How To Season A Cast Iron Skillet

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lodge-cast-iron-skillet

*If this is your first time at Southern Plate, I recommend clicking here!

Today I am thrilled to bring you a guest blogger who will be speaking on a topic we all need to know about! As a Mechanical Design Engineer, Richard Hall may seem an unlikely choice for a food blogger, but his heritage, common sense know how, and generosity in sharing his knowledge with us make him the perfect choice for a topic of the utmost importance to any Southern cook! Be sure to visit his blog! Thank you, Rich!

Hey all,

It is a pleasure to blog on southernplate.com.  Just as Christy has written about her southern heritage, mine is similar.  Both sets of my grandparents were sharecroppers in southern Tennessee and North Alabama.  I grew up eating fresh southern food out of the garden and barnyard.

Since Christy has all these great southern recipe’s, I thought it might be useful to share how to season a cast iron skillet or other type cast iron cooking vessel.  You may ask, what is seasoning and why do I need to season my cast iron skillet?  The answer is very simple.  Seasoning is making your cast iron non-stick like all the new miracle cookware. And the why is you can buy and maintain a non-stick skillet with nothing more than lard and common sense and it will never wear out. The cast iron skillet can be used to cook on the stovetop, the oven or the grill.  A good iron skillet can be passed down as an heirloom if taken care of properly.

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It is very simple to do albeit a little messy.  What you will need is the cast iron skillet, a box of lard, which can be purchased in your favorite supermarket for less than $2.00, a roll of heavy paper towels and an oven.  Just a quick note, the seasoning of a new skillet and the re-seasoning of an existing skillet are the same except for the first step.  So lets get started.

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Make sure your new skillet has been washed in hot water and mild detergent.  This will remove the factory anti-rust coating.  For re-seasoning an existing skillet, just make sure to wipe the entire surface with hot water and a clean wash cloth or paper towel (sponges need not apply).

Dry the skillet by heating on the cook top then let it rest and cool.  Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees.

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Fold the paper towel into a fourth and place a dollop of lard in the skillet.  The size is not important, but for a 10” skillet, use about 1/4th of a cup.  More can be added as required to cover.

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Take the paper towel and coat the interior, the exterior down to the bottom edge and the handle liberally.

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I don’t coat the very bottom of the skillet, as any cook surface that it touches will make smoke and just burn off the lard.

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Once you have the skillet coated, place it in the oven (at 200 degrees) and set a timer for 3 hours.  This low temp will open the cast iron pores up and allow the lard to penetrate as it liquefies.

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After the time is up, cut off the oven and let the skillet cool.  Once it is cool enough to touch, wipe it down with another paper towel to remove most of the lard and just leave a thin coat on the surfaces.

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In another hour or so, wipe it down again.

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After this final wipe, the skillet will continue to cool and in about an hour will look like the last picture.

Now you are ready to use the skillet.  For the first couple of uses, cook something greasy like bacon or sausage.  This will help to heat cycle and re-coat the interior surface which will make the non-stick coating better.  Also be aware that it is going to smoke the first couple of uses as it heat cycles and burns off the water trapped in the pores and the excess lard.

To maintain the skillet you will need to wipe the interior every couple of months with bacon grease during a heat cycle or cook something greasy and re-season about every 2 years following the process above.

Also, don’t let food sit in the skillet as this will remove the seasoning.

After each use, wash the skillet out using a very mild soap solution and warm water.  NEVER wash in the dishwasher. The reason for using mild soap solution is to keep from removing the seasoning layer.

One other note that I personally do is the drying step after a wash.  I will turn the cook top on to high and place the wet skillet on it for about a minute.  This will heat the skillet up enough to dry the water and heat cycle the pores.  This keeps everything as it should be.

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If you choose, you can render your own lard from bacon drippings.  If you own a microwave bacon-cooking tray it is very easy.  Just cook some bacon and let the drippings cool either in the tray or pour them into a bowl or shallow dish while still hot.  Once it has cooled and congealed, you can use it just like the lard as described above.  This is perfect for the occasional re-seasoning of your skillet.

I hope this has been helpful and if you have any questions just direct them to Southernplate.com and I’m sure Christy can find me to get the answers.

See you on the Internet, Rich

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P.S. From Christy:  This post would no be complete without me sharing one of my all time favorite Southern Plate comments with y’all! Special thanks to Bill Gent for this sweet, horrifying, and hilarious memory!

When I was about 7 or 8 I saw those dirty old skillets and decided I would clean them both real good with SOS pads. My mama would be so proud that I got off all that old black stuff and make-em shiny. I took them outside and used the garden hose since I didn’t wanna make a mess inside. I proudly took them to her when I was finished and proclaimed my good deed. I heard a gasp. She calmly said..”Why thank you honey.. but.. uhh..” I don’t know why I remember it.. maybe it was that horrified gasp that burned it into my memory. ~Bill Gent

Great Cast Iron Recipes to Start You Off!

Dixie Cornbread

Hoe Cake

I’m headed out of town for the weekend to go to a Blogging conference. Y’all have a good one and I’ll see ya when I get back! Gratefully, Christy

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Comments

  1. Sandy Stephens says

    I never wash my skillets in soapy water. I do use HOT water & a scrapper to clean anything that has run over or stuck on to it. then wipe dry with a paper towel & rub a little oil into it then wipe the excess off.! Love cooking with cast iron!! Makes some of the best biscuits around in a cast iron skillet!

    • Kevin Quinn says

      To clean mine, I pour in some Kosher salt and use it as an abrasive with a paper towel. It cleans off any stuck food, then wash with very hot water (no soap) and dry it on the stove as Rich does. Works great

      • says

        This method is the best. No soap please. It will take more than a few times of seasoning but it is so worth being patient to keep forever. I prefer to dry my skillets with paper towel before reheating after use. Then spread a little oil high temp on burner for 2 min. Atlanta girl knows. Go Dogs!

        • Phil says

          Yep… NEVER, and I mean NEVER use any type of soap! Just a good rinse with warm water. I use a pad that is made of stainless steel made elusively for cast iron skillets. If by chance it gets a tad grungy, a good scrub with salt and water will do the trick. Dry it out over a low burner for a few minutes and then pour a few drops of Canola oil and wipe it out with a paper towel. Mine is so slick that I have to use a thin metal spatula to pick up an egg as it slides all over the place, and I’m talking about a cast iron skillet from the early 1950’s.

          The newer cast iron skillets are junk, such as the Lodge. Then again, you can’t find the ones that are made the way they WERE, and should be (a SMOOTH bottom) as they simply won’t take the time to do things correctly any longer. Get on eBay, or shop around at garage sales and buy an old one, such as a Griswold or Wagner, that was made as it SHOULD be made.

  2. lynn barry says

    I had to chuckle at the comment by Bill Gent……when I was about 7-8 years old (what IS it about that age?), I made note that my Dad had an old cast iron pot bellied stove in his work shop….I also noted that he had a large can of Kelly green boat paint, so my cousin and I thought we’d “pretty up” that old stove, and set about to paint it (and the floor, too!). We were so pleased with our work! Can’t recall Dad’s response, but, be assured, there were no harsh words for us….my Daddy loved his girl, more than any old stove!! Thanks for the trip down memory lane! Lynn Barry

  3. Don says

    I always clean my pots/skillets with some veg. oil and kosher salt.
    A tbsp. of vegetable oil or crisco oil and 2 tbsp. of kosher salt goes into the pot/skillet. Then use a small wadded up square of paper towel and “scrub” the interior surface, until the skillet is clean. You’ll know it is clean, because the salt will be filthy. Wipe out the salt, and use a clean paper towel to wipe out the oil residue in the pot/skillet.

    I do this every time I cook withthemt. Every 3-4 months, I re-season them like I did when I first got them. I have had my cast iron pots and skillets for 20+ years, and they still look new.

    One final tip — NEVER put cast iron cookware into the dishwasher!!!

  4. MH says

    Just wanted to warn people about placing their cast iron in the oven on the self cleaning cycle. My grandmother read this 10-15 years ago and put several of her old cast iron skillets in the oven. When the cycle finished, all of her skillets were broken! Apparently not all ovens are the same.

    • Randy Voll says

      I use just enough Crisco to apply a very thin coat. l warm the cast iron before applying the Crisco. Oven is on 400 for a hour, I have the bottom of the skillet up. Put some tin foil on the bottom of oven.

      • Granny M says

        now i agree with this, if the oven is not at high enough temp, your skillet is going to end up sticky, the oil or lard or whatever you put on to season will not “cook” onto the skillet at 200 or 200 degrees, like Randy said, it needs to be up to 400 and upside down in the oven. cooking a skillet at 200 for several hours will get you a tacky sticky surface 9 times out of ten.

      • Penny says

        I always use lard to season my cast iron but not for cooking food – I have cooked only with cast iron for about five years now. I read on a blog one time from someone who worked for Lodge. He said that in reality, the company prefers lard over vegetable oil for seasoning. However, knowing that some customers are vegetarians, they don’t specify in their instructions. Animal fat has a slight advantage over oils when it comes to seasoning cast iron. Do not worry about getting high cholesterol in your body if you wipe your skillet well before cooking with it. I was on a strict diet when I started using this method, and my ‘good’ cholesterol went up and the ‘bad’ went down; not bad for Americans these day, to continually have a perfect blood work up!

    • Misty L says

      You can also use ghee. Ghee is clairified butter that is so stable it can be stored at room temp. It has a smoke point of 485* so that makes it very good for seasoning cast iron. I buy mine at a health food store and it’s even organic. I’m a big fan of Dr. Oz and he has talked about how bad partially hydrogenated oils are for us b/c they raise our LDL’s and clog our arteries. If you like to bake it is wonderful in pie doughs and in biscuits.

    • says

      Yes,
      I’m 82 years old. My mother was born in Gadsden Ala. She used Lard, Crisco, bacon. It really doesn’t make any difference. What you are looking for is a source of oil. As for the temps; 200*/400* take your pick. My mother taught me-300* for an hour and a half. If it works for you stick with it. Never ever use an abrasive or soap of any kind. You take of these skillets and they will last a life time.

  5. Michael T. says

    My skillet is 16 yrs old, and has never seen soap since the first time I cleaned it to start the seasoning process. I might add it is not the greasy crusted monster you may suspect after a statement like that.
    It tells me when it needs reseasoned is not a hard process at all. Simply put:
    1. preheat oven to 375 degrees
    2. while oven is heating, place skillet on a burner over mediem heat and add 1 or 2 cups of water, heat to it just starts to bubble on the bottom.
    3.remove from burner, dump that water, cover bottom with hot water from faucet and wipe out with 2 paper towels crumpled togeather being careful not to burn yourself.
    4. dry and add 1 teaspoon of bacon grease or favorite lard or cooking agent of the like.
    5. wipe entire interior surface and leave a non runny amount inside the skillet.
    6. place inside oven for 15 minutes with the heat still on.
    7. turn oven off and leave it set overnite.
    8.Enjoy your cast iron skillet as it is the best to cook your comfort foods in.

  6. Jeff J says

    (HELP!) Please! I have a griswold cast irion skillet my mother gave me when i left home.It’s at least 60 yrs old.she’s gone and i’d hate to have to throw it away.I’ve tryed the oven clean cycle to clean (works great).I used the above seasoning method (200% 3hrs) 3 times, also tryed 375 for 1hr.also after would put lard in on stovetop heat up cool down,repeat,tryed beacon fat also. It looks great after but everytime I try to cook something beacon,sausage,hambuger,chicken.Sticks like super glue.like it’s vulconized to pan have to pry it free! Very discouraged at this point.Any suggestions will be greatle appreciated at this point!

    • sandra says

      I learned from my grandfather that when you get a new iron skillet or if you have a old ones that food or bread sticks to when you cook in it , when you build a fire put your skillets in the fire and that will burn off all the old grease on it and this will help you season the new one.. the skillet will get very hot so do not touch it, let it cool and the wrap in down with a damp rag and then grease it good with the cooking oil… I have my grandmother skillet that she used to bake her bread and I use it two or three times a week. I do not put the skillet in water to wash it I use a damp rag and just wrap in out then I put just a little oil in it and put in up.. I do not cook anything but my breads in this one I have a different one that I fry in .

    • Sean K says

      Please ignore the metal sanding advice, that is likely to destroy your cast iron and I’ve never heard of this to be necessary. Another common cause for sticking particularly when a pan is properly seasoned is putting food in the pan before its hot. Let the pan get up to temperature before you put your food in. A common and simple test for most foods is to wet your fingers and flick the water at the pan. If the water beads and dances on the pan its hot enough for most cooking.

  7. Joey M says

    My old 9″ cast iron skillet makes the very best Pineapple Upside Down Cake ever. The cake comes out of the pan beautifully and never leaves any cake in the skillet. Just finshed making one I’m taking to a friend’s Easter dinner tomorrow. They request it every year!

  8. Xyla says

    My grandmother and mother both used cast iron. I was not sure about it but bought one and once it was seasoned it was the best cooking divice I ever did use. I got to season it again real soon. I have had it for I’ve twenty years! Nothing sticks to it. I promise….( I used the bacon drippings to season it)

  9. maureen gillock says

    i just purchased a 22 in, cast iron skillet at yard sale it is great shape but no name but on the opposite side of handle it has a small help handle, which reads;
    A B & 1. Is there anyone that reads this have any ideal who the maker is?

    • Tina Turner says

      Vanna,
      I need to know the answer to that same question! My grandmom passed away a couple years ago and I just got one of her cast iron skillets, but it’s rusty. I just KNOW I can make it cook-worthy again, but I’m not sure the best way to go about it!

      Tina

      • Megan says

        Ladies, the best way to go about making that skillet breathe again is to do the campfire method. Make a fire, and when it has a thick bed of coals under it, take that beloved old girl and push it into the coals. filling the pan sections while it goes. Leave it. Allowing it to lay in there and the fire will remove all the rust and old build up. When the fire is out and cool the next day, remove your pan. Wash it with soap and warm water and heat it on the stove to be sure all the water is evaporated from it’s pours. Seasoning wit Lard gives a nice smooth finish unlike vegetable oils, (I don’t leave any excess that will pool, however it seems that if you use animal fat (lard, butter, bacon grease) that it wont make your pan tacky or sticky if there is too much.) Bake upside down (witha cookie sheet below it) at 200 degrees for an hour, shut the oven off and (after checking that there isn’t an excessive amount of grease still on it) allow it to cool completely.

        Between cooking times I clean my pan with a wire scrubber and hot water, and put it on a hot stove burner to dry. Once dry I use about a half a tablespoon of butter and a paper towel wipe the butter all around inside the pan.

  10. Kenja says

    My husband has had a cast iron skillet for 10+ years & due to his incessive nagging, I finally seasoned it per your instructions. Let me tell you, I can honestly see why he had been nagging me for so long because I have fallen in LOVE with this skillet! My question is, after I cook with it & run it under water & rinse it out, I put it on the stove & “burn” off the water then put a little grease or oil back in and coat until I cook again. I’ve noticed when I wipe the oil on the skillet, a black residue is on the paper towels. Do I need to just scrub with some coarse salt & oil or is this a sign of it needing to be reseason end again? Thanks!

    • Sean K says

      If your happen to be an irrational germophobe then yes. Otherwise, its just left over goodies that have built up over time. Probably mostly carbon? I’m not a scientist of any sorts but definitely a nerd. Anyway, just remember how hot the pan gets when you cook on it, not much can survive that environment.

  11. Maria says

    I just purchased my very 1st cast iron skillet. A exterior surface. ll the skillets are NOT smooth like I thought they would be it has a rough Interior & exterior surface. It is OK or should the interior be smooth?

    • Phillip says

      I just purchased my first cast iron skillet too and it also has a rough exterior surface. I have completed one round of seasoning and its a little less rough however. Although, the article says, once is enough, I’m going to give it a second round so seasoning tonite. In the meantime, anyone with great wisdom the Marla or me, please chime in!

      • Sean K says

        The new skillets that are still manufactured (Lodge) are of lower manufacturing quality and do not have the smooth machined surface that the old cast iron does. No blows against Lodge, people are less willing to invest in quality equipment these days so they are most likely just playing the market. I own a lodge pan as well as a few old Wagner and Griswold pieces. I find the old pieces much smoother and easier to build a glassy surface but the Lodge will do just fine with proper care.

  12. Pam says

    I have an old iron skillet that was given to me. It was bought at a yard sale by a friend. The inside bottom and sides of the pain are caked with the whatever previous owner fried. If this was from my family I wouldn’t worry so much. I would like to clean it to make it as smooth as possible. Then re-season and start enjoying it. What is the best way to clean it. I have tried a few things and it is really baked on. Please help!

    • Lynn says

      I put my cast iron skillets in my Grill, upside down, on high for about 3 hours, (mine were really caked). I then brushed the rust gunk and rust off, washed with warm soapy water ( I know, I know every one says no soap, but….) then I lathered up with lard, that I purchased at Wal Mart, placed them in my oven, again upside down, ( I placed tin foil under them to catch any dripping) on about 250 for an about 2 to 3 hours. They are a great! I can bake cornbread in them both with sticking.

  13. Marilyn says

    Jeff J,
    You need to bring the pan to a high heat BEFORE adding anything cold or it will stick like crazy. So if you are cooking something that has been in the fridge, set it to high when you first place it in the pan and then slowly turn down to cook as the food warms up. The moisture from the cold food makes it stick. I personally like to bring food to room temp, but still heat the pan on high and then turn down when I add room temp food.

  14. Kim L says

    I have a couple of cast iron skillets. One from my mother-in-law, and one we picked up at an antique type show. My husband took them outside and cleaned them for me. One had alot of build-up on it, the other had rust. I’ve been working on them ALL DAY. They still are not turning black, they are a pretty brown. What do I need to do to get them black??

    • Megan says

      Use them. Mine were brown after we renewed them as well. The more I’ve used them and then washed with warm water and a scrub brush, then dry on a burner on medium, then wipe with butter and a papertowel. The blacker they’ve become :) happy trails!

    • Megan says

      stick it in a bed of coals in a campfire (or as suggested above put it on a grill upside down) then when the fire goes out (or after a few grill hours) remove the pan, the gunk and rust will scrape off easier. Wash, and then reseason. Good as new!

  15. Nate Drake says

    You guys with the old stuff trying to clean it and get it functioning properly probably need to clean it, sand it with coarse then fine sand paper, clean and then re-season. Should be good as new. Make sure sand it evenly. Probably instructions and vids on the web. Easier than it sounds. Good luck!

  16. Cheryl H says

    I just purchased a cast iron humidifier that sits on top of a wood burning stove. If I properly season it, will it be OK to keep it filled with water? I really don’t want it to turn into a rusty mess.

  17. Jennifer says

    I have my grandmother’s skillet and dutch oven I cherish and use them all the time. I never use soap if i have a big mess in them I use salt and hot water and it works like a dream. I always use the stove to dry and wipe a bit of oil around after every use.

  18. Ann Jones says

    I went to a sight on on the net to find out how to season my new cast iron pot that my husband gave me as a present from Cabelas. I covered the pot in olive oil and put it in the oven at 350 for two hours. Sight said to repeat this process 3 times. The last time I did it I covered the pot with Crisco. Now there is gunk in the bottom of the pot. I can scrape it with my fingernail . What do I do about that?

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