This easy guide will show you how to season cast iron cookware properly as well as maintain them for a lifetime.
When referring to cast iron skillets the word "seasoning" can be used as either a noun, or a verb. Most skillets you buy in stores come pre-seasoned, but if you find an old skillet, need to revitalize your own, or buy a brand new unseasoned skillet, you'll need to season it before using. The seasoning process is important because (if done properly) involves a chemical change called polymerization in which the liquid oil coats the iron and forms a hard, and most importantly non-stick, layer. Some say the seasoning retains flavor from previous meals, but if you clean your skillet after each use you're not going to end up tasting last nights salmon when you bite into your morning omelet and no one wants that.
We’ve teamed up with one of our favorite cast iron skillet companies, Stargazer Cast Iron, to bring you a quick and handy post on how to season your cast iron skillet whether it be new, old, or simply in need of a little TLC.
Here are a few simple steps to follow when seasoning your cast iron skillet:
- If it's a brand new skillet wash with warm soapy water. This is the only time you should wash your skillet with soap.
- If it's an old skillet that hasn't been used in a while or just a periodic re-seasoning (every 6 months), scrub away any rust or stuck-on food. This may require steel wool or other abrasive pad.
- Preheat your oven to 200°F, thoroughly dry your skillet, and place it in the oven for 10 minutes.
- Remove the warm skillet from the oven and turn the heat up to 450°F. Then use a clean rag or paper towel to apply a thin layer of oil (my personal preference is flax oil, but any heat-stable cooking oil will suffice) all over the skillet (and by all over I mean it... Top, Bottom, Handle, the whole thing)
- Allow it to soak into the iron and wipe away the excess. If you don’t get it wiped away it’s going to fill your kitchen with lots of smoke.
- Place the skillet upside down in the 450° F oven for an hour.
- After the hour is up, pull the skillet out of the oven and allow it to cool off for a few minutes on the stovetop or other heat-safe surface. Then repeat the process 2-3 more times until you are satisfied with the final result.
It really is that simple. With good care and maintenance, there’s no reason a cast iron skillet shouldn’t last you a lifetime. If you’re in the market for your first skillet or another to add to your growing collection we’d urge you to check out Stargazer Cast Iron, their skillet is the best skillet we’ve used so far and we’ve tried quite a few.
This skillet is the smoothest skillet straight out of the box and has even gotten better and better as we’ve used it (as most cast iron does, this one’s just extremely great). It’s also made in the USA, lighter than your typical skillet, and not to mention the aesthetic is great as well.
Jan Coleman says
I was always told to simply wipe out my skillet between us and not to use water or soap? Thoughts?
Alex Lester says
Definitely no soap after the initial seasoning, after that just water and a stiff brush if needed.
Sharon K. Connell says
That was the way my mother taught me to season cast iron pans and pots. We also always dried them in the oven after washing each time it was used, and reseasoned the pan inside occasionally. Love cast iron.
When I dry my skillet with a towe, the towel turns black. Is this supposed to happen?
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What size skillet are you using for these recipes?
Alex Lester says
Most recipes list what size skillet, mostly 10.5" but for desserts it's an 8" or 6"
Such a great article !!! Does a cast iron need to be cleaned like that this every time it’s being used ? I make dinner around 6pm and I definitely would like to make if there’s a quicker way to clean the pan
Alex Lester says
After use you'll just want to rinse off the food and add a bit of oil if the skillet seems dry. Hope this helps!
Eva Lovasco says
I love your site!
I impulse-purchased a mini cast iron skillet and pot (Dutch oven style I think?) from Bed Bath and Beyond, then realized I had no idea how to care for it! Yikes! Your site has been great! 🙂
Quick question though, when I clean the skillet afterwards (I've made steaks 3 times! Yum 🙂 ), I've noticed the inside corners seem slightly less black than the rest of the skillet. Am I scrubbing too hard with my sponge? Do I need to put extra oil there? Am I cooking wrong?
Alex Lester says
Hi Eva! It can take awhile for a new skillet to "break-in" per se. I would wipe it down with a very thin layer of flax oil a few times, wiping off the excess with a clean dish towel then baking at 450° F upside down for 1 hour. After a few times those edges should be just as seasoned as the rest of the skillet. Hope this helps!