The Art of Seasoning a Cast Iron Skillet

Cooking on a brand-new cast iron skillet can be a sticky situation. The countless pores on its surface cling onto your food, making it difficult to break up that stubborn bond. But fear not! Thankfully, most cast iron cookware companies now preseason their skillets, providing a natural non-stick surface right out of the box. However, it’s still crucial to understand how to maintain and enhance this seasoning for optimal cooking performance.

What is Seasoning or Re-Seasoning a Cast Iron Skillet?

In simple terms, seasoning a cast iron skillet means filling its pores with oil or fat. This process not only gives the skillet its familiar dark grey/black color but, more importantly, helps it release the food you’re cooking. As you use the skillet over time, microscopic layers of oil build up, creating a smooth surface that provides the coveted non-stick effect.

You might wonder, “Is there genuinely such a thing as a non-stick cast iron skillet?” Well, let me tell you, my friend, I witnessed my grandma flawlessly flip eggs in her cast iron skillet, and it blew my mind.

The Science Behind Seasoning a Cast Iron Skillet

Prepare yourself for the simplest recipe I’ve ever shared, requiring only one ingredient: oil. Now, the choice of oil is up to you, but many recommend using grapeseed, avocado, or canola oil. These oils have lower smoke points, which is crucial. When oil reaches its smoke point, a fascinating process called polymerization occurs. Without getting too technical, the individual oil molecules start to bond together, creating a coating within the skillet’s pores and resulting in a smoother surface. It’s the accumulation of these layers that allows us to cook with cast iron without food sticking incessantly.

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In a pinch, you could use vegetable oil, flaxseed oil, olive oil, or peanut oil. However, it’s vital to research their smoke points and how they relate to seasoning cast-iron cookware.

How to Season Cast Iron:

Prep

  1. Clean & Dry the Skillet: Begin by wiping your clean cast iron pan with a dry paper towel. The skillet should be completely clean and dry before starting the seasoning process.
  2. Coat in Oil: Use a clean paper towel or spray to apply a thin layer of oil all over the entire pan, inside and out. Make sure to absorb any excess oil. This not only enhances the cooking surface’s slickness but also protects the skillet from rusting.

Bake

  1. Preheat Oven & Bake: Place the cast iron skillet in a preheated oven at a minimum temperature of 400°F (425-450°F is recommended for canola oil). Let the skillet bake for 30 minutes to 1 hour. During this time, you may notice smoke as the oil polymerizes. Once the smoke dissipates, the polymerization process is complete. Remember to use only about a teaspoon of oil for the entire pan to minimize smoke.

Last Steps

  1. Repeat If Desired: If you feel the need, repeat the process of coating the skillet with a thin layer of oil and baking it again. This adds an additional layer of seasoning, especially useful for restoring old, previously rusted skillets.
  2. Slowly Cool: After seasoning, turn off the oven but leave the well-seasoned cast iron pan inside as it cools. Allowing it to cool slowly helps solidify the layers of seasoning we just baked into it.
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Final Thoughts on Seasoning Cast Iron Skillets

Seasoning or re-seasoning a cast-iron skillet ensures it will last you a lifetime. The key to maintaining excellent cast iron pans is simply to use them. The more you use them, the more layers of fat and oil are cooked into the skillet, resulting in an increasingly non-stick surface. However, even if you only use your well-seasoned skillet occasionally, it will retain its protective coating.

For more tips on caring for your cast iron skillet, check out my article on Cleaning Your Cast Iron Skillet.

Remember, a well-seasoned cast iron skillet is your gateway to extraordinary culinary adventures. So, what are you waiting for? Start seasoning and enjoy the art of cooking with cast iron!

To learn more about cast iron care, check out my second cookbook – Flavor X Fire or my first cookbook – Food X Fire. And don’t forget to explore some of my favorite cast iron skillet recipes like Skillet Choriqueso, Backyard Skillet Beer Brats, Grilled Steak Potato Wedges, and Steakhouse Picanha. Happy cooking!