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Aug 15, 2007 08:47 AM

Re-seasoning and cleaning old cast-iron skillets [Moved from Home Cooking board]

I was recently given my grandmother's cast-iron skillet and I'd like to know how to clean and re-season it. There are a few small rust spots but all in all it looks to be in pretty good condition.

Thank you

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  1. Lucky you.
    Pre heat the oven to 300 or so.
    Scrub the skillet with steel wool to remove the rust. Wash well with hot water. Rinse. Dry the skillet over a medium flame.
    Rub the skillet with oil, and wipe it / spread it with a paper towel. It should glisten, but not drip. Place it on the flame until it is quite hot. There will be oil drips. Wipe it out again and then put it in the oven upside down. Leave it for an hour or more.
    Turn off the oven and allow the skillet to cool.
    You could repeat the curing process again if you are of a mind.
    From now on, wash only with hot water and scrub with salt or a soap free scrubber. Your skillet will still "stick" a little (potatoes!) until you have a really good patina, but over time, not even scrambled eggs will stick.

    5 Replies
    1. re: jdm

      JDM - I am lucky and thank you very much for the help.

      1. re: dac_1971

        I don't like using oil. It's oil that causes the stickiness mentioned above. I much prefer good 'ol Crisco.

        1. re: bkhuna

          Indeed. There is no better way to season a cast iron skillet than to fry some chicken in Crisco.

          1. re: ccbweb

            Lard or bacon grease is even better, but don't go buy a pound of lard just to season a skillet. Plain old vegetable oil will do well enough.

          2. re: bkhuna

            I'd never use oil either. I use lard. I also wash my cast iton with detergent and dry it over a low flame. The salt business is just nonsense and unsanitary

      2. If you have an oven with a self clean cycle, you could scrub the rust off as jdm describes and then put the pan in the oven on the clean cycle. Then season as jdm says.

        4 Replies
        1. re: ccbweb

          I also agree with this technique and it does work. I salvaged a small cast iron fry pan, and it does work. You do have to start over with the seasoning, it cleans everything off back to square one. And actually it doesn't take all that long to get your pan back to its old self.

          1. re: ccbweb

            There is some risk of warping your skillet with the self-cleaning oven method. If the skillet is expensive or collectible, an alternative procedure is to spray it all over with oven cleaner and then stick it in a plastic bag for a couple of days. Depending on how thick the crust on it is, multiple applications might be required. Rinse it off in the sink and scrub it with a brass bristle brush.

            The absolute best method for cleaning is an electrolysis bath. I have a set up for that in my garage as one of my hobbies is to buy collectible skillets, refurbish them, and then give them as gifts to my cook friends. Electrolysis will restore your skillet to looking bizarrely new and if there is any rust on there it takes that off too.

            I reseason my skillets with flax oil and I use Sheryl Canter's method ( It's expensive and time consuming but the results are superlative.

            1. re: LovinSpoonful

              Where do find the skillets to refurbish? I never seem to come across them at garage sales and such...

              1. re: LovinSpoonful

                I do exactly the same as LovinSpoonful. Please DON'T put your beloved cast iron aka CI, in the oven and set to self cleaning cycle as there is a likelihood of warping and that will ruin it.

                I use the Sherry Canter method of seasoning and it is definitely the way to go if you want perfectly seasoned CI cookware.

            2. I want to add that once your skillet is well seasoned, it is OK to wash it with soap. Just dry it thoroughly and place over a very low burner on the stove to be sure it is dry. Actually, both my mom and I air dry our cast iron -- the skillets are very well seasoned.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Seattle Rose

                I use a little soap too--once the pan is seasoned it can handle it. Scrubbing with kosher salt is good too.

              2. Old thread but I could use some advice. In going through late MIL's things I found a Wagner lid for a #10 skillet which I already have and use alot. I was VERY happy to find this. It's in great shape but does need seasoning. Since it's a lid, I obviously can't start it on the stove top :) If I coat it lightly with my 'lipid of choice,' can I just put it in a 300 oven for an hour or so? I suppose seasoning isn't particularly important for it since food does actually touch it but retarding rust and just appearances I thought I would. Any suggestions? TIA.

                ETA: Not that it makes a difference, I'm sure, but it's somewhat dome-shaped and called "Drip Drop." Like some CI has the spikes inside, this has a zigzag pattern circling the lid.

                2 Replies
                1. re: c oliver

                  I think those were specifically for dutch ovens to collect and return any water vapor back into whatever you're cooking. The only suggestion I can give is for cleaning, it took me about 10 minutes with a wire-wheel and a drill to remove all the old seasoning from a thrift store skillet. Wear eye/breathing protection if you go this route.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    I season the lids of my cast iron Dutch Ovens as well. Otherwise, they will rust. I have seen it. Yes, wipe it with your oil of choice. I usually do my seasoning at 400oF for an hour or longer. One of mine has those drip spikes and the other one has drip ring (?). It is up to you if you want to strip off the original seasoning surface before applying yours.

                  2. I just finished cleaning an old cast iron skillet - didn't find this method on the thread so thought I'd add:
                    If you've got a propane torch (The kind that screws directly on the can of propane - used for welding, scalding the skin off peppers and tomatoes, browning merangue, etc) Just heat the pan all over with the torch - it will take about 20 minutes.
                    My skillet was crusted with a very rough layer of scale - little rust - steel wool wouldn't touch it, but after the scale turned white from the torch it came off like a dust with just a scrubbing sponge.

                    Found my pans at Goodwill (one an old Wagner - another a Griswold for 10 bucks each) - just be persistent. I prefer these pans over nonstick in every way except weight. Even eggs don't stick anymore - crusts steak without fail, and I can renew the finish anytime with just oil. Now that's a cooking appliance :)

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: KevinPorter

                      Inherited a lovely cast iron skillet more than 50 years old that has passed through innumerable hands. It is quite scaly on outside, somewhat on inside walls with buildup in ring around inside. Cooking surface is clean but no longer seasoned. I can use it but would love to get it REALLY clean.

                      Does this method work safely a d effectively? Has anyone else used it?. Any tips or more info for this case?