How to Season a Rusty Cast Iron Skillet

Old cast-iron skillets
Old cast-iron skillets (Image: Rusted Cast Iron Skillets on Shed image by Katrina Miller from

Cast-iron skillets remain a part of many kitchens because of their durability, even heat distribution and rustic appeal. They may be handed down through generations, found at flea markets and purchased new, but all require maintenance by proper cleaning and seasoning. Cast iron may be the easiest of all cookware to care for once seasoned properly, note Brook and Barbara Elliot of Mother Earth News. If cast iron becomes rusty, it is not ruined. With a little effort, even a skillet that has been neglected for years can be restored to good working order.

Things You'll Need

  • Rubber gloves
  • Soft dish washing brush
  • Dish detergent
  • Steel wool soap pads
  • Clean rags
  • Vegetable oil or cooking fat
  • Kitchen oven
  • Pot holders

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Scrub the skillet in your kitchen sink with a soft dishwashing brush, liquid dish detergent and hot water. Scrubbing removes a great deal of the surface rust and old grease.

Put on rubber gloves to protect your hands. Moisten a steel wool soap pad with water. Scour the skillet with the soap pad to remove stubborn rusty spots.

Rinse well, dry with a rag and check thoroughly for even the smallest speck of rust or old grease. All residue must be removed before proceeding.


Heat the oven to 250 degrees.

Coat the entire skillet with cooking oil or fat using a clean rag. Coat the skillet completely. Any area left without an oil coating will be prone to rust again.

Place the oiled skillet in the hot oven, close the oven door and leave for 30 to 40 minutes. Timing is not critical.

Turn the oven off and allow it to cool. Remove the skillet with a pot holder and wipe off any excess oil with a clean rag.

Check again for any uncoated spots on the skillet. If needed, reapply oil and return to a 250-degree oven to ensure even distribution of the oil coating.

Tips & Warnings

  • Clean the skillet down to the bare metal before coating with oil to ensure a long-lasting seasoned finish.
  • Seasoning will increase each time the skillet is used for cooking.
  • Care for your seasoned cast iron skillet by rinsing and drying only.
  • Dry the skillet completely before storing to discourage future rusting.
  • Terribly rusted cast iron cookware may require more strenuous cleaning with a stiff wire brush.
  • Never use soap or detergent on a cast-iron skillet once it has been seasoned. Soaps and detergents will remove the seasoned coating.
  • Seasoning in an oven heated at more than 250 degrees could result in smoking or fire.
  • Cool the oven enough to handle the skillet before removing it.


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