Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How to season your cast iron skillet

A properly seasoned cast iron skillet is an excellent culinary tool; for cooking up a shore lunch, sauteing fresh duck breast with a side of eggs for an after hunt brunch, or making a stir fry from the previous post. If you are just purchasing a cast iron frying pan or are restoring an old one, the first thing to be done is to scrub it well with steel wool and hot water to remove any manufacturing film or rust. Once it is thoroughly clean and dry, heat the pan over medium to medium high heat until hot and then rub vegetable (olive is best) oil into the hot pan. Wipe out excess oil. This process may need to be repeated again until a smooth, slick surface is created. You now have a seasoned cast iron pan. An old-fashioned cast iron skillet should not be washed with soap and water because it will rust and not have the "seasoning" that prevents food from sticking. Rather, to clean your cast iron skillet, sprinkle some coarse salt (pretzel salt works great, but any salt will do) and a drop of olive oil in your pan and rub it with a cloth to remove any food and particulates. The salt helps with abrasion and to sanitize. Then heat your pan over medium high heat for a few minutes and wipe the pan out again with a paper towel or clean cloth. You may need to add a few drops more olive oil before heating the pan to create the nice seasoning (this is especially true if you are seasoning a new pan or had been cleaning with water and soap in the past). If you clean your cast iron skillet with salt and oil each time, you will have a natural non-stick fry pan. And yes, you do get extra iron in your diet when using a cast iron skillet!


  1. Cast iron pans are great. I think I and the family could easily get buy with just a cast iron frying pan and a cast iron dutch oven, and perhaps some sort of cast iron flat sheet. Indeed, when I cook on the stove top, I only use a cast iron frying pan, dutch oven, and a stainless steel pot.

    I often see peanut oil referred to as the ideal seasoning oil, and I've used that myself. Apparently this is based on it not smoking at seasoning temperatures, although I really dislike the smell of it.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Yeoman. I have heard of peanut oil to season cast iron as well, but it does have a strong flavor and is not the healthiest of vegetable oils. Good, old lard works very well, but again, not the healthiest choice. So I use a good olive oil, and just a few drops does the trick.

  3. Your point on the healt benefits of olive oil is excellent. It's my favorite cooking oil by far.

    But would it matter for cast iron seasoning? Wouldn't the seasoning, given its incorporation into the pores of the iron, not matter much one way or another?

    On other seasonings, using a dutch oven as a pie tin, and thereby having the pie crust in it, does wonders for them (although the sticky fruit does not).

  4. I oft use bacon grease...probably not the healthiest, but it is fun fooling the kids into thinking I am cooking bacon yet again...