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Have you ever prepared to cook with your beloved cast-iron skillet and seen rust like this? Don't toss it. We can help.
OH THE HORROR!!!
First, calm down. Don’t take it out on the dishwasher who unwittingly washed your cast-iron skillet with soap and water, which can wreak havoc on an otherwise well-seasoned pan. Here’s a quick remedy.
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1. Remove the Rust
Grab a dry dishcloth. Apply a small amount of canola oil and rub it into the rust-covered spots. The rust should disappear. If this doesn’t do the trick, grab a dry plastic textured sponge (like a Brill) and rub briskly. If this fails you, go for the steel wool and rub until the rust is removed.
2. Re-Season the Pan
Now that you have successfully removed the rust, if the raw cast iron is showing (you’ll see a dull silver color) you must re-season your pan. Seasoning is a curing process through which the pores of the iron are sealed with oil, which is why cast iron functions a bit like a non-stick pan. In order to season, you must coat the pan with a thin layer of oil and bake it in. I usually bake mine at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the pan (larger pans require more time).
3. Clean It Properly
Once your cast iron is seasoned and you have cooked your meal, how do you properly clean it?
Rule # 1: DO NOT use soap. Soap breaks down oil, which will ruin your great job of seasoning.
Rule # 2: DO NOT soak your pan. Water and oil don’t mix. Soaking for long periods can un-do seasoning. Simply wash your pan with warm water and a textured sponge and wipe with a dry towel. To ensure no rust will come to your treasured pan, a quick heated dry in the oven will do.
For more tips on how to properly clean and care for your cast iron, visit our friends at Lodge. Their centuries of cast iron manufacturing means they've seen it all, and we turn to them for help with our own cast iron issues.
Why bake in cast iron?
Because baking with cast iron is an experience and a relationship that will last beyond your lifetime.
Drawing on 125 years of experience, Lodge cast iron bakeware works alongside you as you try, learn, laugh, taste, and create memorable moments. It won’t dent, bend, or warp at high temperatures and can handle sharp kitchen tools. This bakeware is cast to last because baking is about more than pretty results it’s about making life delicious—for generations.
Here's the simple, step by step process for how to remove rust from cast iron:
#1. Measure out equal parts of water and white vinegar
It's important to remember that you can't clean surface rust with vinegar alone. Measure out a 50/50 ratio, based on your skillet, and mix together in a separate bucket, pan, washbowl, or sink.
#2. Soak your rusty cast iron skillet
Place your cast iron cooking implements in the vinegar mix, so they are totally covered. Leave to soak for up to 8 hours. It's important to remember that rust might come away before the eight-hour period is over, so it's important to check the skillet every half hour. If the rust has been removed, pull the pan out of the vinegar rust removal mixture.
#3. Remove your cast iron from the vinegar mix and scrub away any leftover rust
Once you've removed the pan, you must wash it right away. Use a soft scrub or brush, and gently remove any residue rust. Don't scrub too hard or you'll damage the surface. Make sure to dry it afterwards with a paper towel.
#4. Put the pan in the oven
Once you've dried the cast iron, put it in the oven for 30 minutes.
#5. Season your cast iron
Once you've cleaned the cast iron, you can then re-season it, if you need to. Here's how to season cast iron properly. This is an excellent method when looking at restoring cast iron.
Never Worry About Cleaning Your Cast-Iron Skillet Again with This Simple Trick
Surprise! You've already got the magic cleaning agent in your kitchen.
You already know how revolutionary a cast-iron skillet can be in your cooking repertoire. It&aposs one of the most versatile tools that&aposs capable of handling a wide range of recipes, from buttery cornbread and seared meats to sweet desserts and charred vegetables. Not to mention, cast-iron cookware can be used both on the stove and in the oven. It can also withstand incredibly high temperatures so that you always end up with the perfect one-skillet dish.
For all of its versatility in the kitchen, though, there&aposs still the problem of cleaning it. If cast-iron pans are part of your weekly dinner rotation, we have good news: you don&apost have to resort to a stiff-bristled brush, baking soda, and elbow grease to clean it. Turns out, the cleaning solution can be found right in your pantry. And the best part? The surprise ingredient pulls double duty to both clean and season your skillet. All you need are coarse salt, oil, and a humble potato. That&aposs right, a simple spud is all that stands in the way of you ensuring your skillet lasts for generations to come.
Before we walk you through the steps to cleaning your pan, you should know that potatoes contain a natural oxalic acid, which can also be found in various household cleaning products. In addition, the acid acts as dissolving agent to clean rust. When you cut the potato in half, the moisture combined with something abrasive like salt creates a useful and inexpensive scrub to get rid of stuck-on food.
According to PureWow, to clean your pan,first coat the pan with salt. Next, cut the potato in half so that it fits nicely in the palm of your hand. Lastly, place the potato, flesh-side down, onto the skillet and scrub in a circular motion. Once all those crispy bits are removed, rinse with water and dry the pan thoroughly with a towel. When you&aposre ready to use the skillet again, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and season your pan by rubbing the it with a very thin layer of oil before placing it in the oven or on the stovetop. Heat for one hour or until the pan is heated through. Just make sure you buff away any excess oil after it&aposs heated all over.
WATCH: How To Season A Cast-Iron Skillet
There you have it𠅊 ridiculously easy way to clean and season your cast-iron pan with an unassuming potato. Now, get on with baking Mama&aposs golden brown, Southern cornbread.
How to Resuscitate Your Rusty Cast-Iron Pan
Everyone’s got a skeleton or two in the closet, and one of 𠆞m just might be the secret shame of having let your cast iron pan fall into disuse. Or, let’s give you the benefit of the doubt and say that you happened upon a garage sale helmed by a soul careless enough to part with the greatest cooking implement known to modern (and old-timey) humanity. Sucks to be them / rocks to be you. But before you start frying huevos and flipping flapjacks, you’ve gotta get the rust and grime scraped off, then season the metal so the pan releases food easily and lasts a lifetime. This task is not nearly as daunting as the Big Nonstick Pan Lobby might have led you to believe.
We called in Toups’ Meatery chef/owner and Top Chef season 13 fan favorite Isaac Toups to demonstrate how to bring a neglected cast-iron skillet back from the dead (after which he insisted that we refer to him as “The Cast-Iron Necromancer”) and season it to last a lifetime.
It can take a bit of patience and arm strength to resurrect a rusted pan𠅎ven if you’re a brawny Cajun chef𠅋ut Toups swears it’s all for posterity. “There’s no reason this pan can’t last ’til your grandbabies.” Who you’ll presumably teach not to let their freaking heirloom cast iron deteriorate into rusted-up crap.
What you need to clean and season rusty cast iron:
- Steel wool
- Medium-grit sandpaper
- Old kitchen towels
- Grapeseed oil
- Heat source
Watch the video above to see how Toups works his skillet-saving magic, then learn how to clean stuck-on food from a cast-iron pan.
Since I know people will ask, here’s how to clean and how to season cast iron pots and pans.
To Clean Cast Iron
When done cooking, scrape out all the leftover food. You can use a wood or metal. I don’t recommend going too crazy with metal because it will scrape off your seasoning
When still hot, rinse with hot (not cold) water and scrub with a brush
For burnt on food, you can use coarse salt to scrub off
Return pan to stove and turn on heat. This will dry it so there’s no chance of rust and it prepares it for seasoning
To Season Cast Iron
Heat cast iron on stove until it’s hot through, but not smoking
Pour a bit of oil (grapeseed, olive, avocado, or linseed works) in pan
Rub the oil in with a dedicated old rag/towel (sometimes I use scrap napkins that make their way into our house)
Rub the oil all over on the inside of the pan, the sides, the bottom, and the lid
After a few minutes, buff out an excess oil
Enjoy and repeat seasoning after each (or every few) uses
If you want to spend an hour of your day listening to Cowboy Kent Rollins talk about all sorts of cast iron maintenance and tips, you really won’t regret it. Tune in here.
Now I get out and find yourself some old cast iron pans and give them new life. You can find them at antique shops, thrift stores, garage sales, eBay, or your local Buy Nothing Group.
Pin this image below so you never ever forget how to get that old cast iron pan looking spiffy!
8 Foolproof Tips to Master Cast-Iron Cooking
There’s cooking stovetop, and then there’s cooking stovetop with a cast-iron skillet. And for those of us who live and die by the iron throne (er, skillet), there’s no substitute. A well-seasoned skillet can crisp up pork chops and cornbread alike. You can make a homey pear-bourbon crisp or elegant tarte tatin in it, plush biscuits or tender cake. Let’s be honest: It’s a kitchen must-have that we just can’t live without.
We wanted to get to the bottom of what makes cast-iron cooking so very marvelous, so we interrogated our Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen Cook, Belle English along with Kris Stubblefield, the Test Kitchen Cook for Lodge, Americas oldest manufacturer of cast-iron cookware. Here’s what they had to say.
1. What do you love about cast-iron cooking?
“I love the color and char it gives what you are cooking. And how hot it gets!” says Belle English. “It just adds a dynamic edge to your food, flavor- and texture-wise. And the older it is, the better it gets. My mom’s cast iron is older than I am . . . and you can taste it.”
2. What is it best for?
“Honestly, everything. But my “must be cooked in cast-iron foods” are steak (duh), and cornbread (less duh but important!). Cast irons are good for anything you want an immediate crust or color on,” Belle says.
According to Lodge Test Kitchen Cook, Kris Stubblefield, “one of the only things I won’t do in my cast iron is boil noodles. Cast iron is a must for searing meats, baking, braising, frying, and a whole lot more.”
3. How do you choose which kind of pan works best for different foods and dishes?
“I think about my desired texture and how different pans will affect the desired texture. For example, I want a soft edge on my fried eggs, so I’ll use a more gentle surface like nonstick. Or for a stir-fry, I want high-heat retention and a quick sear, so I’ll use a classic aluminum. For the perfect steak, I want a hot pan that will give me a nice, seasoned crust, so it’s cast-iron all the way,” says Belle.
“Another benefit of a cast iron pan is how easily it moves from the stovetop to the oven,” explains Kris. Also, you can use any type of utensil on it, unlike non-stick cookware because there are no chemical coatings to damage.
4. What are 3 tips for mastering foolproof cast-iron cooking?
1) Heat and cool your cast iron cookware slowly.
2) Let the cast iron do most of the work, a.k.a., don’t move or fidget with the food while its cooking! It knows what to do.
3) The more you use it the better it gets.
5. How do you clean your cast-iron pan?
“My biggest tip is to never let your cast iron air dry. It will rust and stain your countertop and never forgive you. Dry it off and wipe it down with oil. Oh, and never soak it!,” explains Belle.
6. What’s the best way to store it?
“Well-seasoned in your (disastrous) normal pot and pan drawer. At home, I actually keep my cast iron skillet on my stove at pretty much all times. That way it absorbs all the kitchen grit,” Belle explains.
Kris Stubblefield of Lodge also likes to store his cast iron cookware on the stovetop or a kitchen cabinet, recommending to store it in a dry place. Also, “if you’re storing your cookware for a long period of time, it’s a good idea to use a paper towel to separate different pieces of iron. The paper towel will absorb any excess oil or ambient moisture,” he says.
7. Do you need less seasoning, salt, or oil in a cast-iron pan as other pans or not?
“No for salt and perhaps for oil. Depending on what you are cooking and how old your cast iron is, oil levels may change. Always start with a little oil, you can always add more!,” explains Belle.
8. Any myths about cast-iron cooking?
According to Belle, “The #1 myth is that you can’t use soap on your cast iron. A little soap never hurt nobody. The second is that cast irons are only for meats and things. I make cinnamon rolls in my cast-iron pan, even apple pies and giant cookies, ohh, and deep-dish pizzas. As Cady Heron once said, ‘The limit does not exist.'”
The Best Things to Cook in Your Cast-Iron Skillet
There’s a reason that cast-iron pans are a sought-after purchase — or find at garage sales and thrift shops — and why chefs and home cooks take great care to maintain their pans’ condition: A cast-iron pan is your kitchen’s ultimate workhorse. From achieving the perfect sear on steaks to evenly baking a batch of fluffy cornbread, your cast-iron skillet can make just about anything. Cast-iron pans are heavy-duty, too. Literally. Their heft and sturdy finish mean that they won’t chip or scratch or wear out like other cookware.
What’s so extra special about cast-iron pans is that they only get better with time as they get more seasoned. In this case, seasoning has nothing to do with flavor. Instead, it refers to the oil that gets baked into the pan over time. This keeps your pan rust-free and creates a natural non-stick finish.
You can buy your pan pre-seasoned to give yourself a head start (foods may still stick to your pan a little initially). The more frequently you cook with your cast-iron pan, the quicker you’ll build up its seasoning and the more easily foods will release from the pan.
If you buy your pan un-seasoned, you’ll have to take an extra step to season it before use. Scrub and wash the pan in hot, soapy water, then, using a paper towel, wipe it with neutral oil (like corn, vegetable or canola) and bake it in a hot oven, around 30 minutes at 450 degrees or an hour at 375 degrees (repeat a couple of times).
Maintenance is key: clean the pan while it’s still hot if you can (a little soap and warm water should do it, but try not to scrub away any of the seasoning layer), heat it on the stove just before it starts to smoke, and wipe the pan with a paper towel and a small amount of oil. Let it cool completely before storing.
We love our cast-iron skillets as our kitchen workhorse, and have a whole guide to 10 great things to make in your own cast-iron skillet. But here's a breakdown of what it can do, and what to try.
Because cast iron is such a dense metal, it may take a little bit longer to heat, but it boasts a superior ability to maintain its temperature once it’s hot. That consistent heat makes cast-iron pans ideal for searing proteins and achieving that coveted outer “crust” in dishes like Katie Lee’s Cast-Iron Skillet Porterhouse Steak. It also helps with even browning in dishes like Cast-Iron Skillet Provencal Pork Chops and Potatoes (pictured up top). Bonus: Your cast-iron pan goes easily from the stove top to the oven to help finish cooking proteins after you get the perfect sear or initial browning.
How to Fix a Patchy or Scratched Skillet
Cooking acidic foods or following improper cleaning procedures can damage the seasoning on your pan, creating spots of dull, patchy, dry-looking metal on the inside of the pan instead of the smooth, rich black of well-seasoned cast iron. When this happens, you can restore the pan by following the instructions for Level 2: Minor Repairs. Wiping the warm pan with oil will help reseason the small areas of the surface that have been damaged, evening out the protective coating on the skillet.
How to Clean a Cast Iron Grill
Just like your oven, it’s important to maintain your grill to keep it in good condition and ready for use. You can use soap or a water-based cleaning product to clean a grill and remove the seasoning while you’re at it.
This section covers how to clean cast iron grill pan surfaces using a water-based cleaning solution. You’ll get a natural grill cleaner recipe that includes baking soda, and we’ll also show you an excellent grill cleaning method that uses nothing but boiling water and elbow grease.
Clean the Grill with Boiling Water
Boiling water might not seem like much on its own, but you can do a lot with it. Use it as an effective home made oven cleaner, as a toilet unclogger, and as an insect control product.
And, it’s one of the more efficient methods you’ll encounter of cleaning cast iron grill pans. Using boiling water is also a great way to clean BBQ grill grates. As with all of these recipes, you need to make sure to season the grill after you wash it.
Boiling Water Grill Cleaning
- 6 cups boiling water
- Steel wire brush
- Steel wool
- Clean cloth
Place the cast iron pan on the stovetop over high heat. Don the gloves, and fill the container with a few inches of boiling water. Dip the grill brush in the water.
Scrub at the griddle or grill, re-wetting the brush frequently and cleaning off food particles and other grime. Clean all cooking surfaces thoroughly, and rinse the grill with the water a few times to remove all debris. Once the grill is clean, dry it completely in a hot oven.
Get Your Grill Clean with Water and Baking Soda
If water by itself doesn’t get the job done, you can always go for a more heavy-duty solution and break out the baking soda. Baking soda has abrasive and chemical cleaning action, which makes it perfect for cleaning away caked on grease, grime, and rust.
When you combine it with hot water, it can cut through just about any layer of dirt. It’s just the right solution to clean burnt cast iron pans and get rid of nasty food stains without removing the seasoning. However, if the seasoning does come off, it’s just as easy to add it again.
This solution is ideal for how to clean gas stove grates, as well as the barbeque grill, but it may be best to skip the wire scrubber and steel wool so that you don’t damage the material. A sponge or old rag will work just as well.
Water and Baking Soda Grill Cleaner
- 4 tbsp baking soda
- 2 tbsp cold water
- Bucket of warm water
- 2 tbsp dish soap
- Steel wool
- Wire scrubber
- Clean cloth or paper towel
To make this DIY metal cleaner, create a paste out of the cold water and baking soda, and use the cloth to apply it to all grill surfaces. Let the baking soda mixture dry for a few hours before proceeding.
Then, use the wire brush, steel wool, and scraper to clean all cooking surfaces thoroughly. Apply pressure as needed for particularly dirty areas. Add the soap to the bucket of warm water. Rinse the grill in warm, soapy water, and dry the grill in the oven.
If you need to clean porcelain coated cast iron grill grates, don’t use steel wool as you may damage the material. A nylon scrubber works better on this type of surface.
The 3 Deadly Sins Of Cast Iron Skillet Care (PHOTOS)
Of all the prized possessions in my kitchen, one of my favorites was also probably the cheapest. I am talking, of course, about my trusted cast iron skillet and the layer of seasoning upon it. In this case, “seasoning” doesn’t mean adding salt and pepper to taste, seasoning cast iron refers to the process of cooking oil into the surface of pan, giving it natural non-stick properties.
When you get a cast iron skillet, before you cook a single thing in it, you begin the seasoning process. It’s actually super simple: give your skillet a wash with hot water and dry it completely. Rub a little bit of vegetable or olive oil into the surface of the pan and put it upside down in a 350 degree oven. Slide a cookie sheet or bigger pan underneath to catch any oil drips. Leave it for an hour, turn the oven off, and let the oven and pan cool down together. Boom. It’s seasoned.
Now that we've covered what you SHOULD do with your cast iron skillet, let's talk about the three things you absolutely should NOT do. Consider these the three deadly sins of cast iron skillet ownership.
Do not, I repeat DO NOT wash your cast iron skillet with dish soap. Or any soap. I know it takes some getting used to -- we're taught that everything needs to be washed with soap to get clean, but in order to preserve your seasoning, which is the magic holy grail of cast iron skillet cooking, you can't rub any harsh chemicals onto it. Wash your skillet with hot water ONLY. I even go so far as to not use a sponge.
If there's something on your skillet that neither hot water nor helpful encouragement will get rid of, dry your skillet, pour some coarse sea salt into it and scrub with that. It's strong enough to remove stuck-on food, but gentle enough that it won't disturb your seasoning. Then rinse with hot water, dry thoroughly and rub it with olive oil.
Same deal here as with a scratchy sponge -- your main goal is to keep the seasoning intact, which means scraping along the cooking surface with metal anything is a major no-no. Plastic or silicone spatulas and wooden utensils are your go-to tools for cast iron cooking. You can usually get away with metal tongs, so long as you're just touching the food and not messing with pan.
An important note: If the unthinkable happens and some black flecks of seasoning start to flake off, you don't have to throw your skillet out. You do, however, have to give the thing a good washing, scrub with salt, and re-seasoning, just like the first time.