If you have had pans stored away, perhaps in a place where they have got damp, it can be a nasty surprise to find them rusty. It is easy to think that when a pan goes rusty, it needs to be thrown away. But thankfully, and most definitely in the case of cast iron, this isn’t the case. Cast iron pans aren’t cheap, and they really are built to be indestructible. So, just a little rust on your pan is not a reason to throw it in the bin! When cast iron is cared for correctly, it will last a lifetime, and even if your pans have gone rusty, you can restore them to new in just a few easy to follow steps.
In fact, cast iron is prone to rust, and is one of the cons of using cast iron for cooking. If you hand wash and dry your pans thoroughly, they shouldn’t go rusty. But, if water settles in a pan that is covered over, or your pans have been stored in a damp cellar, it is actually common to find even bright orange rust on them.
What You Will Need to Get Rid of Rust on Cast Iron Pans
The great news is that you won’t need to go out and buy expensive materials in order to clean your pans. All you need it a sponge with a scrubber side, some steel wool, vegetable oil, and mild dish soap.
Cleaning your Cast Iron Pan: Step by Step
You may have been told that you should be careful with your pans and avoid scouring them. This is true, up to a point. If you scrub away at your pans you will remove the seasoning, and your pan will no longer be non-stick. But adding new seasoning is the last step of removing rust from your pans. So, first of all, use your steel wool and some elbow grease to get rid of the rust. You will need to wet your pan and add a little soap, scrubbing away in small circles and focusing on the rustiest parts first. Keep on scrubbing your pan until you can see the original black iron emerging.
Once you have reached this point, you will have a copper-brown mush in your pan that needs rinsing away. With your pan rinsed, clean it again, this time with the soft side of your sponge, making sure that no rusty bits or residue remain. Once you are sure that your pan is rust-free, it’s time to move onto the next stage.
Seasoning your Pan
As you will have scrubbed away the seasoning of your pan, it will have a matte finish and will now look dark gray in color. Dry your pan carefully with an old rag, and then place it on a low heat on the stove for a few minutes to ensure all traces of water evaporate. To re-season your pan, you must next add a little vegetable oil to your pan, carefully spreading it around with a piece of paper towel. Be careful not to burn yourself at this stage as the pan will naturally still be hot. Wipe away any excess oil, and turn your oven on to 350 degrees. Put some foil on the bottom rack and place the pan in, upside down, and leave it in the oven on the bottom rack for an hour.
Tips for Preventing Rust
To ensure that your pan doesn’t go rusty again, avoid soaking the pan, and make sure you always thoroughly dry it with a cloth as opposed to allowing it to air dry. Lightly oil your pan after each use, and avoid where at all possible acidic foods such as vinegar and tomato that can lead to rust.