How to Un-Season Your Cast Iron Skillet

One night last week I made the huge mistake of putting wine in my cast iron skillet. Now, I’m not cookware-ninny… I know my stuff pretty well. And the entire time that I was lifting the wine bottle from my counter, removing the cork, and pouring Sauvignon Blanc into the pan, this little voice in my head was screaming, “STOP! WHAT ARE YOU DOING??”

Problem is, that bottle was already a third empty, and me being a notorious lightweight, I wasn’t exactly thinking clearly by that point. While my pan sauce was amazingly tasty, as soon as I scrubbed out my beloved cast iron, its seasoning came right off in the wash water. FAIL.

I’ve spent the past week trying to fix the cooking surface, which has been a major pain because the coating never comes off evenly; rather, it flakes off in chunks in some places while it stays completely in tact in others. If you reseason it, you end up with this half bumpy, half smooth work surface that just won’t do if you want to keep food from sticking to your pan.

So I’ll keep scrubbing it, trying to level the surface so that I can start fresh. Let my mistake be a lesson to you – Julia Child’s “a little for the sauce, a little for me” can buy you a whole lot of *@&#(*@&#.

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Comments from other ninjas:

  1. Sarah says

    I sure can understand your ^%$$^$%#$%#$%#!, my cast iron skillet is
    my favorite thing in the kitchen so if something happened to it I would be pretty mad myself! but hey, the sauce was good at least :-)

  2. Kay says

    My caste iron skillet suffered when it was in a non-climate controlled storage facility for 9 months. I think I’m going to give in, get some steel wool & scrub it down…and then re-season completely. WAH! Decades of seasoning down the drain.

    • steph says

      Looks like I might have to do the same thing – mine’s been abused by a friend who didn’t know how to take care of it. Snap! Does yours have a rougher texture or more smooth? I’ve seen a few pans lately that have a completely smooth surface with very little texture, and mine’s a little rough.

  3. Tina says

    Hi Steph,
    I have 2 skillets and one has the smooth surface. The other is a little rough and even potatoes will stick in it. The one with the smooth surface is the oldest and is like a non-stick skillet–only better because I can cook on med-hi without worry. I love that thing and won’t let anybody near it. :o) The other is fairly new and didn’t get a good seasoning. My grandmother (who was a lil’ Southern gal) swore by animal fat to season pans. This last one I tried to season with vegetable oil. Won’t do that again. Anyway, I’m just getting ready to scrub it down with steel wool and start again. Honestly, I don’t think there’s any use trying to get it smooth/will have to start all over. :o(

    • steph says

      You know, I have the same issue – one skillet that’s smooth and another that’s rough. I think the smooth one, which is very old, was scrubbed down over the years with a steel wool. I’m not positive, though. I’ve tried scrubbing the new, rough one smooth with steel wool, but it’s pretty slow going.

      My newer, rougher skillet causes everything to stick as well. What brand is yours? Mine’s a Lodge. I wonder if it’s a brand thing? Maybe another brand would be easier to smooth out?

  4. Micah says

    Hah, that’s a pretty funny story. We use white wine in a lot of sauces – I’ll have to remember not to add it if it’s in our cast iron skillet (usually don’t cook with that though). :)

  5. jackie says

    the older ones were made with the best iron ore, and they were machined to make them smooth on the cooking surface. the new ones are bumpy and i don’t think there is much you can to to fix that. not without a whole lot of trouble, anyhow.
    to the person who thinks she wrecked her skillet with wine- you cannot wreck it that way!
    it will be fine. you just have to strip it down and start cooking in it again.
    there are lots of websites for how to do this. check out Black Iron Dude, in particular.

    basically, you just put it into a plastic garbage bag andspray it with oven cleaner. set it in the sun for a couple of days. wash it out really well (yes, use soap for this step). dry it. oil it. cook in it, with oil. you can go thru the whole heating it up in the oven to season it process, but that is not really necessary, in the end. cooking in it is what really seasons it.

  6. kitchen equipment says

    Ouch, that’s pretty harsh. Re-seasoning iron cookware is no easy feat… At least not in my opinion. Good luck!


  7. kitchen equipment says

    Just how you managed to un-season your skillet with white wine, despite your better judgement! Did you manage to re-season it in the end?

  8. Curtis Jorgensen says

    This is what I have done in the past. After picking up a really ugly skillet at a garage sale, I get home and spray the top and bottom with Fume Free Easy Off Oven Cleaner. Set it in the sink for a bit and depending on how bad it is, you might have to do this more than once. Once the oven cleaner is dark I use hot water with lots of soap and a scrub pad. My hands are pretty tough but you might use gloves at this point. After getting it really clean I pull out the Crisco. Using a paper towel or a food service glove I coat the insides. I don

    • Stephanie Stiavetti says

      Thank you for the tips! I have an old pan here that needs to be cleaned up – I think I’ll try your cleaning technique.