Restore a Cast Iron Frying Pan




Have you come across a vintage cast iron frying pan in a garage sale, only to be dismayed to realize that years of neglect has turned it into a pile of rust and crud?

With just a basic edge grinder with a wire brush head (and some good PPE - Personal Protection Equipment!), you can quickly turn that rust bucket into a gleaming utensil that you are sure to enjoy using - whether on a camp fire or on the stove top!

Step 1: Get Ready

We can assume you've already rescued this gem from a garage sale, or maybe from under the sink in your log cabin.

Organize yourself before you get started on the project - find a safe place to work so that the noise, dust won't bother others (or put them at risk).

- Basic edge grinder (e.g. 4 1/2");
- Wire brush head for the grinder (preferably brass);
- Extension cord, if necessary to make your work space safe;
- Appropriate protective gear:
- hearing protection;
- safety glasses;
- dust mask;
- gloves;
- long sleeve shirt, long pants, boots, etc.

Step 2: Start Grinding!

The key here is to be patient - and keep a firm grip on the edge grinder because it is sure to "kick back" once in a while as you press the brush into the edge of the frying pan.

Take a break if you start to get tired - there's no need to rush this step.

You will be amazed how quickly a hopeless mass of rust starts to reveal the utilitarian beauty of cast iron underneath.

Step 3: Review Your Handiwork

When you've got all the rust off, take a good look at all the corners and edges - including the handle. It's better to finish the grinding properly than having to come back to it after you've gone to the washing step.

Step 4: Washing and Oiling

Next carefully wash/scrub the frying pan with soapy water, rinse well and dry thoroughly.

The last step is to put a good coat of oil in the pan. A heavy oil like peanut oil, works best for building up the layer of carbon that gives a cast iron frying pan its characteristic "natural non-stick" surface once it is properly seasoned.

Here's a great link to learn about the science behind a properly seasoned cast iron pan .

Congratulations - you're done - now get cooking!

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    6 Discussions


    3 years ago

    never use soap when cleaning cast iron. The cast iron will absorb the soap and pass it onto your food.

    3 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    He's in the restoration phase of the project, it's a good idea to give it a final soapy washdown before seasoning it and putting it into service. As far as soaping a working cast iron pan, many believe that is permissible (even desirable) on an occasional basis and does not affect the non- stick aspect. When I restore C.I., I use my oven at self- clean, and brush off the resultant debris at the end of the cycle, then season it.


    Reply 2 years ago

    MY final step before seasoning, is to stick my cast iron in a turkey fryer, and boil it for a half hour or so. Any soap that made it into the metal will surely come loose, along with the last bits of iron dust, and any remaining bio material. For "lesser" cleaning, I just stick it on the stove top, fill with water, and simmer. works pretty darn well.

    For seasoning, my latest try is coconut oil (been using it for all my cooking lately). Works pretty well, and doesn't seem to have made a negative taste impact to anything I've cooked.

    But Lodge has a specific seasoning spray they sell. 100% canola oil. And cast iron is what they do. So, if you don't want to experiment, follow the experts, and use canola.


    2 years ago

    I am now prepaed to rescue stray cast iron.

    Thanks for sharing

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    That's the spirit! - cast iron is so much happier when it is put to work in the kitchen, surrounded by a loving family.