How to Clean & Restore a Cast Iron Skillet


Cast-iron pots and pans are often considered the gold standard because of their ability to distribute heat evenly and to consistently produce a steady stream of dishes, such as steaks and pizza.

What you need

  • Oven with clean setting
  • Aluminum foil
  • Heat-resistant gloves
  • Bucket or bin large enough to hold the pot
  • Water
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dishwashing liquid soap
  • Scrubbing brush or steel wool (optional)
  • Paper towels or rags
  • Peanut oil

These classic frying pans have stood the test of time. Look for dirtier, more affordable frying pans from flea markets, old attics, or family heirlooms.

It is common for rust and dirt to overlap, but that doesn’t mean you should throw away the pans.

Step one.

Line the bottom rack of the oven with aluminum foil. Place the pan upside down on the top rack. The foil will catch the baked goods and make cleanup easier.

Plan for a day where you can open the windows or be working outside while the cleaning setting is activated to avoid harsh odors.

Step 2.

Enable the oven cleaning setting and wait for the entire cycle to complete. If your oven does not have a self-cleaning setting, heat the oven to 425 degrees and begin checking the pan after 2 hours. When the cycle is complete, remove the pan from the oven and allow the pan to cool. It will still look rusty, but most of the deposits should be loose at this stage.

Plan a day when you can open a window or work outside while the cleaning setup is running so that the smell is not too strong.

Step 3.

Soak the pan in an equal amount of water and white vinegar, finishing with a tablespoon of liquid dishwashing detergent. Allow to soak for 3 hours.

The more rust there is in the pan, the longer it will take to soak.

Step 4

Remove the pan and rinse it well, then wipe off any remaining dirt with a paper towel or rag until completely dry.

If there is still rust or stains, continue to scrub with a sponge or fine wire ball until smooth.

Step 5

Now you are ready to season the pan. Seasoning is the process of creating a non-stick surface, and if properly cared for, a seasoned coating will last a long time. Rub peanut oil all over the pan (inside, outside, and handle) to add color.

If you already have a cast iron pan that needs seasoning, try the following steps.

Step 6.

Place the pan upside down on the top shelf of the oven and heat at 350 degrees for 1 hour. This process opens the pores of the pan to absorb the oil and then closes them again after it cools to retain the oil. When the pan is removed from the oven, it has a classic shine and is ready to use.

The pan is already seasoned and ready to use.

Before and After

Using this method, a pan that might otherwise end up in the trash is transformed into a beautiful, historic piece of cookware that is perfect for display. As you can see, these timeless cookers are truly priceless when properly cared for.

It’s hard to believe that the skillet is rusty and dirty.