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How to Season Cast Iron Cookware

Updated on February 4, 2012

cast iron cooking

Do you enjoy cooking and baking with cast iron cookware? I do a lot of cooking! My kitchen cabinets and drawers are stuffed with all sorts of cooking implements, including some expensive items. My favorite one of all, however, didn’t cost a cent. It’s my old black cast iron frying pan that was handed down to me by my mother. She got it from her mother, so it’s been in the family for generations. In fact, I think it might have belonged to my great-grandmother when it was new. I use this cast iron frying pan for many dishes, including fried chicken, country fried steak, fried ham and bacon, blackened redfish, pan-seared shrimp, fried vegetables, pineapple upside-down cake, and cornbread. There’s no telling how many meals my cast iron frying pan has made. Since it’s old, I didn’t have to worry about cast iron seasoning with this pan, but I have with other pieces of my cast iron cookware.

I used cast iron cooking for these pan-seared shrimp. (raspberry tartar sauce on the side)
I used cast iron cooking for these pan-seared shrimp. (raspberry tartar sauce on the side)
Cast iron cookware works great for veggies, too.
Cast iron cookware works great for veggies, too.

Cast iron cooking

There’s really nothing that equals cast iron cooking. I’ve tried all sorts of cookware, but I’ve never found anything that beats my cast iron pans and Dutch oven for browning. I don’t admit to know all the science behind it – I just know that cast iron pans will give cornbread a thick, beautiful crust, and it will also provide a crispy coating on foods that have been battered and fried. Cast iron cooking is also great for pan searing and pan frying, even when you’re using just a small amount of oil. Because cast iron heats evenly and holds in heat for a long time, it’s also a great choice for cooking chili, stews, chicken and dumplings, and soups.

My cast iron frying pan is great for baking cornbread.
My cast iron frying pan is great for baking cornbread.

How to season cast iron pans - new cookware

When you buy a new cast iron frying pan, don’t expect it to be ready to use. Cast iron pans need to be seasoned first, before you ever cook with them. Seasoning cast iron requires several steps, but believe me – it’s definitely worth the effort. To season cast iron that’s new, you’ll first need to clean it and remove any rough spots inside the cooking surface. First, wash the pan in mild soapy water. While the pan is still damp, add about ½ cup of coarse salt to the pan and scrub it thoroughly. The salt will serve as an abrasive to smooth out any rough spots left behind by the manufacturing process. Next, rinse the pan and dry it completely with a soft, absorbent cloth.

To season cast iron properly, it needs to be coated with fat or oil and cooked. You’ll find lots of differing tips and advice on how to season cast iron. Depending on who you listen to, you’ll be told to use corn oil, avocado oil, canola oil, peanut oil, or flax oil, but I don’t use any of those. I’ve tried them all, but I’ve found that the best fat for seasoning cast iron is lard. If you don’t want to use lard, use a solid vegetable shortening, like Crisco.

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Coat the inside of your cast iron pan with the lard, making sure to include the bottom and the sides. I don’t season the outside of my cast iron, although many cooks do. Place the pan on the top rack of your oven and let it cook for one hour. Remove the pan from the oven and pour off as much melted lard as possible. Using paper towels and an oven mitt, remove more oil, until just a light coating is left. Return the pan to the oven and bake for another three hours. Turn off the oven and leave the pan in it until it cools completely.

In my opinion, seasoning cast iron should be done twice for new pans. You don’t need to repeat the washing and “sanding” process. Just repeat the cooking and oiling process.

Discount Lodge cast iron for sale:

How to season cast iron and protect it:

Seasoning cast iron pans:

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