How to Season Cast Iron

Cast iron is an old fashioned kitchen tool that I implemented into my cooking last year. I’m still new to the whole system, but a year of use will teach you a lot!

I really struggled to get a proper seasoning on my skillet when I first began cooking with it. I made mistakes like layering too much oil on it, scrubbing it with soap, and not placing it upside-down in the oven. All of these errors lead to frustration. Read more about my cast iron mistakes, and how to avoid them, here.

I actually stopped cooking with my cast iron skillet for a period of time because I felt as if I couldn’t figure it all out. I then tried again and found a lot more success this time.

A proper seasoning on a cast iron skillet is essential to successful cooking with this old fashioned tool. Read along if you’d like to read about the basic steps to seasoning cast iron. They aren’t too complicated, but must be done correctly in order to achieve a proper season. You’ll also find a few tips for how to maintain the seasoning once you’ve nailed it.

Why Cast Iron

  1. Many other ‘non-stick’ pans are covered in a coating full of a carcinogenic chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid that will leech into the food during use and fill the air with toxic fumes. That’s not what I want! This health concern is what drew me towards cast iron because it is chemical free.
  2. I also heard a lot of testimonies raving about how much better food cooks on cast iron than other pans. I won’t pretend to understand all the science behind this point, but, after months of use, I must say it is true! Something about this cooking surface makes potatoes crispier, eggs more tasteful, meat juicier, and so on.

How to Season Cast Iron

  1. Apply a thin layer of oil (I recommend coconut or olive oil) to the entire pan (inside, outside, and the handle too).
  2. Place the pan upside-down in a 400 degree oven for one hour.
  3. Turn the oven off, allow the pan to cool upside-down, and repeat the process 3-4 more times.

How to Maintain the Seasoning

  • The best way to maintain the layer of seasoning on a cast iron skillet is cooking with it often. Every time you heat oil or fat on the skillet for an extended amount of time, you add another thin layer of seasoning. Each layer strengthens the seasoning!
  • Keep the heat at low or medium. This will gently allow those layers of seasoning to form during the early life of your pan. Cast iron can take higher heat once it is broken in.
  • Avoid soap when possible. Scrubbing your pan with soap can eat away at the seasoning, so try using water and a rag before reaching for the suds. That being said, I will use soap on my skillet occasionally. Just avoid using it with each wash.

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