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I absolutely love cooking with a cast iron pan. Cast-iron cookware is super durable and efficient at cooking some of the best meals. It is the workhorse of the kitchen that gets better with time and can virtually last for a lifetime. But cleaning and preserving it can sometimes be challenging, especially if it develops rust.

Rust can easily build on a cast iron pan if it is not properly handled. And if you recently picked one up from a thrift store, yard sale, or flea market, then there is a good chance it may have a little surface rust.

The good news is that rust removal is a relatively simple process, and I have the perfect solution to get your rusty cast iron pan in tip-top condition. Check out my step-by-step guide on removing rust from the cast iron grill pans.

cast iron pans

How to Get Rust Off Cast Iron

Supplies Needed to Remove Rust

cast iron grill pan cleaning supplies

Step 1 – Soak in Vinegar Solution

First, plug your sink or fill a large bucket with a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and hot water. Place the rusty cast iron skillet in the vinegar solution and let it soak.

The vinegar soak time should be no more than about an hour. The vinegar mixture is the best solution to help remove the rust on the cast iron pan.

Step 2 – Scrub it

Once soaking is completed, the next step is to rinse off the rusty cast-iron grill pan and add a small amount of dish soap and baking soda.

Scrub the entire pan with steel wool or a scrub brush to fully remove the rust. If it is heavily rusted with deep rust spots, you will need to use a little elbow grease for extra cleaning power on the remaining rust.

steel wool on cast iron grill pan

Step 3 – Rinse it with clean water

Wash off the pan under warm water to remove the remaining residue and cleaning solutions.

rinsing cast iron grill pan

Step 4 – Dry it thoroughly

Begin drying the cast iron grill pan very thoroughly. This is going to be key. You can use a dish towel, rag, or clean paper towel to get rid of all the water and remaining moisture from the entire skillet.

dish rag on cast iron grill pan

Step 5 – Season it

Since cast iron on its own is just that, iron. It can easily rust once again if it is not seasoned properly. Since the scrubbing removed the pan’s natural patina and the rust, you’ll need to re-season it.

Seasoning the cast iron grill pan helps to form a naturally nonstick surface coating that prevents it from rusting again. The seasoning likely eroded with the cleaning of the cast iron grill pan.

To help re-season your cast iron grill pan, apply a very thin layer of oil. You can use your preferred cooking oil here including vegetable oil, canola oil, olive oil, or flaxseed oil. Use a dry paper towel and apply it all over the pan, including the sides, handle, and bottom. Try not to add excess oil during the seasoning process.

Lastly, put the oiled-down cast iron grill pan on the bottom rack of the oven for an hour at 400 degrees. And that should do it.

What causes rust on cast iron grill pans?

Cast-iron pans are susceptible to rust. Rust can develop from improper care, negligence, or simply by how it’s stored.

Rust happens when your cookware is exposed to moisture for long periods. In a kitchen, this is considered normal. Even the most seasoned cast iron grill pan can rust if placed in the dishwasher, left in the sink, or allowed to air dry.

How quickly can cast iron rust?

A cast iron grill pan can rust within hours to a few days, but it greatly depends on the practices you follow, its exposure to moisture, and how it is stored.

For example, if it is soaked in cold water, it can rust within an hour. If it is in a moist or damp area, it can rust in a couple of days.

What is the best cast iron grill pan to buy?

Cast iron grill pans are very affordable and budget-friendly. The best cast iron grill pan and the one that I use is this Lodge Cast Iron Square Grill Pan,  Pre-Seasoned, 10.5-inch. It was purchased at a garage sale.

It is well-designed and super durable, with long squared grill ridges stretching to the pan’s border. It heats up quickly and keeps an even temperature, making the perfect meals.

Another great option is The Whatever Pan by Jean Patrique. This one is a bit fancier and lighter but beautifully designed, with a round shape that maximizes the cooking surface. It can be used on the stovetop, oven, over gas, or on a camping fire.

How do you clean it after each use?

Contrary to your beliefs, once you have restored the pan, try not to reach for the dish soap to clean it immediately. Instead, the easy way to clean it is to rub the pan with coarse kosher salt to remove cooking debris and food particles.

Use a non-scratch scouring pad or grill brush to fit and scrub between the grates with hot water.

You can certainly use mild soap for tougher jobs, but sparingly. Then, use a paper towel or clean cloth to dry it thoroughly, and then add a little oil to maintain the seasoning.

Why should you restore a cast iron grill pan?

The cast iron grill pan is likely one of your mom’s or grandmother’s favorite cookware. It may have been passed down from generation to generation. If that’s not enough, here are a few reasons to consider restoring your cast iron cookware.

  • It cooks better when it’s used and well-seasoned. Some people even prefer to buy their cast iron grill pan pre-owned or used because of the layers of seasoning that have built up over time through use.
  • It is extremely heavy and sturdy because it’s made of iron. No matter what you do, it won’t get damaged and will practically last forever.
  • It cooks food more evenly than most other cookware. And will hold onto that heat far more effectively than other materials, allowing for even cooking and heat distribution.
  • It’s versatile and can be used on the stovetop and the oven at a very high temperature.
  • It’s super versatile and can make several types of dishes. You can practically do everything from sauteing, searing, braising, and roasting steak, chicken, potatoes, and other delectable dishes in a cast iron grill pan.

Tips to Prevent Future Rust in Cast Iron

It’s not hard to prevent a cast iron grill pan from rusting. Here are a few tips on the best way to prevent rusting:

  • Do not use a dishwasher. Cast iron grills are not technically dishwasher safe. A Dishwasher will break down the seasoning and soak it for a long time. Instead, wash it by hand in a sink and wipe it clean after use with a paper towel.
  • Do not keep it in the sink immersed in water. Keeping it immersed in water will guarantee it rust within the hour.
  • Do not let it air dry. Dry it thoroughly after each clean.
  • Keep it seasoned – Apply a protective layer of oil after each clean
  • Try to put a paper towel between the pan and anything you place it on.
  • Store in a dry place – Keeping the cast iron dry will prevent rusting.
  • If the cast iron skillet comes with a lid, do not store it with the lid on. The lid can trap moisture from the air between the lid and the pan, resulting in rust.
  • Avoid cooking acidic goods if your cast iron pan has not been fully seasoned.

And there you have it, a guide on removing rust from the cast iron grill pan. I hope you have found these simple steps helpful.

Proper care will be vital in preventing your cast iron grill from rusting. Cast iron grill pans will continue to be a staple item in the kitchen that gets better with age. Proper cleaning will allow you to have the cast iron grill pan for a lifetime.

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Tamara White is the creator and founder of The Thrifty Apartment, a home decor and DIY blog that focuses on affordable and budget-friendly home decorating ideas and projects. Tamara documents her home improvement journey, love of thrifting, tips for space optimization, and creating beautiful spaces.

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