OH THE HORROR!!!
First, calm down. Don’t take it out on the dishwasher who unwittingly washed your cast-iron skillet with soap and water, which can wreak havoc on an otherwise well-seasoned pan. Here’s a quick remedy.
1. Remove the Rust
Grab a dry dishcloth. Apply a small amount of canola oil and rub it into the rust-covered spots. The rust should disappear. If this doesn’t do the trick, grab a dry plastic textured sponge (like a Brill) and rub briskly. If this fails you, go for the steel wool and rub until the rust is removed.
2. Re-Season the Pan
Now that you have successfully removed the rust, if the raw cast iron is showing (you’ll see a dull silver color) you must re-season your pan. Seasoning is a curing process through which the pores of the iron are sealed with oil, which is why cast iron functions a bit like a non-stick pan. In order to season, you must coat the pan with a thin layer of oil and bake it in. I usually bake mine at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the pan (larger pans require more time).
3. Clean It Properly
Once your cast iron is seasoned and you have cooked your meal, how do you properly clean it?
Rule # 1: DO NOT use soap. Soap breaks down oil, which will ruin your great job of seasoning.
Rule # 2: DO NOT soak your pan. Water and oil don’t mix. Soaking for long periods can un-do seasoning. Simply wash your pan with warm water and a textured sponge and wipe with a dry towel. To ensure no rust will come to your treasured pan, a quick heated dry in the oven will do.
For more tips on how to properly clean and care for your cast iron, visit our friends at Lodge. Their centuries of cast iron manufacturing means they've seen it all, and we turn to them for help with our own cast iron issues.