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 cast iron pieces passed down to me are priceless heirlooms to me. 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.
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 cast iron 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 your cast iron 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 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 oil left 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.
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.