NOTE: This writing speaks of my experience only and, as far as I know, it is not a proven method. Use at your discretion.
When I learned I had to eat gluten-free, it saddened me to stop using my porous kitchen tools. Wood, plastic, non-stick surfaces, cast iron, etc. . . . they all hold gluten.
Hardest of all was giving up my much-loved cast iron pots and pans — all of them were perfectly seasoned and a joy to use for cooking and baking.
Two of my cast iron skillets are vintage. The first was given to me by a friend’s mother back in 1971. It is a massive thing, passed down to her from her grandmother. My friend’s mom had another cast iron skillet the same size, and she didn’t need two, so she gave me one. (Don’t you just love it when miracles like that happen?)
The other is a skillet I purchased at an antique show some years back. When I picked it up, it practically glowed with a history of great food . . . and when I felt the inner surface, I could tell it had been cleaned and seasoned with the care and respect cast iron deserves. I could almost absorb the love it had cooked and coddled throughout the years . . .
That, or it was used as a wifely training device to bop a husband on the head. I remember seeing vintage post cards illustrating women doing such things. Yipes!
I doubt it was used for training. It was well-seasoned and much-loved. Whatever its purpose, it was on top of a stove and not on the back of a noggin.
I cherish those pans.
So, for a while, I relinquished my cast iron to my husband and daughters to use when making something with poison a/k/a gluten in it.
It killed me! I was envious beyond belief and longed for those pans like a baby who’s lost a pacifier. Once you’ve mastered cooking with cast iron, nothing else works quite the same.
I read about how you can clean old cast iron by putting it in a self-cleaning oven, on the clean setting, and just let it go. It is supposed to be a bit of a mess to do this. I’m not sure if it works — I don’t have a self-cleaning oven (which you’d most certainly discover if you looked inside mine).
Here’s what I did:
1- I resolved to give up and allow my cast iron to lose its seasoning.
For those unfamiliar with cast iron cooking: a well-seasoned pan has been through countless uses and NEVER cleaned with soap. Here’s how I do it: I scrub the pan with Kosher salt and a gluten-free scrubby (that is, one dedicated to cleaning my cookware), then I disinfect with heat by putting it on a hot burner or into a hot oven and letting it go until it is HOT, HOT, HOT.
A seasoned pan is a sacred pan. Why? Because, when used correctly, food won’t stick to it. It is better than any non-stick cookware on the market, and it doesn’t wear out. Just ask any owner of a greasy spoon or roadside diner.
2- I put my cast iron in the dishwasher and ran it with dish washing detergent (which is a no-no in the cast iron world), and I ran it a couple times. Then I ran it a couple times more times, this time with no soap.
3- I re-seasoned the pans by rubbing them with oil, reheating them, and then letting them cool.
4- Then I made something greasy in each piece– fried, high fat hamburger, to be exact, cooked low and slow with the meat spread all over the bottom to coat each inch. Bacon would also work — that sort of thing. This helps season the pans. I didn’t eat it, not just yet, in case of cross-contamination. I served it to my family instead.
5- Then, I continued to treat my cast iron the way I always did–cleaning with salt, water, then heat.
6- I told my family to never use our cast iron for anything other than gluten-free food.
The miracle: I then used the pans for myself, and I had no issues! I am highly sensitive to gluten and did not react at all. I’m still using the pans without any problems, and because I use them so often, they are now seasoned beautifully. Life is good.
Gluten-free pancakes, anyone?
Love to all,
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