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Seasoning Cast Iron Cookware

The Skinny:

Learn how to season your cast iron cookware so it has a natural, non-stick surface. When you season cast iron, you’re treating it with a layer of oil/fat to help build up a hard, non-stick surface.

The How-To:

There are different ways to season cast iron. Whether you’re a cast iron newbie or collector of vintage cookware, all seasoning techniques are boiled down to three basic steps.

Clean It

Whether you’ve got a brand new piece or are restoring a junker to its former glory, it needs to be cleaned before seasoning. Here are some popular methods:

  • Scrubbing with hot water and a bristle brush (a small amount of soap can be used)
  • Spraying with oven cleaner
  • Cleaning with an oven’s self-cleaning cycle

After it’s clean, it needs to be dried. Don’t air dry cast iron or clean it in the dishwasher. After you’ve wiped down the clean cast iron, heat it up in the stove or oven to make sure all the moisture is gone to avoid rust.

Coat It

After the cast iron is clean and dry, coat it with an edible oil/fat to add the protective cooking layer. The ingredient you choose plays a role in the effectiveness of the cooking surface. With a wide range of oils out there, almost anything is fair game to use. These commonly used ingredients can do a good job of seasoning your cast iron.

  • Vegetable oil
  • Lard
  • Coconut oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Bacon fat
  • Vegetable shortening

You’ll want to choose an oil with a high-smoke point. You don’t want your pan to start smoking at low cooking temps. Experts argue that flaxseed oil is the best to use since it is a drying oil, giving the cast iron the most durable cooking surface. After you’ve selected your ingredient, heat up a small amount in the cast iron and wipe it all over the inside and outside of the utensil. Don’t coat it too heavily. The cast iron should appear dry after the wipe down.

Bake It

After the cast iron has been thoroughly coated, bake it in the oven. Again, everyone will have their own temperature and length of baking time, but a general consensus is to heat it between 300 - 400 degrees (some even say as high as 550) for an hour. Others may heat it for longer, but an hour should get the cast iron ready for cooking. Results will vary depending on seasoning agent used and the temperature/length of the baking process.

Some may repeat this seasoning process a few times to get a really strong cooking surface. However, others may skip the seasoning process altogether and just start cooking with it. Cooking bacon, sausages or fried chicken can be a natural way to start the seasoning process. Frequently cooking with cast iron adds more protective layers. However, this process takes longer to get a nice, even patina on your cookware.

Once the cast iron is seasoned, put it through the ultimate test: frying an egg. If you can slide eggs around on your cast iron like hockey pucks, you’ve got perfectly seasoned cast iron. Until next time, Enthusiasts.

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