Category Archives: DIY

How to restore your cast iron without ruining the world or killing your cat

How to make old cast iron look new while defending the honor of kitties everywhere in five easy steps!

Several months back, I went into the storage unit at my local Boy Scout office, hoping for inspiration. I’m responsible for entertaining a group of Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts every week for the rest of my life, and I always need activities. While in there, I found 8 dutch ovens. 5 made of cast iron, and 3 made of aluminum (one is hidden inside the larger one on the left). All were in nasty shape. Have you ever smelled rancid oil? It smells like stuff you squeeze from your dog’s anal gland. Naturally, I lugged them all home and put them in my office.

I posted about this on Facebook and within 2 hours, my dad called me to say that his friend had 6 more dutch ovens that my scouts could have, plus a frying pan, a griddle, and a grill. They were in much better shape, but still needed love. As a result, the floor of our office looked like this:

See what I mean when I say my wife is patient?

I now had a project.

In which El Chris smokes out his apartment and parking lot

The first thing you’ll notice about old cast iron is that it’s usually rusty on the outside and sticky on the inside. It’ll probably smell terrible and be coated with spider webs. In all likelihood, it’ll look like the pot we’re going to restore:

We’re going to follow this pot from start to finish. The only photos I’m showing are this pot, and it was shot in my living room so if you say anything about my apartment being messy then I’m going to come to your house and poop in your bed.

 1. 5-ish minutes. The first step is super easy, but it might cost you .Tell your wife that it’s ok if she and her friends go out to Pizza Luce or someplace else they serve booze. It’s best if she’s had a few by the time she returns because if done wrong, this can make your apartment smell like butt. Once she’s gone, rinse all the debris off the pot. Spider webs, grass, dust, iron shavings, all of it. Use a plastic brush if you have to, but nothing stronger.


Soap will soak into the pores of the dutch oven and flavor all of your food like dish soap. It’s awful. It makes you poop your guts out and it kills adorable kittens.


Do not EVER wash your cast iron with dish soap.


2. 80-110 minutes Bake the HELL out of the dutch oven. We do this because we need to get rid of the rancid, stinky oil that’s inside the oven. If we don’t, it’ll flavor your food in an awful way that will make you wish you were dead.

 If your oven has a self-clean cycle, throw it in there and turn on the self-clean. It’ll smoke. HOLY HECK will it smoke. It’ll smell like corn dogs or french fries which is pretty sweet, but make sure your bedroom doors are closed so that the smell doesn’t get on everything you own (and wear to work). Open your windows, throw on the fans, and open your front door.

If there’s no self-clean cycle on your oven, turn it to the highest setting but make sure the broiler doesn’t turn on. In all likelihood, the oven will top out around 650 degrees. This is fine, it’ll just take a little longer. It’ll still smoke, so don’t get all cocky, turd. You can turn the broiler on for about 20 minutes to get the other side of the pot and lid, but the majority of the heat should come from the bottom coil on the stove.

This is what a dutch oven looks like inside another oven, you moron.

 When your iron comes out of the oven, it’ll look like the pictures above. A little better, but still not done. At this point, all of the protective, non-stick oil (called the seasoning) has been burned off and you’re left with a pot that will rust at the drop of a hat. 


Seriously though, read this part

650 degrees is really stinking hot. REALLY hot. I don’t know how else to impress this on you. At this temperature, your skin turns black and sizzles when it brushes metal. Your pot holders are not enough. If they’re cloth, at that temperature they’ll start smoking after about two and a half seconds of contact with a pot. I recommend using aluminum pot grabbers AND a silicone oven mitt on each hand.


In which El Chris makes muscles and gets manly

3. 20-30 minutes, depending on your forearms Now you’re going to scrub, and you’re going to like it. It may help to wear a fake mustache during this part, as you scrub harder when you feel manly. Mine came from a quarter machine at the outlet mall in Albertville.
I use a wire brush and steel wool and I scrub the hell out of it. I scrub until I sweat and my arm burns, and then I switch arms. I swear a little bit, I wipe rust dust onto my wet forehead, and I scrub some more. Scrub the inside and outside and bottom, making sure to pay attention to the little legs on the bottom.

It’s going to get orange and dusty, so wipe it off over
the sink with a dry paper towel every few minutes. 


4. Like a minute or something. Now comes the easy part. Get some canola oil (it has a higher smoke point than vegetable oil or shortening) and smear it all over the pot with a paper towel. Make sure you get the handle, the legs, the bottom of the legs, the pot handles (different than the handle) and the lip of the lid. Wipe it off so that it doesn’t drip anywhere.

5. 60 minutes or until not sticky Set your oven to 350. Put your pot and lid in. Bake. When no oil soaks into a paper towel, you know it’s done. Repeat step 4 if the pot was in really bad shape or had a rough interior. When it’s done, take it out and let it cool. It should look like this:

If you’ve done it right, it’ll look like this. If properly maintained (repeat step 4 every 10-20 uses or after cooking something acidic) your cast iron should last until your grandkids have grandkids. Questions? Leave a comment!


Posted by on September 11, 2012 in cast iron, DIY, dutch ovens, restoration, seasoning