Cleaning Cast Iron Pans

Last summer a young woman posted an ad on a Facebook local garage sale site for a large set of pots and pans. Some were in really good shape but were Teflon coated. The next picture showed nasty looking pans, she wanted $30.00 for all of them. I enlarged the picture and was pretty sure 11 of the nasty looking ones were cast iron.

I messaged her that I was interested but that I wanted to come and look at them first. I was so excited I couldn’t even sleep that night. After all, I paid $20.00 just for one new cast iron cornbread pan.

When I got there she showed me the nice newer group of pans. I asked about the other rusted ones and she opened her car door and there they sat on her back seat. OMG $30.00 for all this cast iron, I couldn’t believe it. She told me they had belonged to her grandmother and that she had passed away.

She said she knew I probably wouldn’t want the rusted ones……wrong! So I asked her if she would take $15.00 for the old rusted ones and that way she can still ask $30.00 for the nice set, she said yes!

I thought my husband was going to have a heart attack…lol. That was $15.00 for 11 cast iron pans and a lid.They have been in my basement until now. I finally found some free time to clean them up.

To clean and strip them I soaked them in a bucket with 50% white vinegar and 50% water for about 8-10 hours. I used a steel grill cleaning brush and scrubbed away. I used a stainless steel scrubber for the nooks and crannies. Can’t do that with Teflon! I washed them with dawn, rinsed thoroughly and dried immediately.

I coated each pan with a very light coating of bacon grease. I only did this because I didn’t want them to rust before I get them seasoned in the oven. I placed the pans on a burner on the stove and heated the pans until they were very hot. Next step will be seasoning them in the oven, which I will do all of them at the same time, if they all fit.

Anyone that does not know much about cast iron pans, they never go bad unless they crack! It doesn’t matter how nasty they look, you can make them look like new again. It will take some elbow grease and you need to season the cast iron after you strip away all the nasty stuff. Once all this is done, it will be the best pan you have ever cooked in.

These pans are very heavy since they are made from cast iron, so if you have trouble lifting heavy objects you won’t want to use these. Once the pans are seasoned properly, they are virtually non stick, just like Teflon but without all the harmful things they use to make Teflon. Teflon can chip and scratch and you should not use them when they do this, cast iron can be reseasoned and used forever!

I only have 5 pans and a lid cleaned and stripped out of the 11 total so far. I hope to have the last 6 pans finished in two weeks. I am cleaning one every day I find time. Once they are all cleaned and stripped I will start the seasoning process which is what will make them non stick. I will blog about how I seasoned them and post a picture of them when I am done seasoning.

UPDATE: All of the cast iron pans cleaned up beautifully and you have seen some of them in my posts.


  1. I love my CI! Diane, I can’t remember for the life of me what I posted earlier! But it may have been about the new versus the old cast iron. I love my older Wagner Ware 8″ CI skillet being so smooth, and that the newer produced CI, like my new Lodges, have a much rougher texture on the inside of the pans. I am not expecting those to really smooth out either, especially for the next 50 or so years! And it sounds very simple to restore CI after reading this! Thank you for the great advice!

    • Karen what do you notice different, in regards to cooking the food, with smooth or rougher texture? Do you find food gets stuck on the rougher surface? All the pans I use, so far, have been smooth and don’t stick.

  2. I cook almost solely with CI, and I have a glass top stove (which I hate, by the way, and would love to break). I have never had a problem with scratching or breaking with mine. I use my 12″ skillet (which is huge and heavy), my 5 1/2 qt. Dutch oven, and several other CI skillets on it all the time! Just make sure you are following the stove manufacturer’s directions in case you still have a warranty on it.

  3. I have my Great Grandmother’s cast iron skillet – use it all the time, season it just as you say here. So many memories of her live thru using it 💕

    • Liza isn’t it funny how something as simple as a cast iron pan can bring back so many memories? The funny part is that it will probably outlive both of us! If it wasn’t for how heavy they can be, they are the perfect pan.

  4. I love cast iron. I use it or stainless steel exclusively. You got quite a deal there and pans for every use. I have one HUGE cast iron skillet that is newer and it is a bit rougher on the bottom, but seems to work pretty well. I think it is 18″ I use it for frittatas for a crowd, or toads in a hole for a crowd or to sear steaks for a crowd. Great pan.

  5. What a find Diane! I’ll confess to being quite jealous. I have 3 CI skillets of various sizes that I use all the time. I also have a special CI crepe pan that my brother gave me when I was going through my Magic Pan phase.

    • Oh that’s for sure Bernadette. There was nothing easy about cleaning them, one still had old burnt on food that had never been cleaned off when they cooked with it.

  6. Great post! I used to have no problem keeping my cast iron in great shape until bacon became the evil to be avoided. Now that it is not feared as much and has reentered our diet, we are getting more used out of our cast iron. Bacon grease is great for seasoning. What a find and a bargain!

Leave a Reply