Learn how easy it is to season a cast iron skillet with confidence. Caring for and seasoning cast iron cookware doesn’t have to be complicated or scary!
I recently shared how to clean, store and care for your cast iron skillet or cookware on a daily basis. But what about seasoning? What exactly is seasoning? Why is seasoning a cast iron skillet important? And, most importantly, how do you season a cast iron skillet or cookware?
Well, I’m so glad you asked! I’m about to take the scary and intimidation out of using, caring for and seasoning your cast iron skillet. Once you learn the proper way to care for and season your cast iron skillet, it will quickly become your favorite go-to skillet!
Before we delve into how to season a cast iron skillet, let’s address some frequently asked questions concerning cast iron cookware. And when I say “cookware” or “skillet” in this particular blog post, I’m using the words interchangeably. I just want you to understand that these facts apply to all cast iron cookware and not just your cast iron skillet.
I’m particularly addressing skillets because they are the most commonly used (and abused) type of cast iron cookware.
Cast Iron Cookware FAQ’s:
What is seasoning?
When you purchase or receive a new cast iron skillet, it typically comes pre-seasoned from the manufacturer. Even so, it’s necessary to add your own seasoning. So, what is seasoning? Seasoning is a way to protect the skillet and render it non-stick.
Seasoning is simply a hard, protective coating that’s formed by heating very thin layers of oil on the cast iron. The oil (or fat) bonds to the metal as it is heated. The oil also bonds to itself (thin layer after thin layer) in a process called polymerization.
What is polymerization?
When you heat oils (or fats) in cast iron at a high enough temperature, the oils change from a wet liquid into a slick, hardened surface. The oil actually reacts to the cast iron and the heat to create a layer of seasoning that bonds the oil to the iron.
What’s the reason for seasoning?
Seasoning is used to protect the cast iron and create a sort of non-stick surface that is perfect for cooking on.
What oil should I use to season my cookware?
You can literally use any oil you want to season your cast iron skillet or cookware. People used to use (and some probably still do) solid fats like shortening or lard. The most common types of oils recommended for seasoning cast iron include:
- vegetable oil
- canola oil
- corn oil
How often should I oil my cookware?
Oiling your cookware should be a regular part of your cleaning routine. Each time you use your cast iron skillet or cookware, you’ll want to wash it, dry it and add a very thin layer of oil. After you apply the thin layer of oil all over your cookware, you’ll want to buff it really well so that the pan no longer looks greasy.
How often will I have to season my cookware?
Even new pre-seasoned cookware will need to be seasoned occasionally. However, if you properly care for your cookware, you may never need to season it again.
If your cookware becomes splotchy, food sticks to it or you see even the slightest bit of rust, you’ll want to clean and season your cookware.
When I dry my cast iron skillet, it leaves a dark residue on my towel. What is this?
This is perfectly normal. This most commonly happens when cooking with acidic foods or really high heat. And can even happen with brand new cookware. Just keep cleaning and oiling your cast iron cookware as usual.
The seasoning on my cast iron skillet looks uneven. Should I try to even it out?
It is normal for cookware to have variations in the seasoning finish. These variations or “unevenness” will typically even out with time and use.
Why are black flakes of seasoning coming off my skillet?
Sometimes layers of seasoning in the form of black flakes may come off your cast iron skillet. This usually happens as a result of the layer or layers of seasoning not fulling bonding to the metal.
If your pan is flaking, don’t worry. Simply scrub the pan with a nylon brush, rinse, dry with a towel and rub with oil as usual. Another option is to season in the oven to help build a stronger bond or layer of seasoning.
Why is the surface of my cast iron skillet rough?
Even or maybe especially new cast iron skillets will have a rough texture. This texture is created as part of the manufacturing process and is purposely created to provide a surface finish that has texture to give the seasoning something to adhere to.
If the texture bothers you, you can smooth out the roughness using fine grade sandpaper. Just be sure to season the skillet immediately after sanding.
How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet
- dish soap
- lint free towel
- oil: vegetable, canola or corn
- paper towels
- aluminum foil
- baking sheet
- cast iron skillet
Step 1: Wash and Dry Your Pan
Give your cast iron skillet a good scrub with warm, soapy water and dry it thoroughly with a lint-free towel.
Place skillet on your stovetop and heat for a minute or two to help it dry even better.
Step 2: Add Oil
Once your pan is clean and thoroughly dry, pour about a tablespoon or less of oil into the pan and rub all over. Rub the oil with a paper towel all over the cookware - top, bottom, handle, inside and outside.
Then with another paper towel or dry lint-free cloth, buff the cookware thoroughly until the pan no longer looks even the slightest bit oily. Leaving too much oil on your cookware can cause pooling or make it sticky.
So, use as little oil as necessary and buff it thoroughly.
Step 3: Heat in the Oven
Preheat your oven to 450°F. Place a piece of aluminum foil or a baking sheet on the bottom tray. Although you thoroughly buffed your pan, some oil may still drip and the foil or baking sheet will help to catch any drips.
Place the oiled pan upside down in the preheated oven and leave it there for 30 minutes. You may want to turn on your ventilation or open a window to draw out any smoke.
This is when the polymerization process takes and forms the first of several hard, plastic-like coatings.
Step 4: Repeat
After 30 minutes, remove the skillet from the oven. (Use caution as it will be HOT!) Carefully rub the pan with oil all over and buffing it out just as you did in step 2.
Then place the skillet back in the oven upside-down for another 30 minutes. You'll repeat this process at least 3 or 4 times. In other words, oil, buff, bake, repeat.
The best thing you can do for your cast iron skillet or cookware is to use it often. Use it, clean it (only use soap when necessary), oil it and repeat.
Here are some more cast iron skillet tips and recipe ideas:
Truly, the best way to care for your cast iron skillet is to use it regularly and clean it properly. I love to cook and bake with my cast iron skillet.
Be sure to read my How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet post for more information on the daily care and cleaning of your cast iron cookware.
Til next time…
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