How to Season Cast Iron – The Definitive Guide

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Seasoning cast iron is a process and it is literally the foundation on which you cook your food.  It is critically important to prolong the longevity of your cookware and protects it fromt the elements, namely moisture.  If you ask 5 cast iron enthusiasts how to season cast iron, then you will probably get six answers.  And, if you ask the right person, he or she may have six answers all on their own!  Most likely, each answer is partially correct and will get you a pretty darn good foundation to cook on.

How to season cast iron

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 250F.
  2. Wash your cast iron cookware in hot water with soap and a stiff brush.
  3. Dry completely with paper towels then place in your oven for 20 minutes.
  4. Take out the cookware using heat resistant gloves or a heating pad.  Apply oil or shortening with a paper towel to the cast iron to coat it entirely.  Then get a fresh paper towel and wipe off the excess oil.  Then do it again. Yes, wipe off all the oil or shortening that you can.  Yes, I am serious.
  5. Put the cast iron back in the oven and increase the heat to 350F.  Allow the cast iron to sit for 60 minutes.  Apply the oil or shortening again using the same method as before.
  6. After the 60 minutes has passed, raise the temp up to 500-550F.   Wait for 60 more minutes and then turn off the oven.  It will take a few hours for the cast iron to cool and this is good.  We would like for the hot iron to cool down slowly in this case.
Cast Iron Skillets ready to be seasoned. Size #3
Cast Iron Skillets ready to be seasoned. Size #3
Cast Iron Skillets ready to be  seasoned. Size #3
Cast Iron Skillets ready to be seasoned. Size #3

After this process is complete,  you will have minimal protection for you cast iron and it will do the job for now.  Your job will be to use this cookware.  Cook your breakfast on there.  Use it for dinner too.  Use grease, oil, or fat on there too. Then do it again the next day and the one after that.  I think what I am trying to say is USE THE CAST IRON. This will only improve the seasoning and the non stick qualities of the cast iron.

“I thought you were not supposed to use soap on cast iron!?” That is definitely a good rule to follow but when you are laying a new foundation of seasoning, it is advisable to go ahead and strip off the old oil and start new.  Aside from this process, I have been able to refrain from using soap on cast iron.  I just haven’t seen the need so sure follow this rule outside of seasoning cast iron.

 



“My Meemaw said to only use bacon grease to season cast iron.”  That’s fine, use any kind of grease, fat, or oil that you prefer. Later we’ll explore using other fats like olive oil, flax seed oil, canola oil, crisco, bacon fat, etc…  The point here is to coat the metal with something that repels water, something that is food grade, and something that you have on hand.  It might be a little wasteful to use some first press California olive oil but it will still work just fine.  I am very interested in seeing how flaxseed oil works for the initial seasoning.

“I want a nice, thick, smooth, black coating of seasoning on my cast iron so why would I apply a super thin layer of grease and wipe it off!?”  Great question. If you put the oil or fat on thickly, then you’ll end up with a sticky, black mess of carbon-y grease.  Don’t ask me how I know that!  So the key aspect is to just be patient and put on a thin layer of your fat of choice. Your patience will be rewarded…and you impatience will be punished.

“I followed your instructions and my cast iron looks gray not black. My Pop Pop’s cast iron was literally as black as a cat on halloween night.”  Fair enough – that’s quite a metaphor and congratulations on using “literally” properly.  If you want your cast iron darker, then you can follow the directions above but just skip the washing part.  You will be able to add layer after layer of seasoning.  It will get dark, very dark, and a little darker each time with slightly diminishing returns.  You can keep on repeating, reheating, oiling, wiping, and cooling, again and again.

“My brand new Lodge Cast Iron <fill-in-your-cookware> is preseasoned from the factory in S. Pittsburg, TN. Do I need to re-season my Lodge?” Probably not but maybe.  It’ll do the job and if you do use your cast iron frequently and keep it clean and lightly oiled, then you will get the nice, slick seasoning you desire.  It will take some time but it will happen.

“My brand new Lodge Cast Iron <fill-in-your-cookware> is seasoned but it’s very rough and things stick! What is going on?” Modern cast iron is pretty much all like this.  The older cast iron cookware used to undergo an additional step where it was sanded, essentially polished down.  I did not realize how significant this was until I got my first WagnerWare Cast Iron Skillet, a 1056N.  It was like comparing gravel to freshly waxed car – well, maybe not that dramatic but it was significant.  A future article will focus on improving the surface of a modern Lodge Cast Iron piece.

Do you disagree with these methods?  Do you have a better way?  Let me know how you season your cast iron.  Comment below to let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Cast Iron Skillet - WagnerWare 1056
Cast Iron Skillet – WagnerWare 1056
Hot Skillet!  Spreading Canola Oil Around - WagnerWare 1056
Hot Skillet! Spreading Canola Oil Around – WagnerWare 1056

11 thoughts on “How to Season Cast Iron – The Definitive Guide”

  1. Just stumbled on your website. Love it, you answered questions I didn’t know I had, I have Lodge Cast Iron, didn’t know about Wagner until I read your site, I will be looking for it at garage sales I was told that I can not purchase it new, if I am mistaken please tell me where in CA I would be able to locate it. Thanks again for your site

  2. I accidentally discovered a great way to season a pan. I heated my frying pan without paying attention, the bottom was gray. I poured peanut oil in it. After the billowing smoke cleared, the alarm silenced and the fire department sent home I found the pan to be perfectly seasoned.

    1. Hi Beth,
      Hahaha! I may need to try that method soon as a comparison. I might be skipping out on the fire department visit though! 🙂 Maybe on the grill…

      Thanks for stopping by and for the tip!

  3. I have never washed my cast iron frying pan in soap. I have cleaned with baking soda using a half of a potato. Removing rust if there is any. Than finishing with vegetable oil, bake in oven.

    1. Nice Karol! I haven’t heard of using baking soda but it’s great for everything. My wife likes to use baking soda instead of regular clothes detergent.

      What kind of cookware do you have? Cheers!

  4. Hi there! I saw your comment on another site and you were linked back to this one. I love this site! I have two pieces of cast iron that I’ve wanted to start using, but need to clean first. One is a Griswold skillet, and the other has no identifiable name (the gunk is too thick). It’s a Dutch oven, has the little teeth on the underside of the lid, and still has the wire hook (I don’t know the term for it) to lift the lid off! My question is – both pieces are old and completely covered in an old, bumpy, THICK, yucky crud. I wanted to know what the best way to clean it all off, as I don’t have a self cleaning oven, an outdoor grill, fireplace, or anywhere to make a fire outside (all suggestions I’ve seen online). The only one I’ve found that seems available to me is to use oven cleaner on it, but was wondering if you knew of any other option? I’d appreciate your help. (I’m thinking I might be able to actually see a brand for the Dutch oven after I clean it, but the crud’s too thick right now.) Again, love your site!

  5. I have a Wagner Ware dutch oven comprised of a 3″ deep 10″ diameter pan with a 2″ 10″ diameter pan that works as a lid, with a “hook” that fits into a slot on the larger pan, so that the smaller pan when used as a lid can be raised and remain in the raised position without having to take it off. These pans can be use separately or together.

    It has Wagner Ware Sidney with a small circle with horizontal lines on either side on the bottom of the larger pan.

    Also on the bottom are “Pat. Nos.97022 – 1554360” and below this the number “1402”.

    My mother has had and used this for all of my life that I can remember (I am 73) and she may have gotten it from her mother.

    Can you give me any idea of its age and/or worth and history? It’s worth to me is for cooking, but it would be interesting to know more about it.

    Thank you. Marsha Knopf

  6. I have seasoned my Wagner griddle at least 40 times yet my fried eggs continue to stick.

  7. I have found that flax seed oil bought from a health food store works best. Put some on a warm pan, spread it around, wipe off excess and wipe off again. Put upside down in preheated 450 deg oven for 3 hrs, let cool overnight. They say 3 to 6 coats puts on a very good finish. I only did 3.

  8. I just got a chicken fryer from my friend, she had used it to make candles in the past and it sat in her basement and got terribly rusted. Her boyfriend sanded it down, I have been trying to clean it, soaked it in vinegar and water, scrubbed and scrubbed, but I keep getting black muddy, metallic smelling ick,… Is there hope for this pan? Thanks in advance!

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