How to Season Cast Iron for Cooking

How to Season Cast Iron for Cooking

How to Season Your Cast Iron Pan

Cast iron is the best pans for cooking. but it does take a little more attention to keep them serviceable. A well maintained and some not so well maintained cast iron skillets and pots will last many lifetimes. The number one thing to keeping your cast iron cooking great meals is by learning how to season cast iron for cooking.

There is a lot of information on how to season cast iron. This option is the way I have always seasoned my cast iron and the way my grandmother taught me to do it. This seasoning process will vary depending on the shape that your cast iron pans are in. This process is for cast iron that is in decent shape without too much rust or flaking. I will cover those topics later in the article just in case you are dealing with any roughcast iron that requires a few more steps to get your cast iron to a nice finished pan for cooking. Here are a few steps to seasoning cast iron.

How To Season Cast Iron For Cooking

  1. Remove all old seasoning and grime from cast iron
  2. Scrub your cast iron with hot soapy water
  3. Dry your cast iron in the oven at 200 degrees
  4. Apply a thin layer of oil to the entire cast iron pan
  5. Place the cast iron in a preheated oven at 375 degrees
  6. Bake for at least an hour then apply more oil and reheat

Cleaning Cast Iron

There is multiple levels of “cleaning” cast iron. There are cast iron pots and pans that need to be sandblasted and those that need fire pitted and then there are those like the ones I am writing about here. The ones that are serviceable but need to be seasoned with maybe a little scrubbing to get it ready. Unless you have an heirloom or collectible cast iron pot or pan just acquire smooth cast iron that is easily restored. You can use simple cleaning tools you probably have at home or get serious with these cast iron cleaning tools.

Depending on how rough your cast iron is you might be able to scrub it with some steel wool and dish detergent removing all the rust and grime buildup on the surface. If it is especially rough with caked on grime that just will not budge then you will have to cook the cast iron to get it clean.

To remove baked on grime from cast iron you need high temperature. Fire does a great job loosening or completely removing the grime. Leave the cast iron in the fire, right in the coals. Leave it there to burn in the coals overnight letting it cool on its own. This should get all of the baked-on grime off the cast iron and leave it bare. This bare cast iron is very vulnerable to rust so get to the next steps soon or you will be scrubbing rust off.

Scrub Cast Iron With Soapy Water

Once you have the grime off your cast iron then wash it thoroughly with hot soapy water. This cleans all oil and rust off the cast iron to prepare it for seasoning. A brillo pad should be plenty strong enough for this step. If any rust has emerged on the surface you might need to use steel wool. It is OK to scrub intensely and even if you need sandpaper or wire wheel on a drill it’s OK at this point. The important thing is to get the cast iron as clean as possible. This is vital to a well seasoned cast iron pan.

Dry Cast Iron In The Oven

Once the cast iron is completely clean and free of any rust, it’s important to dry it thoroughly. The best way to do this is to put it in the oven preheated to 200 degrees. Leave the cast iron in the oven for 10 minutes or so to make sure all of the moisture is eliminated. Remove the cast iron and set the oven to 375 degrees to preheat for the next step.

Apply Oil To Cast Iron

With the cast iron cleaned and dried, it’s time to apply the seasoning. This can be a number of oils and even commercial cast iron seasoning spray is available. The best oil to season cast iron is up for debate. Simple vegetable oil will do but if you want more options please feel free to search google for more options.

Apply the oil thinly all over the cast iron. This means bottom of pan, handle and be sure to get the edges. It is important to coat the entire cast iron pan with oil. Apply a liberal amount to start with to let it soak in and make sure you get the entire pan coated well. Once you have a liberal amount of oil applied then use a lint free rag or paper towel and wipe it thoroughly to remove all excess oil from your cast iron. Leaving too much oil on your cast iron will leave a sticky mess behind and could even become a bit smelly.

Once the cast iron is oiled up and wiped down place it in the oven at 375 degrees for an hour or so. This opens the pores of the cast iron letting the oil to seep into the pores and cooking as well. After an hour remove the cast iron and wipe it down again with a liberal amount of oil. Wipe down to remove excess oil and return once again to the oven. Repeat this step several times to build up the seasoned oil on the cast iron surface.

Here are a few questions I get about seasoning cast iron.

How do I season a brand new cast iron skillet?

To season a brand new cast iron skillet just follow the above instructions. Obviously, you can skip the scrubbing step or the fire cleaning because it is brand new. Some cast iron comes already seasoned. Cast iron that is not seasoned at the factory should still be thoroughly cleaned. Use hot soapy water to get rid of the factory oil. The factory applies oil to keep the cast iron from rusting while on the shelves.

How often to season cast iron?

Cast iron loves to be cooked on. The more you cook with your cast iron the more seasoned it becomes. That is as long as it is treated well. Never leave your cast iron in the sink filled with water for any amount of time. I am guilty of this more than I care to divulge so I find myself seasoning my cast iron every couple of years. When reseasoning you can just start with step number 2 and apply several thin coats of oil and bake. Not hard at all to reseason your cast iron and mostly depends on how nice you are to it.

Do you have to season a cast iron skillet?

Seasoning cast iron is important to keep your cast iron from rusting. It also builds up a tough finish that withstands high heat. It also offers a non-stick surface. When seasoned properly a cast iron skillet or dutch oven is the sturdiest and most versatile cooking pan out there.

If you love to cook and have never tried cast iron you should. After many cheap and expensive cookware, I have tried over the years cast iron is the only thing I use now. I even take cast iron that I have dedicated to camping in my truck for cooking over a fire or camp stove. Be careful though or you might find yourself collecting cast iron. I wouldn’t consider myself a collector, but I have way more cast iron than I really need.  I do keep my eye out for new and interesting cast iron cookware and I find a lot of it. I’ve done well at passing up on many purchases.

The one cast-iron item I think I will pull the trigger on if I find a good deal, is a portable hibachi grill for cooking in camp. I have my eye on the Lodge Sportsman cast iron grill. If you have any experience with the Lodge Sportsman please let me know what you think in the comments. Thanks.

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About Ken McBroom 218 Articles
Ken McBroom is an accomplished outdoor writer and photographer. Growing up in Lynchburg Tennessee allowed him many opportunities afield as a boy and young man. Later in life, after Desert Storm, Ken’s wanderlust took him to Alaska to live and work and experience the last frontier. Married now with two beautiful children, Ken now calls Kentucky home where he continues to communicate our American outdoor traditions and the lifestyle it offers.

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