You can be new to cast iron or a long-standing fan, but there is one question everyone invariably wants to know: what is the best oil to season cast iron pans?
Honestly, in a nutshell, how you season a cast-iron skillet or pan does play a key factor in this. No matter what process or oil you choose to use, the purpose is the same: Add oil and heat up your pan.
Still based on popular demand on the internet, shortly, the answer is: Even though all types of cooking fats and oils can be used but based on affordability, effectiveness, availability, and has a high smoking point, we can conclude that vegetable oils (except olive oil), melted shortening, and any seasoning spray are for the best oil to season cast iron skillets of your kitchen.
What is Seasoning and Why You Need to Season Your Cast Iron Pan
As we have already stated that seasoning of cast iron is simply an act of getting a veneer of oil to settle into the nooks and crannies and orifices of the metal, and then warming it up. To such point when the fatty acids in the oil act with the metal and the heat. Become broken down or oxidized, and starts reforming (popularly known as polymerization) into larger atoms that bond with each other and the metal of your cast iron. This creates a tough as nails coating that shields the metal from corroding when it comes in touch with water and air. The layer will get better and better (also thicker and thicker) each time oil is put in and heated as you do when cooking. As it will eventually make the pan slick, smooth, and nonstick.
Why Vegetable Oils are Best Options for Seasoning
So now we know the science behind seasoning. We also know that any oil heated up will in the end polymerize. We can discuss which oils and which processes will do it faster and better. Food scientists concur that highly unsaturated fats work better. Because they’re more vulnerable to oxidation and polymerizing. So that means lard, bacon grease, and coconut oil aren’t actually the finest choices. Because they’re excessive in saturated fats. What does perform are all of the healthy oils such as vegetable, flaxseed, grapeseed, and canola. Each of these is short in saturated fat.
Okay, let’s focus on the method. It really boils down to creating enough heat to break down the oils. Consequently, trigger the polymerization act. The aforementioned recommended oils, all have pretty high smoke points. Which means it takes a bit of high temperature to break them down. Low and slow is not going to work for them. It will just make them adhesive only. Too high heat and the oil will just go up in smoke. The sweet spot is 350°F (176°C) to 500°F (200°C) for at least an hour. Although it would be amusing to spurt a ton of oil in your pan and have a really thick polymerized layer but unfortunately that will not work. You have to keep each layer of oil super thin. Repeat the process over and over again to accumulate the thickness.
Seasoning with Different Types of Oils
Seasoning Cast Iron with Olive Oil
Step – 1: You need to begin with a clean pan or skillet for seasoning. Ideally, rinse your skillet in hot water straight away after using it. Then dry it with a kitchen fabric. Burned bits of food can be taken out with coarse salt and a no-scratch scrubber. If your pan is still too sticky or, starts to rust, brush it thoroughly with any dish soap and steel wool. After rinsing it, immediately dry the skillet entirely.
Step – 2: To season your pan or skillet, preheat your oven to 300°F (150°C). Preheat the pan on your stove-top.
Step – 3: When it is warm, smear the inside surfaces of your pan with olive oil. Continue to heat the pan just until you see wavelets appear on the surface of the oil.
Step – 4: At that point, pour off any excess oil from your pan. Give it a quick mop with a folded paper towel. You should hold the paper in a pair of kitchen tongs.
Step – 5: Then for 45 to 60 minutes put the pan back into the oven. Remove the pan from your oven and let it cool down to room temperature. You may want to repeat this process again if the pan is a new pan. Already seasoned skillets or pans need an occasional re-seasoning two to three times per year.
Voila!! Seasoning cast iron with olive oil is that easy. Please take note that we would not recommend using extra virgin olive oil. Because you are paying a premium for the extra virgin olive oil.
Also, you have to be careful while using it. Since too thick of a coating of olive oil can create a sticky surface, instead of a glossy hard one.
Olive oil has a lovely aroma, terrific flavor, and multiple health benefits.
It’s easy to find and not overly expensive. These are all advantages of using olive oil to season your cast iron pan.
Since it has a low smoking point, if you pick it to season your cast iron pan, you just have to do it at lower temperatures and also for longer periods of time.
Seasoning Cast Iron with Coconut Oil
First and foremost, you want to do is to clean your pan. Do not leave your cast iron pans to soak for hours. It is also advised to not put it in the dishwasher. Hand-washing is required in this case. If your cast iron pan is already seasoned, cleaning should be as simple as washing it out with hot water. Use a sponge or non-metal scrub brush and scrub the spots to remove bits of foods. Don’t scrub too hard. You may end up taking off some of the seasonings. You can also use water and coarse salt and it will act as a gentle grinding, but not enough to damage the pan. Dry the pan completely. Now you’re ready to get into the seasoning.
Remember that the seasoning of cast iron cookware is a continuing process. You’ll often see that your pans or skillets will get darker after numerous uses. Seasoning cast iron with coconut oil, simply follow these steps:
Step – 1: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place some foil or a sheet pan over the lower rack of the oven beforehand. You can also season your cast irons on a grill if you like. This way the mess and potential smoke will remain in the outdoors.
Step – 2: Using your fingers, dry sponge, or a cloth, lay out a layer of coconut oil around both the inside and outside of your pan or skillet. You can use refined or virgin. We recommend you to use refined. Make sure that the inside is coated well. Place your pan face down on the top of the oven rack. Let it bake in your oven for 90 minutes. There is a chance of smoke in this process. So best to keep your stove fan running and also open the windows if possible.
Step – 3: Turn off your oven, but just don’t open the door yet. Let it cool down in the oven and repeat if needed. Sometimes one session is good enough. But if the pan is new and unseasoned, or one that has had the seasoning dwindling off, you may need to repeat the steps a few times for a better and stronger bond.
Each time you clean your pan, dry it properly. Rub a bit of coconut oil into your pan. You can use a dry towel to clear out any excess oil. This will help prolong the baked-on seasoning on your pan.
It is becoming a popular oil over the past decade. Purely because of its health benefits. And at a very reasonable price too.
If seasoned properly, your pan will be great. Otherwise, whenever you cook food at a higher temperature than the smoking point of the oil, it will begin to break down the carbonized coating of the oil.
If you do not cook at high temperatures regularly, coconut oil is a fine solution for seasoning a cast iron pan. Especially if you use it daily.
Seasoning Cast Iron with Flaxseed Oil
Keep in mind that it is a lengthy process. The total oven time required is 18 hours. Including six hours of baking time, and 12 hours for the cooling. Six flaxseed oil coats are needed is six in the entire process.
Most of that 18 hours are hands-off of your oven time. But it’s still a bargain. You can read our process of seasoning cast iron with flaxseed oil below:
Step – 1: Pour flaxseed oil into your pan. A little is absolutely all right, so you can begin with a teaspoon. Add more oil if needed.
Step – 2: Rub the oil thoroughly into the pan. This is best done with using your hands. Make sure to envelop every part of your pan, including the bottom, sides, inside, and the handle.
Step – 3: Wipe off the oil with the help of a paper towel. You want an incredibly thin layer of oil. Which basically means clearing out as much of the oil as you can. Keep cleaning until it looks like there is nothing left on your pan.
Step – 4: Now place your pan or skillet in the cold oven upside-down on a middle oven rack.
Step – 5: Set your oven for its highest temperature (500°F). Let your pan preheat with the oven.
Step – 6: When your oven is hot, set a timer. A timer for one hour.
Step – 7: Do not forget to make the area well-ventilated. Open turn on the fans, all the windows, and exit from your kitchen. Since hot flax oil will smoke a little and it smells like fish while it is burning off.
Step – 8: After an hour, turn off your oven. Just let it cool. But do not open the door yet! Leave your cast iron pan to cool inside of the oven. Keep it untouched, for an extra couple of hours.
Step – 9: After a couple of hours, it is three hours since you started. Remove the pan from your oven. Now, it should be cold enough to touch. If it is not, allow it to cool down a bit on your countertop. Once you are able to handle the pan with your bare hands, repeat the whole process (step one to nine).
Step – 10: Do this entire process for an overall of six times.
Flaxseed oil has a very low smoking point. So we advise our readers to season for a minimum of six times for one hour at a time.
Flaxseed oil is not easy to find and it is also expensive.
Buy and pick only made of 100% flaxseed. The only exception is if the label states “lignans” or “flaxseed particulate”. Those are still part of the flaxseed. They count as pure flax oil.
They require refrigeration because the oil has an omega-3 supplement and goes rancid fast.
Seasoning Cast Iron with Canola Oil
Step – 1: You have to wash it before starting the seasoning. Give your pan a good scrub with soapy, warm. Then let it dry out thoroughly. Your best bet is to keep the pan on your stovetop flame for a minute or two because even after towel-drying, some moisture may remain on the surface.
Step – 2: Now rub your pan all over, inside and out. That includes the handle too with canola oil. It works well and is easier to spread than any saturated fats, like lard or shortening. The focus here is to rub the canola oil all over your pan. But then polish it so thoroughly. So that your pan no longer looks the slightest bit greasy. Even a small amount of glut oil on the pan can pool during the seasoning process. They can form little hardened spores on your cooking plain. Or even turn gummy if left unused for a few days.
Step – 3: Put your oiled pan in a preheated 450°F oven. Leave it there for about half an hour. Keep your kitchen well ventilated to avoid getting smoky. During this time canola oil will polymerize and form the first of few plastic-like, hard coatings.
The oven here will provide an even heat that will more efficiently set the oil all over your cast iron pan. Even the best stovetop burners will create inconsistent spots, which can cause uneven initial seasoning. It is not essential still we recommend you to turn the pan upside down and lay down a baking sheet or piece of foil underneath the rack. It will work as an added insurance against any extra oil that determines to run and pool.
Step – 4: When the 30 minutes is up, take your pan out carefully as it will be hot. Now rub it once again all over with canola oil like before. Put it back into the oven for another 30-minute session. All in all, you’ll want to repeat this oiling and heating three to four times. It will set down a good initial layer.
Once you’re done with it, just let your pan cool down. It is now ready to use.
Canola oil and other types of vegetable oils are popular oils for seasoning your cast iron for two primary reasons:
– They’re inexpensive and widely available everywhere.
– They have high smoking points so they can handle high temperatures.
The reason they are so inexpensive because they’re finely refined. This also means that they’re the least healthy oil, both in your cooking and to season any cast iron pan. However, when it comes to the exterior of your pan, which rarely comes into direct contact with the food still needs to be well protected and seasoned. That is why canola oil is still a favorable option.
Seasoning Cast Iron with Peanut Oil
Seasoning cast iron with Peanut oil follows the same procedure as we have mentioned in the above section of Canola oil.
Regarding Peanut oil, our advice is due to some people having peanut allergies, it is better to not select Peanut oil for your pan’s seasoning. But, if you do not possess any allergy to peanuts, and you are not cooking for the mass, there is no trouble using peanut oils. Nevertheless, if you really want to use it we warn you to read the label to ensure you have selected an allergy free oil.
Seasoning Cast Iron with Avocado Oil
Step – 1: Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius).
Step – 2: Scrub your skillet or pan with hot soapy water. Make sure it is properly clean.
Step – 3: Take Avocado oil and rub the inside and outside of the cast iron using a small soft cloth or paper towel. Wipe up any and all oil drips from your pan.
Step – 4: Place your cast iron pan in the oven on the middle rack. Do put a foil on the lower shelf to catch oil drips from the pan.
Step – 5: Heat for one hour. Then grab hot pads to remove the pan from your oven.
Step – 6: Allow the pan to cool down on a rack. Simply turn off the oven. Which will allow the pan to cool inside the oven.
Step – 7: Wipe it clean with a paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
Quick Stove Top Method
Re-seasoning the inside of cast iron skillet
Step – 1: Scrub your cast iron pan with hot soapy water to ensure it is clean.
Step – 2: Evenly and properly oil the inside of your pan with Avocado Oil. Use a paper towel or a soft cloth.
Step – 3: Wipe up all the drips carefully from your pan.
Step – 4: Place your pan on the burner and turn on the low heat.
Step – 5: Slowly increase the heat to the smoking point.
Step – 6: Using a hot pad remove the pan away from the heat.
Step – 7: Allow the pan to cool down on a rack.
Step – 8: Wipe it clean with a paper towel to soak up any excess oil.
Note One: For unseasoned cast iron only oil the inside and outside of your pans.
Note Two: For re-seasoning, a cast iron just oil the inside of your pans.
Avocado oil has a high smoking point (520°F). This works as both a pro and a con.
The downside is that you have to heat the pan to a very high temperature before adding the avocado oil. Handling a pan this hot is dangerous.
On the other hand, seasoning a pan with avocado oil will give a polymerized layer that will be able to handle most of the cooking. Because it will rare that something will equal its smoking point while you will be cooking.
It’s a neutral-flavored oil and known for its health benefits. Though it is more expensive than other oils.
Seasoning Cast Iron with Grapeseed Oil
Grapeseed Oil is ideal for seasoning cast iron. Because it is an oil that can smoke at high temperatures. Let’s find out how seasoning cast iron with Grapeseed oil steps you can perform at home.
Step – 1: Put your pan in the oven at 200°F. Heat it up for at least ten minutes to open up the pores, and to dry out completely.
Step – 2: Then coat the pan in a thin layer of Grapeseed oil. Use a paper towel and wipe it off with another piece of clean paper towel.
Step – 3: Then I put it back in the oven upside down. It will prevent oil from pooling. Use a baking sheet to catch any leaks.
Step – 4: Heat up the oven to 400°F. Oil your pan again and carefully. Keep the pan in the oven for two hours.
Step – 5: Turn off the oven after two hours and let the pan cool in place after the final coat.
Step – 6: Repeat step one to step 5 two to three more times.
Grapeseed oil is one of the most sought after oils used to season cast iron pans by professional chefs and specialists. It has a high smoking point (420°F). This allows you to use high temperatures to heat up your pan quickly and create the bond between the pan and oil. It is entirely neutral in flavor and aroma. Making it perfect for seasoning your pan. Because every dish you cook up in it after seasoning will be fresh. It’s also praised as a healthy choice for oil. It is moderately priced, making it an economical and rational option.
Seasoning with Different Types of Fats
Seasoning Cast Iron with Lard
First, make sure your new skillet has been washed in mild detergent and hot water. This will eliminate the factory anti-rust layer. Just wipe the entire surface with hot water and a clean cloth or a paper towel.
Step – 1: Dry your pan or skillet by heating it on the stovetop. Then let it cool and rest. In the meantime, pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees.
Step – 2: With a paper towel folded into a fourth, put a dollop of lard in your skillet. The size is not important here. But for a 10” skillet we advise using about 1/4th of a cup. More can be added later if required.
Step – 3: Coat the interior, the exterior down to the bottom edge with a paper towel.
Step – 4: Don’t coat the very bottom of the skillet though. As any cooking surface that it touches will make smoke and will burn off the lard.
Step – 5: Place it in the oven which is at 200 degrees. Set a timer for 3 hours. The low temperature will open the cast iron pores up. Also, it will allow the lard to infiltrate as it liquefies.
Step – 6: When the time is up, cut off the oven. Let your skillet cool. When it is cold enough to touch, remove most of the lard with a paper towel. Just leave a thin layer on the surface of your skillet.
Step – 7: After an hour, wipe the skillet down again.
Step – 8: The skillet will continue to cool down after that final wipe. In about an hour it will be completely cold and dry and ready to be used.
For the first couple of uses, make sure to cook something greasy like sausage or bacon. This will help to make the non-stick coating of the skillet better. Also, remember that it is going to smoke at first but don’t worry about it.
Every couple of months wipe your cast iron with bacon grease to maintain the skillet. Re-season about every 2 years just as the process above. Also, do not let food sit in the skillet. This will undo the seasoning.
Lard will not perform well if you do not use your pan daily. It will go foul over time Store it somewhere with sufficient airflow to avoid building up a bad smell.
Seasoning Cast Iron with Bacon
When it comes to seasoning cast iron with bacon, you can make your own fat from bacon drippings. Using a microwave bacon cooking tray will be easy. Let the drippings cool either in the tray. Or use a shallow dish or, pour them into a bowl while it is still hot. Once it has congealed, you have got your lard as we have described above. This is one of the perfect ways for the casual re-seasoning of your skillet.
Seasoning Cast Iron with Shortening
Step – 1: Scrub your cast iron skillet well in soapy hot water.
Step – 2: Let it dry out thoroughly.
Step – 3: Now spread a thin layer of melted shortening all over your skillet.
Step – 4: Place the skillet upside down on your middle oven rack at 375°. Place foil on a lower rack to trap drips.
Step – 5: Bake for an hour. Let it cool in the oven.
We recommend that you should use vegetable oil like shortening to season a cast iron pan is if you are vegetarian or vegan. Because using a vegetable based product for seasoning your cast iron leaves a sticky remnant. Which is pretty awful.
Seasoning Cast Iron with Butter
Seasoning cast iron with butter is similar to lard. And make sure that you’re using salt-free butter.
Using butter as a first seasoning is not a good idea compared to the other oils and fats. But eventually, it will develop nicely if you use butter in your cooking and use the seasoned pan regularly.
Ghee similar to butter with the difference that it has a higher smoking point (around 300F for butter and 475F for ghee). It still won’t be good enough for a completely even seasoning, however.
Seasoning Cast Iron with Salt
Step – 1: Preheat your oven to 400°F (205°Celsius).
Step – 2: Scrape food from the bottom of your cast iron skillet with a wooden spatula.
Step – 3: Sprinkle some salt into the cast iron pan.
Step – 4: Rub salt in the bottom of your skillet.
Step – 5: With the flat side of the potato, rub the salt into the surface of your pan. The moisture from the potato, also with the help of salt, helps to remove any scraps or rust that cannot be removed by simply scraping or wiping out.
Step – 6: Use a slightly moist paper towel to erase the salt from the pan.
Step – 7: Hand clean the salt and food bits from the bottom of the skillet.
Step – 8: Pour in the oil once the pan is dry.
Step – 9: With a paper towel, wipe the entire surface of the pan. The surface should be gently coated in oil. Wipeout all of the extra oil before putting it in the oven.
Step – 10: Hand wipe the oil onto the surface of the cast iron skillet with a paper towel.
Step – 11: After thinly coating it with the oil, place it in your oven at 400°F for an hour. Allow your pan to cool. Wipeout any extra oil that may be left. You may have to repeat the oiling and heating process more than once to develop a thicker layer of protection.
After your pan is completely cooled down and you have wiped out all of the excess oil, it is ready to be used!
Seasoning Cast Iron with Beeswax
Step – 1: Clean your pan or skillet with salt. Then brush it with soap and water or steel wool. Rinse your pan well with hot water. Thoroughly let it dry with a towel.
Step – 2: Put the pan on a stovetop. Let it heat up for a while to ensure that the pan is completely dry.
Step – 3: Now sprinkle some beeswax in your pan. Just melt enough beeswax to spread it around evenly.
Step – 4: Use a paper towel to distribute the wax all over the pan. Including the bottom of the pan too.
Step – 5: Place the pan in a 400°F oven for thirty minutes to an hour. You may get some smoking because the wax burns off. So a make sure to use an exhaust fan in the meantime.
Step – 6: After 30 minutes most of the wax will be gone. You will have a dry and shiny appearance to your pan.
Seasoning with beeswax works really well only if you want to store your cast iron for a period of time. Also wax holds up better against the soap.
Beeswax is waterproof. While it is also natural and completely edible. Beeswax hardens finer at room temperature. So you won’t have to worry about getting sticky residue.
Why Do You Need to Season Cast Iron Cookware
Seasoning gives your cookware a classic black patina. It creates an essential and easy to release cooking surface for your pan. Also helps fend off your pan from rusting. A well-seasoned cast iron pan will provide service in your kitchen for generations.
Depending on your preferences, you may rank the seasoning oils differently. We completely understand that point of view. We kept a lot of factors on our mind and try to complete this article to help you decide what your priorities and how you can choose the right oil to season your cast iron with accordingly.