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How To Restore Cast Iron Pans

I love cooking on cast iron pans. They are my favorite pans to cook on and so easy to care for once you have learned how. One thing I love to do is restore cast iron pans. I joy the feeling I get in seeing a cast iron piece restored and usable once again. Most of the cast iron cookware I have, I rescued from being thrown out because they were badly rusted.

Most people have learned how to care for their cast iron pans from their parents or grandparents. Everyone has their own method for cleaning and caring for cast iron pans. Sometimes your cast iron pan gets rusty for some reason. This could happen from improper cleaning or because it was in storage and somehow got wet. Regardless of how it happened, most of the time, the pan is still salvageable.

There are multiple ways to restore a cast iron pan. Choose the one that suits your needs depending on the amount of rust on the pan.

Let’s start with the easiest method. This one is a good one to use if your pan just has a small amount of rust on it.

  1. If your pan only has light rust on it, you can use fine steel wool to remove the rust. Scour the pan until the area returns to raw cast iron.
  2. Next, wash the pan with warm water and a mild soap. Feel free to use a bristle brush or a mesh sponge it needed.
  3. Be sure to immediately dry the pan with a clean dish towel or a paper towel.
  4. Then cover the pan completely with vegetable oil. Remember to cover the bottom and the handle!
  5. Place the cast iron upside down on the top rack of your oven. It is recommended that you 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 degrees.
  6. Remove the cast iron pan and let it cool. Your pan is ready to be used now!

 

For more severe cases of damaged cast iron try the following:

 

First Way:

  1. Place pan in a wood stove while it is burning hot for a few hours.
  2. Use a wire brush and scrape off any rust or crud that has loosened on it.
  3. Soak the pan in a solution of 50/50 vinegar and water for 1 to 6 hours depending on how bad the rust is.
  4. Use fine steel wool to remove anything that is still remaining.
  5. Next, wash the pan with warm water and a mild soap. Feel free to use a bristle brush or a mesh sponge it needed.
  6. Be sure to immediately dry the pan with a clean dish towel or a paper towel.
  7. Then cover the pan completely with vegetable oil. Remember to cover the bottom and the handle!
  8. Place the cast iron upside down on the top rack of your oven. It is recommended that you 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 degrees.
  9. Remove the cast iron pan and let it cool. Your pan is ready to be used now!

Second Way:

  1. Place the pan in the oven and run it through a self-clean cycle. This will burn anything not metal off of it and may loosen any rust. (Please be aware that the pan may crack at this stage, if it does, then it is trash. If it cracked here, it was bound to crack some other time, and you should consider yourself lucky that it didn’t do it while you were cooking.)
  2. Next, a quick bath in phosphoric acid will deal with your rust problem. Not sure what phosphoric acid is? Coca Cola has sufficient phosphoric acid in it to get the job done. Phosphoric acid reacts with Iron Oxide (rust) to create Ferric Phosphate, which isn’t dangerous at all and will wipe off the surface with a gentle cleaning.
  3. If there is anything remaining, a light scouring with steel wool should get you resolved.
  4. If your surface is uneven, you may have to use something a bit coarser to get things mostly even. You don’t need perfection. The seasoning will fix some of the problems.
  5. A gentle cleaning with soap and water and you’re nearly ready to season. (Dry the pan well before the next step. I like a few minutes on a burner to heat the pan dry and then let it cool down until you can handle it)
  6. By the time you are done with this, you’ll have a clean piece of cast iron that is badly in need of seasoning. Season the pan well, you may want to do it a second time to be on the safe side

Last way:

  1. Take the piece to a machine shop to have it sandblasted and restored to raw cast iron.
  2. Then season it immediately.

 

As you can see, there are many ways to restore a cast iron pan. Some are easier than others.

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