Not too long ago I did something terrible to a well-loved cast iron pan. Believe it or not, I forgot to turn off the stove after I made a meal and the pan sat on the burner. For hours! Yes folks, it is time for another true confession.
While I would love to say that everything goes smoothly in my kitchen, that is not always the case. (And I am sure that is true for many people). One Saturday, I fried eggs in my cast iron skillet. After removing the eggs from the skillet, instead of turning the burner off, I accidentally increased the temperature of the burner. The skillet sat that way on the burner for hours! Fortunately I was home and noticed an odd aroma coming from the kitchen. There is was. My beloved pan with a grayish residue on the stove. A thin veil of smoke in the kitchen. Crap!
After turning off the stove, I surveyed the damage. It turns out that I actually managed to burn off most of ‘season’ I had managed to develop on the pan after years of use. (You can actually see where the pan sat on the burner as the patina was burned off in a nearly complete circle). But the good news is that the pan was not warped (and the stove was fine), so other than the seasoned finish, everything was okay.
To start the process, I got a woven metal pot ‘scrubber’. With scrubber in hand, the skillet got a good scrubbing all over (which included some rust as my hubby washed the skillet and allowed it to air dry). It is worth noting that the finish was burned off both the bottom of the skillet as well as top. The lovely, sleek black finish was removed from more than 80% of that cast iron piece.
After removing the rust and wiping it off the skillet with a cloth, the next step was to apply an oil. I chose to go with peanut oil and apply a thin layer to the skillet (top and bottom) with a cloth. Just a thin layer of oil was applied and it was rubbed into the cast iron. In case you are wondering, the oil will help keep rust from returning. And besides keeping rust at bay, this created a slightly shiny black finish to the metal, but I knew that my work was not done.
The cast iron skillet was placed into an oven set at 350F. After an hour, the oven was turned off and the pan was allowed to cool. During this time, the oil works its way into cast iron (as the surface is not entirely smooth).
This process was repeated three more times. Now while you make think that is overkill, it is necessary to help create the beautiful patina of a well-loved and well-used cast iron pan. This black finish indicates that the pan has been ‘seasoned’ and it ready to use.
So while my beloved cast iron skillet still isn’t back to its original state, it is on its way. After each use, I will clean it, apply more oil, and ‘bake’ it in an oven. With time it will regain its original glory. So folks, don’t worry if you have accidentally removed the patina from your cast iron. You have not ruined the piece. With a little time and effort, you can restore your cast iron. Take it from me and my true confession.