All posts by Billy

Wagner Cast Iron Skillet: My First Vintage Cast Iron Cookware

 Wagner Cast Iron Skillet

Wagner Cast Iron Skillets
My first vintage cast iron – three Wagner Cast Iron Skillets

Here is my first vintage cast iron!  I have heard about how great the vintage Wagner cast iron (or WagnerWare cast iron)  is versus the new modern varieties that you might find these days. Today, Lodge dominates they market and I have plenty of Lodge cast iron cookware (skillets, griddles, and dutch ovens).  You can also find some cheaper brands, probably made in China, and most likely inferior to the Lodge. These Wagner cast iron skillets were actually in pretty darn good shape overall.  The quality was apparent even it if was partly psychological.  Either way, I could immediately see how smooth the interior surface of the skillets were.

Buying Vintage Wagner Cast Iron

WagnerWare Cast Iron: #3 and #6
WagnerWare Cast Iron: 1053 (#3) and 1056 (#6)

I found this piece on eBay as part of a lot of 3 Wagner Cast Iron Skillets – there was an unmarked #3, a WagnerWare #3 1053H, and a WagnerWare #6 1056N. In the photo on the auction, it was clear the 1053H was never really used – there was no seasoning to be seen, the color was of raw cast iron (gray), and there was a little rust clearly visible.  The unmarked #3 and the 1056N looked fantastically seasoned – shiny and black! Well, there you go, you can see for yourself

I was seeking out good deals for some Wagner skillets on eBay.  The thing is some of the very clean pieces that have been stripped, de-rusted, and re-seasoned can fetch a pretty penny.  We’re talking $20 or $30 up to over $100.  Surely some of these items are over priced to some extent, maybe some of the pieces are just really rare and hard to find, or maybe some bidders let their emotions take over and the final, winning bid was higher than they intended.  It isn’t like there is manufacturers suggested retail price for this stuff.

Anyhow, I focused my search on some of the lower priced items initially.  Once I narrowed it down a bit, I looked for items with some apparent and visible defects.  My reasoning was that it would be easy in most cases to fix any of those defects.  If a skillet is rusty, then you can clean it well, use some vinegar at a 50% dilution with tap water and soak it for a little while.  Maybe use a little steel wool to get the last bit off.  If a skillet is a little crusty or even a lot crusty with old greasy seasoning, you can still deal with that.  You’d be able to use some restoration methods and end up with a pretty good result.

You also have to think about the shipping costs with cast iron, after all, that iron is pretty darn heavy! Some of the pieces are bulky and require a awkwardly shaped box.  Essentially, you have to take into account the shipping cost when bidding because in some cases the shipping can make up 50% of the total price.  Just keep that in mind…

Here are a couple other tips when buying on eBay:

Size #3 Used for Serving
Cast Iron Skillet, Size #3 Used for Serving
  • Ask questions!  You can just be direct and ask about the condition: Is there any rust on the item? Is there any pitting?  Are there chips, especially around the edges?  Is the bottom completely flat and absent of wobbling?  Are there any defects?  You only want to purchase from a reputable seller and a reputable seller will answer your questions promptly and honestly. I actually bought a pretty beat up Wagner 1058 that was a little rusty on the inside and had 1/8″ of visible gunk and seasoning in some areas. I cleaned it up using some oven cleaner and patience. It looked pretty beautiful once it was cleaned up but a crack was also revealed.  It’s not a huge deal since it actually doesn’t seem to affect the cooking at all even though you can see the crack on the interior and the bottom of the skillet.  That’s a long way of saying that, 1) a crack isn’t necessarily a big deal, and 2) defects may not be apparent if the cast iron cookware has a thick layer of seasoning.
  • Flat bottom usually means no heat ring rather than non warped.  Check out a few of the auctions that do have cookware with a heat ring and  you will see what I mean. Cast iron can become warped if it was heated or cooled too quickly and the result is a permanent disfiguring of the metal.  It is most critical if you are cooking on a flat glass top and if the warping is severe, you may not be able to use the cookware effectively on the stovetop but the oven or grill would still be fair game. If you are using a gas range, or electric coils, the impact of a warped piece is far less important. To reference the Wagner 1058 again, this skillet was flat on the bottom with no wobbling initially.  Well, after all of the cleaning it turned out to be a little wobbly.  I do have a flat, glass top stove top range so this isn’t ideal.  However, the skillet is still usable and seems avoid having a hot spot based on the point of the skillet that is actually touching the stove. I do need to do some more research on that though.
  • Beware of reproductions.  Here is another gotcha that you can ask about and while the seller may not admit it directly, you will have made it clear that you know what you’re talking about! Look out for the “Wagner’s 1891 Original” which was manufactured from 1991 to 1999.  You can find these often; you’ll know they aren’t vintage because of the engraving on the bottom dated “1891” and the fact that they are completely underprices for some cast iron that is over 100 years old.

 

WagnerWare 1056
Wagner Cast Iron Skillet – 1056

How Much Does Vintage Cast Iron Cost?

In this case, I won the auction for $12.05!  A great bargin if you ask me!  “How much was the shipping?!” you say.  The shipping for the lot of 3 skillets was $15.85. Yep, the shipping cost more than the goods.  Each of the skillets was less then $10 a piece, they can pretty much last for a few lifetimes if you take care of them right.  I felt great about this deal overall.  This may be an exception as far as the pricing but I think if you lurk around and take your time while monitoring the auctions, you too can find a good deal. As I mentioned, you can find a full range of pricing, from reasonable to outrageous.

Afterthoughts: Quality of Vintage Cast Iron

Well, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about the unnamed #3 but it turned out to be wicked smooth and in excellent shape.  The seasoning on this one was first rate! The 1053H was pretty much pristine – It looks like it was in the original box for 50 years and got a little damp.  I am certain that it was never used and after a little vinegar bath for about 30 minutes, plus a little baking with canola oil (how to season), this 1053H was better than it was new.  The 1056N looked  great with a very solid looking seasoning.  I took it for a test run with an egg and it performed flawlessly – no sticking at all! I am really happy with my purchases and look forward to finding more great deals on eBay.

 

Wonder why you can use a #3 or 1053 cast iron skillet for?  Check out this recipe for calzones cooked on the grill.

For some additional information, I encourage you to check out The Cast Iron Collector site. It has a huge amount of valuable information and a very nice community and forum.

Enameled Cast Iron vs Cast Iron

Enameled Cast Iron vs. Cast Iron

Many people read or hear about cast iron cookware and are surprised to find that there are various types available. You may have decided that you want to begin cooking with cast iron pots and pans but you may not know where to begin. While bare, uncoated cast iron and enameled cast iron cookware do have similar features and provide comparable benefits, there are a few key differences to note when deciding to purchase the cookware.  The goal of this post is to compare Enameled Cast Iron vs Cast Iron.  It’s the battle of heavy metal!  Sort of…

Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Enameled Cast Iron

Enameled cast iron cookware is comparable to stainless steel in terms of its non-stick characteristics. It is safe to use with acidic foods and has a high heat retention due to its thickness and generally awesome cast iron qualities. Additionally, these skillets are also safe to use in the oven, on all stoves and on the grill.  I would slightly hesitate to use the really ornate, pricy cast iron out on the barbie due to the risk of damaging the somewhat delicate, glossy coating.

Enameled cast iron is also heavy which may be a positive or a negative depending on if you have other plans for the cookware such as protection against an intruder.  If you don’t have a sandwich or panini press you can use a preheated dutch oven or skillet.  Enameled cast iron also has a lower thermal conductivity when compared to simple cast iron; many chefs use the time it will take to heat up an enamel cast iron Dutch oven and complete other tasks in the meantime.

These skillets are also more expensive than traditional cast iron, particularly when you compare well-known brand names, like Le Creuset. However, if you can find these skillets at flea markets, thrift stores or from an aging relative, you may be able to save some money. Even Lodge had gotten into the enameled cast iron game, and who could blame them with the prices of some of the imported pieces.  The quality is no doubted high to exceptional but if you’re on a budget then the price tag may make you reconsider.  Additionally, the pans and pots vary in their knobs, handles and shape, but you can often order replacement knobs for a dollar or two; your off-brand, never-heard-of-before skillet can now be safely used in the oven.

Avoid using metal utensils in enameled cast iron; it is possible to chip the coating. However, should such a situation occur, simply season the pan again. You are only exposing the cast iron; that doesn’t mean you cannot use the pan anymore.  Enameled cast iron will not hold flavors as readily as a traditional cast iron skillet.  This is really a positive and a negative.  Let’s say I’ve just fried some catfish in my cast iron skillet – Yum Yum!  Let’s say I want to make some pine apple upside down cake the very next day.  I think you can see the point. It’s certainly not a deal breaker for the bare cast iron but I think it’s clear that the enamel coating could be handy in some cases.

Le Creuset Dutch Oven
Le Creuset Dutch Oven
Descoware Enamel Cast Iron Cookware
Descoware Enamel Cast Iron Cookware

Cast Iron

Wagnerware Cast Iron Skillet 1056 – preheating

 

Bare, uncoated cast iron is relatively cheap compared to traditional cookware and enameled cast iron. In fact, some lucky chefs can inherit cast iron skillets from their grandmothers and great-grandmothers because cast iron dates back to the 5th century BC. While you may not have a pan quite that old even though your grandmother may resemble otherwise, cast iron cookware is sturdy and can last for generations. Some people consider, the author included, the older, vintage cast iron pieces to be superior in quality and the antique stuff just gives you the warm and fuzzies too.

Cast iron, when properly seasoned, is the original nonstick pan. Many veteran chefs and beginners alike agree that it is the best type of cookware for searing and blackening. Even if you simply need a pan to use under the broiler or a good weapon to guard against an intruder, nearly everyone should own at least one sturdy cast iron skillet.  It’s pretty much a staple in the American kitchen and for good reason.

Bare cast iron can help to evenly deliver heat more efficiently as the result of the unique radiative properties of the dark metal. Additionally, if you have an iron deficiency, bare cast iron can help to add extra iron into your food.  This is an important thing to consider to help get the trace elements that are needed, especially if you or anyone in your family suffers from Iron deficiency anemia.  It isn’t just an tale that your grandma told you – the Journal of Food Science conducted a study with the results published in 2006.  The amount of iron (Fe to the chemistry folks) varied greatly based on the acidic pH or organic acids but the food contained significantly more iron than food cooked in anything else than uncoated cast iron.  We try to cook on cast iron 3-4 times a week around here.

However, while a heavy cast iron pan can help you to protect your home in the middle of the night, the skillets are fairly heavy to lift. These pans must be seasoned and should rarely be used to cook acidic foods because the acid can wear away the seasoning to the point where the food will come into contact with bare iron, causing a reaction. While it is always fun to experiment with new flavors, you may not want to taste metal when you are sitting down to dinner with your family.  Moderation is key to the acidic food – I make a chili in my dutch ovens every now and then but don’t do it everyday or let it simmer for more than 3-4 hours.  I would skip the pasta sauce (Sunday Gravy) if you’re planning on simmering/braising for many, many hours.

If you do not treat cast iron with care, you risk shattering or cracking the skillet. Avoid placing the pan in water while it is still hot; the temperature difference can damage the skillet by warping or cracking it. Additionally, use caution if you have a smooth, glass top range; you risk scratching the service, making it more difficult to clean. I have a glass top stove myself and we haven’t had any issues so just be careful and I think your stove will be okay.  These skillets also have the potential to rust and have a low thermal conductivity; it may take a while to properly heat up a pan to cooking temperatures.  The low thermal conductivity has a plus side since the pan will stay hot for longer.  This is why they serve fajitas on cast iron; the hot, searing metal keeps the food hot while you’re stuffing your face full of tasty Tex-Mex.

Wagnerware Cast Iron Skillet 1053
Wagnerware Cast Iron Skillet 1053

If you are searching for a cast iron skillet, inspect it to make sure the handle is usable; a pan with a stubby handle will cause nothing but headaches when the time comes to cook.  It wouldn’t be unusable but you may need to task it with other jobs aside from typical skillet tasks – maybe use it as a deep dish pizza pan…?

 

Enameled Cast Iron vs. Cast Iron – Who is the Winner?

 

Both enameled cast iron and bare cast iron have positives and drawbacks; if you are in the market for new cast iron cookware or an enamel cast iron Dutch oven, it is vital that you do your research to determine what type is best for you. However, if you aren’t picky and you are on a budget, start hounding family and friends to see if anyone has an extra skillet that they are not using or scout out nearby thrift stores and garage sales to score the best deals. Regardless of what type of cast iron you choose, you will be able to cook with pans that have been around for centuries.  Just get one of each…They both have their place in your kitchen.

If you pressed me, I would go for the bare, naked, uncoated, unadulterated cast iron.  It think it has the edge in durability.

 

What Next?  Do you already have your cast iron and wonder what you can cook with it?  Check out our recipes section! 

Photo Credits to fowler&fowler at wikimedia commons and parityytirap, johnny.hunter at flickr.

Recipe: Cast Iron Skillet Pizza

Do you want to make some homemade pizza but you lack the “required” pizza stone? Don’t worry! Just make a Cast Iron Skillet Pizza instead.  There are a few alternatives to help you get your pizza fix without having the requisite pizza stone and we’ll discuss how to use a cast iron skillet or griddle.

Cast Iron Skillet Pizza

Cast-Iron-Skillet-Pizza

 

Let’s talk about why a cast iron skillet or griddle would work nicely for this kind of application. First, most people (and especially people that have stumbled upon this website!) probably have a cast iron skillet.  There are many benefits of using cast iron in general and one of the advantages in this scenario is the non stick surface of a well seasoned piece of cast iron.  The main advantage is that the cast iron will allow you to bake the pizza at a very high temperature making for a nice, crispy crust.  Just cooking pizza in your cast iron cookware will help form and improve the seasoning.

 Ingredients for the dough

  • 1 package package active yeast
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water (about 105°F, use spring water or charcoal filtered)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature/softened
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup corn flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt

Directions for the dough

Freshly mixed dough
Freshly mixed dough

In the bowl of an stand mixer, combine yeast, sugar, all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, corn flour, and salt then combine well, using the paddle attachment. Add butter and water then knead using a dough hook, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and sort of climbs up the hook a bit. Add a 1 tablespoon water if dough is dry and not coming together. If dough is too wet, add a 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour. Remove the dough from the bowl. coatthe bowl with olive oil and return the dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it doubles in bulk, about an hour and the amount of time depends on the ambient temperature. It rises faster if it is warmer but let’s aim for room temperature, roughly, about 65-82F.  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide in half. Shape the dough into two balls, cover with plastic wrap again and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes. If you only want one pizza for now, put one batch of the dough in a tuperware-type bowl, cover with plastic wrap so the dough won’t dry out, lightly set the lid on top, and place in the refrigerator.

Flattened Dough, ready to be placed in the skillet.
Flattened Dough, ready to be placed in the skillet.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Oil one or two 10-inch or 12-inch cast iron skillets depending on how many pizzas you are making. We will just assume one pizza for now. Shape the dough into a circle and transfer it to the skillet. Press dough down in the bottom of skillet and up the sides. Top your pizza with the toppings of your choice (see below for some ideas). Drizzle the pizza with a tablespoon of olive oil and a bit of freshly ground black pepper.

Place the cast iron skillet on the stovetop then turn the heat to medium-high for 3 minutes.  As we know cast iron is an excellent heat conductor, and these pans will get hot fast. The bottom of the crust is getting a head start on baking before it even gets to the oven.

Bake on lowest rack of your oven.  Bake until pizza crust is golden brown and toppings are starting to brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove pizza from oven and let it rest for about 3-5 minutes before cutting and devouring!

 

 

Ideas for toppings

  • Olive oil and roasted garlic base with sun-dried tomatoes, Provolone, feta and mozzarella cheeses, sliced Roma tomatoes and thinly sliced sweet onions.
  • Tomato sauce base with mozzarella cheese,  sausage, Applewood smoked bacon, mushrooms, black olives, sliced Roma tomatoes and thinly sliced sweet onions.
  • Pesto base with portobello mushrooms, feta and mozzarella cheeses, and baby spinach.
  • BBQ sauce base, chopped roasted chicken breast, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, caramelized sweet onions, and Applewood smoked bacon.
  • Olive oil and garlic base, all chopped grilled curry chicken, mozzarella cheese. Topped with fresh basil, sliced cucumbers, and a swirl of sweet Thai chili sauce.
  • Bleu cheese or ranch dressing as a base. Mozzarella cheese, chopped grilled Buffalo chicken, caramelized sweet onions, Applewood smoked bacon with a swirl of Buffalo sauce.
  • My favorite – Pesto base with ham, pineapple, chopped jerk chicken, Applewood smoked bacon and mozzarella cheese.
Cast Iron Pizza in the Oven
Cast Iron Pizza in the Oven

A couple notes on the dough – a longer rise provides more yeasty delicious flavor.  So if you can afford to wait or if you do plan ahead, make the dough the day before and place the dough balls in the refrigerator.   Take the measures mentioned above to make sure the dough does not dry out and allow plenty of space for the dough to expand.  Just take one of the dough balls out 30 minutes ahead of time, about the time that you would turn on the oven to preheat and you should be in good shape.

Photo Credits: adambarhan, L. Marie, whitneyinchicago, and Vegan Feast Catering – all from flickr.

Black Iron – Cast Iron Dutch Oven

The following article on the care of cast iron utensils, by Soc Clay,
is taken from the January/February 1992 issue of The Louisiana
Conservationist.

Black Iron and Black Magic

When the earliest white hunters and settlers came to Louisiana, one
important piece of equipment they carried was a cast iron Dutch oven.

Antique Cast Iron Dutch Oven

This highly practical cooking utensil was essential in the kit of even
the lightest traveling adventurer in early America. In fact, long before
Columbus began his quest of discovery, hunting parties around the world
depended uon some form of the classic Dutch oven to handle a multitude of
cooking chores.

The Dutch oven and other black iron cooking untensils continue to be
essential in hunting and fishing camps across Louisiana. An iron pot with
a tight fitting lid is still the prized possession of many camp cooks. More
than a few are also found “back home.” The fancy copper-bottomed and tinted
glass cookware may be prominently displayed, but the black iron is tucked
away close at hand.

Properly seasoned, a flat-bottomed Dutch oven is an ideal pot to whip
up a venison stew, work up a batch of gumbo or jambalaya, fry a mess of
quail or bake a round of sourdough biscuits. The late Ted Trueblood, one
of America’s most loved hunting scribes, was sold on the dutch oven as
being the most important piece of cookware. Trueblood was an open fire cook
of the first order. He saw no use whatever in packing in a camp stove and
fuel when he was in a serious hunting situation.

Trueblood, writing in the August 1960 issue of Field and Stream, talked
about the then-modern equipment available to hunters and fishermen. He
said, “Among all these good new items there are a few old ones that
survived with undiminished popularity. Almost without exception, they are
things that the working outdoorsman adopted as his own. The canoe and the
axe are classic examples. The Dutch oven is another old favorite.”

Trueblood’s observations ring true. According to America’s largest
manufacturer of black iron cooking utensils, Dutch oven users are thicker
than they have been in years. There’s even a Dutch Oven Society and a
bunch of Dutch oven cook-offs popping up all over the country.

Amazingly, more and more folks are going back to ironware, not only
because of its unique cooking and flavoring characteristics, but also
because cast iron has stood the test of ages as one of the safest forms of
cookware.

While a dutch oven is still a favorite tool of the open fire cook,
probably the most used piece of ironware in today’s camp kitchens is the
ever-faithful cast iron skillet. Throughout Louisiana, it is safe to say
that at least 80 percent of all households have at least one black iron
skillet in regular use.

Dutch Oven in Action!
Dutch Oven in Action!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ironware was made for the cook who takes time to do things right. The
thick walls of the casting were designed to absorb and evenly distribute
heat from a licking outdoor flame or the flat top of a wood burning
cookstove. With modern camp stoves fueled by electricity, natural gas or
propane the iron pot continues to do a superior job. It just takes less
energy than most of the other cookware on the market.

Cookware made of glass, stainless steel, enamel, porcelain or copper,
or lined with a space-age non-stick surface, strives to leave no influence
of taste in foods. Properly seasoned ironware, on the other hand, emits a
savory seasoning “flavor” that no other cookware can duplicate.

But if black iron makes such black magic in the kitchen, how come even
more folks ain’t using it?

The answer is simple. Sweetnin’ the pot, as the old timers call it,
takes some time and patience. And once the initial job is accomplished,
some thought has to be given to maintaining the pot. When done properly,
fried foods won’t stick and the bitter taste characteristic of a new
casting won’t leak into your food. If you have picked up a new casting,
found a treasure at a flea market, or want to recondition a neglected
family heirloom, here are some tips I gleaned from an old Cherokee lady who
has used black iron to perform black magic in her kitchen for
three-quarters of a century.

First, inspect your black iron casting for a smooth interior surface.
The finish on the outside is unimportant. Quality ironware has a smooth
interior that readily accepts sweetening and provides a slick surface to
eliminate sticking.

Wash the new utensil, or one that has lost its seasoning, both inside
and out with a mild dishwashing deturgent. New castings come with a
protective coating that must be completely removed. Use a scouring pd if
mecessary, but this is the last time a black iron utensil should ever see a
scouring pad. Dry the casting throughly with paper towls and allow it to
air dry for at least 30 minutes

Use unsalted lard or shortening to completely coat the inside and
outside of the dry pot or skillet and then bake it in a 350-degree oven for
a total of 10 hours. This can be accomplished a few hours at a time while
baking other items if you make sure the old grease is wiped clean and a
fresh coating is applied each time the pot goes into the oven.

After 10 hours of baking, test the pot by using a little vegetable oil
to fry an egg. If the egg sticks, wash the pot lightly with soapy water
and a cloth or brush, re-coat it, and bake it for an additional three hours
or so. Then test it again. The sweetening process allows the porous cast
iron to absorb as much grease as possible. When completed, the pot will
take on a deep, shiny black finish.

Once the pot has been properly seasoned, never scour it or let the pot
sit in soapy water. Never place it in a dishwasher. Old time camp cooks
would break your arm for washing a black iron pot at all. They simply wiped
it clean and used it frequently to keep it in top condition.

When boiling foods in a newly seasoned pot, keep the water content low
and be sure to remove the lid from hot foods to avoid steaming the
seasoning off the lid.

Once the pot is conditioned, store it in a dry place without the lid on
between uses. A paper towel in the pot will absorb moisture. Most folks
who use black iron regularly like to apply a light film of cooking oil or
grease to the insides during storage. Finally, when you get ready to pass
along that treasured old pot or skillet, be sure the new owner also gets
these instructions.

There are other methods for sweetening black iron cookware, but none
has ever worked as well for me as the old Cherokee recipe.

Some would say black magic occurs in many forms throughout Bayou
Country. For good cooks, in camp and at home, across Louisiana some of the
very best black magic takes form when well seasoned black iron bubbles and
sizzles up some of the finest grub in the land.

How to Season Cast Iron – The Definitive Guide

Go to our new site: The Kitchen Professor. We have a free eBook to help you find the date of your Wagner. Click HERE!

Seasoning cast iron is a process and it is literally the foundation on which you cook your food.  It is critically important to prolong the longevity of your cookware and protects it fromt the elements, namely moisture.  If you ask 5 cast iron enthusiasts how to season cast iron, then you will probably get six answers.  And, if you ask the right person, he or she may have six answers all on their own!  Most likely, each answer is partially correct and will get you a pretty darn good foundation to cook on.

How to season cast iron

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 250F.
  2. Wash your cast iron cookware in hot water with soap and a stiff brush.
  3. Dry completely with paper towels then place in your oven for 20 minutes.
  4. Take out the cookware using heat resistant gloves or a heating pad.  Apply oil or shortening with a paper towel to the cast iron to coat it entirely.  Then get a fresh paper towel and wipe off the excess oil.  Then do it again. Yes, wipe off all the oil or shortening that you can.  Yes, I am serious.
  5. Put the cast iron back in the oven and increase the heat to 350F.  Allow the cast iron to sit for 60 minutes.  Apply the oil or shortening again using the same method as before.
  6. After the 60 minutes has passed, raise the temp up to 500-550F.   Wait for 60 more minutes and then turn off the oven.  It will take a few hours for the cast iron to cool and this is good.  We would like for the hot iron to cool down slowly in this case.
Cast Iron Skillets ready to be seasoned. Size #3
Cast Iron Skillets ready to be seasoned. Size #3
Cast Iron Skillets ready to be  seasoned. Size #3
Cast Iron Skillets ready to be seasoned. Size #3

After this process is complete,  you will have minimal protection for you cast iron and it will do the job for now.  Your job will be to use this cookware.  Cook your breakfast on there.  Use it for dinner too.  Use grease, oil, or fat on there too. Then do it again the next day and the one after that.  I think what I am trying to say is USE THE CAST IRON. This will only improve the seasoning and the non stick qualities of the cast iron.

“I thought you were not supposed to use soap on cast iron!?” That is definitely a good rule to follow but when you are laying a new foundation of seasoning, it is advisable to go ahead and strip off the old oil and start new.  Aside from this process, I have been able to refrain from using soap on cast iron.  I just haven’t seen the need so sure follow this rule outside of seasoning cast iron.

 



“My Meemaw said to only use bacon grease to season cast iron.”  That’s fine, use any kind of grease, fat, or oil that you prefer. Later we’ll explore using other fats like olive oil, flax seed oil, canola oil, crisco, bacon fat, etc…  The point here is to coat the metal with something that repels water, something that is food grade, and something that you have on hand.  It might be a little wasteful to use some first press California olive oil but it will still work just fine.  I am very interested in seeing how flaxseed oil works for the initial seasoning.

“I want a nice, thick, smooth, black coating of seasoning on my cast iron so why would I apply a super thin layer of grease and wipe it off!?”  Great question. If you put the oil or fat on thickly, then you’ll end up with a sticky, black mess of carbon-y grease.  Don’t ask me how I know that!  So the key aspect is to just be patient and put on a thin layer of your fat of choice. Your patience will be rewarded…and you impatience will be punished.

“I followed your instructions and my cast iron looks gray not black. My Pop Pop’s cast iron was literally as black as a cat on halloween night.”  Fair enough – that’s quite a metaphor and congratulations on using “literally” properly.  If you want your cast iron darker, then you can follow the directions above but just skip the washing part.  You will be able to add layer after layer of seasoning.  It will get dark, very dark, and a little darker each time with slightly diminishing returns.  You can keep on repeating, reheating, oiling, wiping, and cooling, again and again.

“My brand new Lodge Cast Iron <fill-in-your-cookware> is preseasoned from the factory in S. Pittsburg, TN. Do I need to re-season my Lodge?” Probably not but maybe.  It’ll do the job and if you do use your cast iron frequently and keep it clean and lightly oiled, then you will get the nice, slick seasoning you desire.  It will take some time but it will happen.

“My brand new Lodge Cast Iron <fill-in-your-cookware> is seasoned but it’s very rough and things stick! What is going on?” Modern cast iron is pretty much all like this.  The older cast iron cookware used to undergo an additional step where it was sanded, essentially polished down.  I did not realize how significant this was until I got my first WagnerWare Cast Iron Skillet, a 1056N.  It was like comparing gravel to freshly waxed car – well, maybe not that dramatic but it was significant.  A future article will focus on improving the surface of a modern Lodge Cast Iron piece.

Do you disagree with these methods?  Do you have a better way?  Let me know how you season your cast iron.  Comment below to let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Cast Iron Skillet - WagnerWare 1056
Cast Iron Skillet – WagnerWare 1056
Hot Skillet!  Spreading Canola Oil Around - WagnerWare 1056
Hot Skillet! Spreading Canola Oil Around – WagnerWare 1056