Cast Iron is a great option for cooking, it is durable and can withstand high temperatures. But it does require some care and seasoning to get the most out of it.
I inherited my grandmother’s cast iron skillet, which has become one of my most prized possessions. I have a love-hate relationship with that skillet. For years I abused it unknowingly, and it abused me right back until I learned how to take care of it.
Now I can’t imagine living without it. I make tasty cornbread, use it to get the perfect sear on my juicy steaks, roast chicken and vegetables, bake a decadent blueberry pie, and fry eggs.
- 1 Why Season Cast Iron Cookware?
- 2 What is Seasoning
- 3 What is a Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron?
- 4 How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet?
- 5 When to Re-Season Cast Iron Skillet
- 6 How to Re-Season Cast Iron Skillet
- 7 How to Care for a Cast-iron Skillet
- 8 What to do Next
- 9 FAQs
Why Season Cast Iron Cookware?
There are a few reasons why you should season your cast iron skillet.
- Seasoning will help create a non-stick surface.
- Seasoning will help to prevent rust.
- Seasoning gives the skillet a nice patina that will only get better with age.
What is Seasoning
A cast iron pan is a piece of iron that has been shaped into a cooking vessel. Iron is extremely reactive; it can rust in just minutes in humid air.
Cooking on a bare iron is impossible because it can rust quickly, and the food would stick to it. So it would be best if you seasoned a cast iron pan before cooking in it.
Seasoning is a thin layer of polymerized oil on the surface of a cast iron pan. Properly seasoned cast iron is one that has been rubbed with oil and heated repeatedly.
As a result, the oil is broken down into a plastic-like substance that has bonded to the surface of the metal. This process is called polymerization, and this is what gives well-seasoned cast iron its non-stick properties.
What is a Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron?
The new cast iron skillet almost always has some pre-seasoning on it when it leaves the factory, but you should usually add a few more layers on top of it to make sure it’s good.
How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet?
Cast iron skillets can be a little daunting to the season at first, but it’s really not that hard. Just follow these simple steps, and your skillet will be good to go! The more you use your cast iron skillet and maintain it, the more seasoned it will become.
Step 1: Wash and Towel-Dry Your Pan
Since you can’t be certain of what happened to any cookware between when it left the factory and when it arrived in your kitchen, you should always wash it before using it.
So before beginning to season your cast iron pan first, scrub your skillet with hot, soapy water. Rinse it off and dry it completely. And if you are wondering: it is a myth that you can’t use soap to clean cast iron.
The best course of action is to place the pan over a stovetop flame for a few minutes to drive off any leftover water because even after towel-drying, some surface moisture may still be present.
Step 2: Rub Oil and Buff Well
Now that your skillet is clean and dry, it’s time to oil it. Spread a thin layer of vegetable or canola oil all over the skillet’s surface. Make sure you get into all the nooks and crannies. Oil the handle and the back side of the pan too. Use a paper towel to rub the oil around until the entire surface is coated.
The trick is to properly buff the pan after applying the oil so that it no longer appears oily. Even a small amount of extra oil on the pan might pool during seasoning and develop sticky patches on your cooking surface.
What Oil to Season Cast Iron with?
Seasoning a cast iron skillet helps to create a non-stick surface and prevents food from sticking. In my experience, there is no need to buy any special oils just for seasoning.
For seasoning my pans, I prefer using unsaturated cooking fats like vegetables, canola, and corn oil. They work well and are easier to spread than saturated fats like shortening or lard, and I always have them in my pantry. Many people prefer grapeseed oil to season cast iron.
Can You Use Olive Oil to Season Cast Iron?
It Depends on the type of olive oil. Extra virgin will burn and taste awful because it has a very low smoke point. The extra light will be preferable because it has a greater smoke point. However, neither of them will compare to an oil with a high smoke point, such as canola or avocado.
Can you Season Cast Iron with Avocado Oil?
Avocado oil is a good option because it has a high smoke point and is healthy for you.
Step 3: Bake it in the Oven
Place the skillet in a 450° F preheated oven. Bake for an hour. Keep the exhaust fan running because the polymerization process could result in smoke.
I prefer to invert the skillet and set a baking sheet underneath to collect any oil drips when baking. Doing this ensures that no extra oil collects inside the pan and leads to uneven seasoning throughout the initial seasoning process.
Step 4: Repeat 3 to 4 Times
Carefully using oven mitts take out the skillet once the hour has passed. Allow it to cool down. Now use more oil to buff it out once more. After that, re-bake it in the oven for an hour. To lay down a solid foundation of your own seasoning, you should repeat this procedure three to four times in total.
The pan is now ready for cooking.
When to Re-Season Cast Iron Skillet
If you have cast iron skillet for a while, it’s important to pay attention to it and check if it needs re-seasoning.
A skillet must be re-seasoned if it has rusty spots or the food is sticking to the surface. It will look bluish silver in natural sunlight and will reflect a silvery tint. A well-seasoned skillet should be matte black and dull, and food shouldn’t easily stick to it.
How to Re-Season Cast Iron Skillet
Put the skillet in the sink and add just enough water to barely cover the bottom of the pan.
Add half a cup of kosher salt to the pan and use a non-metal scrub to rub salt and water into the skillet’s surface. The salt’s abrasive texture aids in the removal of carbon and food debris that has accumulated on the top.
Clean and towel-dry the skillet after rinsing it. To completely dry, place in a 375°F oven for 10 minutes. Remove cast iron from the oven, raise the temperature to 450°F, and buff with just enough canola or vegetable oil to thoroughly cover the skillet.
Place the skillet in the oven upside down and a tray or a piece of aluminum foil below to collect any oil drips.
Spend an hour heating the pan in the oven. The pan should now be matte in appearance rather than sheening.
Add a tiny bit more oil; rub it on the hot surface. Before storing it in a dry location, allow it to cool.
How to Care for a Cast-iron Skillet
After each usage, gently wash your skillet with water and a tiny bit of soap, if necessary.
Use a two-sided sponge with a hard scrubbing side as opposed to abrasive steel wool. Ensure you always properly dry it with a kitchen towel after washing and rinsing it and place it in the heated oven for 10 minutes.
Then take it out of the oven and cover it with a thin layer of vegetable or canola oil using a paper towel.
In order for the oil to undergo the chemical reaction necessary to form a polymer that protects the surface, you want to add it to the cast iron while it’s still hot. Place in a dry location.
Don’t Marinate in Cast Iron
Acidic mixtures like vinegar, lemon, or tomato marinade will erode the seasoning. If you see rust, food particles sticking, or a metallic taste, re-season the pan as explained above.
Always Use Some Fat
Use any fat like oil, butter, or shortening in the cast iron skillet before beginning to cook, and heat the pan on low heat before gradually raising the heat.
What to do Next
If you own a cast iron skillet, you must also be aware of how to season your cast iron correctly; otherwise, food will adhere to the surface, and the pan will be more susceptible to rust.
Daily maintenance of your cast iron skillet is just as important as seasoning it if you want it to last for generations. Wondering what to cook first in a cast iron skillet. Try searing a perfect steak.
What is the best oil to season a cast iron skillet?
While any cooking oil or fat can be used to season cast iron, I suggest using neutral oils such as vegetable oil or canola oil because they are readily available, affordable, and have a high smoke point.
Whatever oil you decide to use, it’s critical to heat your pan to that oil’s smoke point. The oil bonds to your pan to form a coating of natural seasoning when it reaches that smoke point, thanks to a chemical process called polymerization.
How many times do you season a cast iron skillet?
When starting with a new cast iron skillet, it’s a good practice to repeat the seasoning process 3 to 4 times, even if it is pre-seasoned. This will create a strong protective layer on the metal.
But keep in mind that you will almost certainly be using some oil or fat every time you use your cast iron pan, so your pan’s seasoning will gradually get stronger with regular usage and maintenance.
How long do you season a cast iron skillet?
Bake the cast iron for 30 minutes. Take it out of the oven oil and re-buff it. Re-bake for 30 minutes. Repeat the process 3 to 4 times.
How can you tell if cast iron is seasoned?
Well Seasoned cast iron has a dull matte black finish. There are no rusty patches, and the food does not stick to it easily.