Pre-seasoned cast iron skillets are a joy to use and will save you time going from the store to the grill, kitchen hob, or oven.
They come ready to use and aside from that, they’re not too different from a regular seasoned cast iron skillet.
Using a pre-seasoned cast iron skillet doesn’t require any special skill, though, a few tips on proper maintenance will help your new pan last much longer.
In this article, we’ll take you through the basics of using a pre-seasoned cast iron skillet for the first time, including what to do and what not to do.
Can You Use a Pre-seasoned Cast-Iron Skillet Right Away?
Pretty much. The only thing you’ll want to do is rinse and dry it first—another advantage over unseasoned skillets.
Just like any new kitchenware or utensil, you never know who touched it before, plus you should do this anyway to clean off any chemicals from the production process.
When you get cooking, use a small amount of oil—in a review I recently wrote for a Lodge skillet, I found that about one tablespoon should be enough.
You may also want to make sure that a bit of oil goes on the sides of the skillet too.
You also need to be patient and let the skillet heat up. Remember, it’s thick and heavy, so it’s going to take a few moments.
Monitor the oil closely to get the right moment. When the oil starts to dance or move away from the hotter part of the center, it can be seen as a sign to start cooking.
If you start cooking too soon, the skillet won’t be evenly heated, and it can then cook unevenly.
The way cast iron skillets conduct heat is one of their key features, and if you’re not taking advantage of that, it’s not a good use of it.
That’s why Lodge recommends starting off ‘low and slow’ before taking it up to a medium or medium-high.
10 Steps to Use a Pre-seasoned Cast Iron Skillet
Note that the first three steps are specific to a pre-seasoned cast iron skillet. From step four onwards, you’re using it like any other skillet.
- Remove any packaging and marketing materials that came with the skillet.
- Gently rinse the skillet—water only if you wish, but a bit of dish soap is okay to use. No need to be rough, though, do make sure you remove any residue from any glue.
- Dry the skillet. Use a kitchen towel and dry it all over.
- Place it on the grill, hob, or fireplace.
- Add cooking oil. My skillet is about 10″ wide (9″ at the base) and I find that one tablespoon is enough, though, it depends on what you’re cooking.
- Let the heat permeate the pan and oil. (This will take a little longer than a regular pan because it’s made of thicker metal.)
- When hot enough, place your meat or veggies and it should start to sizzle.
- And now you cook as you usually would!
- Take food out of the skillet when cooked.
- Place the skillet somewhere safe to cool down before cleaning later on.
What’s the Difference Between a Pre-seasoned and Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet?
You will only see the term ‘pre-seasoned’ in the store, meanwhile ‘seasoned’ can apply to both a skillet in the store or one you already have.
A pre-seasoned skillet is just a phrase used to specify to potential buyers that the pan has been seasoned already. It may be just to protect it from rust during transport.
If you borrow a friend’s skillet, for example, you could call that a seasoned skillet, not a pre-seasoned skillet. It has been seasoned by use, not by the manufacturers.
Alternatively, you’ll also hear about ‘unseasoned’ skillets which are skillets yet to have any seasoning added to them.
Is It Better to Buy a Pre-seasoned Cast Iron Skillet?
A pre-seasoned cast iron skillet is less likely to have been exposed to the elements after being made, transported to the store, and sitting on the store shelf.
This means that a pre-seasoned skillet is less likely to incur any damage which you might only notice at home later. It’s like a guarantee that your new skillet is going to last.
If you can’t tell the difference, unseasoned skillets look and feel rough. Pre-seasoned skillets are smooth and have a slight shine to them. Often pre-seasoned skillets will cost you more.
If you have an unseasoned skillet, you’ll have to take the time to season it. If you don’t it won’t last you long, plus you won’t benefit from the build-up of flavors.
If you don’t have experience doing this, it can be messy and time-consuming, but it is highly worth learning how to do it.
Do You Have to Season a Pre-seasoned Cast Iron Skillet?
You don’t have to season a pre-seasoned cast iron skillet, though, some prefer to remove the pre-seasoning and season it in their own way.
As it is pre-seasoned, it already has the seasoning you need. You don’t need to spend time adding more unless you really want to.
Pre-seasoning is usually to protect the product in the store, so you may feel that when you get it home you could do a better job. Then, by all means, season away.
Note that the more you cook with the skillet, the more seasoned it will become.
Is Pre-seasoned Cast Iron Non-stick?
Pre-seasoned cast iron skillets do not have the PTFE coatings that are used on non-stick pans.
Instead, ‘seasoning’—a layer of cooking oil—is spayed onto and then baked into the pan at the factory.
This layer of seasoning creates a polymerized barrier that prevents rust and stops food from sticking.
They shouldn’t be sticky either. If you feel that it’s sticky without heating it, it could mean too much oil was used during the seasoning process.
That aside, when cooking with a pre-seasoned cast iron skillet, you should always use a little oil, so your food doesn’t stick to the pan anyway.
You might want to consider a bit of oil on the sides of the skillet because the meat may touch them and get stuck.
Interestingly, you can season non-stick pans and you can buy pre-seasoned non-stick pans as well—you may consider this a better option.
But as many non-stick pans are not made of tough material, such as sturdy cast iron, they typically have to be replaced every few years.
Tip: Use non-stick pans for fish as they can change the taste of cast iron skillets and make them smell. Switching between a pre-seasoned and non-stick pan can be advantageous.
Is Pre-seasoned Cast Iron Cookware Safe?
Yes, pre-seasoned cast-iron cooking utensils are generally safe to use. You’ll likely not have any issues using them at home or on the grill.
The only things you should be careful with are the weight of the skillet, which may be heavier than you’re used to, and touching it when hot.
Is Pre-seasoned Cast Iron Toxic?
Nope, actually, the opposite is true—they’re more natural and safer to use than most other skillets.
Cast iron skillets don’t include chemical coatings like Teflon’s Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) to prevent food from sticking.
These non-stick chemicals can become particularly hazardous if you cook at high temperatures.
According to Rosalind Dalefield’s 2017 book, Veterinary Toxicology for Australia and New Zealand, several compounds are released.
When heated above 280°C [536°F], PTFE breaks down to release hydrogen fluoride, carbon fluoride, carbon monoxide, and other pyrolysis products, particularly fluoropolymers of low molecular weight.”
You don’t want to be breathing any of that in.
That said, cast iron skillets aren’t perfect either, and can getting them too hot can also be risky.
According to an article by Tiffany Ayuda of Livestrong.com, there are concerns that cooking with cast iron at high temperatures can release chemicals that increase the risk of cancer.
These are, “heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).” Supposedly, the risk is higher when grilling because it reaches higher temperatures.
Is Pre-seasoned Cast Iron Good for Health?
It may seem a bit odd, but a pre-seasoned cast iron skillet can be a mild improvement to your health.
As mentioned above, the lack of any controversial chemicals is a major plus, and many of us would prefer to cook more naturally without the aid of mutant, man-made chemicals.
Aside from that, you’ll need a lot less oil when cooking which can be considered a big plus for some—especially those who need to watch their trans fats.
And if you have an iron deficiency, you can get a bit more iron into your food when cooking with a cast iron skillet.
However, some must watch how much iron they’re putting into their bodies, such as those with hemochromatosis, a condition where your body absorbs too much iron.
How to Clean a Pre-seasoned Cast Iron Skillet for the First Time?
If you’ve just cooked with the skillet, let it cool down before you do anything.
This can take up to an hour if it’s super hot, so get a pair of oven mitts, move the skillet from the hob, grill, or fireplace, and put it somewhere no one will touch it.
There is some disagreement over using dish soap on seasoned skillets. Some argue against it and advise only water, while others say a smidge is okay to use.
According to an article by Kimberly Holland of Allrecipes, using soap won’t remove any precious seasoning, “but it can remove some oil.”
Holland continues to say that in the past, soaps were made with harsher ingredients that could remove the seasoning from pans.
Today, this is not so much an issue, though, if it worries you, eco-friendly and milder strength soaps are better to use.
When it comes to tough stains, whatever you do, don’t use a metal sponge! They’ll absolutely destroy the inside of your pan and can remove the seasoning.
Instead, there is a much better method that requires little more than oil and salt. A YouTube video by Mr. Cast Iron shows just how you can do this.
Heat up a pan and add some oil, add some salt. He recommends kosher or sea salt over table salt because the salt fragments are larger.
The salt will then start to draw the dirt away from the metal of the pan. You will notice it change in color. You can then start to remove the dirt with a napkin and a spatula.
When finished, using warm water rinse away the salt from the pan in the sink. If there is still some gunk stuck to your pan may need to repeat the process with more salt and oil.
Mr. Cast Iron also mentions that this technique is useful to remove any fishy smells left over from cooking fish.
When you’re finished cleaning your skillet, dry it with a towel, apply a small amount of oil, and gently rub it into the pan.
You should especially do this if you washed with soap (or used the salt method mentioned above) as the previous oil may have been removed.
It should be a small enough amount of oil that it’s not dripping or pooling on the pan—this can make the pan sticky.