Any way to save these cast iron pans?
December 28, 2014 2:29 PM   Subscribe

My MIL gave me two of her old cast iron pans - very cool. But I tried to clean them using my oven's self-cleaning setting and now both have developed a crack. Is there any way to save them? Or a way to find people who can repair them? Or seal the cracks and still cook with them?
posted by debgpi to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
Welding cracks in cast iron isn't exactly a DIY operation but you might see if a local machine shop can do it. Otherwise, I'd look for replacements at thrift stores, yard sales, etc., if you don't want to buy new. (This collector site says that hairline heat cracks don't impair use, but I dunno.)
posted by Ideefixe at 2:38 PM on December 28, 2014

Pictures? Are they enameled pans or raw cast iron?
posted by Sunburnt at 2:38 PM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: They are raw cast iron.

Crack in chicken fryer

Crack in egg pan.

Thank you.
posted by debgpi at 3:08 PM on December 28, 2014

Use them until they fall apart. There's not going to be a practical way to repair them.
posted by jon1270 at 3:13 PM on December 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

Could they have already been cracked? The nicks at the lip of the pan look like they have a bit of age to them.
posted by rhizome at 3:34 PM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

The lid of a cast iron pot my parents have cracked about 15 years ago when someone dropped it. It's still in use. So you might still get quite a lot of use out of them if you just ignore the crack.
posted by Ashlyth at 4:11 PM on December 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Our Lodge Dutch oven (not antique, but about 20 years old) developed a crack in the bottom a few years ago. It happened while I was cooking soup, and it did (does) leak. It makes a nice fruit bowl now.

Nthing Ideefixe to pick up replacements at yard sales/thrift stores. Sorry about your (MIL's) pans.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 4:15 PM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For future reference, one of the best ways to clean cast iron is with lemon and salt. Slice a lemon in half hemispherically, drop a good whack of kosher or sea salt onto the iron, and scrub with the cut side. Then wipe clean with a cloth and season with veg oil/shortening in a hot oven.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:40 PM on December 28, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: As rhizome says, those don't look like new cracks to me. It's possible they were already there, but the cleaning process has scoured out years of food trapped in the cracks, making them previously invisible. if they don't leak, you can probably just keep using them.
posted by dg at 5:01 PM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: At high heat they will now burst apart at the crack! Ask me how I know!!
posted by jbenben at 7:55 PM on December 28, 2014 [7 favorites]

I might try using some silver and brazing the crack. But I have some access to the tools and material. Paying someone to weld or braze the crack would probably be cost prohibitive. Cast iron is tricky stuff to work with.

Unless you have a welder friend, I'd probably abandon the idea of repairing them.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:37 PM on December 28, 2014

I think you should be fine continuing to use this. The worse-case scenario that I can see is that it'll break off a piece which happens to be very hot at the time it breaks, and you've got a heat/fire hazard, and/or oil inside the pan going on to a heating element. I think it's unlikely and a minor risk as long as it doesn't get left on an active burner unattended. This is further offset by the ready-and-waiting fire extinguisher in/near your kitchen. You've got one, right?

In terms of using it, your seasoning process is going to pave over the crack with polymerized oil and thus make a smooth cooking surface. Go for it. Don't drop the pan or hit it with another pan (or, you know, a hammer).
posted by Sunburnt at 9:20 PM on December 28, 2014

Best answer: Don't use them to cook until you've heavily reseasoned them, especially rubbing oil into and around the crack. Use flaxseed oil - it will dry the best (unless you can get perilla oil!), and hopefully will seal the surfaces of the cracks against liquid leaking after enough thin coats.

And don't subject them to too much heat in the future. No self-cleaning oven cycle, no grill on high heat, no tossing it into a campfire. Too much heat has been known to crack whole cast iron, and I'd be afraid of how it might exacerbate existing cracks.
posted by WasabiFlux at 10:44 PM on December 28, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the good advice. I'll see if I can seal the cracks by seasoning them. I suspect the pans may have been cracked to begin with, too.
posted by debgpi at 4:10 PM on December 29, 2014

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