Restore a Cast Iron Skillet

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Last Updated on December 8, 2023

Restore a Cast Iron Skillet

Caring for Cast Iron

When treated properly, cast iron can last for decades and easily outperforms other types of cookware. It does require some special treatment though. If water or food is left in the skillet, the seasoning can become damaged or even rust. Old seasoning can also build up on the pan, causing a gunky residue.

Depending on how damaged the skillet is, it may just need a good scrubbing and new coat of oil. If it’s completely grimy, then you’ll need to strip the old seasoning off and completely re-season.

Where to Find Cast Iron Skillets

I actually prefer older cast iron pieces because unlike modern pieces, they’ve been polished to a smooth finish. Also, the more cast iron is used, the easier it is to work with. Ebay, garage sales, Craig’s List and your local thrift store are all good places to find old cast iron cookware.

Reondition Your Cast Iron Skillet

There are many methods out there, but I’ve found this one to be very effective and safe to use, even on older cast iron pieces. I’ve tried plenty of methods, but this is the only way I’ve been able to successfully restore a cast iron skillet. Lye is typically used to make natural soap and in this instance will be neutralized by the vinegar in later steps.

You will need

  • Rubber gloves
  • Kitchen size trash bag
  • Oven cleaner made with lye
  • Paper towels
  • Steel wool, very, very fine grade.
  • White vinegar

1. Wearing the rubber gloves, lay the skillet on the grass or gravel driveway outside, preferably not on a breezy day. Evenly and thoroughly coat the skillet on both sides with the oven cleaner.

2. Place the skillet inside the trash bag and wrap the bag around the skillet. Put this in a safe place out of children’s and pet’s reach for 2-3 days.

3. After 2-3 days, use the paper towels to wipe the grimy residue off of the skillet, revealing the dull grey underneath. If there is still seasoning that needs to come off, respray the pan with the oven cleaner and wrap in a new trashbag for another 3-4 days.

4. Use paper towels to wipe the rest ot the seasoning off. Pour about 1 liter of hot water and ½ liter of vinegar in a sink and soak the skillet for an hour in the solution.

5. Using the steel wool, wash it with hot soapy water, then rinse and dry thoroughly.

6. Place the skillet upside down in a cold oven and turn the oven on to 450. If your oven heats quickly, then start it at 250 for 15 minutes before increasing the temperature. After 1 hour of applying heat, turn the oven off.

7 Remove the now very hot skillet and use a paper towel to apply a thin coat of oil over the entire surface, like lard or coconut oil. Wipe off any excess and return it upside down to the oven.

8 Every 15-20 minutes, apply another very thin coat of oil to the pan, wiping off any excess. After repeating this process about 4 times, allow the pan to sit in the oven until both are cool. You may need to wipe off excess oil as it cools.

Restore a Cast Iron Skillet

Maintenance Tips

Use your cast iron frequently, treat it well and it will develop a dark, smooth, nonstick finish over time. Avoid cooking with excess liquids or acidic substances, like large amounts of vinegar to preserve the seasoning.

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