Seasoning Your Cast Iron Skillet: The Ultimate Guide

Seasoning a cast iron skillet is no daunting task. It takes a little oil, a hot oven, and a bit of patience. Read this before you start.

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How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet?arinahabich /123RF

I recently removed the seasoning from my new Lodge skillet. It came pre-seasoned and has only been used a couple of times.

Today I’ll show you how you can take an unseasoned cast iron skillet and reseason it and cover a few common questions along the way.

Hopefully, by reading about my experiences seasoning a cast iron skillet for the first time, you’ll see that the process is pretty easy, and doesn’t require a humongous amount of effort.

If you’re looking to remove the current seasoning of your skillet, check out my previous post where I did it for the first time using vinegar, baking soda, and a steel sponge.

Directions on How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet

So, let’s get right into it. Follow these simple steps to season your cast iron skillet.

Step 1. Preheat the oven to get it ready at the ideal temperature. You may need to move trays around and it’s better to do this before the oven gets hot.

I had to remove one large tray to make space and place the grate in the middle (where the pan will sit). Underneath the grate, I put foil on top of a tray—this is to catch any oil that falls.

Step 2. Inspect the pan. Is there anything that concerns you? Does it need a good cleaning beforehand? This may be the case if there is dirt stuck to it.

Step 3. Grab a napkin and your choice of oil (check below for more about oils).

Step 4. Dab a small amount of oil onto the napkin and rub it into the pan.

A dab of oil on a napkin just before rubbing it into the skillet.
You only need a tiny dab of oil to rub into the pan. More than this will be too much.

Continue to rub until the oil creates a nice shine in the pan. The oil shouldn’t pool. If you’re going to season the whole pan (inside and out), don’t forget to season the handle too.

You may see videos of people directly pouring oil into the pan and then rubbing it in. I wouldn’t advise this because you can’t measure the amount.

Most likely, these guys are professionals who have done this many times. If you’re new to seasoning, stick to using a napkin and a dab of oil and there’s no way you’ll get it wrong.

Step 5. Place the skillet in the center of the oven upside down with foil underneath. Check to make sure that it sits directly above the foil.

A skillet being seasoned in the oven upside down above foil.

Remember that if you preheated the oven before placing the pan, the grate is going to be hot, and it can be a little awkward to place the pan. So, make sure you use oven mitts and place the skillet carefully.

Step 6. Once finished, remove the skillet from the oven and let it cool down in a safe place.

Step 7. Inspect your skillet to see the result. If it’s sticky, too much oil was used, and you’ll probably want to remove the seasoning and start again. If it’s too rough, you’ll want to season it more with more oil.

Ideally, your newly seasoned skillet should have a nice shine and a smooth surface.

Skillet recently taken out of the oven from seasoning.
My skillet after seasoning—looks a lot nicer.

What’s The Best Temp to Season a Cast Iron Pan?

It depends on who you ask, but most people seem to agree that it’s between 375°F (190°C) and 450°F (232°C). Others would even suggest as high as 500°F (260°C).

Remember to preheat the oven so it’s already at the right temperature before placing the pan for the best results.

Bear in mind that the temperature you decide to season your cast iron skillet with is directly related to how long you should leave it in the oven. Lower heats need more time.

How Long Should You Season a Cast Iron Pan?

Again, depending on who you listen to, you should season a cast iron pan between 30 minutes and 1 hour at 450°F (232°C), or up to two hours at a lower heat.

While 450°F (232°C) is the most commonly mentioned, some mention heats as low as 250°F (121°C). If you season your skillet at this temperature, you’ll definitely need at least two hours.

Since my pan is new (used just a couple of times) and I haven’t removed all the seasoning (only the inside), I seasoned it for 30 minutes at 375°F (190°C) as a test, and I found that this was enough.

Do I Have to Season My Cast Iron Upside Down?

It is recommended that you place your cast iron skillet upside down in the oven when seasoning because it prevents the oil from settling unevenly and creating bumps in the pan.

Being upside down, any excess oil drips off the pan and falls below instead of pooling. To prevent the oil from dripping onto the bottom of the oven, you should put foil or a tray below to catch any oil that falls.

It’s also worth mentioning that the skillet should also be placed in the middle of the oven, and it may get a little smoky if you put too much oil.

If you did it properly, no oil should fall, but don’t be harsh on yourself if it does and it’s your first time. It is very easy to overestimate how much oil to put, it might look like too little.

The foil that was placed under the skillet.
Lucky me! Not a single drop of oil fell from the skillet.

Why Is It Important to Season a Cast Iron Skillet?

The most important reason to season your cast iron skillet is to keep it strong and prevent rusting. If you do this every so often, your cast iron skillet will last a lot longer than any of the other pans in your kitchen.

Seasoning also prevents food from sticking to the pan and adds to the flavors when cooking.

What Does Seasoning a Cast Iron Skillet Do?

What seasoning does to a cast iron skillet is best left up to Lodge Cast Iron to explain.

In simple terms, they say: “seasoning is a layer of carbonized oil.” They continue to say that seasoning is just “oil baked onto cast iron through a process called polymerization.”

And polymerization, Lodge explains, is when “oils or fats are heated in cast iron at a high enough temperature, [and] change from a wet liquid into a slick, hardened surface.”

The layer of oils and fats becomes “molecularly bonded to the iron” as a new layer on the exterior of the pan, keeping it safe from corrosion.

Do You Have to Season a Cast Iron Skillet Before Using It?

You don’t have to season a cast iron skillet before every use. That would be very time-consuming and not very practical.

If you have purchased a new pre-seasoned skillet, you don’t necessarily need to spend time seasoning it, you can use it right away.

But if you prefer—as some grillers do—you can remove this seasoning and reseason it in your own way.

If it’s an old, dull, and rough pan, you should season it to strengthen it and make it better for cooking. Food will stick less, and it’ll add to the flavors. Plus, you’ll increase its longevity.

How Do You Know if You Need to Season a Cast Iron Skillet?

There are several clues as to when you need to season your cast iron skillet. The three most obvious are:

  • It’s starting to rust. This means some of the iron is now exposed.
  • Food is sticking. Food will not stick to a properly seasoned skillet.
  • It’s losing its shine. This could be an early sign that you need to season soon, or it may start to rust or stick to food.

Should You Season a Cast Iron Skillet After Every Use?

No way, again, that takes up too much time. There’s no need to stick your cast iron skillet in the oven to season it after each use.

What I do is every time I use the pan, after I have cleaned and properly dried it, add some oil on a napkin and rub it into the pan. That is enough for basic maintenance.

How Often Do I Need to Season a Cast Iron Skillet?

According to an article by Cynthia Lawrence of Tom’s Guide, you should season your cast iron skillet about “2-3 times a year,” but this depends on how frequently you use it.

More importantly, though, you should look out for the signs that the pan needs to be seasoned. It can differ from one skillet to the next.

Every time you cook with a cast iron skillet, you’re adding to the seasoning. Foods high in fat are particularly helpful. And the oil you add when you cook also helps.

What Type of Oil to Season a Cast Iron Skillet?

Lodge Cast Iron also has a lot to say about what oil you should use when seasoning a skillet.

They say, “You can generally use whatever oil you prefer, as long as the cooking temperature is below the smoke point of the oil.”

The smoke point is the temperature a specific oil begins to emit a bluish-colored smoke. So, make sure you know the temperature you need for the oil you choose before using it.

Lodge has also created an infographic that explains the best oils to use for cast iron skillets, and it’s a pretty good guide. (It also includes the smoke point for each oil.)

The infographic lists the following oils as good for seasoning cast iron:

  • Avocado oil (virgin).
  • Safflower oil.
  • Rice bran oil.
  • Soybean oil.
  • Peanut oil (don’t use if you’re cooking for anyone with a peanut allergy).
  • Corn oil.
  • Sunflower oil (this is what I used in this post).
  • Canola oil.
  • Grapeseed oil.
  • Vegetable oil.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil.
  • Vegetable shortening.
  • Coconut oil.

Can You Use Lard to Season a Cast Iron Skillet?

You can use lard to season a cast iron skillet, though, it is becoming increasingly less popular to do so. Today, people prefer to use different cooking oils or shortenings.

Only use lard if you use your skillet frequently, says Lodge. This is because the fats found in lard can go rancid—perhaps the biggest reason to consider other ways to season your pan.

Can You Season a Cast Iron Skillet With Crisco?

Yes, Crisco can be used to season a cast iron skillet. Crisco is a shortening made from vegetable oil (not lard) and is cheaper than most oils to use.

You may actually prefer Crisco over oil if you find it easier to apply to a skillet.

What’s the Worst Oil for Seasoning Cast Iron?

According to an article by Michelle of OvenSpot, virgin and cold-pressed sunflower oils should not be used when seasoning a cast iron skillet.

They explain that this is because these oils have a very low smoke point.

Lodge’s infographic also does not recommend using light/refined oil, sesame oil, or flaxseed oil when seasoning a pan.

But this is not because these oils are bad, it is more to do with “affordability, effectiveness, and smoke point.” For example, flaxseed can be quite expensive.

By Craig Britton

As children, we’re told not to play with our food. But I find that food tastes best when you experiment with it. I love trying out new recipes and cooking techniques almost as much as I love eating the end result.

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