How to Season Your Cast Iron Skillet – With these simple steps and a little care, you can enjoy your cast iron for years, while preserving it for future generations.

Cast Iron 101 -- How to Season Cast Iron //

There’s no doubt about it, I most definitely love my cast iron cookware. Nothing comes close to the taste of food cooked in an iron skillet!

Cast iron will last for generations if cared for properly, so I am passionate about taking care of it. I received many of my skillets, dutch ovens, covered casseroles, and other pieces from my grandmothers or my husband’s grandmothers. The pieces passed down to me are priceless heirlooms in my mind. I want to use and continue to maintain these prized iron skillets and dutch ovens for my son and his future family, just as my loved ones did for me.

Cast Iron Care

After my Grandmother passed away,  Mama and her brother gave each of the granddaughters one of Grandmother’s skillets. We all sat and cried at the treasure we had just received. So many memories were made around family meals cooked with love by my Grandmother with those very skillets. And now, each time I use them, I have a little piece of my heritage with me in every meal I prepare.

I was given one piece of cast iron that my father had stored in his basement for 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. And while I’ve not used this old piece for cooking, it is a great example of old cast iron that needs to be properly cared for prior to 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 some options:

Scrub. Give your piece a really good scrubbing using the method I describe in How to Clean Cast Iron.

Sandblast. If the scrubbing method I mentioned before still doesn’t clean it, you can take it to a local collision center for sandblasting to remove all of the rust and residue. Make sure that they use the walnut shell method of sandblasting.

Heat in Oven. I’ve not used this method, but I’ve heard of placing your cast iron in your oven when you use the self-clean feature. Be sure to place a sheet of foil underneath the cookware to catch any of the residue that will burn off of it. Please note that I’ve not used this method myself. I am always concerned with the extreme heat in the self-cleaning cycle and am 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 wash it under running water to remove all of the remnants of the cleaning.

Then, place 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 it 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 oil left on your cast iron for the next step, it will become sticky and will not season properly.

How to Season Your Cast Iron Skillet - With these simple steps and a little care, you can enjoy your cast iron for years, while preserving it for future generations. //

4. Line It

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place aluminum foil on each of the racks of the oven. The foil should catch any spillage.

5. Season It

Place your cast iron onto the aluminum foil lined rack in an upside down position. This will allow any runoff of the vegetable shortening or lard onto the foil.

Then, bake for 1 hour.

Remove from oven and wipe with about one tablespoon of shortening while still warm.

With a little care and maintenance, you can enjoy using your cast iron for years, while preserving it for future generations.

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

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Robyn Stone

..where I share sweet, savory and southern recipes, as well as home and garden tips and tidbits of travel.

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15 Comments Leave a comment or review

  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

    1. 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.

  2. 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?

    1. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

    1. Dear Elena Rubio
      Your question about using Olive oil instead of Lard for treating cast iron cookware brings to mind an article I recently read.  They recommended using olive oil for low heat cooking only and in preparation of Salads or mayonnaise.  Olive oil will burn at the temperature needed in the oven for treatment of Cast Iron cookware. I would advise against it for that reason.   I love my olive oil but use it wisely.  

  6. 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!

  7. If you place your cast iron amid flames such as in a fireplace, you run the risk of cooling it off too fast and warping it. it’s not really advisable.

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