Undead Pan




Introduction: Undead Pan

About: I like experimenting, learning, making new connections and building things--whereby building for me includes software, hardware, writing, graphics…I guess doing any creative, constructive, unassigned process...

I found this pan on the street and it seemed a shame to let it go to waste so I decided to try to bring it back to life. Anyway, can cast iron die? (I guess if it rusts through). It's the first time I've done something like this but it seems to have worked pretty well.

I looked up the brand and it turns out it's from a company founded in 1533 (!) and bought by Le Creuset, so perhaps a decent quality. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cousances)

I read a lot of opinions on the different (dare I say best?) way to recondition a cast iron pan and finally decided to try this version: "Chemistry of Cast Iron Seasoning: A Science-Based How-To" (http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/01/a-scienc...)

I don't have a self-cleaning oven so did the surface cleaning with wire brushes on a power drill.

Step 1: Before

Some pics of the surface before reconditioning.

Step 2: Cleaning With Wire Brush Attachment

It took maybe an hour or two with breaks to get the interior clean. The brushing 'ate up' most of the two wire brushes I had, wearing down maybe close to half of the bristle length. I think I saw that the wire brush pitted the metal surface a little bit, like it would wood, which I didn't want but decided it was not so bad that I would stop and try to find another method. I didn't do the exterior as it wasn't that important to me and might anyway be used over a fire at some point.

Not shown: I used an random orbital sander (an old Festool ETS 125 EQ I got off ebay) to try to flatten the bottom (inside). People have commented how modern cast iron pans (like Lodge) have a grainy surface, compared to the completely smooth pans one could find many decades ago. I think they used to machine them flat. So I tried to create a more smooth surface, reduce the pitting I saw from wire brushing, by sanding. It worked pretty well. I didn't do a huge amount, maybe 30min. but it reduced the worst "mountainous" peaks of metal grains and felt noticeably smoother.

Step 3: Oiling and Baking

I applied a few ml. of organic, cold-pressed, pure linseed oil and wiped it around with a paper towel. I then wiped it almost completely out before putting the pan in the oven. I put it in the oven at ~250C for 30 min., then let it cool an hour or two, put more oil on in the same way described above, and redid the oven cycle. Actually, I baked it for ~45min. or so the first couple of cycles then decided that 30 min. was enough. I did this a while ago and don't remember the reason for that but I think it might have had to do with smoke and smell dissipating by 30min. I think I also wiped the surface down between bakes to check the finish and as far as I remember the paper towel was fairly clean; apparently the oil had polymerized.

I did six cycles of applying and wiping out a new layer of oil and then baking.

Step 4: Back From the Dead

As far as I could see it worked really nicely. The surface has an oily sheen yet is not oily to the touch. Water beads up on it. The color is quite homogeneous.

No scrambled eggs pics yet but maybe I'll add some in the future.

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    112 Discussions

    Excellent rescue. Bravo:)

    I've "saved" a few too! Use whatever works that is handy.

    After, I just re-season them after each use... After washing, yeah with soap & water, a scrub pad and everything, I put it back on the stove with full flame to dry out, then smear a little oil in it and heat until it just starts smoking. Wipe again after it cools and put away ready for the next use.

    The proof will be in the cooking.

    Reminds me of an old story.

    A grandfather invited his grandson to visit his backwood cabin. He had cast iron cookware and dishes. As they were eating the grandson mentioned the slimy feel of the dishes. Grandpa responded. "That's as good as cold water gets them."

    The next morning a breakfast, the grandson again comments about the slimy feel. "That's as good as cold water get them." says Grandpa.

    As they were walking down to the trail as the grandson is about to leave, a big black Labrador comes bounding up. Grandpa exclaims, "There you are Cold Water. Where you been boy?"

    2 replies

    I heard that story A little differently.

    A fellow was having trouble with A new neighbor that always showed up at dinner time. Tired of feeding the freeloader he served the next night's dinner on dirty plates. The old guy mentioned the plates didn't look too clean. "Well!" The fellow said " There as clean as Soap and three Waters can get em!" The old guy went back to eating with a grunt. When the dinner was over the fellow collected the plates and laid them on the floor. He opened the door and called Soap! Threewaters! dinner!!

    Presently, in ran 2 big dog's!!

    Ewwww. Gross. But, the Coldwater version works better. Soap and Coldwater would be more believeable.

    I don't think you even know what a gem you have there.. I have restored many pieces of Cast Iron cookware using numerous methods and the one you used is hands down the best.. NO CHEMICALS!! (Oven cleaner is HIGHLY TOXIC and will penetrate the pores of the Cast Iron) Just a little bit of elbow grease and a few rounds in the oven with Flax seed oil (food grade linseed oil).. GREAT JOB!!!

    3 replies

    Extremely rusty cast iron can be sandboxed to remove the rust and any burned on carbon on the outside of the cookware. I buy old cast iron cookware at auctions and referb it and sell it at flea markets. Look for Griswald and Wagner. Made in U.S.A. and the best names in cast iron cookware.

    I have my mother's 10" Griswald pan and A Wagner chicken fryer with lid that was given to her by her mother on her wedding day. Both were old then and upon her death I got them. I am 65 Y.O.

    That's sandblasted. I really hate autocorrect!

    oven cleaner is just sodium hydroxide. It dissolves itself fine in water, and it's neutralised by any acid such as vinaigar.

    Useful instruction. I'll try this with my old pan

    You did a good job on cleaning the pan. My husband would always take cast iron and start a fire outside, (we have always lived in the country), and put new and cast iron that needed refreshing and let them burn in the fire until the fire died out. Usually the next day. Then he would take a special stone for honing knives and rub the pan inside and out and then wipe it with a damp cloth and put in oven until dry. When dry we would oil the inside of the pan and put it back into the oven for about a hour. The pan would be smooth as a baby's bottom and nothing would stick. You mentioned that "People have commented how modern cast iron pans (like Lodge) have a
    grainy surface, compared to the completely smooth pans one could find
    many decades ago" The more you season a pan the smoother they get. Has nothing to do with how they are made. It is simply how well people take care of their cast iron pans. You can't beat cast iron for cooking or baking.

    4 replies

    Fred I have to agree and disagree, most modern pans are not machined to save money. One less step in the manufacturing process. All my old pans are machined but my new one have been worn into a smooth bottom. That being said it is how you treat them that makes work well.

    The older Griswald pans were definitely machined, you can see the marks like stated in another comment. I tried "filling in" the rough surface with seasoning, couldn't do it. I sanded a Lodge pan and use it daily. I scrape the my pans with a stiff metal spatula to remove food bits followed by a wipe of oil or sometimes a hot water rinse before oil.

    Like stated elsewhere in the comments, some early pans are made very smooth. I have a couple of examples that show the machining done to the bottom and sides. Modern pots just dont get the extra work to make them smooth before leaving factory.

    agree with both--multiple layers of seasoning smooth out surface irregularities, but, I am pretty sure when I looked at some old super smooth pans I saw concentric spiral machining pattern on the surface, vs. the straight-from-sand-cast gritty surface of other (modern?) pans

    My method of restoring a cast iron pan

    I put the pan in a self cleaning over and start the cleaning cycle. This burns off all of the gunk that has collected on the pan. When it has cooled, I wash and rinse the pan - ok to use a little soap this time to get the ash off. Then I season the pan by rubbing with shortening and putting in a heated oven at around 300F for a couple of hours. Don't use too much of any kind of oil or shortening otherwise you will just start the uneven buildup of gunk again. When it has cooled, rinse the pan with hot water and it is ready to use. To keep the pan seasoned, I only wipe out any food particles and rinse with hot water. Using dish liquid will slowly remove the seasoning over time.

    1 reply

    I have been waiting for a crusty one to try and clean in the oven. I knew it would work! Thanks for confirming it for me.

    From Jamaica ... I have a large 10' frying pan that has been used as to rill meats using a ss grate across the mouth as the pan is heated on a gas burner. This has caused pieces of metal to flake off when heated ...should I get this machined flat or try the wire brush / sander method ??

    I have my Grandmother's cast iron pans. (Several skillets and a Dutch Oven) They have been seasoned many times over the years (I am 75 and brought them to my marriage) Best cooking surface, non-stick, and heat evenly. They work well in the oven, too. All of these old pans have porous surfaces - that way they retain the oil - which further seasons them with each use. I wash them with soap and water, dry them:: then pop them into the oven to remove the moisture the towel misses. Only drawback is you need a lot of pot holders handy.

    1 reply

    I don't like using my cast iron skillet because everything sticks to the pan. I used to love to make meatloaf but the bottom burned.
    Any tips?