Cast iron cookware is durable, sturdy, and will last a lifetime or generation, but only if it’s properly cared for. Seasoning your cast iron before first use and also through years of usage is absolutely critical in determining its lifespan. Now that you know seasoning is critical to the longevity of your cast iron skillet, what’s the best way to season a cast iron skillet?
There are multiple resources out there on how to season a cast iron skillet but hardly any of them talk about the most convenient, cheapest, and best way to season a cast iron skillet effectively to prolong its lifespan and give you many more years of delicious cooking experiences.
This article would guide you on the best way to season a cast iron skillet, the types of oils you can use to season your cast iron cookware, and also give you answers to some frequently asked questions about them.
First things first…
What is seasoning?
Cast iron seasoning is the application of a thin layer of cooking oil to the surface of your cast iron cookware evenly to fill up the tiny pores/holes that exist naturally on the surface of any cast iron pot, pan, or skillet.
Seasoning is done in order to make it easy to clean and get food off the surface of cast iron cookware, at the same time promoting its durability and longevity.
Compared to non-stick coated, ceramic, and steel cookware that does not need seasoning, cast iron cookware (even enameled and preseasoned ones) needs to be seasoned before use, or else they wouldn’t last long.
Best way to season a cast iron skillet
To season your cast iron skillet, follow the steps below:
1. Gather the materials needed to season cast iron
These are all easily available household items:
- Dish soap
- Cloths or paper towels
- High oleic oil (commonly available cooking oil)
- A sheet pan or aluminum foil
2. Preheat the oven
Preheat your oven to anything from 350°F to 375°F. Per the Reviewed, “350°F isn’t magic—it’s just an average.”
3. Wash the skillet
Wash your skillet with soap and warm water; scrub with a SOFT sponge where needed. Make sure it is completely dried out; else you might end up with a rusty pan.
4. Coat the skillet
Coat the cookware with a very thin, even layer of cooking oil (inside and out).
Once your oven has warmed, place the skillet upside down on your oven’s middle rack; you can put a pan or foil below it to catch anything that drips from the skillet.
Let the skillet bake for about an hour before turning off the heat. Allow it to cool off completely before removing it.
5. Rinse and repeat
Repeat the process up to three times to thoroughly season a skillet and to get the finish you want
What temperature do I use to season cast iron skillet?
You need to heat the oil you choose to use at high temperatures so it can easily create a strong bond with your pan and provide a smooth, non-stick coating.
Place your oiled cast-iron pan into an oven and heat to 450°F, then leave it there for about 1 hour. Turn off the heat and leave your pan in the oven to cool down to achieve a better season and avoid touching the burning hot cast iron.
How often do I need to season cast iron?
Most professional chefs recommend seasoning about 2 or 3 times a year. Without this protective coating, the combination of water, cooking, moisture, and exposure to oxygen can easily corrode cast iron cookware.
The fact is, the first seasoning is the most critical and you want to be sure it is well done before first use as it is what would determine its durability and longevity. After this, you can re-season it only when necessary, although regular use will keep it seasoned.
If you don’t use your cast iron cookware often, then you must make sure it is thoroughly cleaned and completely dry before storing it in the cupboard.
You should only reseason your cast iron cookware anytime you see any signs of corrosion.
How long to season cast iron skillet?
You need to bake your cast iron skillet for 1 hour in order to season it properly.
Place your oiled cast-iron pan into an oven upside down and heat to 450°F, then leave it there for about 1 hour. You can place a pan or foil on the bottom rack to catch anything that drips from the skillet.
The big question: “do you have to season a cast iron skillet?” Yes, you have to season a cast iron skillet before use to prolong its lifespan. If you season your cast iron skillet regularly, then you’ve got a kitchen workhorse for a lifetime.
Even if your cast iron skillet comes pre-seasoned, every time you use your cast-iron skillet, you’re wearing some of the seasoning down, and eventually, it won’t function as well. So season it again whenever you notice any signs of rust.
What is the best oil for seasoning cast iron skillets?
Following most professional chefs, the best oil for seasoning cast iron skillets is grapeseed oil. This is mostly down to its versatility and high smoke point.
There are other good alternatives, however, whatever oil you decide on using will depend on which flavors you prefer as well as the amount of heat you intend on using during your cooking.
There are other types of oil for seasoning cast iron skillets. Although any of the oils listed below would do a great job, each oil has its upsides and downsides so it’s worth doing some research before you choose any of them.
Here they are:
- Grapeseed Oil
- Flaxseed Oil
- Avocado Oil
- Canola Oil
- Olive Oil
- Bacon fat and Lard
- Coconut Oil
- Peanut Oil
- Butter or Ghee
What are the ways cast iron cookware can lose its seasoning?
- Too much scouring or scrubbing with abrasive sponges or scouring pads while cleaning
- Using really harsh detergents while cleaning
- Water corrosion from putting away a pan that’s still wet or letting cast iron cookware sit in water for a really long time
- Cooking highly acidic foods for extended periods of time (not as common as the others)
Why do you need to season your cast-iron cookware?
Seasoning your cast iron cookware helps it to build a strong, non-stick slick coating that helps to get food off its surface easily. The smooth iron surface leads to reduced calories and healthier meals as you use fewer fats and oil during cooking. Seasoning absorbs and infuses your meals with some pleasant flavors and aromas from the oils you use in your cast-iron cookware to make your food taste better.
How do I know if my cast iron is well seasoned?
An easy way to test a cast iron skillet’s seasoning is to fry an egg. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in your cast iron skillet over medium heat for 3 minutes, then add the egg. If your cast iron skillet is well-seasoned, you should not experience any major sticking.
How do I know if my cast iron skillet needs to be seasoned?
If your cast-iron cookware has rusty patches, or flakes, looks dull, or isn’t as nonstick as it used to be, then you need to re-season it. With a little effort, it’s easy to revive worn-out cast iron, even ones that get heavy use, and make them look smooth and glossy again by re-seasoning them.
What is the best kind of cast iron skillet?
The best kind of cast iron skillet depends on individual needs and preferences. When it comes to using cast iron cookware, there is no “one size fits all approach to it”. You simply choose what you feel is right for you.
With time and proper care, any cast iron skillet could become the most important tool in your kitchen.
Why is my cast iron black when I wipe it?
The reason for this is due to the presence of carbon deposits which occur due to the overheating of fats and oils. To avoid this you need to refrain from using oils that have a low smoke point, as they will carbonize at high temperatures. Thereby causing residue from the pores of your pan to rub off or contaminate your food.
Following the tips above will have you seasoning your cast iron skillets in no time like a pro, and it will prolong the durability and lifespan of your cast iron cookware.
When it comes to seasoning, Oil and cast iron cookware are ‘siamese twins’. Choosing the right oil is such an important part of the cast iron seasoning process, so you need to do your research beforehand.
All in all, seasoning your cast iron cookware is crucial if you want it to outlast you and give you many more years of delicious cooking experiences.