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How do I season an antique cast iron cider press that I just bought? It is substantially bigger than any stove, oven, or grill that I own, at about 48" diameter.

I'd consider other food-safe finishes too, but seasoning seems the obvious choice given that it is cast iron.

  • How large is the press? Do you have a large outdoor grill? Based on photos I have seen I believe many of the examples would fit my grill. That is where I normally season my cast iron anyway. – Cos Callis Jul 17 '17 at 12:30
  • @CosCallis I do have a large outdoor grill, but the press is larger. I added the size to the question, but its 48" in diameter. It also weighs enough that it would probably crush the grill. – David Pfeffer Jul 17 '17 at 13:45
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    I'm sorry I can't suggest what 'to do' ... but I can tell you what 'not to do', DO NOT attempt to use a torch to season your cast iron. It is far more likely to crack your vessel than it is to season it. – Cos Callis Jul 17 '17 at 14:27
  • @CosCallis : but the torch is the way to go when you're seasoning and there's a small bit that's staying orange and not going to black. (eg, the corners of the griddle on a Blackstone Tailgater). In this case, the rest of the item is hot, and you're bringing up the cooler part to the temp of the rest ... you don't have a hot portion and the rest is still cold. – Joe Jul 17 '17 at 17:14
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    @Joe your plastic and insulation won't hold up to the temperatures required. The airflow needed by the burner will also limit the upper temperature. – Chris H Jul 20 '17 at 15:59
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I would not heat up a large cast iron press - too much to go wrong there, little benefit. You are not frying on the thing.

Clean any oil/rust that's on it, dry carefully, oil it with mineral oil or wax it with beeswax (or paraffin wax, but beeswax will probably stick better,) use it, clean it up well, dry very carefully, and re-oil/wax before storage.

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I expect that the "Open Fire" method (the second technique in the linked article) may be your best bet.

Create a fire pit large enough to meet your needs. Make sure you allow for enough room around where you will place your device to allow the fire to properly breath. Place (or devise) a grate to support your cast iron and build a fire. (You might want get some Coal (real coal...not charcoal...reach out to a local blacksmith if you don't know where to get it.) and go through several repetitions of the process.

Process :

Seasoning: 1. Build a fire up until you have a bed of red embers & a low, non-sooty flame. ( 30 min. ) This kind of fire is nearly smokeless & hot as all get out.

  1. Set the clean iron over the fire & heat ‘till it turns “white-blue” in color. This means it’s ripping hot, and you’re now ready for the first coat of oil !

  2. Hook the handle, pull the pan off the fire, & mist it evenly with the Flax Oil.

  3. Not Too Much! You don’t want puddles, drips or thick coats. Just a very thin & even layer into every nook, cranny, handle & backside. The pan should be smoking fiercely when you do this. Stand down wind.[sic] (added: stand UP Wind so the smoke is blowing away from you.)

  4. Put the smokin’ pan back onto the fire & let it smoke out until it stops. Watch for uneven heating & adjust the iron over the best heat spot on your fire.

  5. You’ll know you are ready for the next layer of oil when you see the ash of the fire wisp off the face of the once sticky oiled surface. The color should be even, the first few coats have a brownish-red hue on them, & the pan will look dry again.

  6. Repeat steps #2-#5 about 6 times ! You’ll see the pan turn to a rich “blue-black” by the last round of oil. (Approx. 1 hour of seasoning.) Enjoy the fire when you’re all done & marvel at your crafty work while letting your iron cool down naturally on a wire rack.

Tips:

Be very careful to not put the hot iron onto something wet or cold ! The dramatic difference of temperatures could cause a cast iron skillet to crack or warp from thermal shock!Your pan should be a deep black color and ready to use within one hour’s time of this open-fire process. If you find that the cookware is still a little sticky after it’s cool, you may need to oven bake it for 30-45 minutes, to finish it off and get it totally dry.If your pan develops of reddish color and you can’t seem to get it black, there’s three possible issues you’re facing: You probably don’t have enough heat on it You haven’t done the seasoning long enough You put the oil on too thick

(Copied from linked article, should the link die in the future)

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Cos Callie's suggestion seems very good, but I thought I'd mention there is another way of finishing cast iron.

You can make a tea-based seasoning, where tannins from tea react with the iron to form a stable, rustproof outer layer of ferric tannate. Cast iron teapots are seasoned this way. I would suppose you thickly brew tea, and either soak the press, or douse the press several times with the brew to build up layers of seasoning (letting dry between coats). Once the tannins have a chance to react with the iron (possibly after warming or heating), the seasoning should be stable and any remaining tea residues washed off. The choice would depend on your resources, ie, if you have a container big enough to soak the press, or someplace to lay it in the sun when drying, or space for a suitably sized open fire.

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Tropical method for seasoning a press.

Pick a day when the temperatures are likely to stay above 90°F for a good part of the day. Clean well. Place in black plastic bag. close bag. Let set in direct sunlight for 4 hours during the hottest part of the day (in summer). Rub with bees wax. Set to cool in shade. Bees wax is anti bacterial. .

  • Is the 10am and 2pm important? Why would I put it in a plastic bag -- what does that accomplish? I'm not sure that this is really anything more than waxing the iron with a whole bunch of additional superfluous steps. – David Pfeffer Jul 18 '17 at 11:15
  • It gets very hot in a black plastic bag set in the sun. Heats he bees wax so some penitration into the cast iron. – J Bergen Jul 18 '17 at 17:25
  • This method sounds interesting, do you have any good documentation of this method? Perhaps you could provide a link. – Cos Callis Jul 19 '17 at 17:26
  • I spend most of my time in S.E.Asia. All I know is what I see the waterbuffalo farms do in the fruit groves to there press's. My wife owns a small plantation as well. Way she has it done to the press. We are a century behind the U.S. in the way we do many things. But we can buy black plastic bags at the market. Seems to work in the back areas of the Philippines were they hope to have electric in the next 50 years or so. – J Bergen Jul 19 '17 at 18:35

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