Cast iron pans are great for preparing your favorite meal. If your cast iron pan is looking a little rough, check out this guide to clean cast iron pans and re-season them for many more years of joyful cooking.
So I’ve noticed that people who love their cast iron, really love their cast iron. It always seems to be the people who know what they’re talking about when it comes to cooking, cookery, and gourmet-ness in general, doesn’t it? Whether it’s because they allow you to get the perfect sear, because they’re super versatile, or because of the fact that they will last you a life time, cast iron pans are at the top of many peoples’ cookware lists. So I bought one. Mine is a nice, simple, almost flat one similar to this one here. Basic, affordable, durable, pretty to look at, and honestly kind of inspiring in that “I feel like I totally know my way around a kitchen now” kind of way.
But I honestly just had no idea what I was doing with that thing.
Without about 45 seconds of my owning it, it looked like this.
Whomp, whomp. whomp!
OK, 45 seconds is a slight exaggeration. It maybe took me a day to completely destroy it.
But now it’s back! Here’s how I revived my cast iron pan so I could finally learn what all of the fuss is about!
How to Revive Your Cast Iron Pan
If you have an old cast iron pan, chances are that it needs to be reseasoned to protect it from rusting and make its surface non-stick again. Or even if you have a brand new one that you’ve neglected to take care of properly. 🙂
First, to clean cast iron, you need to wash it really well with soap and a stiff dish brush and then scrub it with steel wool to remove any rust or baked on food bits.
Side note: I always really love any excuse to use steel wool. One of the most satisfying cleaning products for sure! If you’ve never tried it, you don’t know what you’re missing!
I put an old tea towel down in my beautiful new white sink first to protect it.
Next, you’ll need to coat the pan with vegetable oil inside and out, or you can use olive oil like I did since that was the only thing I had on hand.
Either way, use a paper towel to rub it in everywhere.
Bake it Back to Life
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
They say to place a layer of tinfoil over the entire bottom of your oven to protect it, but that made me a little nervous because that meant there was still lots of room for any excess dripping oil to splish and splash around the oven, so I just put some tinfoil on a baking sheet and placed the pan upside down directly on the baking sheet.
Let the pan bake in your oven for about an hour.
Turn the oven off and let the pan cool before taking it out.
Dry the pan off with more paper towels to remove any excess oil and you’re ready to go again!
Keep Your Cast Iron Pans Looking Great
To keep your pan in good shape in the future, here’s what you need to know:
Never use soap to clean cast iron pans. Only use warm water and a stiff brush to remove any baked on food bits, then dry your pan thoroughly to keep any rust from coming back. I’ve also been re-coating my pan with a thin layer of oil after I’m done cleaning it and that seems to keep it looking extra good and healthy. I guess it’s kind of like putting on moisturizer after a shower? Anyway, it seems to help and I think when you use the pan again, the new oil helps to reinforce your seasoning layer. You should always avoid steel wool during regular cleanings as it may scrape away the protective seasoning just as much as dish soap will. A lot of new cast iron pans will say that they’re dishwasher safe, like mine did, but you’ll definitely want to just wash it by hand to avoid the hassle of needing to re-season your pan every time you use it. It’s convenient to just stick the pan in the dishwasher in the moment, but it’s not worth the long-term hassle! 🙂
Cast Iron Pans Never Give Up
The good news is that almost any cast iron pan can be revived and loved for years to come no matter what shape you find it in, which is why these are such popular finds at garage sales and flea markets. They really just keep on giving!
Do you use cast iron pans in your kitchen? Do you have any other tips to clean cast iron to keep them performing at their best?
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.