How To Restore Cast Iron Cookware

How To Restore Cast Iron CookwareCooking with cast iron is an art and requires a lot of practice to master it. If not cared for properly your cast iron cookware can rust and become unusable. Here is what you need to know to restore cast iron cookware.

Cast iron was created many generations ago and it’s still incredibly versatile. Cooking with cast iron is a timeless skill. You can fry, bake and do pretty much anything you can think of using cast iron. Some of the survival cooking methods of our grandparents relied on the intensive use of cast iron.

You can find all sorts of cast iron cookware at garage sales or flea markets. Even if some of these cooking utensils look rusty, you shouldn’t hesitate buying them. There is a simple way to restore cast iron cookware.

Step by step guide to restore cast iron cookware:

  1. Gather your cast iron cookware

After you purchased all your cast iron items from a flea market, it’s time to gather all utensils together. To restore cast iron cookware, you will first need a large containerHow to build a self-sufficient survival gardenr to hold each piece submerged. Besides the container, you will also need water, white vinegar and steel wool. I have to warn you that some items are more difficult to clean than others. When you restore cast iron cookware, items such as cornbread pans will give you a hard time.

  1. Create the cleaning mixture

This is an important step to restore cast iron cookware. You need to create a mixture of equal parts water and white vinegar. The quantity should be enough to allow the items to be completely submerged. Pay attention and use equal parts of water and vinegar otherwise the mixture will be too weak or too strong. You won’t be able to control how quickly the rust comes off.

  1. Soak the cast iron cookware

Lay your kitchen utensils in the container and pour the mixture over them until they are completely submerged. This is the most time consuming part when it comes to restore cast iron cookware. You need to wait until the rust loosens. It really depends on how much rust there is on your items. The longest I’ve waited was ten hours. However, few items take that long.

Check every one hour or so and use your fingernail to scrape the rust. If the rust comes off easily, start scrubbing. Don’t let the pan sit in the mixture any longer if the rust comes off. It will begin to oxidize and will make the cast iron unusable.

  1. Scrub the cast iron cookware

To restore cast iron cookware, scrubbing becomes necessary after the items were soaked in water and vinegar. Use steel wool and scrub the items until all the rust comes off. Make sure you scrub the entire surface of the item you are restoring. Even the handles should be taken care of otherwise the rust will expand and make them weak. If you let rust on the handles, they will be eaten by rust and eventually break off. Scrubbing can last up to an hour, depending on the item you are restoring.

  1. Dry the cast iron cookware

When you consider you did a good job scrubbing all the rust, you should dry the cast iron. Do so immediately and make sure the pieces are completely dry. This is an important step to consider when you restore cast iron cookware. If the iron is wet and in contact with air, it will easily rerust.

Once the cast iron cookware is dry, you can consider it clean and you only need to reseason it before using it.

  1. Oil the cast iron cookware

To restore cast iron cookware, this step requires vegetable oil, a dishtowel you will have to throw away after and an oven. When you are sure the cast iron is completely dry, place it on a flat surface like a kitchen counter. Put ½ or 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil onto it, depending how big the cooking item is. Make sure you pour the oil into the cooking area first. Use the dishtowel to spread the oil over the entire surface of the cast iron item.

  1. Heat the cast iron cookware

Now it’s time to preheat the oven to 300°F and place the cast iron in the oven. Make sure you place it on the middle rack of the oven for an even heating. If you plan to restore cast iron cookware such as pot and pan, place them upside down. Once the oven has reached 300°F, leave the cast iron in for 20 minutes.

  1. Dry the cast iron cookware

After 20 minutes, pull the item out and let it cool. Avoid touching it unless you are absolutely sure it has cooled. When the item is cool, use the dishtowel to do final polishing to make sure there’s no remaining oil. If you leave any oil behind, your cast iron pot or pan will have permanent marks.

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  1. Heat the cast iron cookware again

This is another time consuming step when you restore cast iron cookware. You need to preheat the oven to 400°F and place the cast iron item back for two hours. You don’t have to check it and you can take care of your other chores during this time.

  1. Cool the cast iron cookware

After two hours, remove the cast iron from the oven. Once the cast iron is cool, it is completely restored and reseasoned. You can now use it for cooking experiments. To restore cast iron cookware in the future, use the same step by step guide.

A final word

When you restore cast iron cookware, make sure you store it properly and use it carefully to avoid damage. The better you treat your cast iron utensils, the longer they will last. Never stack anything on top of your cast iron cookware. If you are forced to stack cast iron on top of cast iron, use a towel between the two pieces.

When you cook with your cast iron, never use metal utensils on it. Try using plastic or wooden ones to avoid scraping off the seasoning. After each use, clean it doing a light reseasoning. Scrape the food particle with a towel, coat the pan in oil and heat in the oven at 400°F for one hour.

Since cast iron produced in the early 20th century in America still exists today, you can find good deals at antique dealers. Cast iron will last forever and it’s a pity not buying it when you have the chance. Learn how to restore cast iron cookware and keep this cooking legacy alive.

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6 thoughts on “How To Restore Cast Iron Cookware

  1. so if I read right you are saying to re-season after each time you use a pan or pot?

    After each use, clean it doing a light reseasoning. Scrape the food particle with a towel, coat the pan in oil and heat in the oven at 400°F for one hour.

    I have been cooking with cast iron for 20 years and have NEVER done this. I do on occasion ( about once a year) reseason mine but that’s it. I have never seen any recommendation besides dry and oil after use. If I had to do what you are saying I would quit using cast iron

    • This is recommended to be done for pots and pans that have been restored. The cookware that was in bad shape covered with a lot of rust. If you take good care of your cast iron utensils, there is no need to do a reasoning after each use.

    • I have used cast iron nearly 40 yrs and never done any of this. I clean up rusty finds with vegetable oil and steel wool. Holey dishrags or washrags for the cleaning up bit. They can be cleaned in hot soapy water for future use. Sure, they will be stained, but they’re rags.
      It is very hard to find used cast iron around here. The last time we did, it was cheaper to buy it new!

  2. My first wife and I had one from her family that at the time was about 100 years old and it still was in very good condition except the outside bottom which had so much carbon buildup I actually had to take a chisel to it then sand blast it before I could re-season it, don’t forget the outside, when the buildup gets so thick that it insulates the cast iron and won’t let heat transfer properly, after I was done we got many years of use out of it before we split up now she’s passed away and I don’t know what happened to the pan but I have my mothers that was handed down to her from my Italian grandmother I use it often.

  3. Been using cast iron since the 1940’s. After cooking,scrape residue with wooden spatula,then scour with salt. wipe clean and wipe with oil. !!

  4. You shouldn’t use vegetable oil to season cast iron. It builds up on your cast iron and makes the pan all gunky. Lard is good to use. I use coconut oil on mine. I also know people who use olive oil. I put the nasty cast iron I’ve found at flea markets in my self-cleaning oven. It gets rid of all the crap and gives you a “fresh” surface to season. When I am done with dinner, I put my cast iron on the stove with some water, heat it up and let it simmer for a bit. Dump the water out and use a dish cloth and clean out the food. A wooden spatula works well too. I have my mom’s cast iron and it’s close to 100 years old and still going strong.

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