How To Strip Cast Iron and Re-Season It


A good cast iron pan can make or break how you function in the kitchen. A pan or pot covered in rust cannot be used and one improperly seasoned will cause everything cooked to stick and clean up to be a pain. Today I am sharing how to strip cast iron and re-season it, so that your cast iron can be the most efficient and functional tool in your from scratch kitchen.

how to strip cast iron and re-season it photo of girl holding seasoned cast iron pan that is smooth and shiny

Ahhh, cast iron. The most important tool in my kitchen. To some, cast iron is hard to use or intimidating but I promise it does not have to be. Once you learn how to strip cast iron and properly re-season it, you can take any old cast iron pan and make it the best kitchen tool you own. 

Cast iron has multiple uses and is the most practical cookware that can be purchased. It can be used on the stove, in the oven or even over open fire. It holds heat well and gives the perfect sear to any cut of meat. Between dutch ovens, skillets, griddles or baking dishes you can cook almost anything in it. I love it. 

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    Is Cast Iron Good For Health?

    Toxins from the chemicals making up the nonstick coating on pans can not only seep into the food you are cooking but also into the air in your home. For more specific information on health concerns of nonstick cookware, read this

    Cast iron does not have this same issue. There is a lot of science behind this question and I am no expert but science has proven time and time again that nonstick cookware can cause many illnesses including cancer. It is also said that using cast iron can help fight an iron deficiency.

    Benefits of Cast Iron

    • Multifunctional- cast iron can be used on practically any cooking surface making one dish function like multiple.
    • Longevity- Cast Iron pans can be passed down from generation to generation. They are sturdy and it would take a lot to ruin one. Usually the most they need is stripped and re-seasoned.
    • Easy to obtain- There are quality cast iron skillets everywhere and they can be found at amazing prices. Many new pans can be found cheaper than non stick pan sets but even better, used ones can be found at thrift shops, garage sells, or antique stores for amazing prices. Or they are even gifted to you! Just recently I was given 3-4 skillets and a dutch oven for free! What a score. The dutch oven was in amazing shape and while the skillets were rusted a bit more, they will clean up very well.
    • Healthier alternative- Now I kind of talked about this above but the terrible chemicals found in non stick pans are not an issue with cast iron. You can cater the seasoning to the oil of your choice. Some say you can even get iron from them in your food!

    How To Strip Cast Iron and Re-Season It Video Tutorial

    How Do You Strip And Re-Season Cast Iron?

    Stripping and re-seasoning consists of removing any burnt food, rust or old seasoning off of a cast iron pan, applying more oil and heating it until it bonds to the surface. This creates a smooth cook surface that can be better than any Teflon pan. 

    Can You Ruin A Cast Iron Skillet?

    Obviously cast iron can be destroyed but it would take very harsh circumstances. Normal wear and tear or even improper use cannot ruin a cast iron skillet. They can always be stripped and re-seasoned. This is what is so great about cast iron! I have seen terrible rusted pans cleaned and seasoned to a shiny black pan. 

    Stripping Cast Iron

    how to strip cast iron and re-season it photo of girl holding rusty old cast iron pan before seasoning it to show the rust and dirt

    Should I Strip My Cast Iron?

    Some cast iron may not need any crazy work before seasoning. Possibly just washed with a little soap and then it is ready to be seasoned. Even a little baked on food is no cause to fully strip the pan. You can try a stainless steel scrubber for baked on food (I do this regularly with no damage to the seasoning) and if it comes off, you are good to go!

    However, if the pan has thick rust or is covered, it may need stripped. I usually will start by scrubbing and if this does not work I will try a vinegar strip. This has always been enough but worst case you can do an oven strip if it is really bad. 

    What Is The Best Way To Strip Cast Iron?

    While not a full strip, I prefer to scrub with a stainless steel scrubber. I find that this takes care of most of what I need to get off but if it does not, I will use baking soda and vinegar to strip it. 

    How To Strip Cast Iron With Scrubbing

    This is the most common way that I will “strip” a cast iron pan. I do this to pans I am seasoning for the first time including any brand new pre-seasoned pans. I also do this when cleaning and maintaining my pans if I have really done a doozy on it. This will not fully strip off the seasoning but it can get rust and food off. 

    You can use a few different things to scrub the pan. My favorite tool is a stainless steel scrubber. I find that it gets most everything off and I use one regularly. It will not fully take the seasoning off. You can also use baking soda and a sponge or even baking soda and the stainless steel scrubber if it is really bad. 

    To scrub the pan, run really hot water over the pan and begin to scrub. If using baking soda, add the baking soda to the dry pan and add just enough hot water to form a paste. Now scrub! You may need to do this multiple times depending on how bad it is. If you are cleaning rust off and preparing to re-season, you can use soap. It will not hurt the pan since you are just seasoning it fully afterward. 

    Be sure to fully dry the cast iron to avoid more rust. 

    How To Strip Cast Iron With Vinegar

    If your pan is really rusty or you can not scrub it clean, you can try a vinegar soak. I have used this with no issues but some people claim it could damage that actual pan. I have never had this happen but just keep this in mind. 

    First you will want to scrub your pan with stainless steel. Next, fill your sink or a small tub with equal amounts of hot water and vinegar. 

    Place your cast iron pan in and soak for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, try scrubbing with stainless steel. Continue this allowing it to soak for several minutes then scrubbing and checking your pan. 

    After the pan is scrubbed of all debris and rust, clean it well withs soap and water. Be sure to dry it very well to avoid more rust then move on to seasoning. 

    How To Strip Cast Iron In Oven

    If neither of the above work and your pan is in really bad shape, you can strip it in the oven. This can be quite the process though so I would give the other methods a few good tries before this. 

    To strip your cast iron in the oven, place the pan in your oven and run it on self clean. This will strip everything off of your pan. Allow the pan to cool in the oven and then wash with soap and water. 

    Be sure to dry fully to avoid rust. 

    Seasoning Cast Iron

    how to strip cast iron and re-season it photo of girl holding seasoned cast iron pan that is smooth and shiny

    How Many Times Should I Season A Cast Iron Skillet?

    This really depends on how your pan looks after each seasoning and how bad of shape it was in prior to seasoning. I usually go through the process 2-3 times. 

    What Is The Best Oil To Season Cast Iron?

    My favorite oils to season cast iron with are avocado oil or coconut oil. I would not recommend a general vegetable oil or canola oil due to health reasons. We do use olive oil in our house for cooking but due to the low smoke point, I do not use it for cast iron. 

    I actually prefer to use coconut oil to season my cast iron. I have no reasoning other than it seems to make my pans shinier and smoother but I have never heard anyone else say this. 

    Should I Season My Cast Iron Skillet After Every Use?

    No, I do not do a full seasoning after every use. That would be exhausting. In fact, I rarely ever re-season anything unless it is a new to me pan or dutch oven. 

    However, I do oil after every use and occasionally I will heat it after I have cleaned with water. 

    How To Season Cast Iron

    Once your cast iron is cleaned and no longer has rust or burnt on food, it may be a dull gray or even a brown/copper color. 

    Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. 

    Coat your pan in a thick layer of oil, then wipe down with a dark towel. You want to be sure the entire pan, handle and all, is coated in a thin layer of oil. I wipe it on thick so I can smooth it out and be sure it is completely coated. 

    Place your pan in the oven upside down with a pan underneath it. Leave it for 1 hour and allow it to cool. I like to shut the oven off and allow to cool in the oven but to keep from having to turn the oven off and on everytime you could pull the pan out to cool. 

    Wipe it down with another thin coat of oil and repeat until the surface is smooth. 


    Why Is My Cast Iron Sticky After Seasoning?

    This is usually caused by the oil. I have had this happen after using vegetable oil to season (yikes) or if the oil was too thick when I put it in the oven. It can pool in one spot and leave sticky spots. To remedy, scrub with a stainless steel scrubber to remove any sticky spots and start the seasoning process over again. Be sure to only do a thin coat of oil and I highly recommend coconut oil then placing the pan upside down. 

    Why Is There Smoke While Seasoning?

    This is really common and is caused from the oil reaching the smoke point. This helps the oil to bond to your pan so it is alright. Just turn your fan on or open the window if it gets too bad. 

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