How to Restore a Rusty Cast Iron Skillet

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Cast iron cleaning is something of tradition passed down to generations along with the cookware itself. Some cooks and cast iron diehards dare not let theirs near water, much less soap of any sort, and letting one rust may indeed fall into the book of unpardonable sins for some southerners.

But fear not: on a recent visit to the Lodge factory in Tennessee, I learned the proper way to restore rusty cast iron from the experts themselves. A few simple steps at home can restore rusted cast iron cookware to cook-ready condition!

Regardless of the extent of rust, there are options beyond discarding rusted cast iron. Most commonly, neglect or moisture results in what's termed "profile rusting," which can be seen and felt on the cookware. Thankfully, profile rusting is easily removed at home in an afternoon.

For severe rust that covers most of the cookware surface, take the piece to a machine shop to have it sandblasted and restored to raw cast iron, then season immediately. You can start with step four here, or use the following tutorial:

Otherwise, for mild rust, follow the steps in this post and you're all set. If you need a little more inspiration, check out this video by Lodge Manufacturing on this same project. See? It's not that hard.

How to Restore a Rusty Cast Iron Skillet

What You Need

Steel wool
Scrubbing brush or sponge
Dish soap
Dish towel or paper towels
Vegetable oil (or cooking oil of choice)
Aluminum foil

Equipment
Oven

Instructions

  1. Remove all the rust: Use fine steel wool to remove rust from affected areas. Scour the skillet until the area returns to raw cast iron.
  2. Wash the skillet thoroughly: Wash the cast iron with warm water and mild dish soap. Scrub with bristle brush or mesh sponge if needed.
  3. Dry the skillet: Thoroughly dry the cast iron immediately with a clean dish towel or paper towels.
  4. Cover the pan with a coating of oil: Apply a small amount of vegetable oil (or cooking oil of choice) to the entire piece, including the bottom and handle. Use only a small amount to avoid a sticky surface.
  5. Place the pan in the oven: Place the cast iron upside down on the top rack of your rack. Place a sheet of aluminum foil or a foil-lined baking sheet on the bottom rack to catch any oil drips.
  6. Heat the pan for an hour: Heat the cast iron for one hour at 350 degrees.
  7. Let the pan cool before using: Turn off heat, let cast iron cool, then get back to cooking!

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(Image credits: Erika Tracy)

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