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Help! My Cast Iron Pan Has Rust!

Updated: Jan 2

Did your cast iron get rusty? Don't feel bad and DON'T throw it away! There's an easy fix and here's how.

All you need is some grade #3 steel wool, a pair of rubber dishwashing gloves, and Dawn dish soap. YES, dish soap! 

Here's the deal with soap and cast iron: you can use soap to clean your cast iron pan. I do it all the time and my cast iron pans are still happy and healthy! The catch is that if you do use soap, you need to make sure that your pan is properly oiled afterward. But more on that later.

So you have a rusty pan. (For this post, I'm assuming the rust is only located on the cooking surface of the pan) Now put on your gloves, get a good chunk of steel wool, a little bit of dish soap, and get to scrubbing. What you're doing is scraping off the rust and the seasoning that was on the pan. You're going to have to scrub for a long time and use plenty of soap. Every once in a while, dry the pan with a kitchen towel and see where you need to focus your scrubbing. 

After you have sufficiently removed the rust and seasoning, your pan should be more of a silvery color. Now it's time to add the seasoning back on so you have that beautiful non-stick surface back.

There are two ways to do this: Process #1 is applicable only if you have removed the seasoning on strictly the cooking surface of the pan. Process #2 is applicable if you have removed the seasoning on every surface including the bottom.

Process #1. Dry the pan completely. Place it on a burner on the stove. Heat it up nice and hot. Using some kind of fat or oil (I use lard, but some people really love avocado oil for this), coat every cooking surface of the pan. Now let it heat up until it starts to smoke a bit. Turn off the heat and let it cool. Now repeat this process 2-3 times until you're satisfied with the new seasoning on the pan.

Process #2. Dry the pan completely: super de-duper dry. Now coat every surface of the pan with oil. Place in the oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Let it cool and add another layer of oil. Then back in the oven at 375 degrees for another 30 minutes. Repeat this process a total of 4 times. 

Now back to the soap and cast iron thing. You can use soap when cleaning your cast iron after cooking. It's not always necessary. I usually only use soap if I have some food stuck to the pan. Some people have good luck using chain mail to remove stuck-on pieces, but I haven't given that a try yet because soap works for me. 

IF you do use soap, it's important to take proper care of that pan afterwards. This means drying it completely with a kitchen towel (NEVER drip dry), heat on the stove, and add a layer of oil until it starts smoking. Let it cool and then store it. This ensures that you have a good layer of seasoning on the pan to protect it from rust.

Okay, I think that's it! If you want to see these steps in action, you can check out my cast iron highlight on our instagram page (@millerbrothersfarm). Also feel free to send me a message and I'll do my best to help you!


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