Everyone’s got a skeleton or two in the closet, and one of ’em just might be the secret shame of having let your cast iron pan fall into disuse. Or, let’s give you the benefit of the doubt and say that you happened upon a garage sale helmed by a soul careless enough to part with the greatest cooking implement known to modern (and old-timey) humanity. Sucks to be them / rocks to be you. But before you start frying huevos and flipping flapjacks, you’ve gotta get the rust and grime scraped off, then season the metal so the pan releases food easily and lasts a lifetime. This task is not nearly as daunting as the Big Nonstick Pan Lobby might have led you to believe. 

We called in Toups’ Meatery chef/owner and Top Chef season 13 fan favorite Isaac Toups to demonstrate how to bring a neglected cast-iron skillet back from the dead (after which he insisted that we refer to him as “The Cast-Iron Necromancer”) and season it to last a lifetime.

It can take a bit of patience and arm strength to resurrect a rusted pan—even if you’re a brawny Cajun chef—but Toups swears it’s all for posterity. “There’s no reason this pan can’t last ’til your grandbabies.” Who you’ll presumably teach not to let their freaking heirloom cast iron deteriorate into rusted-up crap.

What you need to clean and season rusty cast iron: 

  • Spatula
  • Steel wool
  • Medium-grit sandpaper
  • Salt
  • Old kitchen towels
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Heat source

Watch the video above to see how Toups works his skillet-saving magic, then learn how to clean stuck-on food from a cast-iron pan.