Cast iron kettles are decorative and functional, and it's easy to restore a damaged or neglected kettle to good-as-new condition. The tools you need are inexpensive and easily available, and a little time and care is all that's needed to transform a rusty kettle into a serviceable and attractive addition to your kitchen. Kettles in a wide variety of shapes and sizes---with or without plain or decorative lids---can be restored with a minimum of effort and expense.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Non-metal scrubbing brush
- Non-metal scrubbing pads
- Fine-grit sandpaper
- Paper towels
- Bacon fat, lard or shortening
Clean the kettle thoroughly with a scrubbing brush or scrub pads, rinsing repeatedly to remove all traces of rust and other debris. Use sandpaper, if necessary, to gently buff out surface pitting or rough spots. Rinse and dry several times to ensure that the kettle is as clean as possible, wiping dry with paper towels.
Avoid using any type of soap or cleanser on the cast iron--hot water and scrubbing is all you need. Repeat the scrubbing and rinsing as necessary, drying thoroughly in between scrubbing, till the kettle's surface is completely free of surface debris. If your kettle has a decorative or filigree lid, use a very small nylon brush or sandpaper to clean the hard-to-reach areas.
Use clean paper towels (or your fingers) to coat all surface areas of the kettle with bacon fat or lard. You can use shortening, but many cooks prefer bacon fat. Set the kettle on top of a sheet of foil on an oven rack, and bake the kettle at 162 or 176 degrees Celsius for an hour or more to "season" the cast iron.
Keep the oven door shut, and turn off the heat and wait for the kettle to cool. Remove it from the oven, and rinse with water. Wipe the kettle dry with paper towels, then season it two more times.
Maintain the condition of your cast iron kettle by regularly rinsing with hot water, wiping it clean and drying it with a paper towel. Use a scrub brush or pad (non-metal only) if necessary to remove grease or cooked-on spills. Repeat the procedure for seasoning as necessary to maintain your kettle in good condition.
Sandblast the kettle if you have a heavy coat of rust on it. The Lodge Cast Iron company notes that severe rust cannot be removed by hand scrubbing, and the company recommends having a local auto bodyworks garage or machine shop sandblast your cast iron. Sandblasted cast iron should be seasoned immediately after it's treated.
Tips and warnings
- Use Nevr-Dull or another metal cleaner to restore metal handles on cast iron cookware.
- Seasoning cast iron will cause your kitchen to smell smoky for a while; turn the oven heat down and bake the kettle longer if this is a problem.
- If you have an outdoor oven or wood cookstove, this is the perfect solution for seasoning cast iron. A covered outdoor grill will also work.
- Never use any kind of cleanser or detergent on cast iron; it removes the seasoned finish and allows rust and pits to develop.
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