The Right Way To Restore And Season A Rusty Cast Iron Skillet
Cooking with cast iron can completely elevate your food dishes. Investing in cast iron pans means you will have these super tough, useful cooking vessels for decades – if you take good care of them, that is. Fortunately, cleaning and maintaining your cast iron skillets doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking if you follow these tips.
If you have a cast iron pan that’s covered in layers of burnt seasoning, oil, and even rust, there are certain steps you’ll want to take to start stripping it back down to its original state. Lye is the secret to stripping years of seasoning and oil from cast iron, however, you do need to be cautious when using this product as it’s a very harsh chemical that can cause burns. You may be familiar with Easy-Off, an oven cleaner that contains lye. Using this product is the easiest way to remove layers of residue from your cast iron pans and skillets.
Spray your cast iron with Easy-Off and then set it in sealed plastic bags for about 24 hours. You will want to use gloves when handling the pan. When the time is up, use a scrub brush to remove the residue, then rinse and immediately dry. For extremely dirty or old cast iron, you may have to repeat this process more than once.
If you’ve stripped down your cast iron and notice that there is rust remaining, you’ll want to soak your pans in distilled vinegar for 12-24 hours. The vinegar will take care of the rust, but if you leave your pans soaking for longer than 24 hours, the vinegar can actually start to corrode the cast iron. Once the soaking is complete, give the pans a quick rinse and immediately dry. Leaving your cast iron pans to drip-dry will instantly turn them rusty again.
Now that you’ve stripped down your pans and have removed the rust, it’s time to restore the seasoning. The easiest way to do this is to use a cloth and some cooking oil (olive, canola, vegetable). Rub in the oil across the entire pan (bottom, sides, and outside), and wipe up excess oil with a fresh cloth. Next, place the pan in an oven that’s been preheated to 425 F and leave it in for about half an hour. When the time is up, remove the pan, let it cool slightly, and repeat the process one or two more times. Be careful – the pan or skillet will be extremely hot!
Vintage cast iron pans are always a good buy, and now you know how to restore them to their former glory. Keeping your cast iron clean and seasoned will make them last for years and years to come. These tips have definitely made me realize I should take a little better care of our cast iron skillets!