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Cast Iron Cookware:
How to Cook with It
and How to Take Care of It.

Copyright June 23, 2008 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.



Logde Dutch Oven This article discusses the following topics. If you wish you may click on any underlined topic below to jump directly to that topic. To return to the following list of topics, simply click the [BACK] button at the top of your Internet browser window. Or you may read this entire article from beginning to end.
  1. Advantages and Disadvantages of Cast Iron Cookware.
  2. How to Select New Cast Iron Cookware.
  3. Other Very Useful Items.
  4. How to Season Cast Iron Cookware.
  5. How to Cook With Cast Iron Cookware.
  6. How to Use a Cast Iron Dutch Oven When Camping.
  7. How to Clean Cast Iron Cookware.
  8. How to Remove Rust From Cast Iron Cookware.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Cast Iron Cookware

Advantages:

  1. Cast iron cookware is 100% cast iron so it may safely be used on top of a stove or inside an oven. Having the flexibility to use the same piece of cookware on top of the stove and inside the oven minimizes the total number of different cookware pieces a family will need. This is a significant advantage during really hard times.
  2. Cast iron cookware may be used inside a wood burning fireplace or over a campfire. Being able to successfully cook inside a wood burning fireplace, or over a campfire, is a significant advantage during really hard times.
  3. If you take care of it, cast iron cookware will easily last not only your entire lifetime, but also the lifetimes of your children, and perhaps even your grandchildren. Other types of cookware usually have a one, three, five, or seven year warranty. Some of the very expensive cookware has an advertised lifetime warranty. During the course of my own life I have tried all these options, including the cheap $20 sets of cookware, the $100 sets of cookware, and the $500 sets of "lifetime warranty" cookware. During normal daily use, none of the cookware sets lasted as long as advertised, including the $500 set of lifetime cookware. On the other hand, my late grandmother's cast iron cook pots are all still in very good condition. And all of the cast iron skillets I have purchased over the years are also still in great condition. In the booklet that comes with new Lodge cast iron cookware it says: "Properly cared for cast iron cookware will last more than a lifetime." In my opinion, this is a true statement, especially when it is compared to the warranties of the other new cookware sets I have purchased during my lifetime. Not having to incur the expense of periodically replacing your cookware is a significant advantage during really hard times.
  4. The new cast iron cookware manufactured and sold by Lodge is now professionally seasoned at its factory. This means you can start cooking on the new cast iron cookware as soon as you remove it from the box.
Disadvantages:

  1. Cast iron is a lot heavier than other types of kitchen cookware. This is an important consideration if you have limited strength in your hands and arms due to advancing age, or a physical disability, or arthritis.
  2. Cast iron is designed for cooking. Cast iron was not designed for the simple task of just boiling water. If you just need to boil water for any reason, then you should use a stainless steel coffee pot, or tea pot, or stock pot.

How to Select New Cast Iron Cookware

Cast iron cookware is usually located in two areas of a store: (1) the cookware section, and (2) the camping section of the same store. The same store sometimes has the same items duplicated in both sections, and sometimes that have different cast iron cookware in each of the two sections. Therefore it would be a good idea to visit both sections of the store before you make your final selection.

10-Inch no Assist Handle 10-inch with Assist 6-quart Oven with Lid
10" no Front Assist10" with Front Assist6-Quart Dutch Oven with Lid

Cast iron cookware comes in all the following standard sizes:

Skillets without front assist handle: 6.5-inch, 8-inch, 9-inch, 10.25-inch Diameters.
Skillets with front assist handle: 10.25-inch, 12-inch, 13.25-inch, 15-inch Diameters.
Dutch Ovens: 2-Quart, 4-quart, 5-quart, 6-quart, 7-quart, 9-quart Capacities.

Let's consider the advantages of each of the different sizes of cookware:
  1. Small Sizes (8 inches and below, and 4 quarts and below): The smaller cast iron pieces are lighter in weight but they are also limited in the amount of food that can be prepared in one pot. If you will always be cooking for one or two people, then the smaller pieces are a reasonable choice. However, if you will sometimes need to prepare meals for several people then they will not be adequate.
  2. Average Sizes (9 to 10.25 inches, and 5 or 6 quarts): The average size pieces are a little heavier and they can be used to prepare a meal for one person, or two people, or for several people. Therefore, the average size pieces will provide more flexibility for the average family than the smaller pieces.
  3. Large Sizes (12 inches and above, and 7 quarts and above): The very large pieces should be avoided unless you know for certain that you will always be cooking for a large group of people. The large pieces are very heavy, they require more time to heat up, and they require more heat during the entire cooking process.
Most families will need a minimum of two skillets and one Dutch oven. Very simple one-pot meals can be prepared in one cook pot. However, the average balanced meal that contains some variety normally requires a minimum of three pieces of cookware.

Therefore, an 8-inch skillet, a 10.25-inch skillet, and a 6-quart Dutch oven would be a reasonable minimum selection of cookware for the average family. The 6-quart Dutch oven has a 12-inch diameter, and it can be used as a 6-quart stock pot in addition to being used as an oven.

Cast iron cookware is heavy when it is empty. When you add food to the cookware it becomes even heavier. Therefore I recommend the skillets with the front assist handle because they allow you to use both hands to grasp and safely move the cookware. After you have invested your money and time in preparing a delightful meal, it is heart breaking to accidentally drop the cookware that contains your supper because it was too heavy for one hand.

Box Containing Combo-Cooker Set Two Skillets Side by Side Two Skillets Nested One on the Other
Picture of Combo Cooker BoxCombo Cooker Skillets Side by SideSkillets Nested Together

Lodge also sells a Combo Cooker cast iron cookware set that is illustrated in the above left picture. On June 9, 2008 this set sold for $30 in the camping section of most Walmarts. The set contains two skillets. Both skillets have diameters of 10.25-inches and both skillets have front assist handles. The left skillet in the above center picture has an inside depth of 1.5-inches and it has more gradually rounded sides. The right skillet in the above center picture has an inside depth of 3-inches and it will hold 3-quarts. When the 3-quart skillet is placed on the bottom, the other skillet can be securely nested on top of it to create a modified style Dutch oven for baking, as illustrated in the above right picture. In this configuration it can also be used as a covered skillet to fry chicken. I suggest that you offset the two handles and front assists when using the skillet in this manner, as illustrated in the above right picture. This makes it easier to grasp the top skillet so it can be easily removed to check the food that is cooking in the lower skillet.

If I were on a limited budget, I would only purchase the Combo Cooker cast iron cookware set illustrated above. This would provide me with:
1. a modified style Dutch oven for baking, or
2. a covered skillet for frying foods to lock in their natural flavor, moisture, and steam, or
3. two separate skillets to prepare two different food items.
This is a very versatile combination and it is a very reasonably priced cast iron cookware set.

Picture of Box Containing a Dutch Oven 6-quart Oven with Lid
Picture of 6-Qt. Dutch Oven Box6-Qt. Dutch Oven with Lid

If I could afford it, I would also purchase the 6-quart Dutch oven illustrated in the above left picture. On June 9, 2008 this item sold for $50 in the camping section of most Walmarts. This Dutch oven has three feet, a wire handle, and a lid with a raised outer rim and a center handle. This makes it ideal for campfire use.

The lid of a Dutch oven may be turned upside down and its smooth curved surface used as a griddle. This will be discussed in more detail in the Dutch oven section later in this article.


Other Very Useful Items

In addition to an investment in cast iron cookware, there are also a few other items that would be very useful. Some of the following items are optional investments, and some are not.

Leather Gloves Tongs Stainless Insert
GlovesMetal TongsStainless Steel Insert

Steamer Brush
Steamer: Folded and UnfoldedBrush

  1. Leather Gloves (Required): The handles of your cookware are made of cast iron and they will get hot while your food is cooking in the skillet. The lid cover handles also get very hot. A nice set of leather gloves will allow you to grasp those handles without burning your hands. The larger skillets have a front assist handle so you will need a glove for each hand. If you are campfire cooking, then the gloves will also protect your hands from the heat of the campfire while you use the cookware. The gloves should fit somewhat loosely on your hands so you can quickly shake the glove off your hand if it gets too hot. If you purchase comfortable fitting gloves for cooking, then you will not be able to quickly remove the glove in an emergency.
  2. Metal Tongs (Optional): When cooking near a campfire with a Dutch oven, you will need to transfer some hot coals from the fire onto the top of your Dutch oven to maintain a constant cooking temperature inside the oven. Metal tongs are very useful for accomplishing this task quickly and accurately. Trivet with 28 Holes
  3. Ventilated Stainless Steel Insert or Trivet (Used for Baking): If you are baking in a Dutch oven, it is useful if you can bake your food above the bottom of the oven, because the bottom of the oven gets very hot. However, the rest of the oven stays at a more even temperature throughout. By placing a ventilated stainless steel insert, which is called a trivet, in the bottom of the Dutch oven, and then putting the item you wish to bake, such as a loaf of bread or a pizza or a few cookies, on another stainless steel pan on top of the first insert, you will achieve a more delightful end result. The bottom insert (trivet) should go upside down with the outside rim of the insert touching the bottom of the oven. The flat bottom of the ventilated insert will therefore be above the bottom of the oven. The second pan should go right side up and it should contain the item you wish to bake. These stainless steel inserts can be purchased in the cookware section of Walmart as Stove Burner Covers. On June 9, 2008 they cost $14 for a set of four stainless steel burner covers. The package includes two 10-inch diameter covers and two 8-inch diameter covers. The 10-inch diameter cover (insert) fits well in the bottom of a 6-quart Dutch oven, and the 8-inch cover (insert) fits well in the bottom of the Combo Cooker. Since you only need two of the inserts for either piece of cookware (one as a trivet and one as a baking pan), you can use the other two stainless steel covers as high quality non-breakable eating dishes. Critical Note: You will need to use a big nail to punch at least twenty big holes in the flat surface of the bottom insert, and at least eight big holes in the side rim of the bottom insert, so the insert can disperse the heat that will be trapped between it and the bottom of the Dutch oven. Drive the nail from the bottom of the insert towards its rim so the nail holes will be facing down towards the bottom of the Dutch oven and you will have a smooth surface on top for the second baking pan. When you make the holes you will need to support the inside of the insert on a flat piece of scrap wood to prevent the insert from being dented with each new hole. Or you can drill the holes in the insert with a hand drill and a 3/16 inch drill bit. Use a hand file to smooth out the inside edges of the holes. Be very careful and use proper safety precautions when using a hammer, a drill, or a file to avoid any unpleasant accidents. After you have added at least 28 big holes to your stainless steel insert, it can then be referred to as a trivet.
    If you do not have the proper tools then it would be cheaper to purchase a pre-made 8-inch diameter trivet ($10 plus shipping). This trivet fits well in the bottom of a 6-quart Dutch oven. However, it will not fit all the way to the bottom of the deep combo-cooker skillet, but it will fit in the bottom of the shallow combo-cooker skillet. Even if you decide to purchase a pre-made trivet, it would probably still be a good idea to purchase the four burner cover set because the stainless steel burner covers are the perfect size to use as baking pans inside the Combo Cooker and the Dutch oven. Baking pans are useful for baking bread, pizza, cookies, crackers, and a variety of other flour based recipes. Having a round baking pan of the optimal size maximizes the efficiency of your cast iron cookware. And since the burner covers are made of stainless steel they should easily last a lifetime if they are not misused.
  4. Folding Steamer (Optional): The folding steamer opens up and it fits nicely in the bottom of the Dutch oven, or in the bottom of the Combo Cooker. This will allow you to easily steam any vegetables or other items you wish to steam cook.
  5. Cleaning Brush (Optional): A soft plastic bristle brush, such as a fingernail brush, is a nice item to have when it is time to clean your cast iron cookware.

How to Season Cast Iron Cookware

Until recently cast iron cookware had to be seasoned by the purchaser before it could be used for cooking. Seasoning fills the extremely tiny surface pores in the cast iron cookware. Seasoning has three significant benefits:
  1. It provides a slick non-stick cooking surface.
  2. It helps to aid in the prevention of rust.
  3. It makes the cookware easier to clean.
Newly manufactured Lodge cast iron cookware is already factory seasoned and you may cook in it immediately. Following is a direct quote from the Lodge Cast Iron Manufacturing Company General Care Booklet:

"The oil used to foundry season Lodge Logic and Pro-Logic Cast Iron Cookware is Kosher Certified soy-based vegetable oil. The oil is electrostatically sprayed onto the cookware, then baked at high temperatures. It would take approximately 20 home seasonings to replicate the seasoning process in our South Pittsburg, Tennessee foundry." (Lodge Cast Iron Manufacturing Company)

However, if you should need to re-season a cast iron pot then the following procedure should be followed:

  1. Thoroughly clean the cast iron pot with hot water and dish soap. If there are any rust spots, scrub them vigorously with a steel wool soap pad or a stiff bristle brush. Rinse the pot thoroughly in hot water. Dry all the water off the pot using a dish towel.
  2. Immediately heat the pot in a 350 degree Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius) oven for ten minutes. Or heat the pot on top of your stove on low heat for two minutes. Or heat the pot over the coals of a campfire. Or, if the sun is shinning, then place the pot in the direct rays of the sun for thirty-minutes, and then turn the pot upside down for another thirty-minutes.
  3. While the pot is still very warm, carefully apply a very, very thin coat of cooking oil, bacon grease, pork lard, or beef tallow over the entire surface of the warm pot, both inside and outside. Carefully wipe the entire surface of the pot to more evenly distribute the oil and to remove any excess oil. Only a very, very thin coat should be evenly distributed over the entire surface of the pot. (Note: If the pot has a lid it will also need to be seasoned separately.)
  4. Place a large sheet of aluminum foil over the bottom shelf inside your oven to catch any oil drippings. Put the pot upside down on the middle shelf in a 350 degree Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius) oven for one-hour. Carefully remove the hot pot from the oven and wipe the entire surface of the pot carefully with paper towels to remove any excess oil. Be very careful to avoid burning yourself. Then put the pot right side up in the hot oven for one more hour. Then turn off the oven and allow the pot to remain inside the closed oven so the pot will gradually cool down as the oven gradually cools off. After about three-hours remove the pot from the cool oven, wipe the pot off with a clean dry dish towel, and put the pot into its normal storage area. Do not store your pot with the lid on it or moisture may develop that could lead to rust problems.
The most common seasoning mistake is to use too much oil or fat in the coating process. The excess oil will form a pool of sticky goo. After the pot cools off, the gum pool will have to be scrubbed off and the pot re-seasoned. This problem can be avoided by minimizing the amount of oil used in the seasoning process. It also helps to heat the oven to a temperature that is just below the smoking point of the oil. This higher temperature will result in a darker coating that is less sticky. However, too high an oven temperature will result in a new set of problems. Therefore, unless you know the smoking point of the oil or fat that you are using, then 350 degree Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius) is a safe seasoning temperature. (Note: If you use a lower temperature the oil will not season properly and you will end up with a sticky surface on your cast iron cookware.)


How to Cook With Cast Iron Cookware

Cast iron cookware may be used in the kitchen in almost the same way as other cookware, with the major exceptions being as follows:
  1. The handles of cast iron cookware get hot so you will need a pair of gloves, or oven mittens, or hot pads, in order to move the cast iron pots after they get hot. Since some of the larger skillets have a front assist handle, you will need 2 gloves, or mittens, or pads. (Note: Handle covers are also available for cast iron, but they are not designed to be left on the handle while cooking. And you will still need something that will allow you to grasp the front assist handle. Therefore I personally do not recommend the cast iron handle covers.)
  2. Do not store food in your cast iron cookware. Use your cast iron for cooking and then immediately remove the food from the pot when it is fully cooked. If you allow your food to remain in your cast iron cookware then the food will gradually begin to acquire a metallic taste, and you will be creating the ideal conditions for the formation of rust. Always remove your food from your cast iron cookware as soon as the food has finished cooking.
  3. Wash your cast iron cookware immediately after you have eaten the meal you cooked using the cookware.
  4. Do not wash your cast iron cookware in an automatic dishwasher.
  5. Do not use metal spoons, forks, or spatulas with your cast iron cookware. Instead use plastic or wood utensils. Protect your cast iron cookware the same way you would a Teflon coated non-stick cook pot.
  6. Do not store your cast iron cookware with the lids on the cookware. The lids should be stored off the cookware. This will prevent the possible accumulation of moisture from humid air inside the pot which could eventually lead to a rust problem.
Most foods can be prepared in a cast iron skillet or pot using exactly the same procedures you would use with any other type of kitchen cookware. However, the following suggestions may help improve the quality of your meals:
  1. Preheat your cast iron skillet over low heat for about one-minute before you place any food into it.
  2. Put a few drops of cooking oil, shortening, or lard in the bottom of the skillet and let it melt. Spread the melted oil over the entire bottom surface of the skillet. The skillet is now ready to receive the food.
  3. Do not put frozen or very cold food or cold liquids into your skillet. All foods and liquids should be at room temperature before they are put in the skillet.
Cast iron cookware may also be used when camping. Since cast iron does not have plastic or wood handles, you will not have to worry about the cast iron handles melting or burning. However, the cast iron handles will get very hot so you will need a pair of leather gloves or thick kitchen mittens so you can grasp and move the cast iron cookware when your meal is ready to eat.

The following suggestions apply specifically to campfire cooking:
    Leather Glove for Campfire Cooking
  1. Use dry wood to build the campfire. Sticks that are off the ground are much dryer than sticks lying on the ground. Look for sticks that are caught in the limbs of shorter trees or bushes.
  2. Do not build a campfire bigger than required for your immediate objective.
  3. If there is a breeze then you will need to protect your fire with some type of wind break or wind deflector. Even a gentle breeze will cause the fire to burn faster, and hotter, and the breeze will consume your firewood and your red hot coals at a much faster rate. Install your wind break on the incoming wind side of your fire. Or build your campfire beside a natural windbreak, such as a very large rock. Do not build a campfire out in the open on an extremely windy day.
  4. If you have a camp shovel, then dig a shallow pit about 6 inches deep for your campfire. Then dig a cooking trench about 10 inches wide and 6 inches deep on one side of your fire pit. Firmly pack the dirt from your hole into the shape of a dirt wall on the incoming wind side of your fire. (Note: If there is a noticeable breeze then dig your fire pit at least 9 inches deep.)
  5. Safely build your fire in the middle of your fire pit. Wait for some of the wood to burn down to red hot coals. Scrape those red hot coals into the cooking trench beside your fire.
  6. Do not cook over the open flames of your campfire. Instead always cook over the red hot coals that you moved to one side of your fire.
  7. If you have a metal grill piece from an old charcoal grill then place it about 2 or 3 inches above the red hot cooking coals. Then put your cast iron cookware on the metal grill piece and cook in the same way you would when cooking on a charcoal grill or a gas grill.
  8. If you do not have a camp shovel and you built your campfire on level ground, then support your metal grill on top of three or four flat rocks of the appropriate size. If you do not have a metal grill, then support your cast iron skillet on some flat rocks. Never use rocks from a creek or stream because those water saturated rocks may explode or burst when exposed to the heat of a campfire.

How to Use a Cast Iron Dutch Oven When Camping

Always cook a short distance away from the main campfire itself.

Measure the diameter of your Dutch oven. This number may be molded into the lid of your oven.

You will need some red hot coals from your campfire. To determine the number of coals you will need do the following calculations. The following calculations are based on an internal Dutch oven cooking temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius).
    Metal Tongs
  1. Subtract two (2) from the oven diameter and put that many coals under the Dutch Oven.
  2. Add two (2) to the oven diameter and put that many coals on top of the lid of the Dutch Oven.
  3. For example, if you have a 12-inch diameter 6-quart Dutch Oven, then do the following:
    Place 10 coals (12-2=10) under the oven. Arrange the coals in a circle with the coals being about one-inch apart. Do not put a coal directly below the center of the oven or you will create a hot spot in the center of the oven and burn any food that may be resting there.
    Place 14 coals (12+2=14) on top of the lid of the oven. Place one coal on each side of the lid center handle and then place all the remaining coals equally spaced around the outside raised edge of the lid.
  4. To increase the oven temperature by 50F from 350F to 400F, add one more coal below and one more coal onto the lid of the oven. To increase the temperature by another 50F up to 450F, then add one more coal below (total of 12 coals below), and one more coal onto the lid of the oven (total of 16 coals on top). (Note: One additional coal above and one additional coal below will increase the internal oven temperature by 27.5 degrees Celsius.)
  5. Wear some leather gloves and use some metal tongs to pick up, move, and position the red hot coals into the required positions.
Following are some additional suggestions for cooking in a Dutch oven:

Cast Iron Trivet (Upside Down) To bake bread in a Dutch oven, place a small cooking grate, called a trivet, on the bottom of the oven. Then put the bread loaf pan on top of the trivet inside the oven so the bread loaf pan does not rest directly on the cast iron bottom of the Dutch oven. The same procedure should be used for pizzas, cookies, pretzels, crackers, cakes, biscuits, rolls, and any other flour based recipe you wish to bake. A nine-inch diameter non-stick cake pan works exceptionally well with a round loaf of bread. (Note: The picture of the cast iron trivet on the right shows the bottom side of the trivet so you can see the three short legs that keep the trivet supported just a little above the bottom of the cast iron cook pot.)

To cook meat or a roast in a Dutch oven, first melt a little oil, shortening, or lard in the warm oven and spread it over the entire inside bottom surface and sides of the oven. Then sear or brown both sides of the meat in the oven. This will help to seal the natural flavor and juices into the meat. After the meat has been well seared on both sides, you may prepare the meat or roast using any recipe you wish. Depending on the recipe, you may wish to place your trivet in the bottom of the Dutch oven so the meat will rest on the trivet and not make direct contact with the hot bottom surface of your oven.

If you wish to make a stew, then simply add sliced carrots and potatoes and onions to some diced meat cubes. Place your trivet in the bottom of your Dutch oven. The trivet will keep the potatoes and carrots and onions off the bottom of the Dutch oven and prevent them from being scorched. Then prepare the stew according to your favorite recipe.

If you wish to cook vegetables in a sauce, then the vegetables should be cooked slightly before adding the sauce. Boil or steam the vegetables for a few minutes (fewer minutes for fewer vegetables and more minutes for a larger portion of vegetables). Then drain off the water, add the sauce, and finish cooking the vegetables for the proper time according to whatever recipe you are following.

The lid of a Dutch oven may be turned upside down and its smooth inside curved surface used as a griddle. Transfer some red hot coals from your campfire to a position between three flat rocks placed about ten-inches apart. Turn the lid upside down and support it on the rocks so the lid is about 2 or 3 inches above the red hot coals. The inside smooth curved lid surface may then be used to fry bacon, pancakes, or a any other food item you would normally prepare on a griddle.


How to Clean Cast Iron Cookware

Don't let your food stay inside your cast iron cookware after it has been fully cooked. As soon as you are finished cooking you should immediately transfer all the food from inside your cast iron cookware into a large serving bowl or onto your normal eating dishes. Gently scrape off any food that may be stuck to the bottom or sides of the cook pot. Then set the pot aside so it can cool down. (Note: Never put hot cast iron cookware into some water. The rapid temperature change could cause your cast iron cookware to crack or warp.)

Small Soft Plastic Bristle Brush After eating your meal carefully check the pot and verify that it has cooled down enough to be handled with your bare hands. Wash the pot with warm or hot water, and some dish soap. You may use a dish cloth or a soft plastic bristle brush, such as the type you would use to clean your fingernails. If you use a soft brush then apply the same amount of pressure you would use if you were scrubbing your fingernails. Do not use a wire bristle brush or a steel wool pad because they will scrape some of the protective coating off your cookware.

After washing, thoroughly rinse the pot using warm clean water. Immediately dry all the water off the pot with a dish towel. Never allow any water to remain on the pot or you will be creating the environment necessary for rust to form. Never allow the pot to soak for an extended period of time in water.

If possible, heat the clean pot briefly before putting it away. You could put the pot into a 350 degree Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius) oven for five minutes. Or you could heat the pot over low heat on one of the burners on top of your stove for two minutes, or over the coals of a campfire. If the sun is shinning, you could place the pot in the direct rays of the sun for thirty-minutes, and then turn the pot upside down for another thirty-minutes.

Optional: While the pot is still warm, if you have some cooking oil, bacon grease, pork lard, or beef tallow, then spread a very, very, very thin coat over the entire surface of the warm pot, both inside and outside. Carefully wipe the entire pot to remove any excess oil so only a very, very, very thin coat is evenly distributed over the entire surface of the pot. Put the pot upside down inside a 350 degree Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius) oven for thirty-minutes. Then turn off the oven and allow the pot to cool down as the oven gradually cools off. After about three-hours, remove the pot from the cool oven, wipe the pot off with a clean dry dish towel, and put the pot into its normal storage area.

Always store your cookware with the lid off. If possible, do not stack your cookware one pot inside the other. These conditions create an environment where the moisture from the humidity in the air can form on the pot and rust can gradually develop.

Never wash cast iron cookware in an automatic dishwasher.

Soap Note: Some people refuse to use soap to clean their cast iron cookware. Following is a direct quote from the Lodge Cast Iron Manufacturing Company General Care Booklet:

"Never use harsh detergents to clean iron as it will remove the seasoning." (Lodge Cast Iron Manufacturing Company)

Ordinary dish soap is not a harsh detergent. I always use dish soap, warm water, and a fingernail brush when I wash my cast iron cookware and I have not had any problems with a deterioration in the protective seasoning coating on the surface of the pot. The dish soap helps to remove excess grease, tiny food particles, and it sanitizes the cookware. However, if you prefer not to use soap, then you may follow whatever advice you choose.


How to Remove Rust From Cast Iron Cookware

You should not use rusted cast iron cookware to prepare food because the rust will get into your food and poison your family.

If you purchase new cast iron cookware and if you take care of it, then rust should not be a problem that you have to deal with.

If you inherit some family cast iron cookware and it has been in storage for some time, then it may have some rust issues. If the rust is minor then it may be possible to salvage the cookware. However, if the rust problem is significant, then you may not be able to salvage your inheritance.

If you find some cast iron cookware for sale at a garage or yard sale, then examine it closely before you buy it. If the cast iron contains some rust then my suggestion is to let someone else purchase the bargain.

My personal experience in trying to remove the rust from a cast iron Dutch oven my wife inherited from one of her uncles convinced me that it is generally not practical to believe that you can salvage a piece of rusted cast iron cookware without spending more money than a new replacement piece of cast iron would cost.

Original Rusty OvenCleaned With Steel WoolRight Side Soaked in Vinegar Solution

However, if you wish to experiment with rust removal then try the following:

Step One: Thoroughly clean the cast iron cookware with hot water, soap, and steel wool soap pads. Remove as much surface rust as possible. Replace a used soap pad with a new one when it wears out. Use a stiff bristle wire brush as necessary. Use coarse sandpaper as necessary. When you have removed as much of the rust as you can you are ready for the next step.

Step Two: Completely submerge the cast iron piece in one of the following solutions for 24-hours:
(1) 67% ammonia with 33% water, or a 2 to 1 solution, or
(2) 67% white vinegar with 33% water, or a 2 to 1 solution.
The cast iron piece must be completely submerged in one of the above solutions because the soaking process will change the color of the piece. If the piece is only partially submerged then you will create a permanent line on the piece where the part of the piece that was submerged will always be a different color than the rest of the piece (see picture top right). Be sure to soak the cast iron in an outdoor area because the smell from either of the above solutions is unacceptable to people and it will usually make them sick if they breathe the offensive odors.

Step Three: After you remove the cast iron from the solution, rinse it extremely well with hot water. Then wash the piece with hot water, soap, steel wool soap pads, a wire bristle brush, and some coarse sandpaper. Rinse the piece again in hot water. If you were successful in removing all the rust, then congratulations. You will now need to re-season your cast iron at least three times, and then it will be ready to use again.

However, if some rust still remains after Step Three then you will need to repeat the entire process again, from the beginning. And again. And again. At some point you will probably realize you are investing more money in cleaning supplies than the cast iron piece is worth. And when you also consider the time and labor you have invested you will probably wish you had never begun this project, and that you had simply invested your money in a new piece of cast iron cookware instead.



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