Hi Old Guy,
I picked up a set of old cast iron skillets last week that I would like to use. One is this small 4 1/2 inch square skillet. I need some advice on their care and cleaning. I was told that they should be seasoned before use and I am not sure of the process.
Barb Hutton, London
As long as you don’t require any advice on cooking with your cast iron, I might be able to help. The skillets you purchased are Canadian made by the Javelin Company in Joliette, Quebec. They were incorporated in Canada in 1951 as Javelin Foundries and Machine Works Limited. It is one of several Canadian companies that made cast iron wares that include Findlay, GSW (General Steel Wares), McClary, and James Smart of Brockville.
In addition to developing great bicepts from lifting cast iron cookware, there are several theories out there that say that cooking with it can be beneficial to your health. Pioneers were said to put nails in apples as a source of iron to help prevent anemia. Just cooking in cast iron is also a way to get iron into your food.
“Seasoning” or preparing your skillets for cooking will provide them with a non-stick surface and with proper care they should last for generations.
Before doing any seasoning you should clean and restore the surface of each piece. Many different and elaborate methods can be used from sandblasting to acid to naval jelly, but I would suggest using a spray can of Easy Off Oven Cleaner. Apply a good coating on both surfaces of your skillets and place them in a heavy-duty plastic bag for 24 hours. This process will remove the dirt, debris and existing seasoning from the surface. If there is any rust on the pans you can soak them in white vinegar for five or six hours. Do not soak them too long as the vinegar can damage or pit the surface. Wash rinse and dry each piece. Rust will reappear rather rapidly if you do not season them after this process.
To season your skillets, paint a layer of vegetable oil on both surfaces. Make sure that you place a layer of foil on the bottom of your oven to catch any drips and preheat your oven to 375 F. Place you skillets upside down on a middle rack to bake for one hour. Leave them in the oven to cool and then remove. It’s that simple. Most experts say not to use soap or detergent to clean your skillets after cooking with them and to use only hot water and a scrubber. As long as you wipe on a half-teaspoon of vegetable oil with a paper towel, your pans should stay seasoned and improve with each use. Do not use lard as some people suggest, as it can turn rancid.
Enjoy your cast iron finds. There is a group on Facebook called Canadian Made Cast Iron if you are a collector and want to share information with other collectors.
The Old Guy