How to Clean and Season Neglected Cast-Iron Cookware
Got a dirty or rusty cast-iron pan on your hands? Here's how to make it good as new.
Old, well-seasoned cast-iron pans have become heirlooms, making it hard to find even dirty, rusty, perfectly cruddy pans for a bargain at yard sales and flea markets. If you are lucky enough to find one, it deserves a place at the stovetop.
After scraping up a couple of dirty pans with several grades of sandpaper and emery cloth—both being too harsh for even these badly rusted pans—we settled on the following method to restore pans that have been subjected to such neglect. (Of course, if you have a blazing wood stove handy, you can just stick the pan in along with the logs. All of the detritus on the pan will be combusted.) To maintain clean pans, follow step 5 below after each use, using a washcloth to scrub the pan with salt if the hot water alone doesn't do the trick.