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Rescue Rusted Cast Iron Cookware

Thanks for making my day by SHARING!!

OR:  Cast Iron Cookware Intensive Care Unit

I am a cast iron cookware devotee.  I do like my stainless steel cookware, but when it comes to non-stick, a cast iron is my go-to pan. Granted, even well-seasoned cast iron cookware is not as ‘non-stick’ as some other “Non-Stick” labeled cookware, but I’m way too leery of all the chemicals and processes that are involved in making the ‘non-stick’ feature of other non-stick cookware.  I’ll always default to a low-tech, no chemical, tried and true item that’s been safely in use since the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD).  

In addition to the set of 4 Lodge 5-inch cast iron skillets that I’ve written so fondly about (skillet apple crumble, skillet brownie, skillet pecan pie); I also regularly use a Dutch Oven, a  10-inch skillet, a 12-inch  skillet, and a 2-sided grill/griddle.

All that being said, you can’t just throw your cast-iron skillet in the dishwasher or for that matter, wash and forget it.  So this is where I got stuck (no pun intended) on my cast-iron learning curve.  Of course, I never put it in the dishwasher!  But I know I didn’t ‘tend’ to it on a regular basis as I should have.  

My skillets are actually in pretty good shape, but the lid of my dutch oven became rusted on the inside because I didn’t make sure it was dry when I put it away and my grill/griddle was just a hot mess because I seasoned it poorly several years back.  

Rescue Rusted Cast Iron Cookware

“BAD Cast Iron Owner!! BAD”

I recently decided it was time to take back my cast iron and resolve to be a better cast iron owner.  To that end, I need much research on how to rescue rusted cast iron cookware.  I realized that I needed to take off whatever finish remained on the dutch oven, its lid and the griddle and start from scratch.

How to Rescue Rusted Cast Iron Cookware:

  • With your cast iron cookware in your oven, turn the oven on to the self-clean mode.  The approximately 850° degree temperature of the self-clean mode carbonizes and turns the ash the finish, build-up, and dirt from your cast iron as well as your oven.
  • Once it is cool, use a 2″ wire cup brush or 2″wire wheel brush drill attachment to take down any remaining rust on your cast iron item.  The 2 of them together cost less than $10.  If your cast iron is not quite as bad as mine, you can probably use a wire brush instead of the drill attachments. Forney Wire Wheel Brush and Forney Wire Cup Brush
  • Once you feel you’ve nailed all the rust with your wire brushes, give your cookware a good rinse with water.  I dried mine off, but then put it in the oven to dry out and warm up a bit.  I had set my oven to 450° and it was heating up.  The oven was about 300° when I put the cast iron in.  I just left it in for about 5-10 minutesRescue Rusted Cast Iron Cookware

    After the Self Clean Oven Treatment and Wire Brush Drill Attachments

  • If you haven’t already done so, set your oven for 450°
  • Thoroughly rub your cast iron with grease, keeping the layer of grease as thin as possible.  I tried using paper towels (the lint/fibers got all in the grease), a bristle basting brush (the bristles fell out and got in the oil) and a silicone basting brush (just a pain in the neck).  At the end of the day, getting my hands on the cast iron and rubbing the grease all over was clearly the best solution.  PLUS…my skin was so soft after the process!  Just a warning, you want to do this when your cast iron is warm, but not too warm that you can’t rub your hands all over it. 
  • Now here’s where you’ll get all sorts of opinions.  I’ve read about Flax Oil (which is awful expensive to be coating your cast iron with), lard, vegetable oil, and coconut oil.  I’ve worked with the vegetable oil with moderate success (operator error I’m certain), but this time I thought I’d try something new.  I read about a product called Crisbee and decided to give it a try.  Scouts honor, I am not affiliated with Crisbee at all and they don’t even know I’m writing about them.  Crisbee comes in a puck form or a stick, rather like stick deodorant.  It is a proprietary blend of soybean oil, palm oil, and beeswax.  The company claims that the addition beeswax helps the oil bond to the cast iron better than just vegetable oil  I liked that it was solid, making it easier to get the thin coat you need on your cast iron.  

I think where I went astray in my past cast iron seasoning attempts was that I had too much vegetable oil and it puddled or baked unevenly. The puck is so easy to use, especially on an ongoing basis after each use.  I may give the stick a try next time just to compare.  The puck is $7 and the stick $10, but shipping is free.  

  • After thoroughly coating your cast iron with your preferred grease/oil (I’m sticking with Crisbee!) and getting any excess off, put your pieces in the oven.  I put my dutch oven in upside down so that any runoff wouldn’t puddle on the bottom of my pot.  
  • Bake for 1 hour.
  • Let cool to the touch, but still warm and repeat the greasing/oiling and baking process 2-3 more times.  
  • TADA!!  Will you look at that shine!!  That’s pure non-stick goodness right there!!Rescue Rusted Cast Iron Cookware

How to Keep Cast Iron Well-Seasoned:

  • After each use, dry your cast iron, heat slightly and rub Crisbee over the cooking surface.  Wipe off with paper towel (or soy ink newspaper) and store.

Lessons Learned:

I had read somewhere that instead of baking the cast iron in your oven, you could do it outside on your grill.  Even though I think the Crisbee put off fewer fumes than regular vegetable oil, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there is still the burnt oil smell coming out of your oven. So, I thought ‘What a great idea!” and turned my grill on.  

Here’s the rub…my grill thermometer doesn’t work very well…I guess.  After one hour, my grill/griddle looked like it did after the self-cleaning mode which removed the oil I had just put on…obviously my grill was hotter than what the thermostat claimed.  Plus there’s the whole thing of having indirect heat in the oven versus direct flames on the grill. 

At the end of the day, I figured I was better off doing it inside and dealing with the burnt vegetable oil smell.  Luckily it’s a cool day and I can have the windows open.  

So, now that I’ve taken my cast iron cookware down and built the finish back up, I am determined to keep it well-seasoned on a regular basis as opposed to having to go through this process again.  You need to invest several hours (4 hours for the self-clean cycle, plus 3-4 for each 450° ‘baking’ cycle…so up to 20-hours total baking time.)  Granted, you are not actively involved for most of the time and the process can be spread out as long as you need, but why even bother if you just keep it well seasoned!  (Can you hear me  motivating myself to do a better maintenance job?)

This was on my to-do list for some time and it feels good to scratch off of my list RESCUE RUSTED CAST IRON COOKWARE!  Yay me!  Now I can start doing fun stuff…like getting ready for the upcoming holidays!

To refer back to these tips on How to Rescue Rusted Cast Iron Cookware, bookmark this page or pin the following image.image of rusted cast iron and well-seasoned cast iron

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Rescue Rusted Cast Iron Cookware





  1. Carolyn

    November 4, 2015 at 11:46 am

    Wow, thank you for the great details! I need to save this post (and get some Crisbee!).

    • lynn

      November 4, 2015 at 1:04 pm

      Thanks Carolyn! I do like the Crisbee…gonna order some more soon just to make sure I have it on hand.

  2. Robin

    November 4, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    I am also a lover of cast iron. I will have to give Crisbee a try. Thanks for the tip!

    • lynn

      November 4, 2015 at 1:11 pm

      Hey Robin of the very cool West Elm Curtain Rods and now the equally clever wishbone napkin rings! Thanks for stopping by today. Give the Crisbee a try and let me know what you think. It’s working well for me!

  3. Linda

    November 5, 2015 at 8:09 am

    Hi Lynn, thank you for the nice review on Crisbee.

    • lynn

      November 5, 2015 at 12:33 pm

      You are very welcome Linda! Just speaking the truth!

      Have a great day, Lynn

  4. Bradley Stuart

    January 1, 2016 at 11:31 am

    Thank you for the nice review, we appreciate it very much!

    • lynn

      January 1, 2016 at 7:44 pm

      You are very welcome Bradley. I do think you’ve got a great product and I’m glad I found it. Happy New Year!


  5. Jamie @ Medium Sized Family

    January 20, 2016 at 8:54 am

    I have a couple of cast iron skillets that need a rehab. It seemed so intimidating, but this post makes it seem doable. I think I’ll give it a try! Thanks so much!

    • lynn

      January 22, 2016 at 2:40 pm

      Good luck with re-doing your cast iron. It wasn’t hard…just a little time consuming. I do have to say that I like the crisbee puck. Thanks for stopping by and hope you have a great weekend.


  6. Tara @ KitchenSanity

    May 28, 2016 at 2:27 am

    Hey Lynn,

    What do you think of the enamel coated cast iron pans?

    I haven’t personally tested them out yet, but they seem to have all the benefits of cast iron without rusting problems or having to season them.


    • lynn

      May 28, 2016 at 9:12 am

      Hi Tara! From what I’ve read, Lodge and Le Creuset have their products independently tested for safety in terms of lead emissions. I don’t know about some of the other brands.
      I love they way they look and may some day invest in them, but have had a hard time justifying the price tag when my lodge cast iron dutch ovens and skillets do the exact same thing at 1/10th of the price. But…if someone wanted to send one my way, I’d love to be on the receiving end of that present!
      What are your thoughts?

  7. Ferland

    December 8, 2017 at 9:29 am

    I performed this process on an iron skillet we bought at a garage sale for $2. It turned out perfect. Thanks

    • lynn

      December 9, 2017 at 1:25 pm

      Oh Ferland, I am so glad to hear that you had the same success that we did. Did you use the Crisbee puck? I love that stuff!

      Thanks for sharing your successes.


  8. S. Smalley

    August 29, 2018 at 9:28 am

    Crisbee is my go-to seasoning agent.
    The resulting finish and no stick skillets are worth the effort that it takes to do a good job.
    I’ve been using Crisbee for a long time now. I’m not affiliated with the company or the product although I would love to be!
    Brad Stuart is the owner and Crisbee is entirely a family owned business here in the USA.
    Lynn, your instructions and review are excellent.

    Thanks so much!


    • lynn

      September 5, 2018 at 3:33 pm

      So glad to find another Crisbee fan! I started with the puck and now use the stick…and my pans are so much happier. I can’t believe it took me so long to figure out how to take care of my cast iron the right way.

      And thanks for giving my instructions a thumbs up! So glad to have that affirmation.

      Have a great day Sue!


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