How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet

Recently we discussed the different types of non-stick cookware on the market, and their characteristics and qualities. Believe it or not, when properly seasoned, a cast iron skillet is effectively nonstick, but unlike some of it's alternatives the nonstick surface is completely natural. Cast iron pans have the benefit of longevity, and when maintained properly they can last a lifetime - maybe even longer! Some of the most beloved cast iron pieces are those passed from one generation to the next. Cast iron skillets are suitable for stove-top, oven and grill cooking, so they're a great cooking option if you don't mind the weight. They take longer to heat than other types of cookware, but disperse heat evenly and retain their heat for a long time. There are plenty of articles out there about how to properly season a cast iron pan, and it may seem daunting, but the reality is - it's pretty darn simple. Sure it takes some time to get it to where you want it, but the end result is completely worthwhile.

How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet

Whether you have a brand new pan, or an heirloom in need of some love. this process will work for you. For older pieces, make sure that any flaking parts of the pan (accumulated rust, for example, or old residue) are carefully rubbed away. To do this, you can use a piece of steel wool and apply pressure in circles to grind away the residue. If you have a new pan, you can skip this step, and go straight to cleaning. Use a mild soap and hot water to clean thoroughly, then dry. This will remove the anti-rusting coating applied at the factory. For an older pan, once any residue has been removed, simply wipe the whole surface with hot water and a cloth. Now you're ready to get started!

What you'll need:

  • a cast iron skillet
  • a box of lard, a tub of shortening, bacon fat or corn oil
  • a roll of strong paper towels

1.) Dry your clean skillet by heating it stove-top, then turn the heat off and let it cool. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.

2.) Place a large dollop of lard (or your chosen fat) in your skillet (about 1/4 cup), then with a paper towel, spread lard all over pan to cover completely. Once sufficiently covered, place in your preheated oven for at least 1 hour. Under the pan or on a lower rack in the oven, place a layer of aluminum foil to catch any drippings.

3.) After 1+ hours, turn the oven off and let the skillet cool. Once you are able to handle the skillet, wipe it down with a clean paper towel to remove most of the fat.

4.) After another hour has passed, wipe down the pan again with clean paper towels. Continue to rest until completely cool. Now your pan is ready to use!

After you season it initially, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t let food sit in the skillet long after cooking – this will wear down the seasoning you just worked so hard to create
  • After each use, gently wash the skillet with hot water, and a mild soap if necessary – but never in the dishwasher! That would also remove the seasoning you just applied
  • Re-season frequently – whenever the surface seems be losing its nonstick qualities. Repeat the steps listed above.

Good luck!

For old cast iron pros, do you have any cast iron seasoning tips to add?

Photo: Whining & Dining