Rusty pan? Here's what to do.

If your cast-iron cookware has rusty patches, looks a bit dull, or isn't as nonstick as it used to be, it's time to reseason. Most cast- iron pans, even ones that get heavy use (like my favorite skillet), need to be reseasoned from time to time. With a little effort, it's easy to revive worn-out cast iron and make it look smooth and glossy again. Here's what to do:

1. Clean

Scrub the pan well in hot, soapy water. Yes, using a little soap is fine in this case because you are reseasoning the pan. Use a nylon scrub brush or fine steel wool scrubber to remove rust, if needed. Once the pan is clean, dry it thoroughly inside and out. (And keep the pan dry in the future to prevent rusting.)

2. Oil

Rub a thin layer of vegetable oil or melted shortening over the entire pan. Make sure to cover the inside, outside, and the handle. Don't add too much, you don't want the pan to be so oily that it's slippery. A nice even coating is what you're looking for.

3. Bake

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Place the pan upside down on the middle oven rack. This prevents the oil from pooling inside the pan. Put a sheet of aluminum foil on the lower rack to catch any drips. Bake the pan for one hour.

4. Cool

After one hour, turn off the oven and leave the pan in the oven to cool completely. When the pan is cool, wipe away any excess oil with a paper towel.

When it's time to cook with your shiny new skillet, make sure to wash it with hot water (no soap this time) and dry it completely after each use. If and when it needs to be reseasoned again, now you'll know what to do.