You’ve just purchased a brand new cast iron skillet and now you’re wondering how to properly season it. Seasoning is an essential step in maintaining the longevity and performance of your skillet, ensuring that it becomes a non-stick cooking surface that will last for years to come. In this article, we’ll guide you through the step-by-step process of seasoning your new cast iron skillet, so you can unleash its full cooking potential and enjoy delicious meals with ease. So let’s get started on this exciting journey of seasoning your new cast iron skillet!
Table of Contents
Choosing the Right Oil – A Key On How Do I Season A New Cast Iron Skillet
Considerations for Choosing Oil
When it comes to seasoning your cast iron skillet, choosing the right oil is essential. The oil you select will not only affect the flavor and performance of your skillet, but it will also play a crucial role in the seasoning process. It’s important to choose an oil with a high smoke point, as oils that smoke easily can leave a sticky residue on your skillet. Some oils that work well for seasoning include vegetable oil, canola oil, and flaxseed oil.
Common Oils to Season With
Vegetable oil is a popular choice for seasoning cast iron skillets due to its affordability and availability. It has a high smoke point and provides a solid base for building up multiple layers of seasoning. Canola oil is another common option that works well for seasoning. It is also readily available and has a high smoke point. Flaxseed oil, although more expensive, is often touted as the best oil for seasoning cast iron skillets. It creates a hard, durable seasoning that is known for its non-stick properties.
Best Oils to Avoid
While there are many suitable oils for seasoning, there are a few that are best to avoid. Oils with low smoke points, such as olive oil and butter, should be avoided as they can create a sticky residue when heated. Additionally, oils with strong flavors, such as sesame oil or coconut oil, can impart an undesirable taste to your food. Stick to oils with higher smoke points and neutral flavors for the best results.
Preparing the Skillet for Seasoning
Removing the Protective Coating
Before you can begin the seasoning process, you’ll need to remove the protective coating that comes on brand new cast iron skillets. This coating is usually a layer of wax or oil that is applied to prevent rust during storage and transportation. To remove it, simply wash the skillet with warm, soapy water, using a sponge or brush to remove any stubborn residue. Rinse the skillet thoroughly with water and dry it completely.
Cleaning the Skillet
Once the protective coating is removed, it’s important to thoroughly clean the skillet. This ensures that any dirt, dust, or impurities are removed before you start seasoning. Avoid using any harsh scrub brushes or abrasive cleaners, as these can damage the surface of the skillet. Instead, use a non-abrasive sponge or brush and mild dish soap to gently clean the skillet. Rinse it thoroughly with water and dry it completely.
Avoiding Soap and Dishwasher
When cleaning your cast iron skillet, it’s important to avoid using soap and placing it in the dishwasher. Soap can strip away the seasoning you’ve worked hard to build up, leaving your skillet vulnerable to rust. Similarly, the high heat and harsh detergents used in dishwashers can damage the seasoning and cause the skillet to rust. Stick to gentle hand washing with mild dish soap to keep your skillet in great condition.
Applying the First Seasoning
Preheating the Skillet
Before applying the first seasoning, it’s important to preheat the skillet. This helps to open up the pores of the cast iron, allowing the oil to penetrate and bond with the surface. Place the skillet on a stovetop burner or in the oven and heat it over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. This ensures that the skillet is fully heated and ready to receive the oil.
Applying a Thin Layer of Oil
Once the skillet is preheated, it’s time to apply a thin layer of oil. Pour a small amount of oil into the skillet and use a paper towel or clean cloth to spread it evenly across the cooking surface and the sides of the skillet. Make sure to coat every inch of the skillet with a thin layer of oil. This will help to create a smooth, even seasoning.
Spreading the Oil Evenly
To ensure that the oil is spread evenly, use a circular motion with the paper towel or cloth to distribute it across the skillet’s surface. Be sure to pay attention to the corners and edges of the skillet, as these areas can often be overlooked. The goal is to create a thin, even layer of oil that will bond with the cast iron and create a protective seasoning.
Baking the Seasoning
Setting the Oven
Once the oil has been applied to the skillet, it’s time to bake the seasoning onto the cast iron. Preheat your oven to a temperature of 350°F (175°C). This temperature allows the oil to polymerize and form a durable coating on the surface of the skillet.
Baking Time and Temperature
The baking time and temperature may vary depending on the specific instructions provided with your cast iron skillet or the type of oil you are using. In general, it is recommended to bake the skillet for one hour. This allows the oil to fully bond with the cast iron and create a layer of seasoning. If you’re using flaxseed oil, some sources recommend applying multiple thin layers of oil and baking for shorter periods of time.
Placing the Skillet in the Oven
Once the oven has reached the desired temperature, carefully place the skillet on the center rack. It’s important to position the skillet with the cooking surface facing up to ensure that the oil will evenly distribute and create a smooth seasoning. Close the oven door and let the skillet bake for the recommended time. Avoid opening the oven door during baking, as this can cause temperature fluctuations.
Cooling and Repeating the Process
Allowing the Skillet to Cool
After the baking time has elapsed, turn off the oven and allow the skillet to cool completely. It’s crucial to let the skillet cool naturally to room temperature, as sudden temperature changes can cause the cast iron to warp or crack. Once the skillet is cool to the touch, it is ready to be inspected and potentially undergo additional seasoning layers.
Repeating the Seasoning Process
To achieve a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, it’s often recommended to repeat the seasoning process multiple times. Each layer of seasoning builds upon the previous one, creating a stronger and more non-stick surface. After the skillet has cooled, you can repeat the steps of preheating, applying oil, and baking. Some sources recommend repeating the seasoning process at least three to four times to achieve optimal results.
Recommended Number of Seasoning Layers
While the number of seasoning layers ultimately depends on personal preference, it is generally recommended to season a cast iron skillet with three to four layers. This should provide a solid foundation for creating a non-stick cooking surface. However, some cast iron enthusiasts choose to season their skillets with even more layers to achieve an enhanced seasoning.
Caring for a Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet
Avoiding Harsh Cleaning Methods
Once your cast iron skillet is seasoned, it’s important to take care of it properly to maintain its non-stick properties and prevent rust. Avoid using harsh cleaning methods that can strip away the seasoning, such as abrasive scrub brushes or steel wool. Instead, use a non-abrasive sponge or brush and mild dish soap to gently clean the skillet. If necessary, you can use a small amount of salt to help remove stubborn residue.
Drying and Oiling After Each Use
After cleaning your cast iron skillet, it’s crucial to dry it thoroughly to prevent any moisture from causing rust. Use a clean, lint-free cloth or paper towel to remove any remaining water. Once the skillet is dry, apply a thin layer of oil to the cooking surface and sides of the skillet. This helps to maintain the seasoning and protect the cast iron from moisture and rust.
Storing the Skillet Properly
When storing your cast iron skillet, it’s important to ensure that it is dry and properly seasoned. Store it in a cool, dry place to prevent any moisture from causing rust. Some people choose to store their skillets with a paper towel or cloth placed inside to absorb any excess moisture or odors. Additionally, make sure to stack your cast iron skillets with a layer of paper towel or cloth between each one to prevent any scratches or damage to the seasoning.
Restoring or Repairing a Neglected Skillet
Removing Rust or Build-Up
If your cast iron skillet has developed rust or a significant build-up of food residue, it may require some extra attention to restore it to its former glory. To remove rust, use a scrub brush or steel wool to gently scrub the affected areas. Make sure to remove all the rust before proceeding to the next step.
Using Coarse Salt and Oil Method
Once the rust has been removed, you can use the coarse salt and oil method to further clean and restore your skillet. Sprinkle a generous amount of coarse salt onto the surface of the skillet, then use a cloth or paper towel to scrub the salt in a circular motion. The salt acts as a gentle abrasive, helping to remove any remaining build-up. Rinse the skillet thoroughly and dry it completely before proceeding to the seasoning process.
Re-seasoning or Patching Worn Areas
After removing rust or build-up, it’s important to re-season the skillet to restore its non-stick properties. Follow the steps outlined earlier, including preheating, applying a thin layer of oil, and baking. If there are any areas with worn or thin seasoning, you can focus on applying extra oil and baking time to those specific areas to help build up the seasoning.
Tips and Tricks
Using Flaxseed Oil for Superior Results
While vegetable oil and canola oil are commonly used for seasoning, some cast iron enthusiasts swear by flaxseed oil for superior results. Flaxseed oil has a low smoke point, so it requires a slightly different seasoning method. Apply multiple thin layers of flaxseed oil, allowing each layer to bake for a shorter period of time. This process may require more effort, but the end result is a durable, non-stick seasoning.
Baking Biscuits for Added Non-Stick Coating
After seasoning your cast iron skillet, some people recommend baking biscuits in it to help create an additional non-stick coating. The high heat of baking biscuits helps to polymerize the oil and create a smooth, non-stick surface. Simply follow your favorite biscuit recipe and bake the biscuits in the seasoned skillet. The residual oil from the biscuits will help to enhance the seasoning.
Avoiding Acidic Foods in the Beginning
In the early stages of using a newly seasoned cast iron skillet, it’s best to avoid cooking acidic foods such as tomatoes or citrus fruits. Acidic foods can break down the seasoning and cause it to degrade over time. Once your cast iron skillet has developed a strong, durable seasoning, you can confidently cook a wide variety of foods without worrying about the acidity damaging the surface.
Myths and Misconceptions
Avoiding Using Animal Fat
Contrary to popular belief, using animal fat to season a cast iron skillet is not recommended. While animal fat may provide a beautiful initial seasoning, it tends to create a sticky residue that can be difficult to clean and maintain. Stick to oils with higher smoke points and neutral flavors, such as vegetable oil, canola oil, or flaxseed oil, for the best results.
Not Needing to Season Pre-Seasoned Skillets
Even if your cast iron skillet comes pre-seasoned, it’s still beneficial to add additional seasoning layers before using it. Pre-seasoned skillets often have a relatively thin layer of seasoning, and adding a few extra layers will help to create a more robust and non-stick surface. Plus, the additional seasoning layers allow you to customize the flavor and performance of your skillet to suit your preferences.
Seasoning Not Permanent
Seasoning a cast iron skillet is not a one-time process. While the initial seasoning layers provide a good foundation, the seasoning will naturally wear down over time with regular use. However, with proper care and maintenance, the seasoning can be easily restored or built up again. Regularly cleaning, drying, and applying a thin layer of oil after each use will help to maintain and prolong the seasoning of your skillet.
Seasoning a new cast iron skillet is a straightforward but important process to ensure optimal performance and longevity. By choosing the right oil, properly preparing the skillet, and applying multiple thin layers of seasoning, you can create a durable, non-stick surface that will enhance your cooking experience. With proper care and maintenance, your seasoned cast iron skillet can last a lifetime and become a cherished kitchen companion. So, roll up your sleeves, follow the steps outlined in this article, and enjoy the benefits of a perfectly seasoned cast iron skillet in your kitchen. Happy cooking!