How to Restore a Rusty Cast Iron Skillet in 7 Quick (and Easy!) Steps

updated Oct 31, 2023
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Credit: Erika Tracy

The method of cleaning cast iron is something of tradition passed down to generations, sometimes 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 home chefs. But fear not: We learned the proper way to restore rusty cast iron from the experts at Lodge Cookware themselves. A few simple steps at home can restore rusted cast iron cookware to cook-ready condition. Here’s how.

Don’t Throw Your Rusted Cast Iron Out Just Yet

Regardless of the extent of the rust, there are options beyond throwing out rusted cast iron. 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 the skillet immediately. Then, you can start with step four here, or use the tutorial above.

Most commonly, neglect or moisture results in what’s called “profile rusting,” which can be seen and felt on the cookware. Thankfully, profile rusting is easily removed at home in an afternoon. Follow the steps below and you’ll be all set.

How To Restore a Rusty Cast Iron Skillet

What You’ll Need

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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.

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2. Wash the skillet thoroughly

Wash the cast iron with warm water and mild dish soap. Scrub with bristle brush, gentle scouring pad, or mesh sponge if needed.

Credit: Erika Tracy

3. Dry the skillet

Thoroughly dry the cast iron immediately with a clean dish towel or paper towels.

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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.

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5. Don’t forget the bottom and handle

When oiling, don’t forget the bottom and handle. Use only a small amount to avoid a sticky surface.

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6. Place the pan in the oven

Place the cast iron upside down on the top rack of your oven. Place a sheet of aluminum foil or a foil-lined baking sheet on the bottom rack to catch any oil drips. Heat the cast iron for one hour at 350°F.

Credit: Erika Tracy

7. Let the pan cool before using

Turn off the heat, let the cast iron cool, then get back to cooking.

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