I’ve been cooking with cast iron all my life, as my mother and grandmother, and great-grandmother before me all did. I know they did, I learned to cook in their kitchens by watching them, and then cooking at home. Now that I’m grown up, Dad and I have amassed quite the collection here on the farm, from tiny six inch skillets to the massive 24-qt dutch oven Dad brought home from Muster on the Mountain this summer. We haven’t used that one yet, but the lady that sold it to him told him we will be able to roast five whole chickens in it.
Most of our pieces were acquired used, found at junk shops, yard sales, and barn sales. I love barn sales, you never know what you will find. Used cast iron con be intimidating, I know. The beautiful seasoning that makes them gleam like black satin is gone, leaving a crust of flaky iron oxide instead. Don’t be afraid, most pieces can be saved. Pick it up and heft it, first (what? you’re junking, surely you’re wearing grubby clothes and don’t mind getting your hands dirty.) a good piece will have some weight to it. Check to make sure the botton isn’t warped, or worse, cracked. While a light coat of rust is not a problem, deep pitting is, as it ruins the cooking surface.
Once you’ve bought your new find and gotten it home, scrub off the rust and prepare it for reseasoning. A very stubborn coat of rust may need a light going-over with a wire brush. We usually slather ours in crisco and then put it in the grill while it’s still hot, and leave it overnight with the lid closed. Of course, we only grill with charcoal, so this is possible, it wouldn’t work with gas! Once it’s cool in the morning, any remaining oily residue can be washed off with hot water and paper towels to dry and blot afterward. Your shiny new pan is ready to use!