A good cast iron pan will serve you well for a lifetime -- and with care, can be handed down, too. If you find one that's rusted and forgotten in a charity store, it's not too hard to bring back to life. All you need is a little oven cleaner.
Over at Serious Eats, culinary director Daniel Gritzer explains how to search for good vintage cast iron and check it for flaws or defects. Make sure you look for cracks and pitting -- cracks can make the pan useless and fragile, and excessive pitting can make it difficult to get an even season once you've cleaned it back up.
You can restore the pan at home with any oven cleaner that has lye in it. Lye is the key to cleaning all the grime, rust and dirt off those old pans. Spray it all over, making sure you don't get the stuff on your clothes or skin, and then put the pans into heavy plastic bags. Let them set for 24 hours before cleaning them off and re-applying if necessary.
From there, the site suggest removing any remaining rust with vinegar using a method we've shown you before, and then going ahead and re-applying a fresh season to the pan. Hit the link below to see the whole guide from start to finish.
How to Restore Vintage Cast-Iron Cookware [Serious Eats]