How to clean and reseason cast iron

Last month I acquired some great pieces of cast iron cookware. I traded the old yellowish-green stove that came in the house for the two larger pieces and my uncle gave me the two smaller pieces while I was in Indiana for Grandpa’s funeral (both pieces were Grandpa’s!). I own one other dutch oven that I got at a thrift store for $15 and I’ve been on the hunt for more for a few years. It was crazy that within a few weeks I had just about all the cast iron I could want (I still dream of 2 more specific pieces). All four pieces were older and needed some maintenance, so I thought I’d share how to clean and reseason cast iron with you.

First off, let’s start with my two-cents on why cast iron is something everyone should own. It is awesome!

I blogged about my hate of Teflon a few years ago. The stuff is nasty and has no business being near your food.

*side tangent* I just read an article in Mother Earth News about not using “heavy duty” light bulbs in your chicken coop (or any other poultry/fowl housing). The bulbs are coated in Teflon to make them shatter-resistant. The Teflon on the bulb, when heated via a turned on light bulb, actually killed multiple chickens for lots of different people! Teflon releases crazy chemicals when heated that kill birds! If you can’t tell, this is a total soapbox for me, but knowledge is power in my opinion. If it kills chickens, it can’t be good for you to cook with…

So now that you don’t want Teflon or “nonstick” pans, you don’t have a lot of options left when it comes to cooking and baking. Stoneware, stainless steel, and cast iron are some of your best choices.

Cast iron is awesome because it is nonstick by nature, is very durable, and holds heat evenly and super well. It is a great option for frying foods because it keeps the oil heated evenly and consistently (if you are going to fry something, I’d make these donuts). I also love that you can start on the stove-top and move it into the oven. I like to get the cast iron skillet really hot, sear my chicken legs on all sides, and then add whatever (BBQ, lemon…) and have them finish cooking in the oven. Cast iron cookware has been around for hundreds of years and is making a big comeback! Get on the trendy wagon and get some of your own.

Chances are good that you’ll buy old or used pieces, dig some out of your grandma’s shed, or find some cast iron treasure at a yard sale. You definitely need to know how to clean and reseason cast iron before use.

How to clean and reseason cast iron

1. Get your hands on some beautiful cast iron pieces:
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2. Wash them in hot soapy water. If they are rusty or coarse use a copper or untreated steel wool pad to really scrub them. You can scrub inside and out. The goal is to remove any old oil, sticky spots, or general “crud”. Don’t fear the scrub, because reseasoning cast iron is next.  Rinse very well and then dry with paper towels.
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3. Evenly coat the inside and outside of the pan with vegetable oil using a paper towel.
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4. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and place the pan upside down in the hot oven. You can line the bottom of the oven with foil to catch any oil drips if you like. Let the pan bake for one hour. Expect it to be pretty smoky. 🙂 After one hour, turn off the oven and let the pan stay in the warm oven until it has cooled (that will take a few hours).
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5. Your cast iron is now clean, seasoned and ready to use.
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You do this long procedure if you are really deep cleaning your pans. You want to do this if you are buying old pans or if you haven’t used your pan in a few years. The leftover oil in the pores goes rancid after a while and will make your food taste nasty, even if it isn’t rusty looking. If it smells bad then you should do this.

For general cleaning I like to use hot water and a scraper (I have a little plastic scraper that came with my pizza stone and I use it all of the time on my cast iron) or a copper scrubber or untreated steel wool pad. I know people will tell you to NEVER use soap on your cast iron, but I definitely do. When I have used the pan to fry or had really greasy chicken legs cooking in it, I will use a drop of dish soap to cut the grease and it works great. Just be sure to rinse well. I towel dry my pans and will rub them with a bit of oil if they are starting to look dull in color (maybe once a month/every 3 months). They are really low maintenance once you do your initial deep clean.

Info/method from Woman’s Day

There you have it! My love of cast iron, why Teflon is awful, and how to clean and reseason cast iron. I’m planning my future kitchen so that I can hang and showcase all of my cast iron pieces because they are just so pretty!

How to Clean and Reseason Cast Iron
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36 Responses
  1. We season ours in the bbq grill so we don’t have to hear the smoke alarms. Your cast iron came to you in fairly good condition, I got some that was covered (and I mean covered and caked!) in rust. I used lime-a-way to get the rust off, then used steel wool, etc, like you did.

    Just a funny: Tim came home from school one day to a house full of smoke. He asked, “Whatcha smokin’ mom?” My reply, “Pot”.

    1. Melissa

      Such a good article! I love the flax seed oil concept. I hardly use veg oil and I knew there had to be a better way out there. This is a GREAT article. Thanks so much.

    1. Melissa

      I’m not sure how the coconut oil will do… I think it has a lower smoking point than what I recommended, but do a little research and see what it says! You will LOVE your cast iron if you get it ready and start using it!

    2. Linda

      I don’t think coconut oil has a high enough heat to work. Try the flax seed or peanut, oil any night heat oil not olive oil it won’t work either

  2. G Watts

    Great tips and spot on! We have also put old rusty, crusty cast iron pans in an open fire outside. We retrieved them in the morning after they had cooled, then washed, oiled and baked them. The fire really helped clean them up.

    1. If you are trying to get rid of old rancid oil before reseasoning it works great! I don’t use any for cleaning cast iron that’s in good condition…

    2. Dawn

      Your right! We never ever use soap on cast iron. It ruins the pan and th work get it back to its natural non stick surface will take much longer than a single baking session in the oven. My husband restores cast iron pots and pans using a simple electrolis bathe to remove all rust and any crust then reseasons them properly by rubbing carefully with a thin layer of good oil followed by baking overnight. Our cast iron is non stick and beautiful.

  3. Your pans look great. I LOVE cast iron. I also hope to acquire more. Mine go from stove top to oven and even put to the grill. In fact my grill and my atovetop have cast iron grates.

    I clean mine while they are still warm with salt and palm oil. The salt does all the scrubbing. Just rinse with hot water and dry on the stove top or oven. #perfection

    1. That post is a little old, I have quite the collection now and it seems to always be growing! It’s all that I use now and love it. Thanks for the salt tip… I’m going to try that!

      1. Clair

        You Missed The fact that iroN cookware kept the folks on the frontier From becoming Anemic. Iron Cookware Is healthier For that Reason. If your Iron is correctly seasoned, no soap is ever needed.

  4. Carol Hollingsworth

    I never use soap on my cast iron. I spray it with a vinegar solution. Heat the cookware and use the plastic scraper, the food will come off. Wipe with paper towel. I then coat with avocado oil. Vinegar water is a disinfectant if I am not mistaken

  5. Tracy Rue

    Hi – 2 quick question(s)……can I use: Grapeseed Oil? (to coat pan) & second, can I do the same treatment to my cast iron “lid” that goes with my cast iron frying pan? I absolutely loved this article! I knew there was a better way – so simple and broken down, I can’t Thank you enough!

    1. Grapeseed oil has a really high smoking point, I’m sure that you could use it, and yep, do it too the lid too! I’m so glad you have a lid, that’s so cool!

  6. Evelynn Taylor

    Yes, I love mine to! I never thought of putting them in the oven. My mama always did it on the stove top. I am going to put them in the oven tonight after supper. In also going to do it with the kids so the learn a new way of doing it! Thanks for sharing your way.

  7. So right about Teflon, bought a sheet you put on bottom of your
    Oven (from TJMaxx) my bird died the first time I used the oven after
    Putting that sheet in…. Wasn’t labeled Teflon but it was… So be careful!

  8. alan

    I would never use soap on my cast iron i wash it by boiling bunches of grass and rubbing it around to remove any food residues and grease then oil and heat to dry

  9. Danielle

    Hi, I am new to cast iron cookware, but am excited to start using mine!! I just got a brand new one for my wedding (yay!) do I need to do anything before I use it for the first time?? Does it come seasoned, or do I need to do the oil process first?

    1. If you go it new I’m sure it came preseasoned, just use away! They don’t really make cast iron that needs oiled first anymore, preseasoned is the new standard. ENJOY!!! It’s something you’ll learn to love and use for years to come.

  10. Mary Jackman

    Yeah, vegetable oils just leave it sticky – no matter how many paper towels are used. Then 1 use and back to rust and lingering greasy film. Can’t find ANYONE to give me the secret of that great pan of my now deceased Mother. I have bought new ones and old ones; after EVERY use, am left with a heavy, greasy mess that, if cleaned with soapy water, leaves me with a rust bucket but not greasy. If cleaned with a wire brush and scalding hot water – still a greasy mess. Am DONE!

    1. Melissa

      I think you are using too much of the oil. If it’s just a little layer their shouldn’t be anything to be sticky at the end of the day…

    1. Melissa

      Same as the inside, if it’s super dirty don’t be afraid of using steel wool to get all of the crud off and rebuilding the nonstick layer as indicated. Steel wool and a hot bubble bath will cure cast iron inside and out and finish with the reseasoning!

  11. Harveen Delello

    The directions are so simple. The steel wool sounds perfect to clean with. Glad to hear that a few drops of Dawn is used. The baking 1hr seems like that’s the secret. Thanks

  12. Can I use my self cleaning oven to put get rusted cast iron skillet clean? I don’t want alot of smoke and what is the confusion about using soapy water to clean them? My grill isn’t working and they have been on the outside grill all summer long.

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Bless This Mess - About Me

I’m Melissa, and I want to help you feed your family wholesome food.

As a hobby farmer and mom of five, I’m all about keeping it simple in the kitchen. I want healthy meals that feed my family well, and then I want to get back to my (messy) life. Let’s work together to find something yummy for your dinner table.

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