A new cast iron skillet is an investment you won’t regret. Cast iron skillets are safe and versatile cookware for making the most delicious food you can ever imagine!
Whether cooking on a stovetop, baking in an oven, or grilling outdoors, cast iron pans can be used well!
But cooking with cast iron is not always the easiest. Some maintenance is required to keep this type of cookware in mint condition.
Worry not; there is no reason to get intimidated. This article will show you the easy steps to season cast iron skillets for perfect use every time. Keep reading!
How Does Cast Iron Seasoning Work?
Before diving into the steps to season cast iron cookware, let’s first understand what cast iron seasoning is all about.
You might think we’re adding salt and pepper to a new pan. Besides, isn’t that what “seasoning” in cooking is all about? In this case, no.
The oven seasoning process involves creating a protective coating for your skillet by heating incredibly thin layers of fat or oil. In short, seasoning is carbonized oil baked onto cast iron.
As the oil heats, the fat bonds to the metal and converts it into protective plastic. This is the process called polymerization.
You probably imagine getting a greasy coating. But the ideal result after you season a cast iron is a hard, blackened skin that protects metal from corrosion.
The seasoned surface becomes a hydrophobic protective layer, creating an easy-release cooking surface. Its nonstick surface makes cast iron skillets better than today's best non-stick pans.
Creating this thin layer of protection works not only for cast iron cookware, but you can also season the cooking surface of carbon steel pans.
How to Season Cast Iron Pan in 5 Steps
Although most new cast iron skillets will come pre-seasoned, seasoning cast iron with additional layers of protection will only increase the lifespan of your new cast iron pan!
Many cast iron cookware sites will give you similar steps on how to season cast iron. They're pretty straightforward to follow.
What You'll Need:
- Cast-iron skillet
- Clean Paper Towel
- Seasoning oil (vegetable oil, canola oil, flaxseed oil, olive oil, or melted shortening)
- Steel wool (a great tool to remove rust when restoring an older cast iron skillet)
- Scrub brush
- Oven Mitt
- An Oven
Step 1: Preheat the Oven
Later, it would be best to pop your skillet into a hot oven. Preheating the oven to 230 ºC (450ºF) ahead of time is best for better time management.
Step 2: Wash and Dry Your Pan
Have you heard of comments saying soapy water will destroy the surface of your cast iron pan? Although there is some truth to it, a little soapy water to get your cast iron skillet ready for seasoning won't hurt.
Prepping to season a cast iron requires the smoothest surface possible. Some soap, hot water, and a brush to clean the entire pan will do the trick.
Make sure to remove all food particles on the surface. A chainmail scrubber or pan scraper gets the job done faster.
If your cast iron pan is rusty, grab a ball of steel wool and scrub off all tough rust spots to create a clean pan.
After a good wash and scrub, dry the skillet with a fresh paper towel. Make sure to remove all lingering water droplets.
You don't want any surface moisture on there. To ensure it is completely dry, put it on the stovetop for a few minutes to remove any excess water.
Step 3: Rub Your Cast Iron Pan with Oil
Once your skillet is neat and dry, add a small amount of neutral cooking oil to the skillet.
We suggest unsaturated cooking fats like flaxseed, grapeseed, sunflower, or vegetable oil. These are easier to spread compared to saturated fats like shortening or lard.
Although flaxseed oil results in a nicely seasoned cast iron skillet, be wary that it has a very low smoke point at just 225 ºC (437 ºF). Your kitchen may get a smoky atmosphere during the baking process. And because of this, we don't always recommend it.
Next, use a paper towel to coat the entire pan, including its top, bottom, sides, and handle. Remove any excess oil. A thin coat should do.
Rub the cooking oil all over and buff thoroughly, so the pan doesn't look the slightest bit greasy. Any excess oil will make the pan sticky after heating.
Step 4: Heat in the Oven Upside Down
Your oven temperature should be at 230 ºC (450ºF) by now. It's time to place your cast iron skillet upside down and bake for about an hour.
Oven temperatures might vary depending on the cooking oil you use. Some advocate changing oven temperatures during seasoning, especially as it gets a little smoky in your kitchen.
Make sure to keep your space ventilated when this happens.
Placing the pan upside down may cause a few oil drips. Feel free to set a large baking sheet or aluminum foil under the skillet for easier cleanup.
After baking, give the pan some time to cool. It will be extremely hot. An oven mitt will come in handy!
At this time, the oil will polymerize and form the first of many plastic-like coatings for your cast iron.
Step 5: Repeat 3 to 4 Times
After your first hour of heating, you should have a good initial layer from your own seasoning.
Take your cast iron out of the oven and repeat step 3. Rub your pan with more oil, buff it out, and pop it back in the oven for another 30 minutes.
Perform the oiling and heating process for a 3rd and 4th time. Once you are done, switch off the oven and let the pan cool with the door closed.
You should now have a polished, non-stick black surface. Your cast iron pan is seasoned and ready for cooking!
What Are Common Mistakes When Seasoning Cast Iron?
Seasoning cast iron is not that difficult once you get the hang of it. But there are still a few mistakes people overlook. Here are a few:
Too Much Oil
During the seasoning process, your skillet can only absorb so much oil. Any excess will only be wasted and left to pool on the surface.
That oil can become stinky and sticky, making your skillet difficult to use and clean.
Not Using Soap
It is a common understanding that soap can deteriorate the nonstick characteristics of your cast iron skillet.
However, many experts have agreed that a little soap to clean your cast iron cookware is fine. Just make sure to rinse it before oiling and heating it fully.
Not Drying It Off
The goal is to keep the amount of time your cast iron is wet as short as possible. Never soak it in water. This can cause rust spots on your skillet.
Cooking Acidic Foods
A seasoned cast iron skillet should remain perfect for cooking for a long time. But a word of caution, avoid cooking acidic foods on it for long durations. This can increase the chances of corrosion on your skillet.
Skipping the Heating Process
Heating the pan after oiling is crucial, so the oil bonds to the pan to become a protective layer of seasoning. This should be done at least 3 to 4 times.
Not Using Metal Utensils
Your cast iron pan is stronger than you think! They can last for generations.
It is unlikely you'll scrape off the surface with your metal utensils. If you notice black pieces flaking off, that's most likely burnt bits of food from your previous cooking session.
When Should You Get a New Cast Iron Pan?
Well-seasoned cast iron cookware is known to last ages. Many families even pass it on from generation to generation, along with their secret recipes.
You are seasoning your cast iron cookware every time you use it. So every use should strengthen the bond to the metal.
However, avoid using cast iron for cooking highly acidic foods like long-simmering tomato sauce. This eats up its protective coating.
If you notice food sticking more often, the black patina wears off, and it is time for a re-seasoning.
If a crack appears in your cast iron pan, it's time to give your cast iron skillet a rest.
Even a hairline crack will expand and contract when heated and cooled. This can eventually cause a split which is extremely dangerous when it happens while you are cooking.
Cracks are also breeding spaces for bacteria and rust. Consuming food cooked from a broken cast iron skillet is already a health hazard.
Testing countless methods to season cast iron pans is unnecessary. You've got this article to guide you in our tried-and-tested method on how to season cast iron.
Follow the easy steps above and avoid common mistakes. You should get the hang of it soon!
Just remember that a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet used frequently allows the building of new layers of seasoning every time. Your skillet should stay in your family for generations to come.
What are you waiting for? Get busy seasoning and cooking in the kitchen now!