How to Restore a Rusty Cast Iron Pan

Do you have an old cast iron pan that is looking a little worse for the wear? Has it lost its seasoning and food is sticking? Did it sit unattended for a while and get rusty? Don't worry! It's actually super easy to fix. I've done this simple process several times now (we inherited a couple old rusty cast iron pans) and it works like a charm. I shared the finished product on Instagram yesterday (luckily I snapped a few pictures!) and I got some questions, so I thought a post on what I do would be helpful.

What You'll Need

Steel wool and/or an old sponge

Dish soap


Coconut oil

Aluminum foil

1. Clean 'Em Up

Preheat your oven to 350˚F. To start out, you want to remove any residue or rust that may be on the pan. That means, dare I say it, you use soap! Blasphemy! Soap on a cast iron pan? What?? Don't worry, we will re-season it later. It will be okay! If your pan is particularly rusty, you'll want to use some steel wool. Otherwise you can just use an old sponge (it will definitely be ruined after this) and some dish soap. To get a little extra scrubbing power, I like to use salt after I've rinsed the soap off. Then rinse again.

2. Dry It Well

I blot it dry with a paper towel--don't rub or it will shred and you'll have paper towel fuzz all over your clean cast iron. Then, I throw it on the stove top on medium heat to thoroughly dry it. This also warms up the pan to help with the next step; seasoning!

3. Time to Season

Once it's dry, you get to re-season it. I like to use an old rag for this part, or a gloved hand would also work. Again, I wouldn't use a paper towel or you'll end up with some fuzz on your pan. Now for the oil, which do you chose? From my research, I've seen a lot of different recommendations, flax oil being one of them. But can you say expensive?? I've always used coconut oil, just regular old organic unrefined coconut oil, and that seems to work really well. You can also use a high quality tallow or lard; Welcome to flavour town! Make sure you coat the whole pan--top, bottom, sides, handles, all of it. There should be a layer of oil on the whole pan, but not any excess. Here's how mine looked:

4. Seal It!

Now it's time to pop it in the oven. Make sure you put a layer of foil on the bottom rack to catch any oil that drips off. Someone told me any time they've tried to re-season their cast iron they almost burned their kitchen down! This will help you avoid that, plus who wants a messy oven? Then put the pan upside-down on the rack above. This will allow the excess oil to drip off instead of pooling in the pan. It will bake in the oven for 1 hour, then let it cool completely before using it. Below you'll see the finished pan, and another one I did a previous time.

5. Use It!

Now that you've done all that, you get the reap the rewards of your effort! Cast iron is great for cooking. I love that I don't worry about there being any toxic chemicals ending up in my food. Cast iron is great for searing meats and then popping them in the oven to finish cooking. You can also use it for baking pizzas, cakes, cookies, and so much more. If you find that things are sticking a little still, repeat steps 3 & 4 to add another layer (or more if needed).

6. Maintain It

So now you've used your pan. How do you clean it without losing that great seasoning? If you need, use salt to scrub out any food bits, and then rinse with water. Then you'll dry it in the same way as above--blot it dry, then heat it on the stovetop. Once it's dry, add some oil on the inside of the pan and you're done! Be sure to store it in a dry place between uses to prevent any future rusting.

Happy Cooking!

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