How to Reclaim a Cast Iron Fry Pan -published Feb 22, 2017

How to Reclaim a Cast Iron Fry Pan -published Feb 22, 2017

Reclaim Your Cast Iron Fry Pan

It is truly disheartening to pull out a cast iron pan to find it covered in rust. It can (and should) be rescued. All it takes is a bit of elbow grease, a few minutes, some fine steel wool, salt, and cooking oil.

Depending on how much rust is in or on the pan, you have to get rid of it using fine steel wool. Scour the rust away using a mixture of salt (coarse is best but any salt will work), a bit of water, and fine steel wool. You want to see raw cast iron as you scrub away flakes of rust. Both the inside of the pan and the outside can be thoroughly cleaned using salt, water and steel wool.

Once you have removed all the rust, rinse the pan under water as hot as possible until the water runs clear. Fill your sink with warm water and grease-lifting dish detergent and gently scrub the pan all over using a pot scrubby or a brush. Rinse it again under hot water. Some folks use SOS pads to clean a cast iron pan. Make sure you have completely removed the cleaning residue from the pad or your pan will season tasting like soap.

Now wipe it dry, all around the bottom, sides and inside, using paper towels. Using paper towels is a great way to see if you removed all the rust, as it will show on the white.

Using a fresh piece of paper towel, wipe cooking oil over the whole pan, inside and out, including the handle. Make sure you use a quality high heat cooking oil, such as canola or sunflower, Not all oils are created equally as some will have a higher ‘smoke’ point (burning temperature) than others.  

Put a piece of foil wrap on the bottom rack of your oven, place the freshly oiled fry pan on the rack above it, upside down so the oil doesn’t pool in the bottom. Turn the oven on to 350ºF and leave the pan in there for about an hour. I would plan to bake some potatoes or a small roast alongside the pan, just for efficiency’s sake!

Let the pan cool, wipe off any excess oil and you are back in the cast iron cooking game. To get a well-seasoned pan, it is a good idea to repeat the process of wiping the pan with oil, heating, cooling and wiping it clean 2-3 times.

When you store a cast iron pan, make absolutely certain it is dry. I often pop mine in the oven for a few minutes or on a warm burner, just to make sure. After it cools, I then wipe the interior with a piece of paper towel soaked in cooking oil, before putting it away. Using fabric pan separators is a great way to trap any lingering moisture, and protects the inside of the pans.

Cooking with iron pans adds minute amounts of iron to our diets, a good thing as many North Americans are slightly iron deficient. Cooking with something acidic, like a tomato sauce, can add up to 20 times the iron as the acid leaches iron.

Happy cast iron cooking!


Absolutely Fabulous at Home

Did you know? To clean your cast iron without using detergent, pour a cup of kosher salt into a warm pan. Using a dry dishcloth, scour the pan, removing stuck on food bits. Throw out the salt and rinse with warm water. Dry thoroughly.

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  • Catherine Reid
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