How to Season Cast Iron

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  • You can skip all of my tips and commonly asked questions and scroll to the bottom for my easy 1-2-3 steps on how to season cast iron. 

    You just bought a new cast iron skillet. Or maybe you haven’t even done that yet, maybe you are just considering it, but are worried about all the upkeep. Cleaning and seasoning cast iron is easier than you think.

    An easy guide on how to season a cast iron skillet, Dutch oven, or griddle and all your questions about how to care for cast iron answered in one spot. #howtoseasoncastiron #castironcare www.savoryexperiments.com

    An easy guide how to season a cast iron skillet, Dutch oven, or griddle and all your questions about how to care for cast iron answered in one spot.

    Cast iron is one of those materials that really does get better with age. In fact, if you buy a new cast iron skillet, you might be wondering what all the obsession is on your first go round. In fact, I was one of the those folks until I learned how to care for cast iron.

    My husband bought my first piece of cast iron for Christmas. A giant, 12-inch Lodge skillet. I needed two hands just to transport the thing from under the tree to the kitchen. It was a workout.

    It was a beautiful slate black, but the cooking surface was, well, gritty, poreus and scratchy. How in the world were so many people raving about its nonstick ability with a surface like this? I couldn’t beleive the hype.

    Well, foodie friends, it is because this cast iron skillet wasn’t seasoned. And little did I know, it would take years to get it to the level of seasoning I longer for, but this isn’t a reason to not buy or use cast iron. You have to start someplace and everytime I lug that beast out of the cabinet I smile knowing all the lovely work that went into my beautiful cast iron cookware.

    Let’s answer some burning questions. If you are in a hurry, you can scroll on down to the bottom for easy 1-2-3 instructions on how to season a cast iron skillet, but I promise that some of your answering might be here and my tips might be things you didn’t even know you wanted to know.

    An easy guide on how to season a cast iron skillet, Dutch oven, or griddle and all your questions about how to care for cast iron answered in one spot. #howtoseasoncastiron #castironcare www.savoryexperiments.com

    What is the difference between seasoned cast iron and unseasoned cast iron?

    Well, preseasoned is already seasoned and while this might sound like an automatic WIN, it has its pros and cons. Pre seasoned can mean one of two things.

    Preseasoned is just that a thin layer of oil or wax was applied to the cast iron surface to prevent rusting and give it a shiny sheen while waiting to be bought. In this case, you will have to reseason the cast iron anyhow. Read on to learn how to reseason cast iron.

    What is factory seasoned cast iron?

    The kitchn.com said it best, so I will just quote it:

    Normal cast iron seasoning is achieved when fats and oils collect on cast iron through regular use. Factory seasoning occurs when a specific soy-based oil is applied in high heat to allow polymers to form a seasoning layer comparable to 10 to 15 rounds of at-home seasoning.

    Lodge brand, the masters of cast iron, came up with this technique and it is by far the best way to get a leg up on your cast iron, but that doesn’t mean you won’t need to continue caring for your cast iron cookware. You can use it immediately, but it still won’t be the perfect, slick, non stick cast iron your grandma uses to make fried chicken. Nothing can replicate that except time and lots of use.

    What happens during the seasoning process?

    According to Harold McGee of On Food and Cooking

    During the seasoning process, fat sinks into the pores and seals the metal from the air. Next, the fats themselves oxidize when the metal is heated, this causes the fats to “bond to each other…to form a dense, hard, dry layer.” Because the cast iron is so porous, this layer of oxidized fat stays locked to the surface of the metal like puzzle pieces.

    Eventually all of those little pores will become filled and your cast iron will be super smooth.

    What is the best seasoning for cast iron?

    Historically, lard was used to season cast iron, but this only works when you use your cast iron very frequently, as animal based fats can go rancid.

    Now days it is recommended to use soybean oil (commonly used for factory pre seasoning), vegetable oil, canola oil or shortening for your first grease, but any oil will do. I generally use light olive oil just because it is closest to the sink and I am lazy.

    The others are great due to the high smoke point but baking at 350 degrees, you don’t really need to worry about that. Lodge also makes an easy-to-use cast iron seasoning spray.

    I also see many folks using flaxseed oil to season their cast iron, but honestly, it is expensive and I don’t want to waste my money on that. Just one of the cheaper oils and you’ll be fine!

    What temperture do I season my cast iron at?

    This is a loaded question with multiple answers. I’ve seen some people run theirs through the self-cleaning oven cycle which is blazing HOT and others say that 200 degrees works perfectly fine. If you do use the self cleaning function, make sure you are using an oil with a high smoke point which are avocado oil or safflower oil.

    I am in the camp that anything can be cooked at 350 degrees, including cast iron. It is the perfect median temperature. Lodge recommends 400 degrees, just for the record.

    When cooking on a regular basis, for daily care, I just leave my oven on until I clean the cast iron, then throw it in and turn the oven off and let it cool in there.

    Basically, you can’t hurt cast iron, so don’t worry too much about it. You just want it to be dry and oiled so it doesn’t rust. Rust is the worst that will happen, but can easily be corrected.

    How long do I need to bake my cast iron?

    Another good question without one simple answer. Most people would agree that 1 hour will do the trick, others take all day. For routine cast iron care, I just throw mine in the hot oven and let it cool in there. Just make sure it is dry from water and lightly oiled.

    For initial seasoning or reseasoning, one hour is fine.

    What are the benefits of cooking with cast iron?

    There are too many to name, but here are the top reasons to cook with cast iron.

    1. Cast iron is stovetop friendly, fire friendly and oven friendly. Transfer the same dish of food with ease from one to the other.
    2. Cast iron retains heat well, so after it gets hot, it stays hot for quite a while. It is a myth that it is a good conductor. Like aluminum foil, it has cold spots.
    3. They last forever. FOOORRRREEEEVVVVEEEERRR. In fact, some cast iron is passed down from generation to generation. The best place to purchase cast iron is at an estate or yard sale. Even if it has a little rust, you can clean that up.
    4. They are relatively inexpensive. Lodge is the most well known and trusted of brands and a large skillet will only run you $50 for pre seasoned and unseasoned, even less. Some of the nicer pieces with fancy colors and enamel, like Le Creuset, will be closer to $100+. Both work just as well.
    5. They make food taste better. All of those layers of seasoning will also help season your food and these complex tastes can’t be achieved any other way.

    How do I season my cast iron Dutch oven or cast iron griddle?

    The same way you season your cast iron skillet!

    How do I season my cast iron grill grates?

    The same way you season your cast iron skillet, but instead of putting them in the oven, just let them bake with the grill lid down for about an hour over medium-low heat.

    Cast iron grill grates are best oiled after every use as well, however this rarely happens.

    Can I season cast iron without using an oven?

    Yes, but the only way I recommend is in the grill, which would use the same technique of laying it upside down and essentially baking it for an hour.

    I’ve seen some posts about dipping it on scalding hot oil and THAT ISN’T SAFE!!! Besides, you’d need a ton of oil and very large vat to make this happen.

    You can also do it over an open flame, like a fire pit, but you need to rotate it well and then might end up with a dirty skillet due to ash and popping wood.

    Can I use metal utensils in my cast iron pan?

    Yes! You’ll hear people talk about chipping and denting, but I have no clue what they are doing to make this happen. Mine has been through A LOT and nothing like this has happen.

    Although I don’t like using metal utensils anyhow, you can use it in cast iron and be perfectly safe. I actually buy bulk wooden utensils and just throw them away when they start to get yucky.

    Can you cook acidic foods in cast iron?

    There was a belief that acidic food can react with the metal, like you wouldn’t want to use a vinegar in a stainless steel mixing bowl, but honestly, your food isn’t actually going to touch the metal if you’ve seasoned properly. It will only touch the polymerized oil in the pan.

    However, it is still discouraged to allow highly acidic foods to simmer for long periods of time in cast iron. The number one thing that comes to mind is tomato sauce. But a splash of wine or spritz of lemon juice to brighten a sauce will not hurt it… or you.

    When do I reseason my cast iron skillet?

    Any time you’d like, but particularly after a messy meal. The whole concept of “never wash your cast iron” is bogus. No one expects you to leave the baked on cornbread pieces in the pan and just put it away.

    How do I reseason cast iron?

    The same you seasoned it in the first place! Follow the instructions below on washing, oiling, baking and drying for the perfect reseason.

    Tips for seasoning new cast iron:

    • Jump in and make some food! Anything will do, but meats and things with lots of oil, like bacon, will do best.
    • Maximize your seasoning. Meats and bacon are the best bets for your first few go rounds. These will also be the least likely to stick since even a factory seasoned cast iron skillet isn’t totally nonstick yet. Try my steak frites or butter sage pork chops!
    • Maintain the seasoning. After you initially season, you will have to continue to care for your cast iron by cleaning and reseasoning it properly.

    How to Season Cast Iron:

    The process is simple and only takes about 5 minutes, hands-on.

    ONE. First you want to wash your cast iron. I know what you are thinking “but I’ve heard you should never, ever, under any circumstances, wash your cast iron with soap!”

    This isn’t entirely true… or false. Every once and while, you’ll need a little soap and that is okay. You’ll just need to reseason the cast iron when you use it. If you think of all the nasty, gross stuff your cast iron has come in contact with before landing at its forever home in your kitchen, you won’t think twice about using a good a soap. You can buy cast iron soap, but I just use my regular soap.

    So lather up… and wash that bad boy with a stiff brush. I highly recommend using a brush and not a sponge, which will just break apart on the rough surface. I made this mistake once and then I had a blue confetti colored cast iron skillet from all the sponge pieces.

     TWO. Dry your cast iron. I recommend using a dish towel instead of paper towels, otherwise you end up with the same issue as the sponge. You can use paper towels and just blot, but this can be wasteful.

    THREE. Oil it up! Lodge recommends using soybean oil, vegetable oil, canola oil or shortening for your first grease, but any oil will do. I generally use light olive oil just because it is closest to the sink and I am lazy, but it also has a higher smoke point. The others are great due to the high smoke point but baking at 350 degrees, you don’t really need to worry about that. Lodge also makes an easy-to-use cast iron seasoning spray.

    FOUR. Bake it! To really get those oils to penetrate your cast iron, it needs to be baked. Bake it at 350 degrees for about an hour. Leave it in there while the cools down.

    FIVE. Store it. Store cast iron in a cool, dry place, much like any other cookware. I also wipe the instead of mine with another very thin layer of oil and place a paper towel on the inside to prevent rusting. I nest all of my cast iron together.

    What you will need to season a cast iron skillet:

    • Dish Soap
    • Stiff Brush
    • Dish Towels
    • Vegetable Oil, shortening or olive oil
    • Paper towels
    Instructions:
    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Wash the cast iron cookware with warm, soapy water and a stiff brush. This will be one of the few times you clean your cast iron with soap.
    3. Rinse and thoroughly dry the skillet.
    4. Pour a small amount of desired oil into the skillet, you only need enough to coat the inside and the outside of the skillet.
    5. Use a clean, dry cloth to rub the oil around the entire skillet- inside and out, even the handle!
    6. Place the skillet upside down on the center rack. You can place a sheet of aluminum foil below the rack to catch any drips. Bake for 60 minutes.
    7. Turn off the heat and allow to the skillet to cool completely before removing from oven.
    8. Apply another very thin layer of oil to the skillet.
    9. Store in a dry place.

     

    An easy guide on how to season a cast iron skillet, Dutch oven, or griddle and all your questions about how to care for cast iron answered in one spot. #howtoseasoncastiron #castironcare www.savoryexperiments.com

    If you are really worried about caring for cast iron or you are buying cast iron as a gift, you can purchase a cast iron care kit!

    Here are some lovely cast iron recipes to make in your skillet:

     

    5 from 1 vote
    An easy guide on how to season a cast iron skillet, Dutch oven, or griddle and all your questions about how to care for cast iron answered in one spot. #howtoseasoncastiron #castironcare www.savoryexperiments.com
    How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet
    Prep Time
    10 mins
    Cook Time
    1 hr
    Cooling Time
    1 hr
    Total Time
    1 hr 10 mins
     
    An easy guide on how to season a cast iron skillet, Dutch oven, or griddle and all your questions about how to care for cast iron answered in one spot.
    Keyword: how to season cast iron
    Ingredients
    Instructions
    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Wash the cast iron cookware with warm, soapy water and a stiff brush. This will be one of the few times you clean your cast iron with soap.
    3. Rinse and thoroughly dry the skillet.
    4. Pour a small amount of desired oil into the skillet, you only need enough to coat the inside and the outside of the skillet. 

    5. Use a paper towel to lightly coat oil around the entire skillet- inside and out, even the handle! This needs to be a light touch, too hard and your paper towel will leave all little bits on the cast iron. 

    6. Place the skillet upside down on the center rack. You can place a sheet of aluminum foil below the rack to catch any drips. Bake for 60 minutes.
    7. Turn off the heat and allow to the skillet to cool completely before removing from oven.
    8. Apply another very thin layer of oil to the skillet.
    9. Store in a dry place.
    10. If you've tried this techinque, come back and let us know how it was! 

    Recipe Notes

    Seasoning cast iron takes a long time. If you want to do it fast, you can repeat steps 4-7 several times. 

     

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