Saving Old Cast Iron

10/17/2011 06:17 pm ET | Updated Oct 18, 2011

The Splendid Table's® How to Eat Supper, By Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Dear Lynne,

My find of the week was two cast iron pans at the thrift shop for almost pennies. They are a little rusty. Can I use them? What do I have to do?

Andy from New York City


Dear Andy,

You scored. Cast iron lasts for generations. Scrub away the rust with steel wool soap pads and hot water. Dry them over a very low stove burner. Let the pans cool off the heat, then "season" them; that is, prepare them for cooking.

To Season Cast Iron: Generously rub the pans inside and out with a flavorless oil (canola, corn or safflower). Bake them in a 300ºF oven for an hour, then turn off the heat. Leave them in the oven as they cool completely. Wipe out the excess oil and repeat the process two more times.

Lightly scrub the pans out after cooking with just a little coarse salt, paper towels and warm water. Never use soap or steel wool again, nor put them in the dishwasher. Wash them with hot water and scrub with salt if anything sticks. Always dry them thoroughly over low heat. Rub on a little oil before storing. In a short time, the pans will be slick and almost nonstick.