Kitchen Confidence

How to Season Cast Iron

By • May 24, 2012 • 54 Comments

Inspired by conversations on the FOOD52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. Today, Amanda shows us how to season a cast iron pan.

Cast Iron Pan

A cast iron pan is a trusty companion for numerous kitchen tasks -- evenly distributed heat and a well-seasoned surface will take you far in your cooking. If you treat a cast iron pan right, it'll last a lifetime (or two, or three). Treating it right means seasoning it, and maintaining that naturally nonstick coating. Here, Amanda shows us exactly how to do that. 

Do you have any other tips for caring for cast iron? 

   

Today's video was shot by Alex Lisowski, and edited by Kyle Orosz. Photos by Nicole Franzen.

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Tags: Kitchen Confidence, tips and tricks, how-to, cast iron, seasoning cast iron, pans, video, how-to & diy

Comments (54)

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Stringio

5 months ago Bob Ramsey

I always used bacon grease/fat (not beef) it always worked great for me. but I wasn't doing the outside. I will try this now.

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5 months ago Sujatha

I've started using a silicone basting brush to brush my skillet w/ oil to season. It distributes the oil evenly, minimizes the amt of oil used (prevents pooling), and avoids the biggest problem I've had w/ seasoning: getting lint stuck in the seasoning layer from the paper towel often used for this purpose. Started using cast iron this year after getting rid of questionable non-stick pans & I've been happy with it.

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6 months ago Carrie

Do you have to season the cast iron pan after each washing? I've never had one but would like to buy a new one and start now.

Stringio

5 months ago Bob Ramsey

No, when it hasn't been used, or for some reason is it gets rank which is usually unlikely, or if you leave it on a hot burner and burn off the seasoning.

Bio

almost 2 years ago theyearinfood

I have had such bad luck with seasoning cast iron. I followed the instructions above but I have an uneven, splotchy seasoning now. This has happened before. Thoughts anyone?

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

almost 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Sorry to hear this -- did the oil pool in the pan? Just wondering if this may have contributed to the unevenness?

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almost 2 years ago foodie-pretense

My guess would be too much oil. You should barely be able to tell there's a fresh layer of oil applied to the pan when you heat it.

Bio

almost 2 years ago theyearinfood

Thanks, both of you! I don't know whether the oil pooled, since the pans were inverted in my oven, but I may have added too much oil - you're both hinting at a similar situation. I will keep trying, and next time with a much more conservative coating of oil.

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almost 2 years ago LarainBK

Hey Amanda, Great video. I have a question about storing my cast iron skillet. After I clean it, do I have to coat it with oil to store it or can I just leave it dry?

Thanks!

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

almost 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Thanks -- I always coat it with oil before storing it. Just a little bit. Keeps it in good shape for the next time you use it.

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almost 2 years ago LarainBK

Hey Amanda,

Great video, but I have a question about storing the pan. After you clean the skillet do you have to coat it in oil to store it? Thanks!

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about 2 years ago The Improbable Chef

First, this is such a useful and practical Food52 feature. This is probably a silly question, but once I've seasoned the pan will I be able to fry eggs, or cook say bacon, sausages or pancakes in it? I'm pondering buying a pan, but I'm not sure how useful it will be - they're not commonplace in England. Thanks!

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

about 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Yes, you most certainly can use it for eggs, bacon, sausages, and pancakes -- all of them! Once the pan is seasoned, each of these will cook so much better. Good luck!

Mekid

about 2 years ago hungryandlistless

Finally! I've saved at least three or four articles on cast iron seasoning, but this is the first time I have put a how-to to use. It was simple and a lot less cumbersome to apply than most other guides.

My skillet and grill pans are happily seasoned and ready for lots of delicious messes. Thanks!

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

about 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Thanks for the follow-up! Glad to have a success story!

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about 2 years ago chocbird09

Thanks for the video! I recently discovered your site and fell in love completely :)

I was recently given a new cast iron pan, since the handle from my old, truly loved one (30+ yrs old, from my parents), that was loose for quite some time, completely broke off. It wasn't any brand-name pan, since they were inaccessible then (and brand new are ridiculously expensive now, not to mention I've never seen a used one in a thrift store or on an auction), and the one I was given now isn't either. I attempted to repair it, but well... Let's just say I think it needs help from a pro. Until then, the new one should be fine, except for one thing: it has an enameled handle.

So finally, my question: can I rub oil as shown (rapeseed/canola, in my case) on the non-enameled parts and just stick the pan in the oven, or will it harm the enamel/cause something harmful to fume? I get it that enameled pots and pans don't have to (can't?) be seasoned, but can I put in the oven? I have two or three such pots, but not even once thought of it.

Thank you for your help :)

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

about 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

The enameled handle should be fine in the oven. Le Creuset pots are just enameled cast iron and they are completely oven safe. Either way, keep an eye on it -- I'd check it every 10 minutes just to be sure it's doing ok. Hope the new pan works out!

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about 2 years ago chocbird09

I seasoned the pan yesterday evening, then left it in the oven overnight to cool. Everything was fine, nothing was burnt in the process :) I took out the pan this morning, but noticed it still had some metallic, un-seasoned (I guess) spots, so I did a second round. Now it's evenly coated. I just can't wait to cook in it :)

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

about 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Glad it's all set!

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about 2 years ago Sara Hendrickson

Ok, girlfriend. I'm obsessed with my cast iron skillet and your website, but I didn't realize that I needed to season it after the first time until I watched your video this morning. I followed your directions, it's in the oven now, covered in canola oil, and it's smoking like a mother. What did I do wrong???

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

about 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Your oven may run hot -- how long has it been in the oven? First turn down the heat to 350 degrees. Is the oil pooling? If so, mop it up using paper towel -- remove the pan from the oven to do this and wear an oven mitt, because the oil will be extremely hot. Please report back and let me know how things are going.

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about 2 years ago Sara Hendrickson

The smoking seems to have subsided, phew. No pooling oil, on the bottom of the pan or on the foil on the rack underneath. It's been in there about 45 minutes. I turned down the heat just to be safe, but maybe it was just dirty? I've been using it consistently for about 3 years. Thank you so much for your reply! (Oh and BTW you were fab when you spoke in Seattle, I was there. :))

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

about 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Glad the smoke subsided. While you were dealing with your pan, I had a grease fire in my oven! Strange coincidence. Still not sure why your pan smoked -- could have been residue from past cooking burning off.

Also, thanks for coming to my talk in Seattle!

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about 2 years ago placidplaid

Cooks Illustrated has a very good way to do this but with flax seed oil. It lasts far far longer than vegetable or other oils. This procedure seems to last a whole lot longer than any other I've tried. If anyone is interested I will post this from the February 2011 magazine. Apparently though it has caused quite a blog stir!

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about 2 years ago Panfusine

I remember how Cast iron was cleaned using ash and sand and coconut fibers waay back in my grandmothers home. The fibres are tough enough to remove grease w/o scratcing off the seasoning. I'm positive this is still done in the villages.

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

about 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Very cool. When my husband and I were in Sri Lanka we ate pittu, a steamed coconut and rice dish, and it comes out of the steamer shaped like a log and they cut it using a coconut fiber. Loved this detail. Probably has many uses.

Mcs

about 2 years ago mcs3000

GREAT video + series. Love my cast-iron pans.

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about 2 years ago LouisaA

Thanks Amanda! Is this technique recommended for cast iron Le Creuset pots as well?

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

about 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

I wouldn't use it for enameled cast iron, just for raw cast iron.

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about 2 years ago Volli11

Can you use coconut oil?

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

about 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

I wouldn't -- it has a lower smoke point. Something like canola or vegetable would be better.

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about 2 years ago foodie-pretense

If you're interested in some solid science and good advice on your cast iron I'd recommend you read this:

http://sherylcanter.com...

Remove old seasoning with lye or the self-clean setting on your oven. Your typical dish soap will probably not aggressive enough to truly remove polymerized fats.

Flax/linseed (raw, not boiled) is an ideal seasoning oil as it's both edible and is a drying oil (meaning it polymerizes, which is what the seasoning is) quite readily.

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

about 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Thank you for this.

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about 2 years ago irinaleibo

This is the same technique to use on carbon steel pans, like deBuyer, correct?
Thanks

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

about 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Yes -- you can use this technique on de Buyer pans. However, a chef friend of mine recommends the following for de Buyer pans -- be careful with the heat if you do this (I haven't tried it yet). He wrote:

As I mentioned, they start off silver looking, but I blacken mine before I cook in them. Some people let them blacken over time, but I find they work best that way, so I just take the time to rub them with oil as they sit over high heat until they build up a nice layer of black, baked-on oil. A high smoke point oil works best. I use grapeseed. The heat of the pan will literally turn the cloth you use to apply the oil in thin layers to ashes, so use one you don't care about. Paper towels will adhere to the pan, turn black, and leave the pan with a rough surface, so def use cloth - 100% cotton.

You may find other carbon steel pans cheaper, but make sure the thickness of the pan is at least as thick as these, which I believe is 3/16 inch thick. The thicker the better. I think even DeBuyer makes a thinner pan, so if you come across a price that looks too good to be true, check to make sure the thickness is correct first. That's usually what accounts for the lower price.

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about 2 years ago Shoshanadh

Re: an unloved (or cruddy) pan (or one that you find at a garage sale or thrift shop): you can put it through the self-cleaning cycle of an oven to clean it, then season. Flax seed oil, though expensive, is a great seasoning oil.

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about 2 years ago ntt2

what about if you have an unloved cast iron pan that has some rust on it? thanks, nt

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

about 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

You can scrub off the rust and then start the seasoning process. I've done this -- it works!

Serendipity

about 2 years ago ChompingTheBigApple

I read an article that said you could use a mixture of 1/2 water 1/2 white vinegar to help remove the rust. Let the pan sit in the mixture for 1-4 hours, removing once the rust is gone and not letting it sit much longer or else the vinegar will start to eat away at the cast iron. Use a steel brush to get off any stubborn bits. I'm trying this out on some cast iron pans my mom found at a garage sale today.

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about 2 years ago Panfusine

This is such a valuable video, thanks so much!

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

about 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

You're welcome -- we're having a great time working on Kitchen Confidence. Lots of rigorous office conversations about upcoming columns!

Meg_b_f52

about 2 years ago meganvt01

I really appreciate this series. So helpful on issues that are universal to so many cooks.

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

about 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Great -- lots more to come!

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about 2 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Amanda, do you dry it thoroughly, as in cooking it on top of the stove over low heat for a few minutes, to get rid of any water absorbed during the scraping/washing step? Thanks so much! ;o)

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

about 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Yes, I do -- see my answer above. I wash and dry the pan, and then rub a little on it, and place the pan over low heat. Both to fully dry it and to get the seasoned surface re-established.

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about 2 years ago Sarah Wadsworth

Simple and good! Thank you ;-)

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about 2 years ago SuzanneM

Very helpful! I'd also like to know how to clean it after using it to maintain the "seasoning".

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

about 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Great question -- If the pan just has residual oil, I use paper towel to wipe out the pan; and that's all. If there are stuck bits or a messy sauce, I wash the pan. Then I dry the pan with a towel, rub oil on the surface of the pan, and heat it over low heat for 10 or 15 minutes.

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about 2 years ago deanna1001

A couple of tricks - simmer with about an inch of water for ten minutes or so to loosen stuck on stuff. Use a brush - NEVER soap. Then I use kosher salt as an abrasive to clean it...just using my rubber gloved fingers to spread it around. This technique works great even without the simmer if it's not too icky. proceed with drying it. I usually film a little oil and heat it on top of the stove for a few minutes to be sure it's really dry, then wipe any excess oil out. Love my cast iron pans. Thanks Amanda for demystifying this for so many cooks! Great series.

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

about 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Also, if the pan needs more than a wipe out but doesn't need to be scrubbed, I use the salt method. We did a video on it here: http://www.food52.com/blog...

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about 2 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I love this series also, so helpful, thank you, i think its time to re-season my cast iron pans. Thanks Amanda!!

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

about 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Glad you're enjoying it. Kudos go to Kristy Mucci, who dreamed up this series and oversees it!

New_years_kitchen_hlc_only

about 2 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Excellent video! So helpful. I just love this Kitchen Confidence series. Thank you so much. ;o)

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

about 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Thanks AJ!