No matter the reason you are wondering how to restore a cast iron skillet, you should know that it is very possible to bring it back to its clean, original start. Normally these types of skillets are seasoned, which means that the fat molecules from cooking in the pan have bonded to the iron and any other fat molecules that are there already in a previous seasoning layer. So, with a bit of work, this seasoning can be removed by the same type of methods used to clean up any kind of a large, greasy mess. If you can’t restore your skillet with a good cleaning, you should invest in an enameled skillet instead.
Oven Cleaning Method
One way that is popular is to just put the pan in your oven and put it through the self-cleaning cycle. This feature on modern ovens can heat the interior of your oven to up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit, which turns any kind of organic material such as grease and food, into ash. Even though we usually think of cast iron as fairly indestructible, temperatures this high are actually able to warp or even break the pan, so this method of restoring your skillet is not the most recommended.
Using Oven Cleaners
The more recommended method is using a type of oven-cleaner. Since these are pretty much-aerosolized lye before you even start wear gloves and go outside. You’ll want to put a thick layer of newspaper under the skillet on a fairly flat surface, and completely spray the pan down with the oven cleaner, including the outside and the handle. Try and make an even coating all around, and then you will place the skillet into a garbage bag made of thick plastic and close it up tightly with a tie.
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Times may vary, but you want to leave the skillet in the bag for at the very least thirty minutes, but up to several hours, even overnight. After removing it from the garbage bag scrub the skillet with warm, soapy water and dry it thoroughly. If all of the seasonings are not removed the first time, repeat the oven cleaner step. The longer you leave it in the bag will reduce the times you need to keep putting oven cleaner on the pan.
Some also recommend that once the pan is fully restored to rinse it with a few tablespoons of vinegar. It is not a completely necessary step, however, the acidic vinegar will react with and then neutralize any bit of oven-cleaner which was left on the pan.
Remember, once you learn how to restore a cast iron skillet and do so, your skillet is now naked and unprotected. Do not leave it wet from the sink, as it will rust. It can even rust if it is a humid day. To help prevent this further, you should immediately place a new coating of seasoning on your pan. You can do this by preheating your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, then use a paper towel to rub in a light, even coating of oil on the surface of the skillet, including the handle. Grape seed oil, canola oil, vegetable oil or even solid vegetable shortening are good options for doing this. Put the skillet in your oven for ninety minutes, and then let it cool to room temperature and wipe off any excess oil.