America's Test Kitchen LogoCook's Country LogoCook's Illustrated Logo

How to Strip a Cast-Iron Skillet

If your cast-iron cookware's seasoning becomes very dull or damaged or if the pan badly rusts, strip and reseason the surface using these tips.

hero image

When a cast-iron skillet becomes very dull, damaged, or badly rusted, the standard cleaning and seasoning procedures aren’t enough to bring it back to smooth, slippery non-stick-ness. But don’t give up hope just yet: Stripping and reseasoning can breathe new life into skillets that are in bad condition. While overhauling your pan’s seasoning is a bit of an undertaking, we’re here to guide you step-by-step through the process, from stripping the cast iron skillet with oven cleaner to reseasoning it so it’s good as new. 

Before you begin, a word of caution: Easy-Off Oven Cleaner is a caustic alkali, so be sure to work outdoors, wear rubber gloves, and avoid spraying near your face or skin. The skillet will rust instantly once you’ve discarded the vinegar-water solution and rinsed and dried the skillet in step 5, so be sure to immediately apply oil to the surface.

Part 1: Stripping Your Cast Iron Skillet

  1. Working outdoors, place concrete block on ground and cover with heavy-duty kitchen trash bag, draping bag over block so that sides of bag will be easy to grasp and pull up over skillet.
  1. Place skillet upside down on top of block. Wearing rubber gloves, spray skillet all over with Easy-Off Oven Cleaner, being careful to keep spray away from your face and exposed skin.
  1. Flip skillet over and spray inside.
  1. Pull plastic bag up and around skillet and tie to close. Leave wrapped, sprayed skillet outside (or in garage) for 24 hours.
  1. Wearing rubber gloves, remove plastic bag. Scrub skillet all over with steel wool and hot soapy water to remove all residue.
  1. Rinse, repeat scrubbing with steel wool, and rinse again.
  1. Combine 2 cups distilled white vinegar with 2 cups water. Fill skillet with vinegar solution and let stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Part 2: Reseasoning Your Cast Iron Skillet

  1. Discard solution in skillet. Rinse skillet well, then dry well with paper towels. NOTE: The skillet will rust instantly at this point, so be sure to immediately move onto the next step.
  1. Using paper towels, immediately rub 1 tablespoon (for 12-inch skillet) or 2 teaspoons (for 10-inch skillet) oil over surface. Using clean paper towels, thoroughly wipe off excess oil (surface should look dry, not glistening).
  1. Heat oven to 500 degrees. Place skillet in oven for 1 hour. Using potholders, remove skillet from oven and let cool completely.
  1. Repeat the prior two steps six times, or until the skillet has a dark, smooth finish.

This is a members' feature.