How to Restore a (Very) Rusty Cast Iron Skillet

There's nothing like cooking dinner (or at least part of it) in a cast iron skillet over an open flame. Unfortunately though, over time, iron oxidizes and rust will form on the pan's surface, rendering it unusable. There's no way around it. Robin kindly put together a guide on how to restore very rusty cast iron - her tried and true method that works like a charm - so that you can revive your cast iron skillet and get cooking!

cast iron

Robin's work on her cast iron skillet.

Cast Iron Cleaning - Step 1:

Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water in a tub, bucket, or sink big enough to submerge the pan. You can soak the pan for up to 8 hours but check often - it could be ready in as little as an hour. You know when the pan is done when rust flakes away easily.

Cast Iron Cleaning - Step 2:

Use mild detergent and warm water to clean away any lingering rust with a mild abrasive sponge.

Cast Iron Cleaning Step 3:

Dry immediately and pop in the oven. You will now re-season your pan. Seasoning is the process of baking oil into the pores of the iron. This practice prevents rust and provides a natural, easy-release finish that continues to improve with use. To do this, set your oven to 350° and line the bottom of the oven with foil. Rub a mineral oil with a high smoke point (like vegetable oil) over the entire pan and let it bake for an hour.

Cast Iron Cleaning Step 4:

Now, every time you use the pan, just lightly wipe the inside only down with another layer of oil. This will gradually build up to a nice protective layer make it a better cooking surface and guarding against rust.

This method should provide great results, and leave you with years of great use (and meals!) from your iron skillet. Check out Robin's before and after pictures above!

Happy cooking!