Inside: Cooking with cast iron is a safe and non-toxic alternative to using nonstick cookware. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial for restoring and re-seasoning a cast iron skillet or pan–even if they are full of rust!
By Asheritah Ciuciu
If you have old, rusty cast iron pans that look hopeless, don’t despair! Today I’ll show you how to re-season a cast iron pan, so that you can swap out the dubious nonstick pans with healthy cookware that literally shines.
Why Bother With Old Cast Iron Pans?
I struggled with yo-yo dieting for years, hopelessly caught in a cycle of gaining and losing the same 10 pounds. Part of my journey toward overcoming food addictions included swapping out lies for Truth and unhealthy ingredients for healthy ones.
When I read about the dangers of nonstick pans, and that old cast iron pans can be restored to their former glory, I grabbed a pair. Old pans are cheap, easy to find, and durable additions to your kitchen.
How Hard Is It to Re-season a Cast Iron Pan?
Lots of online directions recommend using a toxic oven cleaner, but you can easily restore a pan with natural methods as well. Depending on the condition of your pan, this process may take 20 minutes to two to three hours of active work, plus baking time. But once you re-season a pan, the nonstick coat will last for years, making your favorite recipes that much healthier.
The Easy (Natural) Way to Re-season a Cast Iron Pan
1. Clean the Pan.
Expert tip: Be generous with the salt. Some of the salt will get stuck in the potato, so you’ll want to have enough left over to really scourge the pan of all rust.
Related: 10 Homemade Kitchen Cleaners
2. Dry the Pan Immediately.
As soon as you’ve removed the pan from the water, dry it thoroughly with a cloth towel and warm it on medium-low heat to evaporate all moisture. While your pan is warming, place aluminum foil on the bottom rack of your oven to catch any drips. Heat oven to 500 F (or your highest setting).
Expert tip: Make sure you move to Step 2 immediately. I can’t emphasize this enough. Don’t wait 5 minutes, like I did, because rust will already begin to develop on the surface of the pan.
3. “Bake” the Pan.
Place the cleaned, dry pan in the oven and bake for one hour, un-oiled at first. This will allow the pores to open up and better soak in the oil in the next step.
4. Season the Pan with Oil.
Carefully remove the pan from the oven, using double oven mitts if necessary. Immediately rub a coat of oil all over the pan (inside and out) with a wadded paper towel or cotton cloth; the hot cast iron will absorb the oil into its pores and within minutes you’ll begin noticing a sheen.
Keep rubbing oil into the metal until it begins to build up, then use new paper towels to wipe up excess oil until the pan just looks wet. Be very careful to avoid burning yourself. (The oil may smoke, but that’s ok.)
Expert tip: You can use olive oil, lard, or any other oil you want, but try to find a high smoke-point oil if you can. And open the windows; there will be some smoke. The second time around I used cottonseed oil, which was better than olive oil.
Related: Is a High Speed Blender Worth It?
5. Return Pan to Oven.
Turn off the oven and return the pan to the oven, upside-down. Every 10 minutes or so, wipe the pan to catch any build-up of oil drips before they bake on, and return to the oven. After 30 minutes, prop the oven door partially open to cool.
6. Repeat (Maybe).
If your pan is in bad condition, you may need to repeat the seasoning method a few times to build up a nonstick base coat. Simply rub oil on the cool pan and bake upside down for one hour at 500 F, letting the pan cool in the oven.
Expert tip: You only need to rub oil into a hot pan the first time around; any further coats of oil go on a cool pan.
Related: 10 Essentials for a Healthy Kitchen
Do you cook in a cast iron pan? What tips have you found most helpful when restoring old pans?
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Asheritah is a writer, speaker, and blogger at OneThingAlone.com. There, she helps overwhelmed women find joy in Jesus through devotionals. She’s also the author of multiple devotionals and Bible studies, including Prayers of Rest. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her children and trying out healthy recipes in the kitchen. Join her on her blog for a virtual streusel blueberry muffin and a welcoming community of women.