Use Salt to Clean and Restore Your Cast Iron Skillet
I've been a very bad cast iron skillet owner. Without getting into too many details, I'm putting it out there that this classic piece of kitchen equipment has been left in the oven while cookies were baking, washed in soapy water, and just left to rot and rust for who knows how long. I wanted to tell you that I found it at a yard sale, but I'm a terrible liar.
I'm ready to reconnect, though. I promise to be responsible and never again let it go. I promise to keep it properly seasoned and fry lots of eggs in it. I promise!
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I began my journey of reconnection with the skillet looking like this:
After a few searches on Pinterest and a little meandering around the Net, I discovered that there was hope for my skillet and me.
First, I scrubbed off all the gunk using salt and a sponge. What a great discovery. It really works, and it should be all you need to maintain the integrity of your skillet. If you prefer, you can use a potato instead of a sponge. It works just as well. I tried it on my flat cast iron pan:
Laura Gill Before & After
But this method doesn't take care of rust. I learned that rust can be removed by soaking the skillet in equal parts water and vinegar. It's a lot of vinegar, but it's worth it. The first time I tried it, I didn't seal the drain in my sink properly, so the pan soaked only for about 20 minutes due to a slow leak. Here's what it looked like after that small amount of time:
You can really start to see how the vinegar works to pull the rust off. Unfortunately, 20 minutes isn't nearly enough time. It really needs anywhere from one hour to six hours, depending on how bad the skillet it. So, the next round I left it to soak for nearly two hours. Using a small brush, I scrubbed all of the rust off. The sink water was totally black.
When I pulled the pan out and rinsed the rust off, I couldn't believe it. It's clean!
Now I just have to take on the arduous task of re-seasoning . . .