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I try to use cast iron cookware whenever possible.  It has excellent heat dispersion properties, life long build quality, and an inherent ability to cook foods with exceptional control at both high and low heats.  It works on all kinds of stoves, electric, gas, induction - even a fire pit while camping.  

The only snag about cast iron (if you can really call it that) is the seasoning process.  "Seasoning" cast iron refers to a process of building up some amount of material, which I'll call a finish on the pan that aids in cooking, creates a semi-nonstick surface on the pan,  and protects the cast iron pan against any possible rust.

There are lots of theories on seasoning cast iron, from complex rounds of heating and oiling with different types of vegetable and animal fats, to doing nothing at all.  Having tried many of these seasoning processes myself, I feel inspired to write about the flax seed oil method.  It's the most durable and straight forward seasoning process that I've found, and the science behind the process agrees.

Step 1: Flax Seed Oil

You can find flax seed oil in the refrigerator aisle at the grocery or health food store.  Flax seed oil is the edible version of linseed oil, a very durable, hard drying finish that painters and woodworkers have been using for a very long time.  As Cheryl Canter writes on her site: "The seasoning on cast iron is formed by fat polymerization, fat polymerization is maximized with a drying oil, and flaxseed oil is the only drying oil that’s edible."

What that translates to in practical terms is a durable finish, that even after just a few coats and short term heating results in a deep glassy black seasoning on the cast iron that has held up to months of my daily usage and cooking abuse.  

As with any other cast iron pan seasoning, You don't want to use soap on the pan when cleaning it, but with this method, I've found that using a mildly abrasive sponge when doing the dishes doesn't seem to affect the finish at all.
<p>Well, they certainly look nice.</p><p>A little frightening though. Flax seed oil turns rancid at fairly low temperatures, hence the reason for it being refrigerated. The healthy fats break down, particularly after reaching smoke-point, and become toxic. </p>
I use safflower oil because it has a much higher smoke point.
<p> I use avocado oil best thing since lard </p>
<p>i spray Original PAM spray on the cast iron before i cook. I heat the cast iron to cooking temp then spray PAM on it. then cook my eggs. the eggs slide around on the pan like you see on TV, then once a week i use a paper towel to clean. </p><p>If i have to scrub the pan I use HOT water and the plastic mesh bag that some turkeys come in.</p>
<p>My friend and I found out this weekend, when all else fails, just light it on fire! The skillet worked great after that ;)</p>
<p>And we got experience handling grease fires! Id say we are pretty well seasoned in kitchen panic scenerios. </p>
<p>I use lard for my cast iron pans and pots and it works great. I cure them in my 36in smoker. </p>
<p>Several people have stated that flax oil is the only &quot;drying&quot; vegetable oil. This is simply not true. One poster mentioned walnut oil, which is the other &quot;drying&quot; vegetable oil. I use it on cast iron pans, and it is also great on carbon steel knives and other things prone to rust in the kitchen.</p>
<p>Seasoning is the second step on occasion. If you buy a used pan and it is rusted or the inside is craggy; heat pan slightly, cut a white potato in half, add course salt and scrub the pan with the potato and salt much like using steel wool. When finish scrubbing, rinse pan with warm water and lightly season with a paper towel and oil.</p><p>I still own and use my grandmother's cast iron pans and if she were alive today she would be 125 yrs young. The pans are a treasure and can certainly can out live you...so pass them on.</p>
<p>The polymer type oil coating might be nice for the outside of the pan but I find polymer type oil coatings simply are not very stick free, so what's the point? I have bought a nice used iron pan from a thrift store and I took off all the gunk with a sander--then &quot;primed&quot; the pan. Many brand new expensive iron pans are much to rough for my taste. I'll get in there and sand it smooth and then prime the pan low and slow. The most slippery stick free qualities of oil are like wWD-40, solvent like and they dissapear at high temperatures. So, low and slow and reprime your smooth pans often....and no flax seed oil on my cooking surface !! Avoid glue like polymers!</p>
<p>I don't know what OWK000 thinks is happening with oils other than flax seed oils on his pan; any vegetable oil and any mineral oil I've heard of will polymerize with repeated heating. ANY. There are some synthetic oils that will delay polymerization for great lengths of time and up to higher temperatures than we use for cooking, say up to about 800 degrees F, but I don't think most of us are going to find them easily available in a form suitable for foods preparation. That is the point. Form that thin black protective polymer (&quot;varnish,&quot; somebody called it), and just use the pot or pan. Works just fine. A low and slow priming is still forming polymers, so I am not certain what the writer thinks he is accomplishing by a low temperature slow priming vs a non-smoking more rapid and higher temperature priming. As long as you are not building up a carbon crust with too much oil and scorching temperatures, you should get a fine protecting coating that, while not stick-free, is low-stick for most foods, and is more easily maintained. If you want to phosphate that surface first, that's up to you. </p><p>Incidentally, automotive sheet metal prep that is mostly phosphoric acid can remove rust faster than anything else I've seen, once you have cleaned with detergent or soap, and should be rinsed and wiped off, then followed with conventional seasoning.</p>
I used a power drill with a sanding disk attachment because the &quot;polymers&quot; made food stick to the pan. I do use soapy steel wool but only occasionally. Low temp makes the cells of the iron pan open up and accept the oil without evaporating it. I oil my garden shears this way as well. As you know WD-40 considered a &quot;penetrant&quot; oil is actually a solvent,but all oil has some solvent qualities and they are the most volitile and evaporate the easiest but these substances are also what soaks into metal best and stays clinging to metal without becoming sticky plastic. So I turn the pan on as low as possible with oil and then turn it off for at least a alf hour and repeat. With new pans this may take longer. It is then possible to cook with the smallest amount of fat. Use more oil than you want to fry with to prime and then pour off excess to cook with and save to use later.
<p>I once made soap in a cast iron skillet, and was surprised to find that the finish became part of the soap. (Soap turned a nasty brown.) I was left with a bare pan, and had to re-season it like a brand new pan. So, the poster that says a little lye water will clean a pan is probably correct.<br>Making soap creates fierce fumes! I'm very glad I did it outdoors, and I've never done it again. Be careful!</p>
<p>I'm definitely going to try flax-seed oil. I've been using canola, but perhaps this is better? I don't get the sheen you do, but man are my pans ever &quot;non-stick.&quot;</p>
Why does the &quot;no soap&quot; mantra keep coming up. I've been cooking on cast iron all my life and I use Ultra Dawn on mine after every use, usually using either a regular sponge, or one of those twisted stainless pads if it's really caked on crusty stuff. <br><br>I usually season it every two or three years, not because it needs it regularly but because it usually suffers some kind of abuse like having something salty left in it (usually soy sauce) overnight or if the patina gets too thick and I have to clean it in the self-cleaning oven and then reseason it. <br><br>I will agree that you never want to use a brillo or other abrasive cleaner (comet, chore boy, etc.) on your iron. It's not as much the metal but the &quot;soap&quot; is much too aggressive. If whatever is in there is that caked on, just soak overnight in the sink, clean in the morning and wipe dry without allowing water to pool on it.<br><br>Me, I just use olive oil to season it. Flax oil is &quot;edible&quot; but so is mineral oil and I wouldn't want to use that in my pan. <br><br>One thing that looks different from my pans is that the pans in the picture don't appear to have a machined inner bottom, they look more rough, direct from the mold. Perhaps that's just the camera, but when the bottom of your pan isn't flat, you need to fill all of the nooks and crannies with oil to keep stuff from sticking. You have to look a lot harder to find pans with machined bottoms.<br><br>None of this comment is meant to be disparaging to the original poster and I'm sure your process works well for you and your pans. But please be aware that too many people are scared away from iron because they think it's too temperamental. I put my iron pans and dutch oven into harms way (melting candy sugar, using soy sauce, scrubbing with dish soap, sauteeing directly on the grill, frying potatoes, caramelizing pork butts, all kind of hot, acidic, salty food and they come through it just fine with little more than an oil wipe down before use and another if it's looking &quot;tired&quot; after washing, followed by a quick heat on the burner to about 300 degrees, then let it cool off in place.
<p>Mineral oil is 'edible' but indigestible; which makes it a good lubricant for constipation: that stuff ain't going nowhere but out. It also doesn't polymerize. Period. It cannot be used for seasoning.</p><p>Olive oil is fine, but people should bear in mind that the smoke point of olive oil varies widely with cold-pressed, virgin, extra virgin, extra-virgin acidic, etc., and it's slow to polymerize to get to a film condition. Flax oil is best for people who are seasoning their first pan. I happen to use the similarly-behaving walnut oil because I cook with it a lot anyway. Once you have a pan with a good ol' coating, re-seasoning goes well on the old film without much worry.</p>
<p>Mineral oil is great for seasoning cutting boards. </p><p>Olive oil will turn rancid so shouldn't be used for boards or seasoning cookware. </p><p>Vegetable oil never cures and is always sticky. </p><p>Flax seed oil is the only edible drying oil. For that reason it is great for seasoning cookware. I don't use it on the cutting boards because the entire point of oiling them is to prevent drying. </p><p>So flax seed oil for seasoning cast iron and mineral oil for seasoning cutting boards. </p>
<p>thanks for the explanation of WHY not to use mineral oil</p>
Mineral oil is ingestible, I've been using it for years on my cast iron. I'm not sure where people come up with the nonsense they spew? As a side note: mineral oil is great for constipation; a tablespoon at a time. Not as a thin coat on cast iron!
<p>First, I do not use mineral oil on my cast iron, for I have many kinds of vegetable oil handy, and for seasoning, tend to use one that doesn't smoke at too low a temperature. That said, there is absolutely no reason that one could not use a mineral oil for seasoning, if one use the right one. Food grade mineral oils are used in this country (but not in EU countries) on baking machinery, and if you were to eat much commercially baked goods regularly, you could be consuming up to about 80 mg (eight hundredths of a gram) of mineral oil in your diet. 100 mg of mineral oil is considered a safe limit for a person of average weight. Your body cannot process it, and too much can cause some adverse effects. So, go ahead, season pans with it, but always wipe away any excess that has not polymerized onto a surface or penetrated the surface. By-the-way, in this country, so-called food grade mineral oils, which I'll just lump as highly refined paraffin oils, are used on salad bowls, cutting boards, wooden serving utensils, etc. to minimize ingress of water and bacterial and fluids that could become contaminated by bacteria in the wood's pores. I suspect that this is not approved in the EU, where I think they are overly cautious. This could stem from the fact that less highly refined mineral oils are generally lumped with carcinogens in food use and on food preparation and processing surfaces. So, be careful, find out what your oils really are, and then make your informed choice.</p>
<p>There are food-safe mineral oils on the market, you just have to take the time to look for them. We make bamboo and hardwood cutting boards for sale in our Etsy shop, and we always coat them with food-safe mineral oil and refresh them with a new coating every 6 months or so because washing the cutting boards strips the oil and dries out the woods.</p>
<p>Thank you for your knowledgeable reply. Much appreciated. </p>
<p>Is it safe to use flax seed oil that does not need to be refrigerated? My bottle says it is 100% virgin (or unrefined) flaxseed oil. It does not list any other ingredients. However, it does not require refrigeration. Safe to use for seasoning? Everything I'm seeing with regards to using flaxseed oil says to use the refrigerated kind.</p>
Soap does strip away some of the seasoning. It is best to put a little bit of water in the bottom of the pan and heat it into it bubbles over low heat. Once bubbling, dump the water and wipe out the pan. Also, while it's still warm wipe a thin coat of oil in the pan. It's ready to go for the next time
I agree with most of what you say here, except the soaking part. If I have stuff that is so stuck in (frequently), I simply either run straight hot water over it and set it aside for a few minutes, or if it is bad, heat it on the stove top, add screaming hot water and use the metal spatula to scrape the hard to get stuff off. After that, a hot water rinse, reheat and wipe the remaining water out with a paper towel and done. The longer soaks can tend to make it rust if it has any areas that aren't as seasoned as they should be. (or they can make my grandmother roll in her grave, as she firmly believed that too much water on cast iron ruined it)
Thanks, I forgot about the metal spatula. It should be your first choice with cast iron, both for cooking and cleaning. Probably because I haven't been able to find one worth a darn in years at the local stores. I'm not going to drop $50+ on something special at Williams Sonoma, but the proliferation of non-stick cookware has made metal spatulas a bit of a rare thing. I just keep my eyes open at thrift stores, you can find some good ones there. <br><br>I just caramelized some onions and then roast a chicken in my dutch oven last night. Everything just popped out nicely except for some chicken skin that was burnt on. I worked late so I didn't get a chance to do dishes, so It's soaking in the sink now.
Just a suggestion if you have an IKEA near you. I found a great set of cheap metal cooking utensils there. I was having the same problem. I can't stand all of the plastic non-stick spatulas. They constantly melt and it just feels like you can't really ever get them clean.
<p>You must be purchasing junk grade plastic spatulas. We find no trouble with the plastic spatulas we buy here, and those with silicone blades seem to take any abuse we give them. I'm sure that you can find something that is junk, but keep looking, for good spatulas abound.</p>
Really, the #1 secret to having a non-stick cast iron pan is to buy one with the machined bottom. I can't stress that enough. Griswold and Wagner made awesome pans and you can still buy them on eBarf for less than the cost of new a sand-cast Lodge with a surface that looks like craters on the moon. <br><br>
The machined surface I am talking about is on the inside, where the food sits. Not the bottom where it sits on the stove. If the inside looks like asphalt instead of machined steel you are going to need a lot of oil to keep it stick free. If it's really flat, like to within 1 or 2 thousandths, it's not going to need much oil. <br><br>Hey, I'm happy people are using cast iron instead of some fancy ultra-slick junk that wears out in a year.
Everyone from poets to politicians will agree that language is an imprecise medium. <br><br>Compare the pictures I posted of pans with machined cooking surfaces with the pictures posted at the top of the instructable. The pans at the top don't have a machined cooking surface, they are exactly as they came from the molds, but possibly sanded flat on the stove side to sit flat on an electric burner. Granted, one has the &quot;grill bars&quot; that help lift greasy food up out of it's grease (and are great for pork chops or burgers), but the others are just sand cast. <br><br>I wanted to buy a nice pan for my step brother's house warming and can't find anyone still selling machined pans brand new. I had to buy a used one from eBarf and clean and reseason it myself. It was still cheaper than a new one. (But shipping wasn't cheap...)
Then I refer you to my original post in which I said &quot;machined inner bottom&quot;.
I know of what you speak with the cast iron pans not being finished with a milled flat smooth surface on the inside. I am now 61 when I was in my teens my mother had a cast iron skillet that had a machined inside surface. It was wonderful! Since that time I have never seen one like it. About a month ago, on your and my favorite site &quot;EBARF&quot;, I found a unique cast iron skillet that was made as an electric skillet. The brand of the skillet is &quot;Country Charm&quot; mfg by The House of Webster in Rogers, Arkansas from about 1953 until 1997, which is no longer in business. Unfortunately they did not machine smooth the cooking surface, it is typical sand pitting which resembles the surface of the moon. I am going to take it to a local machine shop to have them turn machine flat the surface, like a disc or drum brake, the inside if its not too expensive then season it. Any thoughts? <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br> <br>
<p>Was there a reason you didn't want to use your own orbital sander or similar device?</p>
<p>the surface texture is likely you have newer cast iron pan they have a rougher look than the older pans which had an almost smooth appearance to them. unsure the reason for the change. </p>
<p>Might have something to do with most of the cast iron being sold today coming from China....it's possible they use sand molds, which would cause the rough texture. It's also a much cheaper, and less well made cast iron which can shatter and has been known to occasionally explode in the oven.</p>
<p>Nothing new about cast iron cookware being cast in sand; perhaps something different in the grades of sand used in China, where many other shortcuts seem to be commonplace. </p>
<p>Not only do I wash my cast iron with Ultra Dawn, I also scrub them with Brillo pads. Never had any issues with any of my antique cast iron. I do notice though, that the pans being sold today don't have smooth cooking surfaces, this new cast iron is rough, as if the iron was poured into sand molds.</p>
Same with me, i will soak em for a few hours, heat water to a boil, cook tomato products, use dawn soap and a worn soft scrubby pad..lightly..and never have a problem. My pans are factory sand finish...no issues except for eggs.<br>I have had old pans and love them, but even at 2 years old, with a hot flame and light oil, they are wonderful. Might not ever be glass smooth but my cooking doesnt require that either..
The &quot;no soap&quot; mantra is based on the fact that even a film one soap-molecule thick will prevent oils from latching on, and therefore will stop the &quot;self-healing&quot; process of blackened iron.<br><br>However, as long as pots are *thoroughly* rinsed in hot water, such films shouldn't form. <br><br>Since there's a risk in using soap, and little health risk in not using it (but otherwise following good black iron maintenance procedures), people say &quot;no soap at all!&quot;. YMMV; sometimes I use soap for removing excess tar-like burnt oils, but usually I go soap-free on black iron.
<p>I hate to say this buttttt.....I spilled brake fluid in one of mine which I use on my rocket stove....can it be saved?......</p>
<p>Was the pan already seasoned pretty well? If so, you can strip the seasoning and reseason. </p><p>If not, sorry but I wouldn't try to clean brake oil off an unseasoned cast iron pan. Some will probably always remain. I wouldn't consider it ever fit for food again.</p>
<p>Nice little instructable! I've always used vegetable oil to season and table salt and a paper towel to clean. Stubborn stuff gets a Scotchbrite pad (they are non-abrasive). This treatment has worked for 40+ years for our family, but as always, YMMV.</p>
<p>Don't generalize about Scotchbrite pads being non-abrasive. Some certainly are. Just use those sold as non-abrasive.</p>
<p>I love my cast iron cook ware! good advice on the primary seasoning never thought of raw linseed oil before but why not once it has carbonized into the iron's pours there is not much left but carbon anyway. I have used most kinds of fat or oil for the first time and have not had any trouble. When well seasoned they seldom need very difficult cleaning as any residue just rinses off with just a little scrubbing with a brush at most they really are none stick. </p><p>one of favorite pans is a Teflon coated pan found in the trash, the coating was failing very badly. I used a small medium sharpening stone to clean and polish smooth the inside down to bare metal then seasoned it work great.</p>

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