How to Restore a Rusty Cast Iron Skillet

I had an oopsie during the last home tailgate. I left my cast iron skillet out – I didn’t properly clean it and put it away. Find out how to restore a rusty cast iron skillet.

Find out how to restore and season a rusty cast iron skillet. Do not throw that rusty skillet away!

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As many of you know, the last home tailgate of the season is always our big tailgate Thanksgiving meal. Because of the kickoff time (3:30), we decided to do a Thanksgiving lunch instead of cooking after the game and eating at 9 or 10 pm.

So it was a busy day of cooking, eating, and rushing off to the game. I did some basic dishwashing but I didn’t dry everything and put it away. And one of those things was the cast iron skillet.

By the time I came back after the game and things settled down, I realized what I had (not) done. Just a couple of hours sitting with a little water did this:

Oops! I didn't dry the cast iron skillet and rust quickly developed. Time to fix that right up!

All in all, not all that bad. I’ve definitely seen worse when it comes to rusty cast iron skillets. But, nonetheless, this is not something I want to cook on right away.

How To Restore a Rusty Cast Iron Skillet

It’s really easy to restore rusty cast iron skillets. Depending on how bad the rust is, you may have to put some elbow grease into it.

The first step is to use a steel wool soap pad to scrub the cast iron skillet and remove all the rust spots. Be sure to check the handle and the outside of the skillet for any rust there.

Step 1: Scrub away the rust on the cast iron skillet with steel wool

Once you have all the rust gone, you’ll want to wash the messy cast iron skillet in warm dishwater. Make sure you get any rust flakes out of there.

You will need to give the cast iron skillet a good washing next

After you wash the cast iron skillet really well, you’ll need to completely dry it (you know, the step that I forgot that resulted in rust in the first place!)

After you dry it, you’ll need to re-season your skillet.

How to Season Your Cast Iron Skillet

Seasoning a skillet is not hard at all. But it is the most time consuming. Fortunately, most of the time is the skillet just sitting in the oven and you doing whatever else it is that you need to do.

To season the cast iron skillet, you’ll want to lightly wipe it down with your favorite cooking oil – vegetable being the most popular choice.

Lightly cover the entire skillet with a layer of vegetable oil to season it

Don’t forget to cover the handle, sides, and bottom of the cast iron skillet. The washing you did earlier stripped all the oil out of these parts. And while you won’t be putting food in these parts, they still need to be properly seasoned.

Now comes the long time part – put the oil coated cast iron skillet face down on the top rack of the oven at 350 degrees. Put a sheet of aluminum foil or a baking sheet on the bottom rack to catch any oil drips. Let the skillet “bake” for one hour.

Bake your cast iron skillet at 350 degrees for one hour and then let cool.

Once the hour is up, the turn the oven off. Leave the skillet in the oven to cool down. I often leave my skillets in an unused oven for storage between uses. It keeps them protected from inadvertent drips if I left them on the counter.

Once the skillet is cooled, you’ll have a well seasoned skillet ready for cooking.

Best Places to Find Cast Iron Skillets

Don’t have a cast iron skillet, but looking to get one? The best places to find good cast iron skillets are middle of nowhere thrift shops (think those little country stores), followed by Goodwill. When you are out hunting for a skillet, you can use the tips here to restore ones that have any rust on them. At a minimum, you’ll need to do a good washing and seasoning because who knows what those pans have on them. Actually, let’s be safe and go from the beginning.

Or just buy a Lodge cast iron skillet from Amazon. They come pre-seasoned but you’ll still want to know how to restore them. Because at some point, you’ll also have an oopsie and they will develop rust spots. This is extremely likely if you store your cast iron skillet in the RV.

Remember, cast iron is pretty heavy. So if you are getting one of the larger skillets, get one that has a assist handle on the end, opposite the main handle. You’ll thank me later.

Check out what else is on the list of 21 Essential RV Kitchen Tools other than a cast iron skillet

How to Restore and Season a Rusty Cast Iron Skillet

See, it wasn’t hard to restore and season your rusty cast iron skillet?

To recap, what you’ll need:

  1. A rusty cast iron skillet
  2. Steel wool soap pads
  3. Vegetable Oil

Find out how to restore and season a rusty cast iron skillet from a Southern cookThe steps to restore your rusty cast iron skillet are:

  1. Scrub the rust off your skillet using the steel wool soap pads.
  2. Wash your newly rust-free skillet in warm dishwater.
  3. Thoroughly dry your clean skillet.
  4. Lightly coat your dry skillet with vegetable oil, not skipping the bottom or the handle.
  5. Bake your lightly oiled skillet at 350 degrees for one hour.
  6. Let your seasoned skillet cool.
  7. Go forth and cook some more!

Want an easy recipe to try out in your newly rust-free and season cast iron skillet? Try the Cast Iron Skillet Sugar Cookie.

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  1. Thank you Thank you Thank you sooooo much for teaching me the Correct way to restore my rusty cast iron skillet. I’ve been doing it wrong all this time and seasoning it wrong too. The process that is, I put it in the oven right side up never was told face down. It makes so much sense!!πŸ˜πŸ˜†Thank you again for your help I really appreciate it πŸ˜ƒ

  2. Love the information you provided. I will be trying it on my cast iron skillet and let you know the results.