenge: Name any food that is not improved by adding bacon, cheese, or chocolate.

Can’t do it – its the golden trilogy of food – even for vegetarians (judge-y or not).

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Marsha Keeffer February 8, 2010 at 3:53 am

Bacon, bacon, bacon. How’s that for helping with SEO?

Clue Wagon is actually a perfect name for a genealogy site…love the double duty!

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The gold digger February 10, 2010 at 9:07 am

Hey! I thought you weren’t blogging any more! I’m glad you’re back!

So I guess you’re not going to the bacon chocolate cupcake thingy at the Harley museum on Monday.

Gold digger, aka Class Factotum (GD is the not safe for inlaws site)
.-= The gold digger´s last blog ..In which we buy our own lunch =-.

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Melissa February 10, 2010 at 2:16 pm

You talked about Kopp’s! Yay! (Though, now I am going to have cravings because Culver’s just can’t compete…)
.-= Melissa´s last blog ..No Longer a Separation of Personal and Professional Lives? =-.

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Joanne Schleier March 2, 2010 at 7:04 pm

I just subscribed to your blog and read this post in my reader…I was laughing out loud! I can relate! As a former vegetarian and one who recently acquired a cast iron skillet, I feel your pain. One thing I learned is to always “dry” them on the stove. I put my it on my gas stove until the water drops are mostly gone from it.

Love your blog!

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Linda Schreiber February 2, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Yes, I’m years late, but you *would* just have this on your current ‘You Might Also Want To See’ list…. If anyone else is also dealing with this, get the rust off, wash well, dry well in a low oven. And then just plain Crisco (or similar vegetable shortening) works fine. You don’t need bacon or pork fat. Just saturated fat. (For badly damaged pans, oils aren’t enough.)
Cover the whole thing (inside, outside, handle) with a layer of shortening, and heat it in a low oven for not quite an hour. Let it cool, and wipe it out. Apply another layer, and do it again. Ditto and ditto, a third time. If, by the second layer, you are still getting signs of rust in the wipe-out, do it a fourth time. You should be set. Wash it, and warm it on the stove to dry.

After use, don’t be afraid to wash it in standard dish detergent and hot water. Even let it soak. But whoever said ‘dry it on the stove’ is correct. Let it drip-dry a bit, and then set it on a low-simmer-set burner until dry (Maybe 2-3 minutes). If, like me, you get interested in something else, and let the thing sit in the dishwater overnight, no big problem. Just dry it on the stove. *Now* just a gloss of oil will fix it.

I have recouped really old, seriously rusty, even pitted pieces this way, and have now used them happily for a couple of decades now, without further fussing. And I really like cooking in something that had a long history of its own before I salvaged it. Puts a little more heart in the food somehow!

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Kerry Scott February 5, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Glad to hear a vote for Crisco…much better for me!

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Ricky3 October 4, 2013 at 8:22 pm

to reseason a castiron pay you swipe the inside and outside with Crisco, than put into oven at 450 for 1 hour. look at it, does it look like you would eat out of it, No?, do it again. The 450 kills all bacteria, the Crisco gets carbonized into the cast iron. Nothing will affect it accept deturgent, and animal licking!

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