The pleasure of cooking with cast iron is timeless! These robust kitchen must-haves create flavoursome and perfectly seared dishes – no wonder they are prized for their ability to retain and distribute heat evenly!
However, to unlock their full potential, cast iron pots demand a certain level of care and attention. Whether you’ve inherited a vintage 3-leg potjie or recently purchased your brand new cast iron Bake Pot, the key to culinary success lies in knowing how to properly restore and clean it.
In this guide, we’ll take you through the essential steps to revive and maintain your cast iron potjies seasoning – a natural, non-stick surface built up over time that’s the secret behind its exceptional performance.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clean and restore your cast iron pot:
Materials you’ll need for the restoration and seasoning
- 3L White Spirit Vinegar
- Steel Wool
- Chain Mail Scrubber
- Warm water
- Bicarbonate of Soda
- Dishwashing Liquid
- Vegetable oil
- Paper towels
- Rubber Gloves
- Oven mitts
- Baking sheet or aluminum foil (optional)
The Restoration Process:
1. Soak: Allow your cast iron pot to cool down completely after cooking. Never attempt to clean it while it’s still hot. Depending on the type of cookware used, fill your sink or a large tub with warm water and vinegar; use a 50:50 solution. Add the water-and-vinegar mixture inside the pot as well to ensure the entire pot is covered. Leave the pot to soak for at least 1 hour before removing; you’ll see the water will be discoloured and there’ll be specs of rust floating around the water.
2. Scrub: If there are stubborn food residues or food stuck to your pot, use your chain mail scrubber to gently scrub the surface. You can also add a small amount of mild dish soap at this stage if necessary. Rinse with cold water.
3. Bicarbonate: Apply a generous amount of Bicarbonate of Soda to the inside and outside of the pot. Leave the pot for +-30 minutes. You can repeat this process twice and rinse with cold water.
4. Scrub and Rinse: Use a finer steel wool to scrub your pot for +-10 minutes. You’ll notice the last dirt and previous seasoning will start to come off. Rinse the pot with cold water and scrub again. Sprinkle a few droplets of dishwashing soap and water and scrub using your chain mail scrubber. You can repeat this process twice and rinse well with cold water.
5. Season: Use a paper towel to pat the pot dry. Pour in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and coat the entire pot on the inside first, then the outside using a sponge or paper towel. After applying the oil, use a clean paper towel or cloth to wipe away any excess. The pot should have a very thin, almost invisible layer of oil left on it. You don’t want your pot to be too oily, a thin layer of oil will do!
6. Bake: Preheat your oven to 250°C. Place the cast iron pot upside down on the oven rack, with a baking sheet or aluminium foil on the rack below to catch any drips. Bake the pot in the oven for +-1 hour and 15 minutes. This process will help polymerise the oil and create a new layer of seasoning on the cast iron.
7. Let it Cool: Turn off the oven and allow the pot to cool down naturally in the oven. Don’t remove it while it’s still hot. This is the first layer which should be enough to change how the pot looks and feels. You can repeat the oiling and baking process as much as you’d like.
8.For Future Use: Did you know? Every time you cook food with some layer of fat, it will contribute to the seasoning layer of your pot and the cooking surface. After each use, you don’t necessarily have to scrub the pot. You can simply wash the pot with warm water and sunlight liquid and dry with a paper towel until completely dry. Add another layer of oil which will help to prevent rust and you’re good to go!
Your cast iron pot should now be clean, seasoned and ready for use. Regularly cooking with and maintaining your cast iron cookware will continue to improve its non-stick properties and durability over time. After each use, it’s a good practice to lightly oil the pot to keep it in optimal condition. From removing stubborn residues to re-establishing that glossy, protective layer, you’ll discover the art of preserving and enhancing your cast iron pot so that it becomes a cherished kitchen companion for generations to come.