I need to re-season my cast-iron skillet. Can I use food-grade mineral oil?

I have used food-grade flax-seed oil in the past, but my wife and son hate the smell. I'm looking for a better way to do this.

The Principal Cook


Lindsay S. June 20, 2019
I still didn’t see an answer to this question so I figured I’d be the guinea pig. I’ve used many different oils in the past but I’m out of grape seed and lard. I’ve used canola and I think it stunk a lot. Only had some mineral oil for my cutting boards and tried it. It worked just fine. Definitely no fishy smell, just that smell of smoking oil and hot cast iron. Seems to have worked just fine as far as I can tell.
stillpoint December 29, 2014
Does anyone use coconut oil for seasoning? I am trying to get the pufa's out of my diet so only using coconut oil, butter and lard. Wondering if coconut might be a better choice in terms of rancidity.
Susan W. December 29, 2014
I have, but it was very smokey. Coconut oil doesn't have a super high smoke point. Lard is a great choice. I sometimes use coconut oil for quick swipe between official seasonings.
jamcook December 29, 2014
Use what works for the task at hand.. You are not going to drink whatever it is , you're just seasoning a pan.
jamcook December 28, 2014
There is a lengthy video that I once watched online. Probably on YouTube. Sorry I can't seem to find the link now. It shows a man who collects ancient cast iron skillets , and the wild and wonderful ways he cleans and seasons them. Lots of fun.. He seems to have a zillion pans, and he is slow and deliberate and very informative, but I would love to know what he does with ALL THOSE PANS!!!
Sam1148 December 28, 2014
I agree with Susan. Lard or other fat. In fact...cook bacon in the skillet a few times. The prized "grandmother skillet" gets it's surface from years of cooking bacon.
The "it will go rancid" argument only means you. are. not. using. your. skillet. enough.

Even then...I've never had a animal fat cast iron piece "go rancid". I have one of those corn bread stick pans that only gets used a few times a year. It's probably 50 years old and hangs on the wall when not in use. Never a problem with it..and it gets bacon grease when I make corn bread stick. (yea! New years Collards and Cornbread!)
cookbookchick December 28, 2014
That was me, Sam -- Susan says she doesn't use bacon fat on her CI.
Susan W. December 28, 2014
CBC, you are right because of the sugar used, but I do use beef tallow or pork lard. Not saying bacon doesn't work..the sugar thing is just what does and doesn't make sense in my head. As is true a lot of the time, there's really no right or wrong.
The P. December 28, 2014
Thank you, everyone! trampledbygeese and Susan W both predicted lots of answers, and they were right!

I'm not a rookie in seasoning cast iron. I asked originally about food-safe mineral oil because my son had picked up some to condition an awesome cutting board he had made in his woodshop class. I've used flaxseed oil before with the best and quickest results, but it really smells fishy when you get it above the smoke point. I've gone with grapeseed oil and am pleased with the results so far (but there's a long way to go, certainly, and cookbookchick is right: the best seasoning does come through regular use and long-term care).

The last time I seasoned a pan I used flaxseed oil for the first time. To my understanding, the difference between flaxseed oil and linseed oil is that flaxseed oil designates that it's foodsafe.
drshakyhands December 28, 2014
I once followed an article to this link : http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/01/a-science-based-technique-for-seasoning-cast-iron/

And found that article to be an excellent explanation of the science behind seasoning the cast iron skillet. Although the article is older and the author is no longer posting replies, I think it is very useful. I believe she recommends flaxseed oil for seasoning and includes a guide on how to season your skillet. It is time consuming, but apparently leads to a superior result.
Susan W. December 28, 2014
I use her method and it's truly awesome. My CI pans literally have such a hard, shiny seasoning that I can wash them with soap and the seasoning doesn't budge. It's well worth the effort.

Voted the Best Reply!

cookbookchick December 27, 2014
Fry some chicken in it! And bacon. That will help to re-season it.
trampledbygeese December 27, 2014
I love this for a quick fix. All the benefits of seasoning without the excessive oil smoke or oven. Only I find it doesn't last quite as long as oven seasoning, then again, benefits to that too - another excuse for more bacon.

Bacon, followed by onions is my favourite. Or just onions in loads of olive oil if you aren't a bacon person.
trampledbygeese December 27, 2014
I'm pretty firmly entrenched in the learn the 'proper' way(s) but do what actually works for you school of thought, so feel free to take or leave what I say on the subject. Don't get me wrong, there are times when I love, adore and follow to the letter the proper way of doing something, but let's face it, it's a kitchen - the heart of the house and quite often the center of peoples lives. If we all followed the proper way to do everything, who would have time to do superfluous acts like eating?

With cast iron, one needs to pick their battles (again, my opinion). Lots of ways work in practice (though perhaps not in science), and when you look at it from a historical point of view, most people in the past didn't have a choice of oils. Edible oil and fats were a very limited resources until after the industrial revolution. They used what they had (which often didn't include ovens either).

For most of my life, I simply followed the instructions that came with, or were stamped(?) onto the back of the pan. These had quite a long range from heat the oil to 200F for half a day, to 450F for half an hour. Though the currently recognized proper way looks something like this: http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/01/a-science-based-technique-for-seasoning-cast-iron/ This method encourages making the oil smoke, which isn't always a practical option, especially when living with others.

I've tried most of them and all of the ones I've tried made me happy. They may not have properly seasoned my pans, but they gave me the result I wanted, a nonstick cooking surface that cleans easily and doesn't rust. It doesn't rust even when I cook tomatoes or wash it in dishwashing water... which is another big no-no, but has yet to give me grief. Sorry if I made you shudder there. Then again, I use my main cast iron pans at least once a day and may simply not have a chance to rust. Yet, my often neglected dutch oven also shows no sign of rust between yearly seasoning (except when someone puts it away wet which apparently serves me right for washing it).

My favourite method so far is with grapeseed oil heated to 350 F for two hours, then left in the oven overnight to cool, wiping the excess oil out partway through the cooling process. Mild to moderate smelling oil smoke stink, with nicest frying surface of the methods I've tried.

I'm glad you asked this, as it's past my regular scheduled seasoning time of year. This year, I'm going with a more traditional animal fat method, and see how that works.
sfmiller December 27, 2014
I can't speak from experience seasoning cast iron with mineral oil, but I suspect it wouldn't solve the odor problem. In order to actually season the pan, rather than just heat oil in it, you have to exceed the oil's smoke point. Exceeding the smoke point produces.....smoke, which smells.

There's only so much you can do to minimize this, short of doing the seasoning outdoor on a grill or portable burner: use very thin coats of oil, run the vent fan, open windows if you can, wait until sensitive household members are away.
Susan W. December 26, 2014
Trampled is so right. Tons of opinions on this will be showing up.

Mineral oil is a byproduct of petroleum. Food grade mineral oil is said to be safe, but you decide if that bothers you or not. I use it on my cutting boards because it won't go rancid. Also, I don't want to use walnut oil because I don't want to worry about someone having a nut allergy. I have never thought to use it on my cast iron. If you only use your pan occasionally, it may be a good way to go because it won't easily go rancid.

Personally, I use beef tallow or pork lard. I don't use bacon grease because I feel the sugar used to cure it is contrary to my goals of seasoning in the first place.

Many like seed oils because of the high smoke point. I don't use canola for anything (a whole other conversation), but I do keep grape seed oil on hand.

That flax seed method is supposed to be awesome, but I have heard of people detecting a fishy smell.

I really like the Canter method. Because you have tried flax seed, I have a feeling you are familiar with it.

Let us know what you decide to use.
The P. December 27, 2014
Thank you for the thoughtful reply. I'm not familiar with the Canter method, but maybe it's what I used before. I rubbed flax seed oil in the cold pan and put it in a cold oven, which I then heated to 500 degrees. Once the oven got to temp, I turned it off and left the pan in the oven until cool. I repeated this process a couple of times until I faced a domestic insurrection, but it worked very well. The surface degraded because of misuse (which is another thread that would trigger many lengthy replies).
trampledbygeese December 27, 2014
Susan, have you seen these for cutting boards? http://www.leevalley.com/en/wood/page.aspx?p=45105&cat=1,190,42942 The one with beeswax is my favourite.
Susan W. December 28, 2014
Trampled, the link just took me to a main page and I didn't see any cutting board oils. There was another conversation about it and a couple of people mentioned beeswax, so I'd like to look into it.

Do you have a different link that goes to the product?
trampledbygeese December 28, 2014
Sorry about the link. The ones I was trying to link to are called 'tried and true'.
Susan W. December 28, 2014
Trampled, the link just worked. Weird. Those are finishes, but not necessarily something I would use to re-oil a cutting board. Linseed oil isn't food grade. Those would be awesome for cabinets etc. though.
trampledbygeese December 28, 2014
A point of clarification in regards to linseed oil: Some linseed oil is perfectly food safe, and some isn't. In fact, I can say with confidence that you use linseed in your own cooking, you said so in this very thread. You just didn't realize what it was.

linseed (Linum usitatissimum) is another word for flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum).

Two words, one plant. Linseed oil can be food safe, and sometimes it isn't. Same with flaxseed oil. It all depends on how it's been processed. For example, lead and other heavy metals sometimes were/are a common addition to make the final woodfinish harder for a product often sold as 'boiled linseed oil'. Just like flax oil (because they are the same thing), you can process/heat linseed without making it toxic.

I suspect the confusion between linseed and flax plant comes from the modern usage of the words linen (which shares a linguistic root with linseed) and flax. Currently we use the word 'flax' to refer to the plant (seed, oil, flower, stocks and chaff) and 'linen' to refer to the fabric (starting somewhere between retting and final hackle, but usually referring to the actual thread or fabric), except in woodwork where the oil is still called linseed.

These Tried and True finishes are all FDA foodsafe (for what it's worth these days) and also Canadian equivalent foodsafe (very slightly more strict). They take a bit more effort to apply to a cutting board than simple vegetable oil, however they last a lot longer and I have yet to find any going rancid. They can be used over many/most wood finishes.
trampledbygeese December 28, 2014
ops, sorry, it must have been another thread where you said you used flax. Sorry Susan.
Susan W. December 28, 2014
Interesting about the linseed oils. Growing up, I had horses and we used it to oil our sadles and bridles. In England, we fed the horses ground linseed, but never the oil.

I think you saw me mention the Canter method of seasoning, but I have not used flax seed oil. I use tallow and lard. :)
trampledbygeese December 28, 2014
Sorry again about my error there, I forgot to triple check the posts in this thread before pressing 'reply'.

The flax/lin thing is all a big messy language thing. The meanings of the two has been so fluid in history. Sometimes linen can refer to any bast fibre fabric like nettle, sisal, jute, and linen (Medieval), other times it refers to any 'product' of the flax plant like seeds, oil, fabric (Industrial Revolution). And then there is current usage where the food industry seems to have taken the word flax into their bosom, perhaps to elevate it from the lowly agricultural linseed animal feed. Like when they started improving the rapeseed plant so that it had less of that cancer causing acid and gave it a new name based on where it was developed - good old CANadian Oil Low Acid. I (without sarcasm) think it's marvelous how the food industry uses nomenclature as a way of improving public perception. It's very clever.

I can't wait to see what they do with barley - my prediction on the next superfood. It's cheap to grow, it's lowly history as peasant fodder, intensely rich vitamin and mineral content... but that's the making of another thread.
Susan W. December 28, 2014
Yes, the terms are often changed to suit marketing needs. We all know there is no such thing as a canola plant.

I just watched a farmer who grows nothing but linseed plants. He claims flax and linseed are two different plants. To quote him: Linseed plants are tall with many seeds. Flax plants are shorter with fewer seeds.

Yay!! More confusion. :)

Sorry for the hijacking of your thread The Principal Cook. Back to your regularly scheduled programming. :)
trampledbygeese December 28, 2014
I say this with love and as a farmer myself: Farmers are just as, if not more, susceptible to marketing campaigns than consumers. For the most part, people want to believe that they are doing something fulfilling and special - for a farmer that means growing something nourishing and/or cutting edge. Sometimes people take advantage of that... not saying anything more as those people have deep pockets full of lawyers.

There is a slight difference between flax grown for fibre and flax grown for seed. Think of it like tomatoes. There are cherry tomatoes and there are roma. Both are tomato. One makes a better salad, the other better sauce. But both can make salad or sauce.

The taller flax grown for cloth can easily be used for seed and oil, the shorter flax grown for oil can be used for making cloth. We are told that if we want to grow for fibre, we have to buy these seeds, if we want for seed, we have to buy that seed...or if we want drought tolerant... then we buy... we buy...

Sorry about the long winded answers, but we've touched on two of my current passions - working with flax (food and textiles) and ranting against deliberate consumer miseducation. I should unsubscribe from this thread so I don't derail it any further.
trampledbygeese December 26, 2014
Prepare yourself for a long discussion, I suspect a lot of people will weigh in on the subject.

Yes, you CAN use food grade mineral oil, and many people do.

I don't want my personal predigest to put you off the idea entirely, but perhaps you could find a more renewable resource for seasoning your skillet? If you are an omnivore, lard (especially from ethically raised animals) is a very popular for seasoning pans. Or a vegetable oil with a higher smoke temperature (like coconut or grapeseed) will give olfactory senses a more pleasant experience.

There are some wonderful studies and ideas on the best oil to use; however, whatever you choose to use to season your skillet, it needs to fit in with your lifestyle. For example, if you live somewhere with inclement weather, then of course you don't want to spend half the day airing out your kitchen with the windows open.

I haven't tried food grade mineral oil myself, so I can't tell you how stinky it would be when cooked. I'm confident someone else will pipe up and let us know.
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