Cast Iron 101 :: How to Season Cast Iron

Add a Pinch | Cast Iron 101 -- How to Season Cast Iron

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By now, y’all know how passionate I am about my cast iron cookware and how to care for it. Many of these skillets, dutch ovens, covered casseroles, and other pieces have been handed down to me from each of my Grandmothers or my husband’s Grandmothers. They are priceless heirlooms in my house, but heirlooms that I plan to continue to use and care for throughout my life and then pass them along to my son’s family.

I remember after my Grandmother away and my Mama and her brother gave each of the granddaughters one of Grandmother’s skillets. We all sat and cried at the treasure they’d given to us. And now, each day when I use them, I have a little piece of my heritage with me in every meal I prepare.

But I have to tell you, I was given one piece of cast iron that my father had stored in his basement for a good many years. A beautiful footed skillet that was used to cook over an open fire. I understand that it dates back to the 1860’s and I’m sure it has stories to tell if it could just tell them.

While I’ve not used this piece to cook in, it is a great example of gaining a piece of old cast iron that needs to be properly cared for prior to any use. That’s where a heavy duty cleaning and good seasoning come into play.


How to Season Cast Iron

1. Clean it. First, you’ll need to do heavy cleaning on your cast iron. This can be accomplished a couple of ways. Here are my favorites:

– Give your cast iron a really good scrubbing using the method I describe in How to Clean Cast Iron.

– If that still doesn’t clean it, you can always take your cast iron to a local collision center for sandblasting to remove all of the rust and residue. You’ll want to make sure that they use the walnut shell method of sandblasting.

– I’ve also heard of placing your cast iron in your oven the next time you use the self-clean feature. Be sure to place a sheet of foil underneath the cookware to be sure and catch any of the residue that will burn off of it. I’ve not tried this method myself as I am always concerned with the extreme heat in the self-cleaning cycle and not sure I want anything in my oven during that time.


2. Dry it. Once your cast iron has been heavily cleaned, wipe it with a damp cloth or you can even scrub it under running water to remove all of the remnants of the cleaning. Then, place your cast iron onto the stove top over low to medium heat to make sure you get your cast iron bone dry before proceeding.


3. Rub it. While your cast iron is still warm to the touch, carefully rub a thin film of vegetable shortening or lard on your cast iron using a paper towel. Once you have coated the entire piece, take another paper towel and wipe away any excess shortening or lard. {Note: if you have too much on your cast iron for the next step, it will become sticky and will not season properly.}


4. Line it. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and place aluminum foil on each of the racks of the oven that you’ll be using to catch any spillage.


5. Season it. Place your cast iron onto the aluminum foil lined rack in an upside down position to allow any runoff of the vegetable shortening or lard to run onto the foil. Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and wipe with about one tablespoon of shortening while still warm.



Do you have a favorite piece of cast iron? I’d love to hear about it.

13 comments on “Cast Iron 101 :: How to Season Cast Iron”

  1. I loved reading this post, Robin! A cook never cooks alone! We are always surrounded by memories of past generations and we keep those souvenirs of love to pass along to our families! Keep building the legacy ~E

  2. I adore my cast iron too but struggle to keep it shiny and clean. Thanks for the tips- never would have thought of the collision center! How awesome!

    • You’ll want to note that cast iron will be raw metal at this point and will need to be seasoned well and soon when you have this done. But, it is a great way to get a gnarly looking, rusty, crudy piece ready to go.

  3. I’ve heard how to do this properly, but have never done it myself. Thanks for posting this. How often do you have to clean/season a good cast iron skillet? One of my favorites is a brand new Lodge skillet that I picked up at Goodwill for $7. It’s supposed to be preseasoned. The only thing I see is that the interior is not smooth. Any experience with those?

    • Yes, I love the preseasoned Lodge pieces, too. They do have a rougher interior finish rather than the smooth you’ll find in older Griswold or Wagner cast iron pieces. You are fine to use the Lodge piece with their coating and they recommend using water to clean and I believe a little oil periodically to maintain.

  4. Love both of your cast iron tutorials! My mom, who is trying to pare down her possessions, is planning to give me a couple of her pieces soon. She’s had them for a VERY long time. Many pans of delicious cornbread and fried potatoes were cooked in it while I was growing up. I’ve never had any cast iron, so these tutorials will help me keep my pieces looking great.

  5. When I left the states for Australia I didn’t bring any of my cast iron cookware. I keep telling myself I’m going to buy some and then I think about seasoning and I hesitate. you’ve convinced me I should go ahead and bite the bullet!

  6. You really want me to dig out my cast iron and clean it up, don’t you! (pinned this with thanks!)

  7. My husband’s uncle does a bonfire at the beginning of every summer, and everyone from the family brings their cast iron skillets to throw in there and get all the gunk from the prior year off of it. It’s hilarious!

  8. Could I use olive oil instead of lard?

  9. Amazing tip! I am going to try it. Cleaning could be the hardest part. I had troubles with one very old pan. It took me 2 hours. Eventually I used a professional service. Greets!

  10. How often do you season the skillet?

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