Non-stick, durable and easy to clean, cast iron pans are a favorite among many home cooks. Unfortunately, cracked cast iron skillets can happen, as can other problems like rust and burnt-on food. Although it's heartbreaking to pull out your favorite cast iron pan and find it damaged, try not to despair. You can almost always repair cast iron pieces rather than parting with them.
Warped pans, however, are the exception. If your cast iron pan has warped, it's time to say goodbye. There is no way to fix warping and return the pan back to its original state. Still, you don't have to throw your pan away, necessarily. If it was a family heirloom or simply loved like a family member, consider keeping the pan and displaying it in your kitchen.
Castaloy Cast Iron Repair
Luckily, the outlook for cracked pans isn't nearly as grim as it is for warped ones. You have two options for fixing a cracked pan. The first is to take the pan to a local weld shop and ask them to weld it back together for you. Once repaired, you can bring the cast iron pan back home and reseason it.
You can also use a product known as Castaloy for at-home repair. To do so, you can purchase a Castaloy cast iron repair kit from the company's website. But before you use the product, thoroughly clean your pan with a wire brush to remove any dirt or debris. When you're done, apply the surface preparation fluid that comes in your repair kit to the pan.
Now that the pan is ready, Castaloy instructs users to heat it using a handheld propane torch. When the pan is hot enough, a Castaloy rod held against the surface will begin to melt. When it does, tilt the pan so that the melted liquid runs into, and thoroughly covers, the crack in your pan. Allow the pan to cool completely, and then file away any excess Castaloy product so that the surface of the pan is smooth.
Repairing Rust Spots
Cast iron must always be dried completely if it gets wet. If it's not, you may encounter a few rust spots when you go to use it. You can remove small rust stains easily by rubbing them with a little steel wool and reseasoning the pan.
To remove more intense rust spots, fill your sink or dish tub with equal parts vinegar and water. Soak the pan until the rust flakes away under your fingernail. Although a pan can soak for up to eight hours, check the pan often and remove it from the vinegar as soon as possible. If you wait too long, the vinegar may cut through the rust and begin eating away at the surface of the pan.
When the rust loosens, scrub the pan with some steel wool and dish soap. Rinse the pan, dry it thoroughly and season it before you try cooking with it again.
Removing Burnt-On Food
Distractions happen in the kitchen, and they can mean turning away from the stove just long enough to burn food. To get the now-charred food off your pan, let it cool, then generously sprinkle it with sea salt. Scrub the pan with a damp washcloth, using a circular motion that rubs the salt firmly against the food. If you encounter a few stubborn spots, scrape them with a plastic scraper.
Whenever possible, avoid removing burnt food with steel wool. If you can skip it, you can clean the pan without having to reseason it. Severely scalded food and antique cast iron repair may not allow for this, however. A salt scrub may not cut through foods you really committed to burning, and antique cast iron can honestly be pretty funky.
In these cases, scrub your pan vigorously with steel wool until it reverts back to its original blue-gray color. Then, dry and season it so its ready when you need it.