Ask CRAFT: Rusty Baking Pan

Craft & Design Food & Beverage

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This week’s question comes from the inside: Craftzine Managing Editor Shawn Connally asks:

I got out my loaf pans to make banana bread this afternoon and one of the pans had rust in it. I scrubbed it well, but the rust is still on there, or at least the color of rust is on there. Can I still use the pan, or is it dangerous and should be used to store loose screws or something like that?

First off, if your pan is nonstick or coated with any sort of flaky chemical coating, toss it. Shawn’s pan, pictured above, isn’t coated, so it’s just metal we’re dealing with, not harmful disintegrating nastiness that’s going to leech into your baked goods. If it’s not coated, you can deal with the rust and save your pan. A little bit of rust, like above, especially if cleaned as much as you can get it clean, isn’t going to hurt you. Grease your pan well and bake on. You can also line your pan with parchment paper to prevent rust contact. If it bothers you or is worse than above, keep reading.

Scrub It

Using an abrasive pad and some pumice cleaner like Bon Ami or Comet, scrub out the rust. If that gets it all, skip to the seasoning step. If not…

Sand It

Get some wet/dry sandpaper in a few different grits (available at the hardware store, it’s usually dark gray in color). Wet the pan and sand away the rust. This takes a bit of elbow grease! If your sandpaper gets clogged with rust, rinse the whole operation and keep going. Keep in mind that sandpaper wears out after a bit, too, so switch to a new piece if your working piece feels too smooth. Start with larger grits (lower numbers), and proceed to finer grits (higher numbers). Wash the pan with soap and water.

Season It

Now it’s time to keep the rust from coming back. You’ll need to keep moisture and oxygen from getting at the bare metal at the same time, because they react with iron (which is a major component of steel), creating rust. That means if it’s wet, there shouldn’t be any air getting to it, and if there’s air getting to it, it should be dry. Considering humidity and the fact that baked good start out as moisture-rich batters and doughs, seasoning the pan is necessary. This involves coating the pan with a thin layer of fat or oil to keep out moisture and air. Conveniently, you usually have to grease your pan anyway before baking to help release the substance after baking. Shortening will do — just rub it over the surface with a paper towel. After baking, clean the pan and grease it again, very lightly. Store the pan in the cabinet, covering it with a dish/paper towel to keep out the dust.

Rust on the Inside vs. Outside

What if the rust is on the outside of the pan? Sand it off as much as you can, but it’s not practical to keep the outside of the pan greasy. Just do what you can to extend the life of the pan by keeping the rust at bay. Oh, and whatever you do, don’t stack that rusty pan on top of another one of the same size! Rust is a contagious reaction, and will easy infect the inside of the stacked pan.

When all else fails, consider switching to Pyrex.

What’s your rusty bakeware advice? Share with us in the comments.

16 thoughts on “Ask CRAFT: Rusty Baking Pan

  1. Kristen says:

    I pretty much agree with this post, however, I would personally not use this pan again because I have no interest in eating rust. If I did I would line it with parchment. That said, as stated in the post, nonstick bakeware is useless and dangerous; the coating was never actually meant to be used at the temperatures at which bake goods are cooked. And that is precisely when chemicals are leached into food. Price really has nothing to do with it, just make sure they’re sturdy and have no coating and you’ll be fine. In addition, nonstick sprays are useless and harmful to both you and your pans. Always use oil or butter, some kind of naturally occurring fat that doesn’t come in an aerosol can. These sprays actually turn your pans into sticky pans that will not release baked goods, leading to the need for vigorous scrubbing. And speaking of vigorous scrubbing, you should never do it do a pan you use for baked goods. Whether you can see or feel them or not, it creates scratches in your pans which will lead to rust and other problems. Soak your pans in warm water and mild detergent, or if necessary a sprinkle of baking soda. If the food won’t come off, repeat. Always dry your pans with a cloth to keep them clean, dry and rust-free.

  2. Bladerunner says:

    I haven’t had too much trouble with rusty bakeware. However, I did have one loaf pan that rusted enough that I wasn’t comfortable using it any longer for baking. So I punched a bunch of holes in the bottom with a hammer and nail, and nailed it by the side to my fence. I put peanuts & corn cobs in it and use it as a squirrel feeder.

  3. kristin says:

    My mom taught me to put my pans in the still-warm oven after washing them. The heat dries them very quickly, and the likelihood of rust is nil. It also saves a lot of room in the drying rack!

  4. Barbara says:

    If they’re metal and rusty, use them for making rose beads!!It’s the rust that gives the beads the black colour and I have a real pig of a time finding rusty things to make them in rather than having to stick rusty nails in then fish them out {ouch}

  5. J. Teeple says:

    Can’t you just line a rusty pan with parchment paper? Or is that not good enough somehow? I ask because I was about to make my first bread loaf in a rusty pan by lining it with parchment paper…

  6. Lita says:

    I’ve always scrubbed metal cookware (namely cast iron) with salt and olive oil to remove rust or any other difficult grime. It seasons my pans while cleaning them at the same time. Then just a quick rinse and a little heat to dry them quickly.
    I have used this method for the occasional baking sheet also and it has worked well for me so far.

  7. says:

    I don’t bake much, but I find that those copper mesh scrubbers like the ones from Chore Boy get rust off of aluminum like a charm. You can use them with soap or not, but I like them because they don’t come with noxious cleaners embedded in them like Brillo pads do.

  8. Bakeware says:

    Me personally, I would not use than pan. I always ensure that my pans are rust free. I am not to sure if rust is poisonous or what but I really don’t care.

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Becky Stern is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

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