How to Sand, Polish, and Resurface Rough Cast Iron Skillets
In this step-by-step guide, we are going to take a brand new Lodge 8" cast iron skillet, sand it down to the bare metal, and resurface it.
In essence, we are going to make our lovely Lodge cast iron better!
Let's get to it!
Other awesome cast iron guides!
- How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet Without an Oven in 5 Steps
- 9 Awesome Benefits of Cast Iron Skillets
Why Is New Cast Iron Rough?
So before we get into how to polish rough cast iron, let's briefly cover why it is rough in the first place. Why aren’t they shiny and smooth like every other piece of modern cookware?
The modern cast iron skillet is made by pouring molten metal into molds made of sand and clay. Once the iron cools, the molds are broken and the newly formed cast iron skillet is revealed.
However, because these molds are made of sand, a rough and porous texture remains etched into the cast iron.
This is why the surface of cast iron has such a spongy look. Check out the close-up image above!
However, beyond this spongy texture that affects all cast iron, there are two other factors that determine the “smoothness” of your cast iron:
- How well it was polished.
- The type of seasoning that was used.
These factors typically affect the end price of your skillet. Companies that spend a little more time polishing and seasoning their skillet typically charge more.
So when it comes to the price of your cast iron, the smoothness of the cooking surface plays the greatest role.
If you would like to learn more about the process of manufacturing cast iron and why some cast iron is smoother than others be sure to read our article The Real Reason Why Modern Cast Iron is So Rough.
How to Polish and Resurface Rough Cast Iron
Step 1: Collect Everything You Need
The first step to any task is collecting all the materials and tools that you'll need.
To polish and resurface cast iron you will need at minimum the following things.
- 40 Grit Sandpaper: You are going to be sanding away several layers of iron, so you're going to want very coarse sandpaper to start. If you begin the sanding process with sandpaper that is too fine, it will not only take forever, but you'll also use a ton of sandpaper to get the same result.
- 80 Grit Sandpaper: After using 40 grit sandpaper, you'll want to use a finer grit to give the surface a smoother finish.
- White Vinegar: Vinegar is very acidic and is useful for eating away any seasoning or other particulates that are left over after sanding.
- Seasoning Oil: After you finish strip your seasoning and polish the iron, you'll need to apply a fresh layer of seasoning. It is critical that this new and first layer of seasoning is a high-quality one so I recommend using flaxseed oil or sunflower oil if you can.
These next items are not necessary, but they can make the job easier and put a more refined touch on the final result.
- Wire Wheel Brush For Drill: If you want to strip the old layer of seasoning off quickly, a wire wheel brush drill bit is a simple and cheap way to go! In this guide, I'll be using one.
- Electric Sander: Sanding your cast iron skillet requires a good amount of elbow grease—especially for larger skillets. If you're not feeling like exerting yourself physically, consider using an electric sander.
- 120/220 Grit Sandpaper: If you want to give the surface of your cast iron skillet a finer finish, consider polishing it off with finer sandpaper such as 120 or 220 grit. You don't need anything finer than this as you want to leave a little texture for your seasoning to grab onto.
Alright, so now that we have everything that we need, let's get to it!
Step 2: Strip the Old Seasoning
The next step is to remove all the old seasoning. This is by far the most tedious part of the whole process but just remember, patience pays!
If you have a wire brush drill bit or an electric sander, this is where that will come in handy, otherwise, you will need to sand your cast iron by hand.
If you are sanding by hand, be sure to start with 40 grit sandpaper!
As you begin to sand away the old seasoning, you'll notice that the cast iron will turn from black to a shiny stainless steel color.
Continue sanding the entire inside surface of your cast iron until there is nothing left but bare metal. Also, try and remove as many of the large pores as you can.
Step 3: Polishing Cast Iron
So we've taken off the bulk of our seasoning and removed many of the large pores, now let's give the surface of our cast that beautiful mirror-like finish!
Our goal here is to remove as many of the scrapes and scratches as we can from our wire brush or coarse sandpaper.
Starting with your lower grit sandpaper—such as 80 grit— begin polishing the inside surface of your skillet.
Continue polishing until you have a smooth and mirror-like finish.
Now if you want to go the extra mile—and I highly recommend doing so—consider polishing your cast iron a few more times with higher grit sandpaper, such as 120 or 220. It is very much worth the effort as there is nothing in this world like a polished cast iron skillet!
Step 4: Cleaning
Alright, so we've removed all the unwanted layers from our cast iron, next we are going to give it a good cleaning!
Fill your cast iron halfway with vinegar and the other half with hot water.
Let your mixture sit for about an hour. The acidity of the vinegar will help eat away any remaining seasoning and give you a clean base to re-apply your seasoning!
Finish by thoroughly rinsing out and drying your skillet with a towel. Be sure to use an old towel or disposable towels as you'll likely wipe off some remaining black residue from your old seasoning.
After drying, place your cast iron on the stovetop on medium heat for about 10 minutes to completely evaporate any remaining moisture and open the pores of the metal.
Step 5: Reseasoning
So your cast iron skillet is now clean, dry, and still slightly hot. Now it's time to start seasoning!
If you can, try and use something like flaxseed, grapeseed, or sunflower oil. These oils have a very high smoke point and low saturated fat content, which results in a slick and durable finish!
Do your best to stay away from oil olive. Not only does olive oil have a very low smoke point – the point at which it starts burning – but it can also degrade quickly and go rancid, which ruins your cast iron's seasoning.
Now that you have your oil pour about a tablespoon into your cast iron pan and smear it around using a towel. Make sure to coat the entire inside – bottom and sides.
Continue to rub it in until it begins to look like it's "soaking in."
Next, grab another clean towel and wipe all of the oil off until all that is left is a very thin layer! If you leave too much oil in the cast iron, it will pool up and form dark and sticky spots. So wipe it down well!
Be sure not to use too much, or your cast iron might come out sticky. Less is always more and it is far easy to apply and cook another coat of oil than it is to remove the seasoning and start over.
Step 6: Cook It!
Heat your oven to 375 degrees and place your cast iron upside down on the middle rack. Place some tin foil or tray underneath it to catch any dripping oils.
Bake it at this temperature for an hour, turn off the heat, and let it sit in the oven and cool!
You can also season your cast iron using your stovetop. Check out our guide on how to do that here!
That's it! Your newly polished cast iron cookware is now ready to cook some delicious meals. I highly recommend cast iron pizza!
Wrapping It Up!
In this guide, we took our old and rough cast iron skillets and gave them a finish so silky smooth that you might even be able to cook eggs in it!
If you found this step-by-step walkthrough helpful, be sure to check out our growing collection of cast iron guides to help keep your cast iron cookware in tip-top shape!