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Guide to Seasoning a Cast Iron Skillet

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So you finally bought a cast iron skillet, now what do you do with it? Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about seasoning your cast iron skillet to make your food taste amazing.

Introduction

There are endless reasons to own a cast iron skillet. They’re sturdy, durable, and do wonders for cooking and baking. But, if you’ve been scared off from tales of all the work that goes into a cast iron skillet, then rest easy, because owning and caring for a cast iron skillet is no more difficult than any other item in your kitchen (in fact it may be even easier, and it’s definitely worth the investment). We’ll walk you through how to season a cast iron skillet, the best oils to season a cast iron, and how often to season in order to maintain your skillet for years to come.

Why Use Cast Iron?

So, why use a cast iron skillet? For one, they’re incredibly durable. They withstand high heat, which means you can use them on the stovetop as well as the oven. They also hold heat really well so they’re perfect for crispy textures (think chicken skin or potatoes), seared meat (hello, steak and pork chops), and bake beautiful brownies and breads. Basically anything you want to add color, texture, and flavor, the cast iron skillet is your best friend. Plus, they’re easy to clean. And if you properly maintain it and keep it in good condition, it is something you can have for years and years without ever needing a replacement. The older the better!

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What Seasoning Means

If you’re reading this article, you already know it’s important to season your cast iron. (But just in case, we’ll say it again: it’s absolutely necessary to maintain your skillet and ensure it has a long and happy life in your kitchen.) But what does seasoning a cast iron skillet actually mean? 

Cast iron is full of nooks and crannies, just waiting for food to get trapped and stick to. By seasoning, you are essentially heating oil so that it bonds onto the metal through a process known as polymerization, forming a plastic-like substance that coats the pan (which is what makes it nonstick and protects it). That’s why an older pan is even better than a newer one; it’s already gone through multiple seasonings and reheatings, which means the coating gets better and better each time.

How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet

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It’s go time! Here’s what you’ll need to season your pan:

  • Cast iron skillet 
  • Dish soap
  • Sponge 
  • Cloth or paper towels
  • Oil or shortening
  • Aluminum foil
  • An oven

Step 1
: Preheat your oven to 350°F.

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Step 2: Wash the skillet in warm, soapy water with a sponge or brush.

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Step 3: Rinse and dry thoroughly.

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Step 4: Using the cloth or paper towel, apply a thin coat of oil or melted shortening to the entire skillet, inside and out.

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Step 5: Place the skillet upside down on the center rack of the oven.

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Step 6: Place a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil on the rack below to catch any drips. 

Step 7:
Bake for 1 hour.

Step 8: Turn off the heat and let the skillet cool completely before removing from the oven.

And that’s it. Your newly seasoned skillet will be shiny, black, and nonstick. Go forth and cook to your heart’s content!


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Best Oil to Season a Cast Iron Skillet

While you may have heard to use any oil or shortening, there are benefits to choosing certain oils over other types of fats. So what is the best oil to season a cast iron? They all work, but certain ones will give an even better coating. The saturated fats found in shortenings or lard don’t polymerize as well as unsaturated fats. For this reason, unsaturated fats like corn, vegetable, or canola oil are the best oils to season with.

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What Temperature to Season a Cast Iron At

While you may think just popping the skillet into a hot oven is all you need to think about, there’s more to it. 

Why does it matter at what temperature you heat your skillet? Basically if the oven is too cool, the oil won’t properly adhere to the metal, thereby not creating that ideal coating. Well, then just blast it on super hot and it’ll be fine, right? Wrong. Too hot and you’ll risk damaging the surface. Heating the skillet for an hour at 350°F should give you the nice dark coating to protect your skillet. 


How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet

While you may think just popping the skillet into a hot oven is all you need to think about, there’s more to it. 

Why does it matter at what temperature you heat your skillet? Basically if the oven is too cool, the oil won’t properly adhere to the metal, thereby not creating that ideal coating. Well, then just blast it on super hot and it’ll be fine, right? Wrong. Too hot and you’ll risk damaging the surface. Heating the skillet for an hour at 350°F should give you the nice dark coating to protect your skillet. 


How Often to Season a Cast Iron Skillet

Now that you’ve seasoned your skillet, will you have to re-season it at some point? Yes, and we’ll explain how often to season a cast iron. Don’t worry, re-seasoning is easy and if you maintain your skillet, then future cleanings and seasonings will be a breeze.

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After the skillet is clean, it’s important to do a quick re-oiling and heating before storing to get the skillet ready for its next use. Use a paper towel to coat the entire skillet with oil, wiping away any excess. Then heat the skillet over high heat on a burner until it’s thoroughly heated and slightly smoking. Let it completely cool down and store away. 

While the seasoning is going to create a nonstick type of surface, it’s not going to be 100 percent perfect. You may still have a little food crusted on after using it, which is normal and it should wash out easily. But if you start to notice food constantly sticking, it’s time to season your skillet again. Or, if you notice a bit of rust, it’s definitely time to season. If you do get a bit of rust on your skillet, DON’T PANIC! It’s not the end of the world! Use some steel wool to scrub out the rust spots, then follow the regular seasoning steps of washing, drying, oiling and heating. It’ll be back to all of its gorgeous cast iron glory in no time.


And that’s it! While it does take a few extra steps, owning and caring for a cast iron skillet is incredibly easy and definitely worth the investment. You’ll wonder how you ever cooked without one.

Now that you’ve got an expertly seasoned cast iron pan, make sure to check out our guide to cleaning and caring for a cast iron skillet.




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