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How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet

Sonia Nair Apr 19, 2019
Well-seasoned cast iron cookware has a natural non-stick surface, and are more durable, when compared to the new and worn-out ones.
Cast iron is a widely used material for making cookware. Apart from being less expensive, as compared to the latest Teflon-coated ones, cast iron cookware is also valued for their heat retention and even diffusion.
With proper seasoning and care, skillets and other cast iron vessels can be maintained through the generations. Brand new cast iron skillets do not have the non stick coating, which is obtained through seasoning.
Vessels made of cast iron are prone to rust, and have sticky surfaces. When properly seasoned, cast iron vessels develop a non-stick coating that makes them less sticky, and more durable.

Tips to Season a Cast Iron Skillet

New Skillet

Wash the skillet with dish soap and water, and let it dry. Coat the vessel with lard or bacon grease. Both the inner and outer surfaces have to be coated well. Even olive oil can be used for this purpose. Once done, place the skillet inside the oven that is preheated to 350 °F.
After 15 minutes, take it out and discard the excess grease, before returning the vessel inside the oven. Now, all you have to do is to bake the skillet for at least two hours. You may repeat the process for better results.
It will be better to cook fatty foods in the newly seasoned skillet, as the grease will strengthen the non stick coating over the pan.

Used skillet

Re-seasoning may be required, if you find food sticking to the surfaces, where the old seasoning has worn off. This may also be required in case of those cast iron cookware that is not properly seasoned earlier, or those which develops rust. Before seasoning an old skillet, make sure to clean it with hot water and brush.
Alternatively, you may use vinegar for cleaning. For this purpose, fill a large vessel with water and vinegar in equal parts. Soak the cast iron skillet in this solution for two to three hours. Scrub and rinse the vessel, and let it dry, before seasoning. Follow the given method for seasoning.

How to Care for a Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet

  • While seasoning provides a non stick surface for cast iron cookware, proper care is also necessary to maintain the vessel in good shape. Maintenance of these skillets involves protection of the seasoning.
  • Regular methods of cleaning with scrubs and hard brushes may damage this 'non stick' coating. Even dishwashers can damage the seasoning of cast iron vessels.
  • It is better to wipe the skillet after use, rather than washing with scrubs or hot water.
  • If you think that this method is unhygienic, you may use a mild soap solution (no scrubs) for cleaning such skillets. Dry the vessel, before applying a coat of oil.
  • Some people use salt for cleaning cast iron cookware. They simply scrub the vessel with coarse salt, and then wipe off with a clean cloth or paper towel.
  • It is always better to clean cast iron skillets straight from the stove (or when they are hot). Use a small amount of soap to remove the grease and never scrub, if not necessary.
  • Always dry these vessels before storing, as moisture will result in rust formation. Even the lids must be stored separately, especially in areas with humid weather.
  • You must refrain from storing foods in these vessels. This is because the acidic contents in the food will damage the seasoning. Such foods may develop a metallic taste, as a small amount of iron will leach into it.
Cast iron cookware are considered healthy, as compared to the modern non stick cookware. However, those with health problems caused by excess iron, must avoid using such cookware, as small amounts of iron may leach into the food cooked in such vessels. However, these vessels are said to be good for anemic people with iron deficiency.