How to Season Cast Iron

 In Teach Me to Cook

Cast Iron pans are one of my favorite things to cook in. In fact I own eight of them in various sizes and use them for almost everything.

There’s a lot of contradicting information out there on cast irons. Let me make is simple for you based on hours of researching the science behind it, talking with Chefs and cooking with cast iron for years.

Let’s start!

What is the seasoning on Cast Iron?

The Seasoning is layers of oil that have been heated past their smoke point. This creates a hard, slick surface which is then, non-stick. You can buy a pre-seasoned Cast Iron, or you can season one yourself.

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How do I season my Cast Iron?

There’s two types of seasoning:

1) Full on seasoning
2) Everyday seasoning

For Full On Seasoning:

Use an oil with a high smoke point such as grapeseed or Canola (I highly recommend grapeseed). Rub a very, very thin layer of oil all over the cast iron, top and bottom. Place it UPSIDE DOWN in the oven and bake at 400 Fahrenheit for 1 hour. Allow to cool completely and repeat for up to six coats.

For Everyday Seasoning:

Place your Cast Iron on the stove and heat it until it begins to smoke. Heating the Cast Iron opens up its pores to accept the oil more easily. Turn the pan off and using a paper towel, carefully rub a thin layer of oil (grapeseed or canola) into the skillet bottom and sides. Do not leave excess oil or it will become sticky and chunk off, taking a layer of seasoning with it.

How often should I season my cast iron?

Perform a full on seasoning when:

1) Buying a new, unseasoned pan
2) Repairing a stripped or rusted pan
3) Your everyday pan is starting to look worn

Perform an everyday seasoning:

1) Every time you cook in or clean the Cast Iron

How do I clean my Cast Iron after Cooking?

Method One:

While the skillet is still warm, sprinkle coarse salt into it. Use a damp sponge or a rag and rub the salt around until it has scraped up any bits of stuck food. Rinse well and treat it to an everyday seasoning.

Method Two:

If the pan only has a little rust, you can probably just remove it with a metal scrubby pad and some warm water. Then treat it to a Full On Seasoning.

Method Three:

Pop the pan in a grill or commercial oven and crank the heat to high. Monitor it for an hour but don’t open the lid. The heat should disintegrate the rust. Then wash the pan with soap and water and treat it to a Full On Seasoning. (I have never personally tried this method but know several Chef’s who have had success doing this)

Can I clean my Cast Iron with soap?

Only if absolutely necessary. This means if you’re about to perform a Full On Seasoning, or if you just can’t get the pan clean. The soap pulls off layers of seasoning which makes your pan less non-stick. If it still looks ok after a soaping, just go ahead and give it an Everyday Seasoning and resume use as normal.

How do I cook properly with Cast Iron?

The more you use your cast iron the better it will get. This is IF you are treating it properly and seasoning it with every use. It will take quite a bit of good seasoning before your cast iron will be ready for something like scrambling an egg, however things like sauteing, shallow & deep frying are great and will give you a better pan.

Some Common Questions:

Why is my Cast Iron Sticky?

You either didn’t get it hot enough for the oil to harden when seasoning, or you used too much oil. Too thick a layer of oil when seasoning will never harden into that non-stick layer. Scrub it off and season again.

Can I cook anything in the Cast Iron?

Anything but acidic items such as a tomato sauce. Once your pan is well seasoned acidic items are OK but the acid will eat right through a new seasoning and you’ll have to season it again.

How should a Cast Iron never be stored?

NEVER stack your cast irons, where they touch, they will rust. A GOOD way to store them is: In the oven, on the stove top, in a cabinet or hanging from a well bolted hook on the wall.

Can I use metal utensils on my Cast Iron?

Try not to, they will scrape a new seasoning off. However, I occasionally forget and use one on my well seasoned pans and it’s not an issue but a Wooden Spoon and a Heat Resistant Spatula are your best bet.

Will my Cast Iron retain food odors?

Not usually if you clean the pan shortly after use. If it does retain a garlic or fishy odor from something pungent, try boiling some water in the pan.

Pro tip! If you have a layer of oil left in your pan from frying something, leave it there overnight. You will have one happy Cast Iron the next day.

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