Seasoning Your Cast Iron Cookware

Dear Home-Ec 101,

I got this set of cast iron pans last year for my birthday and I know that you have to do something with them before you can use them. I “googled” it but I find soooo many different things I don’t even know where to start.

I figured you ladies would be a good place to start.

Signed,

The Cast Iron N00b

Ivy says:

As you all know, I am no cook- Mr. Ivy is a fantastic chef, so he does all the cooking and I do all the cleaning up. When Mr. Ivy and I first started living together, he brought with him his cast iron skillet that had been seasoned for years. Now I, being no cook, took one look at that crusty old thing and thought, “Eww.” So I set to cleaning it, scoured the absolute snot out of it, and got all the black “funk” off of the pan. I was pretty proud of myself. I dried it and put it in the cabinet.

When Mr. Ivy next decided to cook with his beloved cast iron skillet, he got a surprise. “Um, Ivy? Could you come here for a sec,” he said. I trotted into the kitchen and he was holding his cast iron skillet with the look of a destroyed man. “What did you do to my cast iron skillet?”

“I washed it,” I told him. “Doesn’t it look nice now?”

He then explained that that black crustiness was NOT funk, it was seasoning. And it made his pan nonstick, made food taste fabulous, and solved world poverty all at once. Well, I didn’t know.

So, yes. I know how to season and care for cast iron cookware. And I learned the hard way so you don’t have to. The crust is a GOOD thing. Don’t scrub it off.

Seasoning goes like this. First, wash your cast iron cookware carefully with soap and water. New cast iron usually comes with a protective coating like wax, so you will want to scour all that off. Then dry your pan thoroughly and get the oven to preheating at about 350 degrees.

Then (and make absolutely sure that your pan is completely dry) just coat the pan with a very thin layer of oil that is high in saturated fats. Mr. Ivy thinks lard is the very best thing to use, but lard really grosses me out. If you’re like me, you can also use [edited by Heather] bacon grease or vegetable oil in a pinch.

Then put your pan upside down on a baking sheet to catch any drips in your preheated oven for about an hour. You can then turn the oven off, open the door a bit, and let it cool down. Then your skillet will be ready to use.

To clean your cast iron cookware, wash it in hot water. Some people say it is okay to use soap, some people say absolutely not. I will occasionally use a bit of soap to get any stuck on food bits, but I don’t do this regularly. Don’t ever let your pan sit with water in it- that will ruin your seasoning and you’ll have to start all over again. I always just try to get the pan clean as soon as it’s cool enough to touch. Make sure the water is really hot- leftover grease in your pan can become rancid and that’s not a good thing.

Never, ever, ever put your cast iron cookware in the dishwasher. Again, it’ll ruin the seasoning. If it does find its way into the dishwasher, scrub it well and then start the seasoning process all over again. It takes years to get the absolute perfect seasoning for your cast iron cookware, so try to avoid that.





18 Comments

  1. Cookware Lady - Susan on November 9, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Nice post:) Cast iron cookware is just too heavy for me and just like you said, you need to learn how to clean it.

  2. melody on July 27, 2008 at 2:29 am

    my roomate accidently left my grandmother’s cast iron skillet on a lit burner and went to work. I found it an hour later severyl charred. should I season it like it says above or is there something different i should do?

  3. Rick Mansfield on July 15, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    Excellent post on cast iron. I’ve added a link to it in our newest “Cast Iron Around the Web” entry at http://www.cookingincastiron.com

  4. Hilary on July 13, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    I think almost all new cast iron is preseasoned. I would find out what kind it is and check the info that came with it when you bought it, or go to a website. I know all Lodge cast iron is preseasoned now. I got mine before that nonsense!

  5. Margo on July 11, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    LOVE all 4 of my cast iron pieces! But my Dutch oven is new – made by Lodge – and I read somewhere that modern cast iron is not a smooth as the old stuff. Use metal utensils as you cook and they will eventually help to smooth out the surface so you can have even better non-stick.
    One of my favorite benefits of cast iron: the iron-fortified food that means I finally am not anemic anymore!

  6. JayMonster on July 11, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Canola Oil is best known for its low saturated fat content and not good for this purpose.

    If you fear (or just hate) lard, then Palm Oil or Coconut Oil are your next best bets.

  7. Sara at On Simplicity on July 11, 2008 at 1:02 am

    Out of home ec ignorance, I actually cleaned the seasoning off a cast iron skillet that was preseasoned.

    I was super-proud of myself that day. 😉 But reseasoning it was actually was easier than I thought. I have yet to give it a real workout though, and it sounds like a great excuse to go on a bacon binge…

  8. WackyLisa on July 9, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    I dry my cast iron pan on the stove on med-hi after I clean it. Often I’ll then re-oil it. However, the salt trick means I don’t have to use water as often.

    Just don’t forget your pan on the stove, my uncle forgot the 16″ skillet one day as it was drying and it broke in half.

  9. EarthlyJane on July 8, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    thanks for answering so quickly and for ALL the great tips!

  10. Kristin on July 8, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    I have cast iron pans. I got them brand spanking new and now 10+ years later we’ve got a nice seasoning on them. It only took a year for us to get them nice and seasoned.

    I have to admit, I use soap. I have a little scrubber pad that I put some ivory dish soap on, scrub the pan out, rinse with hot hot water – put it on the stove, heat it up, and then I use Crisco on a paper towel and wipe the entire inside.

    If I have a stuck on section of food, I use salt and a paper towel and scrub scrub scrub until its gone. Then I make sure that I use a goodly amount of Crisco, since I have taken off a coating of seasoning with the salt.

    Once your pans are seasoned, they can really take a lot of abuse, but they really cannot take the dishwasher.

  11. Tracy on July 8, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    O h my!!!! All of my pans, even sauce pans and dutch ovens are cast iron. My great Nana,Nana and Mom used them. Over the years I have bought more so I now have a griddle and a grill pan to boot. I NEVER wash mine. If they are gunky I put in water and boil them. Mine are so well seasoned after so, so, so many years that practicly nothing sticks to them. After boiling off the bad I pour off water, wipe it out with a clean cloth then put it back on hot burner. Rub inside with oil and hang on my wall. The only thing that really sticks at times is scrammbled eggs. If I make dippy eggs, they slide right off. I will never have to buy another pan again and I am going to leave my collection to my daughter just like my Mom did with hers, they came from her Mom, then her Mom. You get the point. I have a cast iron waffle maker from 1798! Its stamped on the iron.I still use it today.

  12. Fawn on July 8, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    I did something similar to a cast iron pan my mom handed down to me. She never explained! And I scrubbed it! And it was ruined! So I THREW IT OUT!

    *sigh*

    I got a new cast iron pan last summer and it got soaked in the sink a couple of months ago, so we’re kinda back to square one. But at least now I know they’re always redeemable! We’re definitely not at a stage where we can do fried potatoes in it yet — they were surely stick at this point.

    One thing I do after washing my pan is to set it on the stove to dry thoroughly (turn the element on medium). I add a thin layer of oil (usually corn oil, I think…) to “re-moisturize” it, and then it’s ready to go next time.

    It lives on our stove for now. There’s no room in the pan drawer for the beast!

  13. Tammy on July 8, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Wow, I was *just* thinking about getting a cast iron skillet and was wondering how to go about seasoning it. Now I know where to go for help!

  14. Jenn on July 8, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    I’ve heard that the old cast iron pans are lighter than the newer one. Might be worth haunting garage sales and thrift stores to see if one turns up.

  15. Heidi @ Carolina Dreamz on July 8, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    Thank you, SaraClark, for answering my question before I typed it up.

    I knew it could be saved. I just didn’t know how to do it.

    I can only use my cast iron skillets when there is someone stronger than I, to lift it, for me. That’s just what it’s come to, now. So ours sits in our camping gear box.

    I watched some late night cable show that cooked an entire thanksgiving turkey dinner, at a camp out, in dutch ovens. Now I’m on the hunt for dutch ovens.

    I’m hoping to find some that need to be saved, from someone who thinks it can’t be done. 🙂

  16. saraclark on July 8, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    I don’t use soap on mine at all. I scrub it out with coarse Kosher salt to cut any surface grease and then use a hard plastic scraper to take care of any sticky stuff. Rinse, dry and back on the shelf. I was lucky enough to inherit my cast iron and have not had to break in any new ones.

    If you find a rusty one at a flea market, you can scour it with sand and steel wool. Soak it in lard (Mr. Ivy is right) or animal fat of some kind for a day or two and then use your seasoning steps to reclaim and rescue the pan.

    Lodge does claim to make pre-seasoned pans now if you want to buy a new one.

  17. Chris Wage on July 8, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    I never use soap. I raised my skillet on a steady diet of bacon for years to get it started. Now it’s pretty much invicible. I have an unhealthy fondness for my skillet

  18. Brenda on July 8, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    Cast iron IS the best, isn’t it? Fried potatoes just this morning in one of mine….yum!

    Brenda

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