You Can Recondition a Cast Iron Pan

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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!

patina burned off cast iron pan

patina burned off cast iron pan

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.

metal scrubber to remove rust

metal scrubber to remove rust

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.

peanut oil rubbed into cast iron

peanut oil rubbed into cast iron

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.

after first pass baking in oven

after first pass baking in oven

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.

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13 responses »

  1. Pingback: How to Recondition a Cast Iron Pan | From The Farm

  2. I’ll remember this for next time. I’ve had occasionally had to really scrape at my pans and dutch ovens, but all I’ve ever done in the past is oil them up again and carry on. There may come a time when I’ve done too much to them and need to try this. Thanks!

    • We try to keep our cast iron seasoned well. Every once in a while we have to scrap, but this time… oh this was my fault. But I am glad that cast iron is forgiving and I can start the process of reconditioning the skillet to return it to its former glory. And you are welcome!

  3. I haven’t done that yet 🙂 But I’m thinking I should book mark this post for the day it is needed. I have boiled a pot of water dry and created a fireball though – that was pretty spectacular and momentarily scary………..

    • I still can’t believe that I left the skillet on the burner for hours. Thankfully, all it did was take off the seasoned finish. (But I have to fess up to boiling pots dry and even once when I was making hard-boiled eggs. As it turned out, eggs that are left in a pot that has boiled dry will exploded and send yolk and white pieces everywhere… even the ceiling). We all have our less-than-spectacular moments in the kitchen. 🙂

  4. I want to give one to my son but he is still in college and not ready for his cast iorn pan.He needs to mature a bit in his cooking skills-lolThey have to be cared for:-) My daughters have theirs from my house…and the cast iron legacy goes on!

    • I agree with you that cast iron is not for the novice cook. They can’t be treated the same as other cookware. I bet your daughter loves the pieces that you gave her. A cast iron legacy is good!

  5. Great post! I cook with cast iron and nothing else. I have my grandmothers pans,too:-) My mother taught us to cook on cast iron and I am so glad to see I am not alone! You are not alone, I have done that too many times to count over the years, but my old pan never gives up + neither do I:-)

    • I love that cast iron is a very forgiving metal. It can take all sorts of abuse… intentional or not. We love our cast iron and so the pan will be restored to its original state (pre-many-hours-on-burner) through lots of reconditioning. I hoped my confession would make others feel good and that they too, were not alone in these blunders. 🙂

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