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The Seven Deadly Vintage Cast Iron Cookware Sins

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  1. “Cleaning” a crusty pan by throwing it into a fire or conversely…pouring cold water into your hot, hot pan. 
    Big temperature shocks can and will damage your pan.
    In addition to serious warpage and potential cracks, here’s what else can happen if you throw your pan into a fire…and it’s not reversible. See the tell-tale dark red areas on the pan? The iron is also flaking in areas. It makes me so sad to see an heirloom piece treated this way. When you come across a pan like this, it will often have serious warpage.

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    Cold on a hot pan can also damage the pan. If you pour cold water into a hot hot pan, you risk a crack. Just say NO!
  2. Cleaning your vintage cast iron pan in the dishwasher.
    Hello, rust! As tempted as you might be to just put your pan through the dishwasher, don’t. Not only will it not remove the crud on the pan, it will surely result in a fine coating of rust. And so, you’re back to where you started…only worse!
  3. Sandblasting your heirloom pan.
    With really crusty pans, I know that it can be tempting to throw your hands into the air and hand off your old pan for sandblasting instead of going through the sometimes tedious chore of cleaning and scrubbing and cleaning and scrubbing (see the FAQs section for information on how I clean and season my pans). In addition to turning the patina of the pan an odd dull shade of grey, the “regular” sandblasting process often changes the surface texture of the pan. Pans with altered surface textures are not considered collectible. Overly aggressive sandblasting can also cause pitting to your vintage pan. I have read that some sandblasting – walnut shell blasting, for example – can work well and not damage the pan. Would I try it? No. I have found, however, that in addition to other cleaning methods, a pressure washer can work great at removing stubborn crud from your pan.
  4. Taking a tool to your heirloom pan that changes the surface texture. 
    Aggressive use of tools can mar the surface of the pan and change the texture. Once it has been changed, it can’t be reversed. In the photos below, you can see the results of heavy-handed use of a wire wheel on a beautiful old Griswold Iron Mountain pan.
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  5. Forgetting to thoroughly clean your pan before putting it away.
    You know how you’ve seen those old pans at flea markets or antique stores that are covered in burnt-on crud? Those pans were not properly cleaned before they were put away. Many of the old pans I source are covered with carbon crud when they come into my hands. While some like to call this “seasoning,” I disagree. I don’t have any interest in cooking my food in a pan that is covered in crud from unknown sources. If you fail to thoroughly clean your pan after use – getting all the stubborn bits off – your pan will start to have food stick to those areas. Food sticking equals burnt buildup of crud. Your pan will lose its “non-stick” quality when enough crud builds up.Crud1

    Take the few seconds it takes to thoroughly clean your pan before putting it away. A quick wipe with a paper towel is not typically enough to get the food bits off your pan – you want all the bits off. Here’s a little vid of me cleaning my vintage #12 Iron Mountain (by Griswold) cast iron pan. I have several more videos of my routine cleaning process on my youtube channel.  Note: as to the great soap debate, I am in the camp of “if I feel like it needs a bit of soap, I’ll use a bit of soap” camp.

  6. Not thoroughly drying your pan and lightly coating it with a dab of oil before putting it away.
    Once you’ve got the pan cleaned, you need to dry it thoroughly and wipe it with a dab of oil before you put it away. Some folks like to dry their pans in a warm oven or on the cooktop. As for me, I wipe them thoroughly with a paper towel and then spray a bit of Pam onto the cooking surface and wipe it out. I will also occasionally wipe the entire pan with the Pam; so that the surface is protected. If you do not protect the surface of the pan, you will develop rust on the pan. Who wants to eat something that was cooked in a pan covered with rust, however slight? Not me.
    Here is another vid of me cleaning – this time, my Griswold slant logo number 8 pan with heat ring (that I use on my glass cooktop – another myth busted!) This one shows how I apply the Pam after cleaning.
  7. Being afraid to use your vintage pan. As beautiful as it is, it’s meant to be used! 
    I know that sometimes people are intimidated by wonderful old cast iron pans. Don’t be! Can you use soap? (Yes). Can you use it on a glass cooktop? (Yes). Can it be used if it has some movement on the cooktop? (Yes – see my blog post here). Isn’t it really hard to clean? (No). Don’t they need to be treated with kid gloves? (No, though they are brittle and can crack/break). Use your pan. Use it for baking, searing, frying, roasting, making casseroles…really, for whatever you want. After use, clean your pan. Dry your pan. Put a spritz of your preferred cooking oil on the pan and wipe it out. Store it where you want to store it. On the stovetop, in a cupboard or drawer (ideally with a piece of paper towel between the pans to absorb any excess oil or moisture) or in one of our great racks.
    Voila – that’s it.
    Now, go cook something in your lovely old pans!image