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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
- Pre-heat your oven to 250F.
- Wash your cast iron cookware in hot water with soap and a stiff brush.
- Dry completely with paper towels then place in your oven for 20 minutes.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.