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How to Strip a Cast-Iron Skillet

By Cook's Illustrated Published January 2017

Over the lifetime of a cast-iron skillet, you’ll usually just need to maintain or touch up its seasoning. But if the seasoning becomes very dull or damaged or if the pan badly rusts (it can’t be scrubbed away), you’ll need to give it an overhaul by stripping and reseasoning the surface.

Follow this method to completely remove any residual seasoning on a cast-iron pan before reseasoning it. Easy-Off Oven Cleaner is a caustic alkali, so be sure to work outdoors, wear rubber gloves, and avoid spraying near your face or skin. The skillet will rust instantly once you’ve discarded the vinegar-water solution and rinsed and dried the skillet in step 5, so be sure to immediately apply oil to the surface.

1. Working outdoors, place concrete block on ground and cover with heavy-duty kitchen trash bag, draping bag over block so that sides of bag will be easy to grasp and pull up over skillet.

2A. Place skillet upside down on top of block. Wearing rubber gloves, spray skillet all over with Easy-Off Oven Cleaner, being careful to keep spray away from your face and exposed skin.

2B. Flip skillet over and spray inside.

2C. Pull plastic bag up and around skillet and tie to close. Leave wrapped, sprayed skillet outside (or in garage) for 24 hours.

3A. Wearing rubber gloves, remove plastic bag. Scrub skillet all over with steel wool and hot soapy water to remove all residue.

3B. Rinse, repeat scrubbing with steel wool, and rinse again.

4. Combine 2 cups distilled white vinegar with 2 cups water. Fill skillet with vinegar solution and let stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

5. Discard solution in skillet. Rinse skillet well, then dry well with paper towels. Using paper towels, immediately rub 1 tablespoon (for 12-inch skillet) or 2 teaspoons (for 10-inch skillet) oil over surface. Using clean paper towels, thoroughly wipe off excess oil (surface should look dry, not glistening).

6. Heat oven to 500 degrees. Place skillet in oven for 1 hour. Using potholders, remove skillet from oven and let cool completely.