When my Mom died we had an awful task on our hands. We had to go through all the junk she had collected over the years that was useless to us now. We happened to save a few things that we weren’t sure why until I came across a piece that struck me as something I had to play around with. My Mom’s old cast iron pan.
This pan was a Wagner #10 pan and my experience with cast iron only had been in the Boy Scouts when we were camping and from what I know now they didn’t teach us how to handled the cast iron pots and pans very well. My Mom’s old skillet had seen better days and I wish I took a before picture just to give you an idea what it looked like before I started reconditioning it. I did find a couple of pictures below which are pretty close to what it looked like before I started, but it was actually worse than this.
I started searching google for different ways to recondition a cast iron pan and found a lot of information, but most of the techniques were minor variations on the same thing.
1. Coat the pan with an oven cleaner and leave it for up to a week spraying more on every few days
2. Wash it with soap and water
3. Use fine #000 steel wool to remove any of the left over bits that haven’t come off
4. Re-season the pan
That’s all pretty easy stuff to do so I started off to work on it. I sprayed it down and had it bagged up in my basement where I’d re-spray it every few days and then one day when I was looking at some info I found on cast iron pans I found the following information, The Wagner Sidney, OH plant was closed in 1903. Uh, wait a sec, WHAT?! I started looking up pictures and found an exact match for my Mom’s pan and it turns out that I had a cast iron pan sitting in a caustic solution for close to a week that turns out she got from her Mom who got it from her Mom. I had my Great Grandmother’s pan from the late 1800’s to beginning of the 20th century sitting in a death bath of evil chemicals.
I yanked it out of the bag and started washing it off to make sure I hadn’t ruined it. I had forgotten something, it’s cast iron. The pan was fine, but still had a few spots of over a hundred year old seasoning left on it so I put it back and sprayed it some more. When I was finished I added another step that the Black Iron Dude suggested of soaking it in two parts water to one part white vinegar to counter act the lye in the oven cleaner.
Now it was time to re-season the pan. This is where people differ in their views. Some like it hot others like it not so hot. I chose the not so hot since some people seem to like this first and then move up to the hotter seasoning plus I’m not sure our pot holders would help me with a red hot 550° skillet. I put it in the oven after washing it off set to around 150° for about 15 minutes to make sure it was completely dry. I pulled it out and turned the oven up to 350° and started rubbing some coconut oil all over the inside and outside of the pan. It then goes back into the oven for about an hour and then when you let it cool down it’s seasoned. I’m going to do this a total of three times so I’m not finished yet, but you can see how far it’s come from the picture. After the first seasoning you can see that the pan is a little spotty, but it’s still smooth as glass on the inside.
I’ll start off Sunday by cooking eggs in it. On a side note the inside of this pan is a smooth as glass even before I started to restore it. That’s a sign that it’s an old pan. Looking at this pan taught me something in that when I got married 16 years ago we were given a lot of pots and pans, almost all non-stick. Most of those aren’t what you would call non-stick today. The teflon wears down and just doesn’t exactly do what it’s supposed to after awhile while friends of mine who swear by a good seasoned cast iron pan say it never sticks. Here I’ve got a pan that lasted over 100 years and was pretty easy to bring it back to looking better than new. I’m hoping to get another 100 years out of the pan now. If this works out like I hope it will our non-stick pans will be going away very soon and I’ll be adding more antique cast iron [hint, it’s usually cheaper than new non-stick if you want to do the work].
Stay tuned for more info.