How to Remove Rust From Cast Iron

Cyd Converse

Learn how to remove rust from cast iron pans and have them looking almost as good as new!

We love cast iron pans and there are ao many benefits in using them!

They are tough and durable - a good set of cast iron pans will last for years! They hold heat brilliantly, so they're great for getting a good sear on meat or fish, and they're also good for keeping cooked food warm until you're ready to serve it.

Another - lesser known - benefit is that cooking with cast iron makes your food healthier! This is because iron is a useful nutrient, and a little of the iron from the pan leaches into your food during the cooking process. This is particularly true when the food you are cooking is on the acidic side.

Pan Fried Lamb Chops with Rosemary Image

The only downside to cast iron pans is that - if not cared for properly - they can rust. This can happen after prolonged exposure to moisture.

The good news is that a rusty cast iron pan can be saved, so don't think you need to toss it out and buy a new one.

Pan Fried Lamb Chops with Rosemary Pic

Caring for cast iron pans

Cast iron pans - like fine wine - improve with age! After an initial seasoning - which involves spreading the pan with oil and baking it in the oven - the pan's surface will continue to get smoother every time you use it. It's important not to clean it with steel wool, soap, or to put it in the dishwasher, as these methods can remove the seasoning that has built up.

But another common mistake is leaving cast iron pans to soak, or just leaving them in the sink in contact with moisture. This is what causes them to rust. 

When this happens, there's no alternative but to use steel wool, as this is the only way to effectively remove rust.

Pan Fried Lamb Chops with Rosemary Picture

How to remove rust from cast iron pans using steel wool

  1. Scour the pan with fine steel wool until the affected areas are completely free from rust and returned to raw cast iron.
  2. Clean the pan thoroughly by washing it in warm water and a mild dish soap. You may also need to use a gentle scouring pad or brush to get it completely clean.
  3. Next, dry it thoroughly, using either paper towels or a dishcloth.
  4. Season the pan well by covering the entire surface - including the handle and the bottom of the pan - with a small amount of oil.
  5. Finally, put the pan - upside down -  onto the top shelf of an oven preheated to 350 deg F for around an hour. It's a good idea to put a tray or a piece of foil underneath so that any oil dripping down doesn't end up all over the bottom of your oven.
  6. After an hour, take it out of the oven, let it cool down and it's ready to use!
Japanese Tofu Hamburger Image

Note: If the rust on your pan is very severe, the above method might not work too well. In that case, the best option is to take it to a machine shop. There, it can be sandblasted and taken back to the raw cast iron. Then all you need to do is season it as described above!

Cyd is a native of Upstate New York, born to a family of women who love to cook and host parties. She shares her love of all things food, home and entertaining on her blog, The Sweetest Occasion and on Instagram.

Cast Iron Cooking Recipes

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