Bring Your Cast Iron Back to Life: How to Remove Rust and Season Cast Iron
Cast Iron is excellent in the kitchen and even when camping out cooking on the grill. But what do you do when your cast iron rusts or starts looking weathered?
Cast iron skillets are easily the most versatile of the pots and pans. You can use cast iron on the stovetop, in the oven, over a campfire, and even on the grill.
Another great benefit of cast iron is that it should last a lifetime and longer if you know how to take care of it. Cast Iron is a piece of kitchenware that you can pass from generation to generation, and the cookware won’t lose its integrity.
You will need to season your cast iron from time to time. The process is simple, helps to maintain an easy cook surface, and helps to prevent rust.
If you ever do find yourself in a spot where your cast iron has rusted, it’s not a lost cause, and there’s no need to throw it out and start over. Most rust can be removed.
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An Experiment Gone Wrong
Have you ever tried to cook an egg on a hot sunny day in cast iron? It doesn’t work.
My kids tried that over the summer, threw the egg out, and left the cast iron outside. It rained, the rain dried up, and the cast iron rusted.
I didn’t want to throw the skillet away, and I knew there had to be a way to recover my trusty cookware.
As usual, I turned to vinegar. Besides removing rust from cast iron, vinegar has so many uses around the house.
Step by Step Guide to Remove rust from cast iron
If you cook with cast iron occasionally, you will want to season your cookware to ensure you’re getting the most out of your equipment.
Start by placing your rusted cast iron in the sink or a bucket or tub that is deep enough to allow the entire rusted surface to be covered.
Because this cast iron skillet only had rust on the cooking surface and not on the outside as well, I was able to use the skin.
Storage bins are a great place to soak your rusted cast iron if you can’t have something in your sink for 8-12 hours at a time. Storage bins are also great because you can cover them with a lid and move them outside if the smell of vinegar bothers you.
Next, soak your rusted cast iron in equal parts part and vinegar.
If your entire cast iron is rusted, you may need up to a gallon of vinegar.
Regular white distilled vinegar works perfectly for this project.
Then allow the rusted cast iron to soak for 30 minutes to 8 hours.
This skillet soaked for approximately 35 minutes.
If your entire cast iron is coated in rust you will want to soak for 8 hours.
Check-in on your soak every couple of hours to see if the rust has started to loosen.
Do not soak for more than 8 hours at a time. Soaking for more than 8 hours could ruin the integrity of your cast iron.
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Washing and rust removal
Once you’ve completed the soaking, move your cast iron to the sink or an area where you wash and rinse.
Using steel wool and a sponge and warm water, scrub away the rust.
If the rust is stubborn, you can use soap to clean the surface. Because you will want to season your cast iron after removing the rust, you will season your cast iron.
How To Season Cast Iron
When Should You season Your Cast Iron?
How often you should season, your cast iron depends on how often you use it. The more you use your cast iron, the more you want to season it to ensure the best cooking results.
Vinegar can be used in countless ways around the house. One is to strip your cast iron skillet or remove rust if your cookware is old or has been left in water.
Steps to season cast iron
Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees and lining the bottom rack with aluminum foil or a large cookie sheet. This step is necessary to avoid oil dripping to the bottom of your oven, which can cause it to smoke.
While the oven is preheating, pour a generous amount of oil into your cast iron. There is no wrong oil to use to season your skillet. You want to ensure you use an oil with a high smoke point to avoid setting off your smoke detectors.
Whatever oil you have around should work. Canola oil is a popular choice. This oil works well because of the high smoke point and won’t transfer flavor into your skillet.
If you like to cook with coconut oil, you could use that to season your skillet, but some flavor may transfer to your cookware, but it’s entirely safe for use.
Wipe the oil into your cast iron using a paper towel until the entire surface is coated.
Once you’ve coated your cookware surface, place it upside down in your oven and heat for 60 minutes.
After heating the cast iron for an hour, turn off the oven and allow your cast iron to cool for a minimum of 60 minutes before removing it.
How Often Should you season cast iron?
Knowing how often to season your cookware can be as confusing as knowing when to clean your appliances. While it’s unnecessary to season your cast iron after each use, you can. Seasoning your cast iron helps to ensure its cooking performance for the life of your cookware.
If you notice your cast iron is dull, food is sticking, or you notice rust spots, it’s time to season your cookware.
Cookware to last a lifetime
When you clean and season your cast iron cookware correctly, it will last a lifetime, and beyond. Cast iron is a piece that can be passed from one generation to the next.
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Erin is the mother of identical twin girls and their slightly older brother. She is a domestic engineer, and previously had a career leading customer service teams for a major HVAC company. Cleaning without harsh chemicals, and cooking easy and usually healthy meals are part of Erin's daily life. She volunteers with youth leaders, and genuinely wants to help others win. Erin has a degree in Communications, with a focus on Broadcast Journalism.