Introduction: Undead Pan

Picture of Undead Pan

I found this pan on the street and it seemed a shame to let it go to waste so I decided to try to bring it back to life. Anyway, can cast iron die? (I guess if it rusts through). It's the first time I've done something like this but it seems to have worked pretty well.

I looked up the brand and it turns out it's from a company founded in 1533 (!) and bought by Le Creuset, so perhaps a decent quality. (

I read a lot of opinions on the different (dare I say best?) way to recondition a cast iron pan and finally decided to try this version: "Chemistry of Cast Iron Seasoning: A Science-Based How-To" (

I don't have a self-cleaning oven so did the surface cleaning with wire brushes on a power drill.

Step 1: Before

Picture of Before

Some pics of the surface before reconditioning.

Step 2: Cleaning With Wire Brush Attachment

Picture of Cleaning With Wire Brush Attachment

It took maybe an hour or two with breaks to get the interior clean. The brushing 'ate up' most of the two wire brushes I had, wearing down maybe close to half of the bristle length. I think I saw that the wire brush pitted the metal surface a little bit, like it would wood, which I didn't want but decided it was not so bad that I would stop and try to find another method. I didn't do the exterior as it wasn't that important to me and might anyway be used over a fire at some point.

Not shown: I used an random orbital sander (an old Festool ETS 125 EQ I got off ebay) to try to flatten the bottom (inside). People have commented how modern cast iron pans (like Lodge) have a grainy surface, compared to the completely smooth pans one could find many decades ago. I think they used to machine them flat. So I tried to create a more smooth surface, reduce the pitting I saw from wire brushing, by sanding. It worked pretty well. I didn't do a huge amount, maybe 30min. but it reduced the worst "mountainous" peaks of metal grains and felt noticeably smoother.

Step 3: Oiling and Baking

Picture of Oiling and Baking

I applied a few ml. of organic, cold-pressed, pure linseed oil and wiped it around with a paper towel. I then wiped it almost completely out before putting the pan in the oven. I put it in the oven at ~250C for 30 min., then let it cool an hour or two, put more oil on in the same way described above, and redid the oven cycle. Actually, I baked it for ~45min. or so the first couple of cycles then decided that 30 min. was enough. I did this a while ago and don't remember the reason for that but I think it might have had to do with smoke and smell dissipating by 30min. I think I also wiped the surface down between bakes to check the finish and as far as I remember the paper towel was fairly clean; apparently the oil had polymerized.

I did six cycles of applying and wiping out a new layer of oil and then baking.

Step 4: Back From the Dead

Picture of Back From the Dead

As far as I could see it worked really nicely. The surface has an oily sheen yet is not oily to the touch. Water beads up on it. The color is quite homogeneous.

No scrambled eggs pics yet but maybe I'll add some in the future.


SusanH75 (author)2017-09-10

Excellent rescue. Bravo:)

MarkI36 (author)2017-09-14

The proof will be in the cooking.

Reminds me of an old story.

A grandfather invited his grandson to visit his backwood cabin. He had cast iron cookware and dishes. As they were eating the grandson mentioned the slimy feel of the dishes. Grandpa responded. "That's as good as cold water gets them."

The next morning a breakfast, the grandson again comments about the slimy feel. "That's as good as cold water get them." says Grandpa.

As they were walking down to the trail as the grandson is about to leave, a big black Labrador comes bounding up. Grandpa exclaims, "There you are Cold Water. Where you been boy?"

GaryR5 (author)MarkI362017-12-06

I heard that story A little differently.

A fellow was having trouble with A new neighbor that always showed up at dinner time. Tired of feeding the freeloader he served the next night's dinner on dirty plates. The old guy mentioned the plates didn't look too clean. "Well!" The fellow said " There as clean as Soap and three Waters can get em!" The old guy went back to eating with a grunt. When the dinner was over the fellow collected the plates and laid them on the floor. He opened the door and called Soap! Threewaters! dinner!!

Presently, in ran 2 big dog's!!

MarkI36 (author)GaryR52017-12-06

Ewwww. Gross. But, the Coldwater version works better. Soap and Coldwater would be more believeable.

Twistedhillbilly (author)2017-09-14

I don't think you even know what a gem you have there.. I have restored many pieces of Cast Iron cookware using numerous methods and the one you used is hands down the best.. NO CHEMICALS!! (Oven cleaner is HIGHLY TOXIC and will penetrate the pores of the Cast Iron) Just a little bit of elbow grease and a few rounds in the oven with Flax seed oil (food grade linseed oil).. GREAT JOB!!!

GaryR5 (author)Twistedhillbilly2017-12-06

Extremely rusty cast iron can be sandboxed to remove the rust and any burned on carbon on the outside of the cookware. I buy old cast iron cookware at auctions and referb it and sell it at flea markets. Look for Griswald and Wagner. Made in U.S.A. and the best names in cast iron cookware.

I have my mother's 10" Griswald pan and A Wagner chicken fryer with lid that was given to her by her mother on her wedding day. Both were old then and upon her death I got them. I am 65 Y.O.

GaryR5 (author)GaryR52017-12-06

That's sandblasted. I really hate autocorrect!

grocer (author)Twistedhillbilly2017-09-14

oven cleaner is just sodium hydroxide. It dissolves itself fine in water, and it's neutralised by any acid such as vinaigar.

joelrobbins65 (author)2017-09-28

Useful instruction. I'll try this with my old pan

FredS108 (author)2017-09-14

You did a good job on cleaning the pan. My husband would always take cast iron and start a fire outside, (we have always lived in the country), and put new and cast iron that needed refreshing and let them burn in the fire until the fire died out. Usually the next day. Then he would take a special stone for honing knives and rub the pan inside and out and then wipe it with a damp cloth and put in oven until dry. When dry we would oil the inside of the pan and put it back into the oven for about a hour. The pan would be smooth as a baby's bottom and nothing would stick. You mentioned that "People have commented how modern cast iron pans (like Lodge) have a
grainy surface, compared to the completely smooth pans one could find
many decades ago" The more you season a pan the smoother they get. Has nothing to do with how they are made. It is simply how well people take care of their cast iron pans. You can't beat cast iron for cooking or baking.

dsc52359 (author)FredS1082017-09-27

Fred I have to agree and disagree, most modern pans are not machined to save money. One less step in the manufacturing process. All my old pans are machined but my new one have been worn into a smooth bottom. That being said it is how you treat them that makes work well.

The older Griswald pans were definitely machined, you can see the marks like stated in another comment. I tried "filling in" the rough surface with seasoning, couldn't do it. I sanded a Lodge pan and use it daily. I scrape the my pans with a stiff metal spatula to remove food bits followed by a wipe of oil or sometimes a hot water rinse before oil.

wr13711 (author)FredS1082017-09-14

Like stated elsewhere in the comments, some early pans are made very smooth. I have a couple of examples that show the machining done to the bottom and sides. Modern pots just dont get the extra work to make them smooth before leaving factory.

a-morpheus (author)wr137112017-09-15

agree with both--multiple layers of seasoning smooth out surface irregularities, but, I am pretty sure when I looked at some old super smooth pans I saw concentric spiral machining pattern on the surface, vs. the straight-from-sand-cast gritty surface of other (modern?) pans

hgaskins (author)2017-09-17

My method of restoring a cast iron pan

I put the pan in a self cleaning over and start the cleaning cycle. This burns off all of the gunk that has collected on the pan. When it has cooled, I wash and rinse the pan - ok to use a little soap this time to get the ash off. Then I season the pan by rubbing with shortening and putting in a heated oven at around 300F for a couple of hours. Don't use too much of any kind of oil or shortening otherwise you will just start the uneven buildup of gunk again. When it has cooled, rinse the pan with hot water and it is ready to use. To keep the pan seasoned, I only wipe out any food particles and rinse with hot water. Using dish liquid will slowly remove the seasoning over time.

I have been waiting for a crusty one to try and clean in the oven. I knew it would work! Thanks for confirming it for me.

tonygoffe (author)2017-09-18

From Jamaica ... I have a large 10' frying pan that has been used as to rill meats using a ss grate across the mouth as the pan is heated on a gas burner. This has caused pieces of metal to flake off when heated ...should I get this machined flat or try the wire brush / sander method ??

horsekeepertwo (author)2017-09-14

I have my Grandmother's cast iron pans. (Several skillets and a Dutch Oven) They have been seasoned many times over the years (I am 75 and brought them to my marriage) Best cooking surface, non-stick, and heat evenly. They work well in the oven, too. All of these old pans have porous surfaces - that way they retain the oil - which further seasons them with each use. I wash them with soap and water, dry them:: then pop them into the oven to remove the moisture the towel misses. Only drawback is you need a lot of pot holders handy.

CatKoe (author)horsekeepertwo2017-09-14

I don't like using my cast iron skillet because everything sticks to the pan. I used to love to make meatloaf but the bottom burned.
Any tips?

chrisoneal (author)CatKoe2017-09-17

One quick way to season or re season your pan is to take a paper towel and put some crisco on it wipe the inside of the pan down very well and then put it in the oven 250 for 1 hour this has worked well for me for over 40 years.This was my Grandmothers recipe when she was unable to use a open fire!

stonebreaker (author)CatKoe2017-09-14

You need to re-season it. Follow the instructions given above... but make sure the linseed oil you use is pure food grade and not the hardware store type that has other chemicals in it.

RandyKC (author)stonebreaker2017-09-14

You want Raw not dried. Modern Dried Linseed oil uses metal oxide salts (e.g. Cobalt) as the drying agent.

dedicatedwalker (author)CatKoe2017-09-14

Brush the pan with liquid lecithin before using. That makes using it like a non-stick pan. The lecithin will darken with the first batch of say, pancakes, but just move the first pancakes around to absorb the excess lecithin. The pan will generally stay stick-free for the entire batch of pancakes.

ljgordon (author)CatKoe2017-09-14

Go here:

Your pan needs to be re-seasoned and that is the reason stuff sticks. A cast iron skillet is the only true non-stick pan if properly maintained. Use flaxseed oil which is food grade linseed oil.

P.S. I forgot - never use anything that is poisonous, like lye or oven cleaner. The pan will keep it in those nice little pores and end up in your dinner. Slow Poisoning !

pgs070947 (author)horsekeepertwo2017-09-14

Only if you don't rinse or neutralise. Caustic soda is an effective way to restore steel or cast iron cookware from really baked on residues. As sodium hydroxide is totally water soluble, it will wash out easily if pores exist. Failing that, just stew up some rhubarb for the first meal.

horsekeepertwo (author)pgs0709472017-09-15

Cast iron has pores, it is the nature of the beast - we can't see them: but it is what allows them to be seasoned. It is the reaction of the molecules to each other. I am not referring to any pore, pits, etc that are visible. Those are a sign of poor manufacturing or miss use.

Hi Everyone who answered my post, I season my pans after every use. It is so much easier and retains the non-stick ability of these marvelous pans. It is important in maintenance to NEVER store with ANY moisture in pan and to add a light coat of the same oil, lard, etc that you originally seasoned it with. Heat to remove moisture, add the oil, wipe and put in the cupboard - non-stick seasoned and ready to use.

mdeloor (author)2017-09-15

Nice "ible", and well done on the great score of not only finding the pot & lid, but more importantly, on recognising their value!

I have a stainless steel chain mail scouring pad that I purchased from www.Lehman' especially for my cast iron cookware. I only use hot water & the pad for cleaning my pans. Though they rarely have anything burn/bake on, the pad works great for the times they need a "scrub".

Hubby is allowed to use the pans, but not to clean them. Not after he thought he was doing me a favor & S.O.S. padded the seasoning off of a 30+ year old skillet. He meant well, but I nearly cried.

This set turned out wonderfully, and look like you'll be able to leave them to future generations of loved ones!

bgreen3 (author)2017-09-14

now all you need to do is throw it in the dishwasher.

mlaiuppa. (author)bgreen32017-09-14


In fact, if seasoned well you really only wipe it out.

You never use soap unless you want to eat soap in your food.

You can use water for an occasional cleaning, even with a bit of salt for scrubbing but if seasoned properly you probably won't even need to do that.

But never soap and never the dishwasher.

bgreen3 (author)mlaiuppa.2017-09-15

Context and a sense of humor are necessary. Why else would I go out of my way to mention the absolute WORST thing you could do to any cast iron cookware? Indeed, dishwashers are HORRIBLE for knives, wooden cutting boards, and cast iron. Never put cast iron or wood in a dishwasher.

robotrick (author)2017-09-14

Sorry to say but you have no idea what your talking about "Oven Cleaner" & "Lye" should NEVER get near cast iron. And unless you have a fire that will bring the cast iron over 1000 degrees fire will not hurt it. The Boy Scouts have been using cast iron on fires for 80 years and never broke a pan.

SarahC22 (author)robotrick2017-09-15

Apparently, I know more than you do. Lye, and oven cleaner, are the commonly accepted methods to strip a pan. And fire cleaning can destroy cast iron if not done correctly. I was wrong about the wire brush though, I'm going to correct that. "Mill scale," which shows up red, can be caused by bad fire cleaning. It causes it to be brittle and can cause problems with holding seasoning. I can't seem to get photos to upload.

Don Forsberg (author)robotrick2017-09-14

I don't think he's talking about using it over a fire, but the process some use of throwing a rusted out pan into the coals to burn off all the old seasoning and rust before cleaning and re-seasoning it. That is intense heat that can crack or warp a pan.

Hi, I believe the fire "method" is to remove any crust you find on the outside of the pan. Believe me they do get a crust at times - especially when used while camping. To go back to the "no soap" comments - If the pan seasoning is properly maintained it most likely will not be a problem.

JacoR3 (author)2017-09-14

Absolutely awesome, love the article/ Learned in E^frica (as us locals say) to use ash as well - cleans everything, especially good to clean the inside glass of a wood burning oven. Use with newspaper, add a bit of water - then clean newspaper to wipe off the muck.

horsekeepertwo (author)JacoR32017-09-15

My Great Aunt used to make her own laundry soap, similar to the old bars of Fels Naptha. She used ashes to get the lye to use for the soap. Not sure what the exact process was, only that as children we were forbidden to go near the process because it could burn you and was poisonous.

JohnD316 (author)2017-09-15

Nice looking fix. Be absolutely sure to use "Food Grade Linseed Oil". Not the kind to preserve wood etc. I always use "Grapeseed Oil" to avoid this issue. We are gradually going back to cast iron cookware from aluminum non-stick garbage.The nonstick coating on that stuff leeches out over years of use,into your food.Cast iron is a natural product. Cook low and slow with cast iron and seldom if ever will your food stick. Besides we find that food tastes so much better cooked in this material.

MagedFarah (author)2017-09-15

Thanks a lot for a great idea

Cyborg Eagles (author)2017-09-14

The cleaning process is very quick if you use a flap disk sanding pad on a grinder. It will remove all the high points and burnish the surface to a smooth even finish.

The curing process is enhanced if you cut up potatoes and bake the slices in the pan while polymerizing the oil. You will get a very dense coating.

a-morpheus (author)Cyborg Eagles2017-09-15

I have a few more old pans and maybe I will invest in some flap disks for my grinder to try that.

interesting about the potatoes. The way I did it (and my pan was upside down as far as I remember so that would be the first thing I'd have to change) the oil is an extremely thin coat so the only interaction with potatoes would be a few points of direct contact plus whatever 'fumes' they gave off while cookies (or burning? since I used 250C/480F). I guess you mean the oil is much thicker?

mlaiuppa. (author)2017-09-14


Yes, repeated layers of Flaxseed oil is the way to go. It is the edible form of linseed oil. You can find food grade flaxseed oil at some grocery stores or you can order from amazon. I got mine at either Sprouts or Windmill Farms. Whole Foods might carry it too.

I would suggest you use a clean cotton rag rather than paper towels as the towels can leave paper lint behind. The rag should be sealed in a ziploc bag before discarding to avoid spontaneous combustion in the trash.

Repeated layers on high heat for several hours, then allowing to completely cool before next coat, and several coats until you achieve that deep black glossiness and the beading.

I'm about to attempt the exact same thing with the exact same wire brushes. I'll just do some sanding afterwards rather than the orbital thing.

Congrats. That looks like an awesome pan. And you have the lid too!

a-morpheus (author)mlaiuppa.2017-09-15


itsmescotty (author)2017-09-14

Good for you! I would have done it significantly different but only because I could.

The main cause of cast iron pots and pans 'death' is high temperature cooking and lack of care. Same as nonstick

a-morpheus (author)itsmescotty2017-09-15

How differently? Just wondering.

Realpieceofwork (author)2017-09-14

I've restored several cast iron skillets. For a real easy way to start over is put about a 1/2 cup of white vinegar in a doubled up shopping bag that'll fit your pan, double tie it, check it in a day or 2 and it'll look like it was sand blasted clean! Then cover in canola, olive, or bacon grease, wipe clean and into a preheated oven at 450*, after 30 minutes pull it out(its hot!) wipe down w/oil again put back in oven 30 min. Repeat 3-4 times turn off oven let cool. Don't use flax oil, it either pools and stays gummy, or it gets hard and flakes off!

If you go to the provided article link and read the science of seasoning cast iron, you'll learn why using canola, olive oil or bacon grease is not the way to season a pan. You'll be much happier with the flaxseed oil. You also need to bake longer at high temp and patiently wait to cool, repeating about 6 times. It takes patience and is a process that can't be rushed. If the flaxseed oil is pooling or gummy, you've put it on way too thick and haven't baked it long enough. The point is for it to get hard and become part of the pan. The article explains it all.

a-morpheus (author)mlaiuppa.2017-09-15

agree that pooling or gummy is a too thick an application (too impatient?). I noticed that from a long time woodworking too, applying Tung oil, shellac etc. Unfortunately thin, often painfully slow-drying coats seem to turn out the nicest.

You can read all day, but at some point experience teaches you what you need to know.

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