Cast iron’s legendary durability and versatility have made it a staple in most kitchens, alongside its aluminum and stainless steel counterparts. If properly maintained, your cast iron cookware will get better with age and develop a natural non-stick coating.
What Is Cast Iron Seasoning?
By definition, seasoning is the process by which you prepare something for use or make it fit by experience. It is a way to ‘treat’ objects such as wood, or in this case, cast iron cookware.
Although most cast iron pots and pans come pre-seasoned these days, I suggest you season it anyway. Let me walk you through the steps.
- Assemble the following items:
- Paper towels
- Aluminum foil
- Scrubber sponge and (if needed) cast iron mail
- Liquid oil (with a high smoke point)
Wash the skillet or pan in hot running water. It’s OK to use a bit of dish soap. Just be sure to remove any food particles that are stuck on the surface and rinse well. Plastic scrubbers will usually do the trick. If stubborn bits of food are hard to remove, then try a chain mail scrubber like The Ringer.
Dry both top and bottom cooking surfaces with paper towels. Your goal is to avoid having droplets of water left that can interfere with the next step in the process.
Place a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom rack of your oven and preheat to 375F.
Rub the cooking surface and bottom of your pan with oil. You’ll want to use oil that has a high smoke point, like corn or vegetable oil. Low smoke point oils will fill your kitchen with an unpleasant smoky haze. Solid fats are OK to use, but liquid oils work better.
The goal is to have a thin coating of oil on the top and bottom surfaces. Rub it in well using a paper towel. You’re shooting for a thin glaze coating.
Place the pan or skillet upside down on the top rack of the oven. (The foil you placed underneath will catch any dripping oil.) Set the timer for an hour. When the hour is up, leave the pans in the oven to cool.
If you have a pan that has been damaged or neglected, repeat the process 3-4 times. You will be taking the pans out to re-oil and return to the oven for about 30 minutes. Be sure to use protective mitts or gloves so you won’t get burned.
By repeating this process, you’re building up a protective layer of oil (polymer) on the surface of your cast iron pans. This makes the cooking surface water-resistant and keeps food from sticking. Each time you heat the metal to a high temperature, you’re bonding the oil to the iron surface. As Skinny Pete would say, “It’s science!”