Cast iron is considered the iron maiden of cookware, strong, robust, and lifelong cooking companions. Undoubtedly, cast iron cookware is some of the best, with many chefs choosing cast iron.
At the same time, some home cooks might feel a little intimidated by the maintenance.
There are a few tips to keeping your cast iron healthy and well maintained; the whole process isn’t as intimidating as you’d think.
What is seasoning?
Cast iron skillets and pots are made from robust iron. Much like other metals, it reacts when water and oxygen mix, creating rust.
Seasoning cast iron is the art of protecting the metal by sealing it with heat and a bit of oil. Seasoned cast iron is non-stick, disperses heat better, and is easy to clean.
Most importantly, well-seasoned cast-iron lasts longer and cooks better. Cast iron cookware lasts for years if properly maintained; these beautiful pots and skillets can be passed on for generations if well cared for.
The best oil for seasoning your cast iron
Not all oils are the same. When it comes to seasoning, there are a few choices to consider.
The oil you use to season your cast iron skillet can impact the flavor of your food.
The smoke point is an essential factor to consider when picking an oil; the higher the smoke point, the higher the temperatures you can use to heat your cookware.
Before opting for the oil with the highest smoke point, consider that you will need to heat your cast iron to that temperature before adding the oil during seasoning.
Here are a few oils that you can use to season your cast iron.
- Grapeseed oil has a high smoke point 0f about 420 degrees Fahrenheit. The neutral flavor makes it perfect for any home chef. It is healthy as well as used by most professionals and cast iron fundies.
- Peanut oil is excellent for seasoning cast iron; however, it comes with a warning. Anyone with nut allergies should not eat food prepared in a cast-iron skillet that has been seasoned with peanut oil. The smoke point of 450 degrees Fahrenheit is not as healthy as others due to it being refined. It is excellent for deep frying!
- Canola/vegetable oil is perhaps one of the most common household oils used to season cast iron cookware. Readily available in most supermarkets, these oils are refined and not as healthy as other alternatives. The smoke point for canola oil is between 425 – 450 degrees Fahrenheit. It is best for seasoning the outside of your cast iron cookware as that doesn’t come into direct contact with your food, especially if you are health conscious.
- Avocado oil, with one of the highest smoke points at 520 degrees Fahrenheit. This healthy and neutral oil is perfect for seasoning cast iron cookware! It is an excellent choice for anyone that needs to cook in high temperatures. Make sure you handle the pan with care and heat-proof mitts.
- Coconut oil is a perfect choice for anyone that doesn’t cook at high temperatures often, as the smoke point is relatively low. You can use coconut oil to season cast iron provided it is done correctly; otherwise, you risk flaking and not achieving a fully non-stick skillet. The pan should be around the same temperature as the smoke point – 350 degrees Fahrenheit, before adding the oil to the cast iron pan.
- Extra Virgin Olive oil has a slightly lower smoke point at 375 degrees. However, it is a little trickier to season your skillet with. It is crucial to get your skillet to the exact temperature of 375F before adding the oil. Once you have become accustomed to seasoning your equipment, it will be much easier to season your cookware with olive oil.
- Flaxseed oil is the choice of many regular cast iron users. This not always easy to find oil was almost made for cast iron; it bonds to the metal unlike any other oil and gives the cast iron a slick, beautiful finish. The trick to seasoning with flaxseed oil is to season it at least six times in one hour at a low temperature.
When to season?
Most new cast iron cookware comes pre-seasoned. All this means is that your pan needs a wipe down, and it is ready to go.
Cast iron cooking naturally seasons the pan little by little when cooking with oil or fatty foods—adding new layers of non-stick happiness to the cooking surface of your skillets.
Most avid users of cast iron season their cookware a few times a year; it is not a process that you need to go through weekly or even monthly if your pans are well maintained and looked after between uses.
Cooking with certain foods, including acidic foods such as lemons, tomatoes, and the like, can cut through the oil layers and remove some seasoning.
Using abrasive materials to scrub and clean cast iron can also do damage to the non-stick coatings.
Ensure that you rub oil onto your pans after using it to ensure that your cast iron stays well maintained and rust-free.
How to season cast iron quickly
While it is recommended to do an oven seasoning of cast iron to ensure that the cookware is saturated and adequately seasoned, there is a quick method to see your cast iron seasoned in 15 minutes!
- You will need a rag, heat-proof oven gloves, open windows, and a stovetop.
- Dip your rag in your chosen oil and wipe the skillet down with it, coating it in a nice thin layer of oil. It shouldn’t be glossy; if it is glossy, wipe it down with a paper towel.
- Turn the stove burner on high heat and allow the skillet to heat up to the oil’s smoking point. It should take about 3 – 5 minutes.
- Once the skillet starts to look bone dry, grab your rag and slick another layer of oil on it. You can continue adding as many layers of oil as you desire.
- Once you have seasoned as many layers of oil as you need, pop your skillet into a cold oven, leave it there to cool.
Oven seasoning – the old fashioned way
The old tried and tested way to season a cast-iron skillet is in the oven. Here is how:
- Make sure your skillet is completely dry, put it on a stove burner for 2 minutes to ensure all moisture evaporates.
- Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Grab a paper towel and your favorite seasoning oil. Allow the pan to cool to touch and rub the pan with a thin coating of oil. Ensure that you coat the entire pan; use a paper towel or a kitchen cloth to rub the oil in.
- Buff the oil into the pan and make sure it is deeply saturated. There shouldn’t be excess oil on the skillet.
- Place your cast-iron skillet upside down into the preheated oven for 30 minutes. It is okay if it gets smokey. It might be a great idea to put a baking pan underneath it to catch any excess oil.
- Repeat three more times, rubbing oil onto the skillet, buffing it, and then back into the oven for 30 minutes. Remember, the skillet will be hot, so make sure you have heat-proof mitts on!
The trick to keeping cast iron perfect
The maintenance of your cast iron is the most vital part of keeping it seasoned and non-stick.
As long as you do not soak your cast iron or scrub it with an abrasive scourer, your skillets can truly last a lifetime and beyond.
Tip: Don’t forget to wipe your cast iron down with a layer of oil if you are storing it.