My sister and I were lucky enough to find vintage Wagner Ware cast iron skillets in my grandmother’s basement. The skillets hadn’t been so lucky though. After going unused possibly for decades, they were covered in an impressively nasty crust. Then my sister’s boyfriend got a Griswold Dutch oven from his grandmother’s basement. These are treasures, possibly some of the finest cookware ever made in America. But they needed work, and since my sister lives in a building where she doesn’t want to set the fire alarm off, I offered to do it for her (Project 11). And then they sat all scuzzy in my cabinets for over a year.
And she was coming in the middle of the month for a wedding! So, ack! I let it go to the very last minute, and then scrambled to get it done the day she arrived. (Also, ack! The month is more than half over!) To start, you have to get all the old seasoning off. The coolest way to do this is in an electrolysis tank. Hook your cast iron up to a battery charger in a tank of water, connect the other terminal to another piece of metal, and the electricity does all the work for you. I’m not cool enough for this though so I used Easy Off. I wrapped them up in plastic bags and let them sit overnight.
And with just a bit of scrubbing they came out nice and clean. Except for the little Number 3 skillet, which didn’t come clean in time for me to do it. Too bad, these little guys are perfect to fry an egg or 2. Now she’ll get that one back for Thanksgiving.
Anyways, the next step is to coat them with a thin layer of fat and then bake them in the oven at 500 degrees for an hour.* See, this is why she had some fear of the fire alarms. I read that very perishable flaxseed oil is the best, but I just used canola oil that I had on hand. Also, I dragged my feet through a week of cool weather and did this hot job when it got warm again. The good news is it didn’t actually stink that much.
*Non-American readers, don’t panic. That’s 260 degrees Celsius.
And then I turned my brain off for a moment and took the Dutch oven out and set it on the counter. Now I have that sought-after old Griswold logo burned into the polyurethane. (I was fortunately able to scrape off the bits of poly that stuck to the pot.)
If you’ll recall, this oak was a table top that I got from a friend’s basement and the plan was always to sand off the old finish and treat it with cutting board oil. Is this what will finally get me to… do that?