Seasoning relies on baking cooking oil or vegetable shortening into cast-iron skillets and pans at high temperatures. It seals interior and exterior surfaces to keep out moisture, prevent rust from forming, and create a smooth, shiny surface that quickly releases cooking foods. Proper cleaning -- rinsing with hot water (soap and abrasives are no-nos), wiping away grime, rinsing, drying, and applying oil -- maintains the cast iron's original seasoned finish and, along with regular use, continually enhances the skillet's nonstick properties.
Cast-iron skillets are sold as unseasoned and factory-seasoned versions, so read product labels before you buy. Those with preseasoned finishes are ready for service and can be used right away to bake a frittata, saute vegetables, or fry chicken. You will need to season cast-iron skillets sold without a factory-seasoned finish by following the steps below. Note that the experts at Lodge Manufacturing, makers of preseasoned cast-iron skillets, say these seasoning steps can be used to refurbish cast-iron skillets and pans that have lost their nonstick attributes and have dull, graying, or rusty finishes.
How to Season Cast Iron in 7 Simple Steps
- Protect the oven's bottom rack from dripping oil with a sheet of aluminum foil. Preheat the oven to between 350 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Wash your cast-iron skillet (or other type of cast-iron pan) with a stiff brush or a scrub pad and hot, soapy water. When preparing a cast-iron skillet for seasoning or reseasoning, it's OK to use soap and plenty of elbow grease because you have not yet applied the final coating of cooking oil.
- Rinse the cast-iron skillet with hot water and dry thoroughly; make sure all soap residue and moisture have been removed.
- Use a paper towel or clean rag to evenly apply a very thin coating of cooking oil (any cooking oil will do) or melted vegetable shortening to the cast-iron skillet's surfaces.
- Set the cast-iron skillet upside down on the oven's top rack -- turning the pan bottom-up prevents excess oil from puddling on the skillet's cooking surface.
- Bake the cast-iron skillet or other cast-iron pan for an hour; turn off the heat and leave to cool inside the oven.
- Store the cool, now-seasoned cast-iron skillet in a dry area away from cooktops, sinks, and dishwashers. Use it often and clean it properly, and your perfectly seasoned cast-iron skillet will last at least a lifetime or more.