Using a well-seasoned cast iron pan can be even better than a non-stick pan. If you have old rusty pans sitting around, then a good solid stripping of the pan may be necessary. Learn how to strip and how to season a cast iron pan in this guide to bring your pans back to their original glory.
So you’ve got a cast-iron pan, but maybe it’s not in tip-top shape. Don’t worry, it’s likely salvageable! If you watched my video on how to choose the best cast iron cookware (new or used), then stripping and reseasoning your cast iron will return it to its former glory.
And in order to use cast iron without wanting to rip your hair out, a properly seasoned cast iron pan is a must. It’s the only way to cook scrambled eggs in cast iron without having a stuck-on mess.
If you missed any of the other videos in our cast iron series, you can click below. Don’t miss my video on how to properly clean and maintain the seasoning on your cast iron. You don’t want to go to all this trouble to just need to do it again in a few months! If you’re not sure cast iron is for you, I highly recommend considering enameled cast iron as the care and maintenance are much easier.
How to Strip a Cast Iron Pan (2 ways)
Using a Firepit or Wood-Burning Stove to Strip Cast Iron
The first step in restoring a rusty, neglected cast iron pan is going to be to strip it down so all (or most) of the seasoning is gone. To do this, we’ve found a very simple solution that doesn’t stink up your entire house.
Build a nice campfire in an outside firepit (or use a wood-burning stove) and get some nice coals going. Once the coals burn down and you’re left with hot ash, you’re going to bury your cast iron pan, face down, in the ash and leave it overnight.
The following day, it’ll look like a mess (see picture below). Remove it from the ash and bring it inside to wash with hot, soapy water and, if needed, some steel wool to remove any remaining seasoning, rust or flakes.
Using a Self-Cleaning Oven to Strip Cast Iron
If you don’t have access to a fire pit or wood-burning stove, then using a self-cleaning oven will work. Just be forewarned that this will stink up your house, so it’s nice if you can do it on a day you can open up all the windows.
To strip your cast iron pans in the oven, set them upside down on the middle rack, close the door and run the self-cleaning setting.
Allow your pans to cool in the oven, then remove and wash with hot soapy water and, if needed, some steel wool to remove any remaining seasoning, rust or flakes.
Do I Need to Season a Pre-Seasoned Pan?
Yes. Most new cast iron pans come pre-seasoned these days. Unfortunately, the oils they use aren’t always my top choice of seasoning and could even leave a rancid layer on the cooking surface.
Even if I’ve just purchased a brand new piece of cast iron, I like to give it a good fresh layer of seasoning before using it.
The only time I’ve never reseasoned a brand new pan was when I got my Stargazer modern smooth cast iron pan. It’s cast iron that’s made in the USA, and it’s the first time I’ve gotten a new pan that I didn’t think needed an extra layer before using. Stargazer also sells unseasoned cast iron, if you prefer to do the seasoning yourself.
How to Season a Cast Iron Pan
- Scrub skillet with hot soapy water and a scouring pad or steel wool to remove all rust and former seasoning.
- Dry thoroughly by placing it in a 200°F oven for 5-10 minutes.
- Spread a thin layer of extra virgin coconut oil or flaxseed oil on all sides of the skillet (including the handle and bottom side of the pan).
- Wipe off all excess oil with a paper towel.
- Put the pan upside down on a rack in a 375°F oven.
- Bake for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes, turn off the oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes (or until safe to handle).
- Repeat steps 3 through 6 two to four times.
And that’s it! Simple, right? OK, so maybe it is rather time-consuming, but it’s not a difficult task by any means.
What Oil Can I Use to Season Cast Iron?
- Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
- Flax-seed Oil (Learn to press your own seed oils here)
- Canola Oil or Vegetable Oil*
- Sunflower Oil*
* If you’re using canola or sunflower cooking oil, you’ll want to turn your oven up to 475°F during the seasoning steps. This is because you need the oil to get just above the smoking point to actually bake onto the cast iron and bond to the metal, making a protective layer. This makes cooking in cast iron MUCH easier.
Tips for Seasoning a Cast Iron Pan
- Strip your cast iron outside in a fire pit to avoid stinking up your house.
- Protect your counter with a sacrificial towel, the seasoning process can be messy.
- Splurge for a roll of paper towels to use for the seasoning process, you’ll ruin quite a few towels otherwise.
- When adding oil to your pan to season it, don’t use too much. It’s easy to think one thick layer is better and quicker than multiple thin layers. If you do this you’ll actually end up with a thick sticky coating that won’t be smooth or non-stick.
- Season your cast iron pans on a day you can open up your windows as the seasoning process can be a bit smelly.
- Continue the seasoning process until you can run a paper towel over the surface of the pan without getting any residue off the pan.
- Seasoning cast iron works best if you can season your pan up to four times.
- New pans may only require one additional coat of seasoning.
- Older pans may require more than four applications. Let the residue on the paper towel be your guide.