When I was a wee lass, my knowledge of all things domestic was at its lowest, (22 – when I got married). I got a cast iron grill pan and then practically threw it away out of disgust. I actually put it in the garage, which is death to most things. I had heard wonders about cooking with cast iron and was frustrated with the performance. I didn’t know any better.
I had no clue how to use it. So I had thrown some veggies on there and after it inevitably stuck all over and was annoying to clean (I know, shudder, I used a brillo pad on the poor thing), I doomed it to hell.
A few years, one move and some cast iron knowledge later, I dug it out of my garage. This is what I found.
It was covered in rust. Nast. I did some research and found a great, chemical free way to strip all the rust off the pan. This vinegar-method might also be good for those of you who have mistreated your pans and need to start fresh. OR, let’s say you find some cast iron at a thrift store or garage sale, but the pan seems suspect. By doing this, you can strip is down to bare. Good as new.
Now cast-iron is one of those things that people care for in their own special way. Some people have pans that have been passed down to them and they follow the exact method for care that their grandfather taught them. Everyone else’s way, is not necessarily wrong, but not as awesome as their own. So if you google “clean cast iron with vinegar”, you will get a different result every single time. Although this way worked for me, there a million different ways to clean/season your cast iron.
Firstly, grab some apple cider vinegar Because of the plastic tub I had, I needed to 2 gallons. You need enough to submerge your pan (use a plastic container).
Let your pan soak. I left mine in for a total of 2 1/2 days. Once a day, I would pull it out, rinse it off and inspect it. If there was still rust, I’d pop it back in there. You’ll know the rust is coming off when you see it foaming at the surface.
Some pans, depending on the size and/or damage may need to soak longer. In the video tutorial I watched back when I did this last year, they soaked a cost iron dutch oven for over a week. Once you deem your pan rust-free, rinse it off.
It’s important to note, vinegar will not only strip the rust, it will strip everything. So you’ll need to season your pan as your last step. I am by no means an expert on this. I usually google something and go for it. I followed Paul Wheaton’s example. He makes a note that you don’t need to season your pan. Remember, he didn’t just strip his with vinegar. You’ll need to, but if you take care of it you might never need to again!
Here’s my pan right at the end of the seasoning process. It was hot, with grease all over, but it was easiest to see, NO MORE RUST!