remove rust from cast iron

an easy how-to for your everyday

I broke the holy grail of cast iron sins and let my pan rust. I know, I hesitated to share this bit with you…because what kind of “true homsteader” let’s their cast iron rust?

Me. Because accidents happen.

Cast iron has been a long-time material associated with cooking. Properly cared for pans can last a lifetime, are safer for your health than using pans coated with Teflon and they are so versatile! 

How To Remove Rust From Cast Iron

First of all, it’s amazing how many different techniques people use to care for and restore cast iron. For something so simple, many people claim to have “the best method”. My best advice is to use what you have on hand.

I placed my pan in the sink and added a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and hot water. Let it sit for a few minutes to penetrate the surface and soften loose flakes. 

Next, take steel wool and start scrubbing. My rust was minimal surface rust, but it took about 10 minutes to thoroughly scrub the entire pan inside and out.

For those new to cast iron, typically after cooking, pans are wiped clean and stored. True cast iron diehards will tell ya soap is a no-no. Since reseasoning, was inevitable, I decided to give it a real thorough clean with soap too. 

Apply dish soap, using coarser steel wool I again scrubbed the inside and outside of the pan. Rinse and repeat, feeling the pan for any small spots that may have been missed. 

Now that we’re rust-free, it’s time to get moisture-free. Give your pan a final rinse and place it on the stove at a low heat to evaporate any remaining water. When completely dry, turn off the heat and let cool until it’s at a comfortable temperature for handling. 

How To Season Your Cast Iron

Seasoning will help protect your pan and is simple to do! I use olive oil because I usually have a bulk supply on hand. Vegetable oil is also commonly used, but really any oil/fat will do. Apply a thick coating of oil to your entire pan inside and out. Place coated pan in the oven at 375 degrees for an hour. Let your cast iron cool down with the oven. Now repeat 2-3 times. 

And there you have it! A rust-free, seasoned, ready to cook with cast iron pan! 

Your method of removing rust from cast iron can also vary depending on the level of rust. Sometimes pans picked up at yard sales or flea markets need a little more love than my pan with minimal surface rust. If your pan is really rusty, you can also try a combination of vinegar and baking soda. The natural reaction will do some of the “scrubbing” for you. Lastly, coarse salt is also commonly used for every day cleaning. Its abrasive properties can help remove stuck-on food and relieve areas of rust. 

What’s your favorite method to remove rust from cast iron?

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