Step-by-Step Guide to Seasoning a Cast Iron Skillet

Since learning about the health risks of cooking with teflon-coated non-stick pans, I’ve made the switch to a cast iron skillet. After using the thing daily for 2+ years and losing a lot of food due to sticking, I got desperate and decided to learn how to season the thing, despite the fact that it intimidated me, and I wish I did it earlier!

Cast iron is a timeless choice for cookware because it is durable. People find cast iron skillets and frying pans that are 75+ years old and wit ha little TLC they can be as good as new.

I also read that teflon-coated pans can leach toxins into your food so even though they have the benefit of being non-stick, I opted to cook with something different.

That said, cast iron cookware still needs to be properly cared for. Cast iron cookware is susceptible to rusting as well as losing their luster and “non-stick” surface.

This is what happened to mind… the bottom was rusting and I would lose at least 1-2 eggs to the bottom of the pan without fail.

Poor cast iron skillet... can you believe I've been cooking on this thing?
Poor cast iron skillet… can you believe I’ve been cooking on this thing?

Many people stray away from cast iron because they think it requires a lot of care to upkeep.

They really don’t require that much effort to maintain, but the idea of “seasoning” a pan is intimidating, so I’d like to share my first time experience with you and I’m happy report that it was a piece of cake!

How to Season Your Cast Iron Skillet

1. Remove any rust build-up with steel wool.

Overtime, cast iron can rust. Water is the enemy of iron, and as your pan will come in contact with water it is likely that if you don’t pay attention, there will be some rust build up as shown in my photos.

All you need to do is get the steel wool wet and rub it around your pan. The rust will come straight up.

removing-rust-from-cast-iron-skillet

2. Gently wash your pan with soap and water.

To be sure that you season on a clean slate, simply give your cast iron skillet a gentle scrub with some soapy water.

If your pan isn’t gross then you probably can skip this step, and I’m sure someone will yell at me in the comments for including this and will tell me that I’m going to cast iron hell!

cleaning-cast-iron-skillet

3. Dry off the pan.

Blot off your pan with some paper towels – it should dry quickly.

drying-cast-iron-skillet

Pour a small amount of oil into your pan and cover pan thoroughly.

There are many types of oils you can use for seasoning your cast iron skillet. I used grapeseed oil because it’s what I had on hand, I don’t cook with it anymore nor did I want it to go to waste.

Some people say that flaxseed oil is best. You don’t want your pan swimming in oil, so just use enough to cover it and give it a nice luster.

oil-cast-iron-skillet

seasoning-cast-iron-skillet

4. Place the pan upside down on an oven rack and bake at 350 deg F for 1 hour.

When you do this, be sure to place some aluminum foil at the bottom of your oven to catch any oil drips.

The heat will turn it into a thin layer of polymerized oil which is somewhat of a plastic substance that bonds to the surface of the pan.

seasoning-cast-iron-skillet-2

5. Let cool.

After you pull your pan out of the oven, let it cool for a while as it will be toasty!

I took mine out with a paper towel and an oven mitt… the paper towel over the oven mitt will protect the mitt from any excess oil.

how to season a cast iron skillet

Long-Term Cast Iron Maintenance

Now that you’ve seasoned your cast iron skillet, it’s time to maintain it!

Maintenance is very simple and by following these tips, you should have a clean, trustworthy cast iron skillet for years to come.

  • Season your pan when you get it: Even though most cast iron skillets and pans come pre-seasoned, a little extra seasoning has never hurt anybody. Give give it a quick season and you should be good to go.
  • Don’t let your cast iron skillet sit in water: As mentioned earlier, water is the enemy of iron and when the two meet it will likely cause your cast iron to rust. Avoid letting your skillet sit in the sink (guilty!), give it a good cleaning immediately after use.
  • Season on occasion: When you notice that your cast iron is losing its luster or food is sticking more than normal, follow the steps above to season your pan.

And that’s it! Happy cooking!

seasoning a cast iron skillet

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I am an aspiring homesteader on a journey to become self-sustainable and free. In my past, I've worked corporate jobs to make ends meet and get ahead a little; it didn't make me happy or confident in my future. Since taking the leap to self-employment and living a more simple life, my happiness levels have increased greatly and I've never felt more alive. I finally understand what I want in life and how to get there, and that is what this blog is all about.

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Comments

  1. Jennifer says

    Hi Alyssa! I’m enjoying your blog! Like you, I gave up my nonstick cookware a few years ago due to concerns about chemicals leaching into my food. I also got grossed out by the extra little “pepper” flakes that made their way into my food, even when I didn’t season with pepper, once the coating started to flake off the pan. It didn’t matter how much or how little I paid for them, they all ended flaking. Egads! It’s embarrassing to even admit I used those nonstick pans. Anyhoo, I love my cast iron cookware for many reasons. It’s easy to clean if you do it when you’re finished eating. It puts a gorgeous sear on meats. It beautifully browns potatoes, onions, and other vegetables. Cast iron heats more evenly than aluminum or steel. And I can hand down my pans to my kids, unlike the numerous nonstick pans I’ve handed over to the garbage collector over the years. I have two pans (8″ and 10″) that are seasoned so well, fried eggs do not stick to them. Although at first I prepared many batches of scrambled eggs while the natural nonstick character was being built up. Oh the joys of cast iron! I’ve formed a kind of relationship with my cast iron pans that I never had with synthetic-lined pans. I’ll never go back.

  2. Jo says

    What other oils can be used? I have pans handed down to me from my mother and each of my three children have pans that I handed down to them. Investing in good cast-iron lasts forever. I needed a refresher course on seasoning my cast-iron because we don’t use Crisco shortening anymore.

  3. Judy Littlejohn says

    I have done a couple different things to clean my cast iron skillets and alot of the little rust did not come off..but did the best I could. I coated them with veg oil and put them upside down in oven at 350. I’m waiting for the time to be done. If there is still some rust on inside of skillet will that hurt anything when you cook in them. Thanks!

    • Megan says

      Hello, I’ve been using cast iron for years. When you start from scratch (or with an old rusted pan) you need to use steel wool and a mild soap to scrub ALL of the rust off. If you don’t do this then that rust will just be in the under layer and could still get into your food. After scrubbing with steel wool, rinse well and either put your pan in the oven or on the stove top to completely dry it. Once it’s dry, I use Crisco shortening (in the can) and *shop paper towels to rub a small amount of the shortening all over, do not neglect the handles or underside as they are just as important. Make sure there is no puddling or excess shortening in your pan. Then place it upside down in the oven preheated to 450-500 degrees. Let it bake for one hour then turn the oven off and let it cool completely. This high temp will give you the shiny, nonstick quality you are looking for. Anything cooler will give you a sticky pan and the oil will not be set.
      To care for your pan after it is seasoned:
      Sprinkle a good amount of coarse sea or Kosher salt and rub around with a shop towel to release food particles. Then just wipe into the trash and redo the Crisco step (you do not need to put it in the oven, just put it on your cooktop and heat beyond the smoking point (med-high for about 5-10 min)).
      If your pan is very dirty, like from a sauce or messy recipe, use a non metal scrubber (either the rough side of a sponge, or the Scotch-Brite Greener Clean Scouring Pads) with warm water. Scrub residue then follow with the drying and Crisco steps mentioned above.
      * These shop towels are blue and can be found at any hardware or home improvement store. I like them because they do not lint and leave little pieces behind like regular paper towels do.

      I hope this information helps!

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