Let me start by saying I have a pretty good collection of cast iron that includes skillets (round and square), griddles, and dutch ovens; 18 pieces total which we use for camping and at home. I have antique Griswold, Wagner, and some newer Lodge pieces. At least to us, there is no better way to prepare a tasty meal than cast iron. Cast iron does require a good seasoning prior to use, and if this is done correctly clean up after cooking is a breeze and your cast iron will last for a lifetime. Seasoning a piece of cast iron is basically baking oil, shortening, lard, or bacon fat into the pores of the cast iron. I have read a number of “how too” procedures on seasoning cast iron and tried most of them. After having achieved inconsistent results with the procedures of others I decided to experiment with the process in the hope of developing a simple, repeatable, and dependable process. It took several months of seasoning, cleaning, and re-seasoning my entire collection, but I believe I have perfected the art of properly seasoning cast iron. I even use this procedure on new “preseasoned” pieces.
- Preheat oven to 200° F
- Thoroughly clean your cast iron with HOT soapy water and scrub brush
- Completely rinse, making sure there is no soap left on the cast iron
- Wipe dry with a paper towel
- Place your cast iron in the preheated oven for 15 minutes
- Remove cast iron from oven
- Apply a thin coat of Crisco shortening over the entire surface – inside and out – cast iron should appear wet, but should not be dripping
- Place your cast iron back in the oven for 15 minutes
- Remove cast iron from oven and wipe dry with a paper towel, when your done the cast iron should have no sheen to it at all, wipe it down again if you have to as your cast iron should appear “dry”… don’t worry there is still Crisco in the pores of the cast iron
- Return cast iron (upside down) to oven and adjust temperature up to 400° F
- Bake for 1 hour then turn oven off, leave cast iron in the oven until completely cooled which could take 3 hours or more.
- Remove cast iron from oven and apply a very thin coating of olive oil
That is it! Your cast iron is ready to use, but let’s take a look at the “science” behind this procedure so that you can understand why it is important to perform every step. First of all, new unseasoned cast iron has a very thin wax coating that the manufacture uses to keep the iron from rusting so a good cleaning is absolutely necessary to get that coating off. Placing the cleaned and dried cast iron in a warm oven (200°F) opens the pores of the cast iron thus allowing the shortening to seep into the pores. Wiping the excess shortening from the cast iron will ensure a nice even seasoning to develop during the hot (400°F) cycle. Letting the cast iron cool in the oven actually serves 2 purposes; first of all cast iron can crack with extreme rapid changes in temp, so it is best to let it cool slowly while still in the oven. Second, cooling slowly allows the pores to gently close while sealing in the seasoning, and remember proper season means non-stick! Lastly, the thin coat of olive oil ensures that your cast iron does not rust while it is being stored. Happy cast iron cooking!