Take a look at the well used cast iron griddle above. Hundreds if not thousands of pancakes got cooked on that griddle. Some cooked on a propane camp stove and some over an open campfire. As a Scoutmaster for a Boy Scout troop I took that griddle on many camping trips all over Northern California. I even backpacked it in to several remote camp sites.
I thought I’d lost this gem of outdoor cooking utensils. I’d given up hope of ever using it again. But after more than five years of hiding it magically appeared a couple of weeks ago. Well, not all that magical I was cleaning out some old boxes in the garage before a trip to the thrift store and lo and behold there it was.
As you can see the years have not been kind to my cast iron griddle. It would seem not only was I a little careless with the cleaning out on the trail, but sitting in a box in the garage for many years didn’t help the shape of the griddle. A couple minor rust spots along with a coat of seasoning that was not really seasoning any more makes this one of the worst pieces of cast iron I’ve ever had to refurbish.
There are many methods for stripping all the crud and old seasoning from cast iron. I decided to make good use of the self-cleaning mode on our oven. I’ve used this in the past and it gives me the best results. It just doesn’t get any easier than placing the cast iron griddle in the oven, turning it on and waiting. If you decide to use this method make sure you place some foil or something under your cast iron to catch anything that should fall off during the cleaning process.
After five hours in a 900 degree oven pretty much everything turns to a fine powder that is easily wiped away. A few areas might need a couple wipes with steel wool, but for the most part you can clean it all off with no problem at all.
I started using Flaxseed Oil to season my cast iron a couple of years ago after reading a few articles that dealt with the science behind seasoning cast iron. Who would have thought there were cast iron science geeks in the world.
Flaxseed Oil is the food safe (edible) version of Linseed Oil.
After a good scrub and wash down, without soap, I pre-heated the oven to 300 degrees. I placed the griddle in the oven for 30 minutes to get it real hot and to make sure all the moisture evaporated from all the pores. A light coat of flaxseed oil rubbed into both sides of the griddle started the re-seasoning process. After making sure there were to little pools of oil and the surface was coated I put the griddle back into the oven for 30 minutes. After four coats of oil and five 30 minute bakes the griddle looked almost brand new.
One of the things I like best about Flaxseed Oil is that it provides a nice “matte” type finish for the seasoning. Unlike other oils or shortenings I don’t have to worry about the glossy glops of oil that tend to build up when seasoning. Flaxseed Oil is usually found in a refrigerator in the health food section of upscale grocery stores or just order it from Amazon. A light coat of Flaxseed oil after every use and your cast iron will keep you cast iron seasoning intact and always ready to go.