Here’s a guide to everything you need to know about why it’s necessary to season your cast-iron cookware and how exactly to go about it.
It can be tricky to figure out precisely what is and isn’t needed in this process, so I have compiled an “all you need to know” guide.
Why is cast-iron cookware seasoning important?
The seasoning of your cast-iron cookware involves a process of building and leaving a layer of oil on the surface of your pans and skillets. The purpose of this is to create a non-stick and rust-resistant coating.
When cast iron is manufactured, the surface is porous, which can result in food sticking to it. By seasoning the cookware, a layer of oil is baked into the pores of the metal, filling in the rough surface and creating a smooth, non-stick surface.
To season a cast-iron skillet or other cookware, you first need to clean it and remove any rust or food debris. Next, you’ll need to brush on a thin layer of oil to the cookware’s surface and bake it in an oven at a high temperature for an extended period. The heat causes the oil to polymerize, creating a challenging, non-stick layer on the surface of the cast iron.
The process of seasoning cast-iron cookware may need to be repeated periodically to maintain the non-stick surface. When properly maintained, a seasoned cast-iron skillet or griddle can provide excellent cooking performance for many years.
Choosing the right oil for seasoning cast-iron cookware
First, choose an oil with a high smoke point, meaning it can withstand high temperatures without burning or smoking. Oils with low smoke points, such as butter or olive oil, can burn and become rancid. This is not great regarding taste and the impact this can have on the end dish.
Good options for seasoning cast-iron cookware include vegetable oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil, and flaxseed oil, all of which have high smoke points.
Another thing to consider is the oil’s ability to polymerize or form a hard, non-stick coating on the cast iron. Flaxseed oil is often considered the best oil for seasoning cast-iron cookware because it has a high smoke point and is known for its ability to polymerize effectively. Other oils, such as vegetable, canola, or grapeseed, can also work well for seasoning cast-iron cookware but need a couple of rounds of seasoning to build up an excellent non-stick coating.
What to look for in a cast-iron seasoning oil
Here is what you want from your seasoning oil:
High Smoke point
Smoke point and stability are essential to consider when choosing an oil for seasoning cast-iron cookware.
When oil reaches its smoke point, it can release black smoke and unpleasant flavors and break down into harmful compounds that can be really bad for you.
For seasoning cast-iron cookware, choosing an oil with a high smoke point is important, as the cookware is often heated to high temperatures during the seasoning process.
In terms of taste, the seasoning layer can impart a subtle flavor to the food being cooked. This flavor can vary depending on the oil used to season the cookware, and some oils may have a more pronounced flavor than others.
For example, oils such as coconut oil or bacon grease can impart a more robust flavor to the food. The flavor contribution of the seasoning layer is generally minimal and should not significantly impact the overall taste of the food.
Top oils for seasoning cast-iron cookware
Here is a selection of oils that work really well in seasoning cast iron.
- Flaxseed oil
- Canola oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Avocado oil
How to season cast-iron cookware
The process of seasoning cast-iron cookware is relatively simple. It involves applying a layer of oil to the cookware’s surface and heating it in the oven to create a durable and non-stick surface. Here are the steps for seasoning cast-iron cookware:
Preparing the cast-iron surface
Clean the cookware: Before seasoning your cast-iron cookware, you should clean it thoroughly to remove any dirt or grease. Use a stiff brush to remove any debris, and wash the cookware with hot water and a sponge but avoid using soap, as it can strip away the seasoning on the cookware.
Dry the cookware: After cleaning the cookware, dry it thoroughly with a clean towel. You can also heat the cookware on the stove for a few minutes to ensure that it’s dry.
Applying the oil
Apply a layer of oil: Once the cookware is dry, apply a thin layer of oil to the cookware’s surface. Use a paper towel or a clean cloth to spread the oil evenly over the surface.
Heating and cooling the cookware
Heat the cookware in the oven: After applying the oil, heat the cookware in the oven to a high temperature. The exact temperature and duration of the heating process will depend on the specific type of oil you’re using and the size of the cookware. The standard method is to heat the cookware in the oven at 375-400 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour.
Let the cookware cool: After heating it turn off the oven and let it cool. You can leave the cookware in the oven as it cools down, or you can remove it and let it cool on the countertop.
Repeating the process
Repeat the process: Depending on the condition of your cookware, you may need to repeat the seasoning process several times to create a durable and non-stick surface. Each time you season the cookware, you’ll build up a layer of seasoning that will help prevent food from sticking to the surface.
Wrapping it up
Learning to love and care for your cookware will ensure you keep it as long as possible. I hope this helped you figure out the best oil for seasoning your cast-iron cookware and that you have fun doing it.
This information is excellent. I’ve been wanting to clean and season cast iron cookware that I received several years after my grandparents passed away. How do you clean cast iron skillets and pots that have fairly heavy rust. These were not stored properly when my grandparents passed away.
I love all the advice that I get from Miss Keesha’s website and I’m sure any advice that you get from her will help you be a great success your own kitchen, nice to meet you 👍 and may God BLESS You 🙏.
Thanks for your info. I’ve been using high quality olive oil, have to season quite often!
I’m switching to flax seed oil.
Get a drill with a wire brush bit and brush the rust off.
If you’re familiar with electrolysis tanks you can build one. Lye bath also works. Google both of these things to learn the proper set up and process. You need a vinegar bath after the lye if you choose lye. The vinegar will neutralize the lye and render it harmless. Please never take a wire wheel or brush to your cast iron. It will ruin it.
Hey Rod, I use a Brillo, or SOS pad. Sometimes several times before adding oil and putting into the oven. After washing, I put on a burner ( on high) to let the water evaporate. Hope this helps.
Good tips! I didn’t know you had to put it in the oven after greasing the skillet. I’ll have to try that soon.
For a natural wire brush alternative, you can use Kosher Salt. Pour some on & rub it around to clean off any cooking remnants & give it a rinse afterwards.
My Grams searched thrift stores, and eventually gave all us girls a set of cast iron.
First thing she did was a vinegar scrub. Then progressively finer steel wool scrub with oil and table salt, inside and out.
Finally, baked 3 separate times with bacon grease (although I use flaxseed oil now).
Fried eggs and pancakes slide out better than a teflon pan!
After 49 years of not knowing exactly how to season a cast iron pain…😄 Now I will never forget! Thank you fer explaining in a way that was simple and effective!
They make chainmail scrubbers to clean cast iron with, they’re available at Walmart, Amazon etc and come in all different shapes, sizes and designs.
I am looking to search for food.
I have wanted a cast iron cookware once I became an adult..first off fione was a very little on ..( for eggs)
Finally brought the rite size and after receiving it didn’t know how much work my mom put into hers.Thanks.
I’m sorry, but I disagree with your assessment of the best oils for cast iron. In my opinion, the best oil for seasoning cast iron is sesame oil.
I have found that Ghee, clarified butter, is best for seasoning my cast iron.