In this post, learn the importance of seasoning and cleaning cast iron step-by-step. Seasoning is necessary and highly important to create the non-stick surface on your pans. Also, properly cleaning will maintain the quality and prolong the life of your pans for generations.
It’s confession time. Are you ready?
Okay, so I have never ever properly seasoned my cast iron. Not one single time.
Mostly because the labels that came stuck to the pans claim that the pan is pre-seasoned and I took their word for it. Really I should’ve known better. Seasoning is what gives your cast iron the slick surface and rarely is a “factory pre-seasoned” pan truly non-stick. At least it wasn’t for me.
I thought I was “seasoning” it after each use by wiping the inside with bacon fat. Yeah.
Lesson learned, take my advice and always ALWAYS season your pan before using it. It’s fairly easy, a little time consuming with moderate effort but it’s well worth it. If you don’t… well just scroll down and you’ll see what I mean.
Cast iron can last generations if you season and clean it properly.
These are my pans. My honest-to-goodness, straight out of the cupboard, not prettied up for the camera, real-life pans.
(Gah! That grill pan!)
After seeing a video in my facebook feed showing just how necessary and easy it is season and clean cast iron, I was instantly inspired to strip my pans down and start over. I also decided to document the whole process, thus explaining this How To post on seasoning and cleaning cast iron.
First, here’s what I own:
I have a Lodge 12-inch Skillet : This pan is great for searing big pieces of meat and frying up bacon.
A Lodge 10-inch Skillet : This pan is great for baking skillet cookies or brownies, biscuits or cooking things like taco meat, breakfast skillets or frying eggs.
Lodge 6.5-inch Skillet : this is great for small batch things like dips, frying up an egg or two and sauteing onions or garlic.
I also have a Lodge Square Grill Pan : This grill pan is great for grilling indoors! I’ve grilled everything from chicken breasts, kebabs, salmon and shrimp. As you can tell, it gets a lot of love in my house!
And a Bobby Flay Sizzle Pan : I use this mostly for fajita vegetables but would also be great for searing while grilling.
So, yeah, my cast iron pan collection. These pans are gross. They are SO not properly seasoned and are very much embarrassing.
My pans were pretty far gone, so much in fact that I stopped using them. Over time the outside had developed a sticky and greasy film. And don’t get me started on the inside of the pan. I’m pretty sure you can see for yourself.
To season your cast iron, you don’t need any special cleaners. You will need a few stainless steal pot and pan scrubbers, a non-abrasive scrubber, a mild dish soap and flax-seed oil.
In the video, it was stated that flax-seed was the new standard oil to use. It is a bit pricey (this bottle was $7) but they also said canola oil could be used too. I don’t cook with canola, so I went the flax-seed oil route.
Alright, so normally I would NEVER wash my cast iron with soap and water. But since I’m starting over, I needed to scrub all the built on crud.
So squirt a few drops of a mild dish soap onto your pan. Use a damp stainless steel scrubbing pad and start scouring the pan inside and out.
Already you’ll be able to see a huge difference. Now, rinse under hot water and add another drop of soap.
To get rid of any remaining stuck on grease or grime, use the non-abrasive sponge and scrub one last time.
Next, rinse the pot or pan under hot water and then place it onto your stove top. Heat the pan on medium-high to high heat until the water evaporates because you will want your pan to be bone dry.
Remember water + cast iron = rust. So always place it on the stove top and heat it until dry.
If the pan is hot, give it a moment to cool until safe enough to handle. Then add in a bit of the flax-seed oil and use a few paper towels to rub the oil all over the pan. Wipe the inside, outside and the underneath. Don’t forget the handle!
Now unfold the paper towel, and use the clean unused part to wipe the excess oil off of the pan. This step is important, too much oil will leave the pan with that sticky, greasy film I was telling you about.
Slide the pan(s) into your preheated 500° (or the highest temperature your oven will reach) and set a time for 1 hour. This will set the oil and create the non-stick surface you’re after.
Once the hour is up, either allow the pans to cool inside your oven or transfer them to a trivet to cool.
I would not season your cast iron a day or two before you plan to have company over as there is a certain metal smell in the air. I seasoned mine on a 50° day where I could crack open a few windows.
Yes this is the same pan that I showed you in the beginning of this post.
Seriously, I cannot believe it.
My cast iron looks brand spanking new! And I’d never thought I would see my grill pan look so darn pretty.
Let me know if you give this method a try. I’d love to hear from you!
Cleaning Cast Iron:
Once you’ve properly seasoned your cast iron, you’ll need to maintain it after cooking. Depending on what I cook, depends on my method.
If I sear meat or cook something that leaves bits stuck to the pan, I’ll immediately rinse out with hot water and scrub my pan with kosher salt and either paper towel or a kitchen cloth. The kosher salt acts as an abrasive that will lift off any stuck on bits. Never use dish soap. (unless prepping for seasoning your pan)
Otherwise, I just run it under hot water and use one of those non-abrasive scour pads (the blue flat ones) until clean.
Either method you will need to place the cast iron pot or pan onto the stove top and heating on medium-high to high heat until the pot is dry. Cast iron is porous, so you need to dry it this way to insure that it will not rust. Do not towel dry.
Then I rub in another drop of the oil in and all around the pan, wipe any excess off and it’s good to go!
Enjoy! And if you give this Seasoning and Cleaning Cast Iron method a try, let me know! Snap a photo and tag me on twitter or instagram!
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Bring me all of the brussels, in particular those maple balsamic ones!
I’ll second that Jaimie! <3
This is a great post and I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to be using dish soap. Do you have to use flaxseed oil or can I use another oil?
Coconut oil would work!
Great! I”m just about to embark on using a cast iron frying pan. This post comes in just in time . Thanks a lot.
So glad! 🙂
I have carbon steel pans that require the same treatment. When I was done (re-seasoning) I fried an egg to test and it slid right out.
Thank you for this post and bringing my pans back to life.
That’s awesome! So happy to hear it, Steve!
This didn’t really work so well for me, after scrubbing and bone drying, they still look rusty…
Hmmmm, well maybe it could use another seasoning.
If your cast iron is rusty, use a steel wool pad to scrub off the rust, soap and a dish rag will not remove rust. Stop as soon a the rust is removed, your pad will add scratches to the pan if you over-scrub.