Techniques for Restoring an old Cast Iron Skillet
How To Sand Cast Iron Pots

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Check out all my web pages on cast iron pots, kettles, and Dutch ovens
(just click on the underlined topics):

Main Page: 
The Irreplaceable Cast Iron Skillet


Question & Answer Pages:

Ammonia for Cleaning Cast Iron

Ceramic Top (Flat Top) Electric Range and Cast Iron Pots

Hot Fire for Curing & Cleaning

Iron and Carcinogens in Cast Iron

Misc. Questions & Answers

Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Pots

Salt for Cleaning Cast Iron

Sanding Cast Iron Pots

Self-Cleaning Oven for Cleaning & Seasoning

Warped or Cracked Cast Iron Pots

Washing Cast Iron Pots


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My existing cast iron pans came to me in bad condition (they were very old frying pans from my mother and one from a rummage sale). My husband hand sanded them until smooth and removed the burnt coating and rust. I then seasoned the pans. They are now my favorite frying pans and I wouldn't trade or loan them to anyone! They are especially great for "searing" meats and seafood. - Linda Stradley
 




Using a wire wheel brush on a drill to clean cast iron pans from Wes Chitwood of Atlanta, GA.

Just a quick note about cleaning cast iron frying pans. Using a wire wheel brush on a drill or other tool will clean rust and other "nastys" of the skillet very well. I use a bronze wire wheel, but brass works just as well. You can't damage the pan as with sand paper or sand blasting.  The wire wheel will flex if you attempt to put too much pressure on it and brass or bronze is softer than the iron. Of course, the pan will need to be re-seasoned.

I found some very old iron skillets in a barn at a friends farm. They were hanging on nails for who knows how long and were pretty rusty. He said they were there he bought the place and I could have them as they were no good anymore. ( I just grinned and took the "junk" off his hands.) Trial and error led me to the bronze wire wheel on my grinder. Those pans, one 18-inch, one square 12-inch, and one 10-inch looked like new ones when I finished with the wheel. 
 



Question:

I have a cast iron skillet that was looking pretty rough. The black coating on the inside was beginning to flake off. My husband took it to work and sandblasted it.; It now looks like aluminum!! Is this normal or has it been ruined? I have put in the oven coated with lard to try and re-season it at 200 degrees for an hour. Is this the right method? Thanks for your help!! - Judy (12/17/05)

Answer:
Your pan is still ok. It takes repeated cooking to obtain the black color again. When you re-season your pan, you need to use high heat.  Check out some of the different ways to season your pan on my cast iron web page.

 

 



Question:
I have a couple questions pertaining to seasoning cast iron pans. First I was wondering if it would be a good idea to use oils with a higher smoking point than Crisco shortening? For example avocado oil has a smoking point almost 200 degrees higher than Crisco. I'm not entirely sure what the advantage to using a fat with a higher smoking point would be, but I was thinking maybe if you were baking with your pan or cooking with it, it'd be less likely to smoke then and add unwanted bitterness to the food.

Then again, I came across another site where somebody claimed to have called Lodge and gotten a recommendation for using a 500 degree oven to season their pans. The smoke is actually said to help in the seasoning process. If this is true, couldn't you just use a bbq outside to prevent having to vent your kitchen? Do you know what exactly the seasoning process consists of? Is it fat, or the smoke and cooked fat that helps make a pan non stick?

About the bottom of the inside of the skillet, is it unwise to sand it smooth with 80 grit sandpaper before seasoning? I just can't help but feel that a smoother surface would be more beneficial for cooking things like eggs. Anyways, thank you very much for your time. I appreciate any answers you can offer. - Rick (12/7/05)
 

Answer:  
I see no reason you couldn't use avocado oil when seasoning your cast iron pan. I have even used coconut oil. Let me know how your pan turns out.

The seasoning process is a combination of the fat and the high heat. I have never tried using my barbecue, but since some people season their cast iron pans in a wood fire, I would think a bbq would also work.My husband sanded my old cast iron pans with 80 grit sandpaper to remove the crud and make it smooth. It worked wonderfully!

Question:
I recently acquired a small cast iron skillet from my husbands grandmother. UNFORTUNATELY, I put it in the dishwasher, now I know I should not have done that. Is there anything I can do to correct the error I made? It is "brown color" inside and out. There are a few spots with black. This is a Wagner 6-inch skillet. - Julie (11/16/05)

Answer:
It sounds like you need to sand your cast iron pan and then season it a couple of times. Your pan will turn black with use.

Feedback:
THANK YOU FOR THE SUGGESTION! I WILL TRY THIS.& I'm just hoping I haven't ruined it!



Question:
Your website is one of the most comprehensive I have found on cast iron cookware. I recently purchased a new pan that came "pre-seasoned." I washed it with soap and hot water and seasoned it anyway but have found that it has developed several pits on the inside. My only explanation is that I cooked with something too acidic (soy sauce) before it was fully seasoned. Should I leave the pits, or do I need to sand the entire pan and re-season?  Is there any hope for this pan? - Katharine Spehar (11/13/05)

Answer:
Are the pits causing food to stick? Why don’t you try re-seasoning your pan a couple of times first. If that doesn’t help, then I would suggest sanding.

Feedback:
Thanks for your reply. Actually, I am having general sticking problems so I guess more seasoning is needed. I am more worried the pits are caused by rust so I have sanded lightly with steel wool and am now re-seasoning with lard. I am going to try cooking only bacon and other fatty meats in the pan until it is good and seasoned. :-)

Suggestions from Readers:
She might try using PAM cooking spray when using this particular pan. The various cooking sprays on the market tend to help to fill the pits a little better than say Wesson or Crisco. If it is very fine pitting, this could have come from the quality of the original casting. Newer cast iron is some bit rougher than the polished iron of say 40-50 years ago. Hope this helps…

Also, caution should used in sand blasting any cast iron. I have heard of some using walnut hulls to sandblast cast iron with. - Duke Gilleland, Wagner And Griswold Society (WAGS) (1/15/06)

 



Question:

I found your site while desperately trying to figure out what to do with my newly acquired (grandmother's) cast iron. Let me explain:

I remember she and my mother cooking on these kinds of pans, but I have no idea for life of me, what to do with them. The bottom/sides are caked with a carbon looking substance - even the handle has a little bit of it. I used a non-scratch utensil to scrape most of it off, but a good bit of it remains. There are what appears to be knife marks in the middle of the pan, almost as if a knife cut through the seasoning. The inside edges seem to hold a lot more oil/seasoning than the cooking surface. I've cooked in it one time (on an electric stove) and the bottom caught on fire! Of course my husband says "why would you want 50 years of baked on food to seep into your food?'' - Bless his heart, he's just a man!

Can you tell me what my best options are. I have carpel tunnel, so scrubbing a lot isn't really my answer. Unless of course I can "persuade" my husband. I read the part on your site about a self cleaning oven. Do you think that is safe?; I would hate to ruin it after she had it forever. Thank you so much for your help. - Julia Hoeschler

Answer:
Your pans look just like how mine did when I first got them, Have your husband help you and do what my husband did: My husband hand sanded them until smooth and removed the burnt coating and rust. I then seasoned the pans. They are now my favorite frying pans and I wouldn't trade or loan them to anyone!

I have never tried the method of cleaning in them in the self cleaning oven. It wouldn’t hurt to give it a try. Please let me know how your pans turn out.  Just remind your husband that if these were his grandmother’s pans, how would he feel.

Feedback:
Thanks for your help. I was almost so scared I'd ruin them that I didn't want to do anything to them.  I'll let you know!

 



Question:
Just found your site and have read quite a few similar tales. I dove into rust removal before thinking.. and was wondering.. you buy a skillet and it is black. is there a coating on it that is required to be there?? I pulled out the angle grinder and 100 grit sanding wheel and sanded off the rust... and black. so now I have this shiny silver skillet. Will seasoning take care of it from here or do I need to have it recoated?? I'm about to throw it in the oven now.. what do you think? - Kent (10/31/05)

Answer:
When you purchase a "new" cast iron skittle, they are not black. They are a gray or silver color. The black comes from using your pan over and over. I would suggest that you season your pan "several" times to help get the coating back. It might take awhile, but the pan is still ok to cook in. the more you use it, the quicker it should start turning black.
 



Question:

I found your website and it has sort of answered my questions but not quite. I recently 'found' one of my grandmothers old skillets, it's quite large and I have to use both hands to lift it (it's about the size of a round BBQ grill). It's no wonder it's been packed away for at least 30 years and she's had it probably at least 30 years before that. Of course it's severely rusted now, inside and out. My questions are what is the safest method of cleaning the layers of rust off? Would it be safe to use an air pressure sander? What grade of sandpaper?

I have three iron skillets, the other 2 are 9 inch and I use them all the time. The big one and one of my small ones have a ring around the bottom of the pan, grandma used them on her old wood burning stove when mom was little (60 years ago) and it would break my heart for anything to happen to them. Mom cracked one of my other ones, it was a 12 inch, when she put pine sol in it instead of vegetable oil.. My pans are safe now, she's not allowed to cook! Thank you for any advice, it's greatly appreciated. - Lora (9/20/05)

Answer:
I wouldn’t use an air pressure sander, as it might do too much sanding. My husband used a hand orbital sander, because he had more control that way. He thinks he used sandpaper of 70 or 80.

 



Question:

My cousin asked that I bring my 2 cast iron frying pans to our family reunion--one is still OK, but she scraped even some of the black finish off the one I inherited from my mother.  What to do? Thanks in advance for your help! Here is a picture of the pan, hope you have some ideas. - Linda (8/5/05)

Answer:
Your cast iron pan doesn’t look that great!; My favorite cast iron pans that I use all the time looked a lot like yours at first. My husband hand sanded them until smooth and removed the burnt coating and rust. I then seasoned the pans. Give this a try.




Question:

Hello…. I just purchased some cast iron fry pans and I an having a problem seasoning them. No matter what I use to apply the solid shortening to the pan… it leaves lint with the shortening.; Any suggestions? Do I have to smooth them out first?

They are brand new... I tried "seasoning" them like you suggested but everything I used from a paper towel to a dish towel (lint free supposedly) left lint in with the shortening.  The pans feel a little "rough" (very slightly) but I thought that would be "normal" with your description of the "rough" portion that needs to fill in with seasoning.  I was wondering if I need to use a scouring pad on them to see if that would "smooth" them out a bit but I don't want to harm them.  I did put the Crisco on with just my fingers but I think I put too much on... the grease turned kind of golden... maybe I had it too hot?... or baked them too long?....and they got sticky. Thank for all you help!  Thanks for your interest... I LOVE your web site! - Diane (7/13/05)<

Answer:
If you pans feel a little rough, how about sanding them a little? The roughness is my you are getting the lint. I always want my pans to be smooth.  My husband used a his electric sander to smooth mine out. If the grease turned golden, just use some paper towels and wipe it out. If it is sticky, try washing the pan with soapy water, but don’t leave the pan in the water. Repeat seasoning steps.

Feedback:
Thanks again so much Linda... I will try a little light sanding then.  It has been YEARS since I've had to deal with new cast iron pans.  These are for my 27 year old son.  He wanted mine but I said "No way!". I wish you great success in your web site. It was a good feeling to know the information was out there. I will give my son your site for the maintenance of the pans. Again Thanks so much!

Hints and Tips from Stephanie (4/19/10):
My hint is to either wash and dry her hands and then use her hands to apply the oil or to place the liquid oil of her choice into a small spray bottle (the kind they sell for a travel sprayer in the drugstore) and just spray it on.  Either of those methods will apply a nice thin layer of oil to the pan. 

She can have the oven door open and ready to just pop the pans into it just prior to this process, and a paper towel sitting nearby to grab after putting the pans into the oven and that way she won't get grease on the oven door handle nor will she have lint in her pan.
 



Question:

I read your article about restoring cast iron skillets.  I recently found one very badly rusted in one area of the pan. Water had been sitting in it with the pan at an angle.  After removing the rust at work with a bead blasting unit, I have found an area is pitted quite badly.  Is it necessary to sand the bottom of the pan smooth in this area?  This would cause a low spot in the pan where a fair amount of the metal would have to be removed. Your help will be appreciated. - Stanley Coleman (10/20/02)

Answer:
Because my husband is the one who sand-blasted my cast iron pan for me, I asked him your question. He said: "Because the pits are on the bottom of your pan and not inside, and you have removed the rust on the pan, the pits will not hurt." I hope this helps you and I am understanding your question correctly.



Question:

I read the segment on cast iron skillets.  I acquired a cast iron skillet that has rust inside and outside.  My question is after I scrub off all of the rust do I season the outside of the skillet as well as the inside to protect the outside for rusting again?  The skillet is entirely covered with rust, top to bottom, inside and outside. Thank You. - Kendra Simmons (7/31/03)

Answer:
Season both the inside and outside of your cleaned cast iron pan. Do it several times.



Question:
Hi!  I just stumbled across this website as I was looking for help with my cast iron skillet.  I left my much-loved, used-daily skillet on a hot burner and threw a plastic microwave lid in it.  The plastic melted to the surface of the skillet.  I was able to scrape most of the plastic out while the skillet was still hot, but now I have a fine layer of plastic on the bottom of the skillet.  Have I ruined the skillet forever?  Help!  Thanks, Sarah Steen (8/26/05)

Answer:
I would do some more sanding to remove the layer of thin plastic. Once sanded, re-season your cast iron pan.

Feedback:
Thanks so much! I reheated the pan, then wiped and wiped as much as I could then sanded lightly. I didn’t actually end up losing too much of the carbonization, so when I re-seasoned it looked great. =Thanks again, Sarah

 


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