Picture of Best Way to Season Cast Iron Pans - Flax Seed Oil
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

Picture of 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.
cchubb3 years ago
Why does the "no soap" 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.

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.

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 "soap" 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.

Me, I just use olive oil to season it. Flax oil is "edible" but so is mineral oil and I wouldn't want to use that in my pan.

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.

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 "tired" after washing, followed by a quick heat on the burner to about 300 degrees, then let it cool off in place.
sdick3 cchubb3 days ago

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.

tubeist-d cchubb7 months ago

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.

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.

gregs12 tubeist-d6 months ago

thanks for the explanation of WHY not to use mineral oil

BearM gregs1227 days ago
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!
BearM tubeist-d27 days ago
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)
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.

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.

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.

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 "grill bars" 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.

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 "machined inner bottom".
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 "EBARF", I found a unique cast iron skillet that was made as an electric skillet. The brand of the skillet is "Country Charm" 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?

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.

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.
Broom cchubb3 years ago
The "no soap" 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 "self-healing" process of blackened iron.

However, as long as pots are *thoroughly* rinsed in hot water, such films shouldn't form.

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 "no soap at all!". YMMV; sometimes I use soap for removing excess tar-like burnt oils, but usually I go soap-free on black iron.
BearM27 days ago
I just recently discovered Flax Seed Oil for seasoning my pans. It works GREAT!
JKPieGuy1 month ago

Is it normal for the first coat to come out kinda rough, and some-what splotchy in some areas? Oddly enough it's only happening on the inside of the pans. The outside it quite smooth with a darkened sheen.

jbaer855 months ago
do you also recommend flax oil to season clay stoneware? if so is the process the same?
gregs126 months ago

lard has been used since the beginning of cast iron.

thomasbandy3 years ago
I did the steps as above exactly as written, 5 cycles in the oven - the pans look great, a smooth matte finish, silky to the touch. I tried to fry some eggs as I do every morning, and they stuck LIKE CRAZY - I cooked them in coconut oil, as usual, and I'd built up a pretty good nonstick surface before I tried this, but it's like it has a 'stick' surface - even the tiniest bit of egg white glued like cement to the surface, and I have to scrub it off with a copper scrubber. What could I have done wrong? I used very thin coats of the same organic flax oil...

Egg albumin and milk casein can be crazy adhesives. In fact casein IS an adhesive for some wood and other projects. On a worn teflon pan, even without discernable scratches, I can often have egg-sticking problems if I don't use a bit of oil.

The coconut oil is a surfactant, is was dissolving and softening you new seasoning.
I was always taught to heat the pan first, then heat the oil, butter, grease, etc. THEN put the eggs in. And always have enough of your oil, butter, etc. in the bottom of the pan that the eggs "float". We always fried the bacon first, then the eggs. Yum!

I just had to let you know that your "description" of your problems was really funny. Actually LOL'd. :-) Maybe the coconut oil is not good for seasoning. I used canola and it worked well for me.
atnola8 months ago

Ran into a snag on this step. After completing the application of 2 solid hard coats on my Wagner's Dutch Oven, my 3rd attempt just resulted in pooling or beading of the oil on the surface (no matter how thinly I applied it). It seems that, after only 2 cycles, I'm left with a surface so slick that oil will no longer grab onto the surface enough to form a uniform film. Maybe because the inside of the pot is machined, and therefore smooth to begin with? I don't know… but two coats seems to be the limit here.

tubeist-d atnola7 months ago

For that, you have to make this a continuous-monitor process. Use an (oily) bit of paper towel or silicone basting-brush, and sweep lightly over the surface every few minutes. Every 10 minutes add a little more oil and sweep it around the surface. You need a feather-touch for this because you're messing with the underlying congealing oil.

sqky3 years ago
i have used a combination of olive oil and canola oil, and left in about 1 hour, and repeated about 4-5 times, it worked out well. just try to store it in a dust free area as it remains slightly sticky.

if you are to impatient you can use a cooking brush to reapply when still warm, just remove from oven and place on an old cutting board or plywood.

if you don't use your cast-iron often place it in a paper bag and then inside a plastic bag, this is how i store my dutch oven when its not camping season.
doczod sqky3 years ago
Olive oil will leave the pan a little sticky. If you use just corn oil or vegetable oil, it won't be as sticky.
rapier1 doczod3 years ago
Olive oil doesn't have to leave the pan sticky. If it is sticky they you just haven't heated it long enough to achieve full carbonization.
tubeist-d rapier17 months ago

You don't want carbonization, and that is not what seasoning entails. The oil is polymerized, and somewhat oxidized into a tough, plastic-like finish with a low surface energy, not unlike teflon: there are no strong chemical 'loose ends' for crud to attach to. Flax oil, and the similar walnut oil, have good oxidation and crosslinking properties for seasoning.

atnola sqky8 months ago

No offense, but… this is terrible advice! Never should either Canola oil or olive oil be used to season cast iron. These oils will never truly solidify, which is why your pots were left with a sticky finish. Always use Flax Seed oil, if you want a perfectly smooth and durable finish.

can black seed oil be used for frying ?

nottauser3 years ago
I just used my big black skillet for the first time since a friend gave it to me and it worked great! I was amazed at the fact that it cooked my eggs so well without sticking and fried the potatoes to perfection ...now I just need to get a technique down on making fried potatoes like my folks used to when I was a kid and I can call my bachelor cooking skills completed. I love cooking but have a frankenstien approach to doing it, I realize it is a science and like to learn new things. I use grape seed oil to cook and wonder if that had something to do with the slick surface for cooking? Its got the highest level of viamin E even higher than safflower oil but both are great for healthy cooking although more expensive than other oils.
I cooked on medium and no smoke or sticking! INCREDIBLE! Better than a non stick pan and less worry about teflon flakes in the food.
when its time to re-season the pan I will appreciate having your instructable to refer to,Thanks so much!
When I lived in Sicily I learned from my Sicilian neighbors to always use grape seed oil whenever I wanted to fry something on high heat and fast. It has a high something-or-other and doesn't break down like other oils @ high heat. The food also doesn't absorb so much of the oil. I always fry my eggplant in grape seed oil. It comes out nice and crispy but still light.rave

Grape seed will work, Peanut oil adds more flavor.

You are right though, too many people try to use EVOO or something and end up with a smokey, oozy mess.

Make sure you rinse your potatoes at least 2 times to wash the starches off. If you are doing hash browns put them in a paper towels or a lint free cloth and squeeze the bejeeus out of them.

Removing starch and moisture is the key to super crispy and brown po-po-tay-toes.

This Instructable was the catalyst for me to buy Wagner cast iron from ebay. So much better than the big box Lodge stuff I was using.

ngio642 years ago
I did not have flax oil but I did have flax seeds. I ground them to flour and rubbed and rubbed until the pan had a slight wet look. Then I heated it for 1 hour, let cool, then ground more flax and rubbed it in again. I have done this 3 times and I am getting a really nice thin black surface. If it does not work I can always start over again with flax oil.
davijordan2 years ago
We just leave our skillet in the oven all the time. /great for fritattas and as a substitute pizza stone.
workislove2 years ago
This method is great! I found Cheryl's page independently a couple months ago and tried it on four old, inherited cast iron pans from my parents. The results have been amazing!

They are as good as or better than any non-stick pan I've used for cooking eggs and pan frying, and they have also been good for baking - I've made some great cornbread and pizza - great, even heating with no problems sticking.
dlewisa2 years ago
Great minds think alike! Check out my skillet seasoning and modification instructable. I grind my skillets out!

Dr.Bill2 years ago
I love Cast Iron pans and there are none to be had in Hawai'i unless you go buy the New Lodge pans. The problem is the good old pans were milled flat inside and the new ones are not.

My question is how can I make the inside of the new pans smooth like the old ones without buying expensive tools to do it?
amnartist3 years ago
Okay everyone, I have a couple of questions for you. I've read a few 'how to season' etc, cast iron cookware. I have 6"&10" skillets (not even sure where I got them). I took them out and they were seasoned but I did a little more just to be sure. What's the point of all the work and energy used(electric oven) to season and maintain them? I have non-stick coated cookware I've used for years that work just fine. And I'm not interested in health issues with them at the moment. My mom cooked with Teflon cookware since it first came out and at 89 years old when she passed, it didn't cause her health problem. The sizes of my cast iron skillets are not very good for most of the daily cooking I do. But I did fry sausage patties in the 10" and you know the darkish grease that seem to follow cooking them, I wiped and wiped but still I get that dark grease on my paper towels. Not sure if I would want to use it for anything else. Also, I used the 6" to melt butter(very handy might I add) but even after wiping the pan out, what's to keep from the excess butter from seeping out and going rancid? I won't be using these every day and I wonder if the grease/butter/lard will go rancid and make us sick eventually. Sorry this is so long, no other way to explain. Thanks!
I use cast iron more than any other pan. Cast Iron is the original non-stick pan. You can heat it to high temps unlike non stick. Non-stick pans with Teflon, if allowed to smoke, release dangerous chemicals that can harm the environment. Specifically, you should not have small birds in your house if you smoke a Teflon pan as the off gasses will kill them (Think of canaries in the mines).

I guess it depends on what you are cooking (a large chicken?) but I have yet to find something I can't bake, fry, cook or sear in cast iron. Unlike non-stick, they can go from stove to grill to oven, everywhere but the dish washer.

Once butter, oil, etc, the fats have infused the iron, they polymerize and prevent the oxidation of the metal. It won't leak, smell or go rancid as the high heat burns away the products that go rancid.

And since it was only developed in 1938, non stick does not have the history or information behind it that cast iron has which has been in use for at least since the 18th century.
Berkana3 years ago
If you use a drying oil such as flax (walnut and hempseed also dry, BTW), it is important to make sure that there aren't added antioxidants. Sometimes antioxidants are added to prevent drying and polymerization, both of which are triggered by oxidation. In this case, oxidation of the oil is precisely what you want.

Thanks for these tips.
Those pans look beautifully seasoned, even better looking than the pans that come pre-seasoned. I've seasoned my pans using high smoke point oils, thinking that they'd give me a better seasoning, but I still ran into the same problems, where the seasoning seemed to be weak and prone to failing upon a single mistaken cleaning with detergent, or in the worst case, being run through the dishwasher (by roommates who had no idea how to care for cast iron).
Some brands add antioxidants; others just bottle under nitrogen. (Argon is too expensive, and non-renewable, whereas nitrogen is inert enough.) I forget which brand bottles in tin bottles with those hand drawn illustrations on old fashioned labels, but that brand adds vitamin E to their easily oxidized oils. These would not be good to use for any application which specifically require the oil to oxidize thoroughly.
Oops. I'm mistaken. I thought all the noble gasses are produced by the petroleum industry, separated from the bygasses that come out with crude oil. Argon is the radioactive decay product of potasium-40, found in minerals deep in the ground. It turns out that helium is produced as a bygas of crude oil, but argon is fractionized from liquid air.
Krimm3 years ago
I personally prefer Bacon Fat.
bodie13 years ago
I was given 3 pieces of cast iron that have wooden handles. I know I can't put these in the oven, so what is the best way to get these fully seasoned?
kissamew3 years ago
I have very old cast iron, inherited and donated. I don't have issues because I keep using it, but I will try this method, it could only keep my pieces great! Thank you for posting! And thanks for all the helpful comments to go with the post!
4real3 years ago
I like the finish on the flax seed pans shown at the top. They look like they are still wet. I will try this method as soon as I get some of the oil.

Read a lot of suggestions on cleaning of cast iron. If you "de-glaze" the pan, like the chefs tell you to, it removes the stuck on food
I take the food out of the pan and immeditately run cold water from the faucet into the pan, held at a 45 degree angle. A cotton wash cloth works just fine. The cold water "chill shocks" the pan and the food just falls off. I then return the pan to the hot burner to dry. Grandma did it that way and never had any problem.
fredstein3 years ago
Great Post & interesting comments.

On the "which oil to use?" front, I use Rice Bran oil, cheap, available at most supermarkets, high smoke point, no edible/inedible conflict & no taste - often used in Japanese cooking for deep-frying, tempura & the like.
Here's another way I season a pan that has been put up/ or that I have found at a yard/flea market sale,
I take it outside and overfill it with dead leaves and set it on fire, that gets most of the rust out, then I take it in and wash thoroughly with Dawn and a scrubber and then season with either of these, Olive,Canola or Vegetable oil's. Have never had a problem. Also when I store them in the bottom drawer of the stove I Iine each one with coffee filters and that keeps them clean. Give it a try it works GREAT.
I have 25 or so cast iron pans. I season them then I see rust. I run all of them through the dishwasher after use. If one should show a spot of rust then I wipe it with common soy bean oil. These are seasoned by use. If I get a new one I clean it and then coat it with a thin coat of oil. The thinner the better.
I heat on the stove top and any oil that beads up is removed by wiping.
Then I continue heating until it smokes. When the smoking stops the oil is caramelized and will not come off easily. Try to clean a old Waffle Iron sometime. I just heated up a round griddle to 500 degrees and it is nicely black. I use it for toasting buns as it has no sides.
If they are recoated as needed and when used they will stay black.
I usually put a little oil in the pan just before I use it, and wipe it around.
Not washing dirty pans is unsanitary which is not allowed in Restaurant use.

So my girlfriend owns a couple of restaurants and I've worked in one. You do have to clean dirty cooking surfaces but you do not have to blast them with detergents in a dishwasher. With a panini press I've cleaned it with grill bricks. Flat tops were cleaned by heating them up and then dumping a lot of water on them, scraping them, and then using a grill scrubber. You maintain the seasoning reasonable well and meet all of your local health department requirements (at least according to the ACHD regs I'm familiar with).

I can't imagine putting cast iron through a dishwasher, That's just... it hurts to think about.

Back in the day (@50 yrs ago) I used white vinegar and a stone to clean the grill at the restaurant where I was a cook. Works GREAT!
The smoke point for flaxseed oil is very low from what I've read, something like 250F, how can this hold up for cooking in the oven? I've burned off seasoning in my pans by using the wrong oil, and even though had a beautiful finish for the top of the stove, they just can't stand the heat of the oven.

I like to use safflower oil for seasoning because it has a high smoke point, but will be interested to try walnut oil as it is a drying oil and has a high smoke point.
The point is to carbonize the oil. If you are getting smoking *after* seasoning then the pan wasn't properly seasoned as the carbonized fat will not, and cannot, smoke. The benefit of using flaxseed, in this case, is that you can use a much cooler oven (like 325) to get it to carbonize. Once it's carbonized it will hold up to any residential oven temps.
If the smoke point for flax seed is 250, then it will smoke at any temperature above that, will it carbonize and season a pan at 250F?
The Point Is to burn it. after the fat has burnned down to a layer of Carbon it will no longer smoke. That layer of carbon will help keep stuff from sticking and the pan from rusting and pitting. If you aren't reaching that smoke point end all you are doing is oiling and heating the oil which is just making it go rancid and adding off flavors to your food.
Okay, but I thought that heating past the smoke point is why some seasonings can burn off, I've thrown pans in the fire to get the seasoning off to re do it. I've also had well seasoned pans lose the seasoning in the oven. People even put them in the oven on a clean cycle for this purpose, but I've had pans that lost it at 375-400F

I've always chosen an oil with a high smoke point, so that it will carbonize, but not burn off... Next new pan I get, I'll try one of the drying oils for sure...!
I agree with the method - it was also documented in Cooks Illustrated magazine a while back, although they inverted the skillets during the baking portion.

My only comment is that little skillet is actually an ashtray :) It was a sample for salesmen to carry around, as I understand it.

One note of safety - the rag or paper towel used in spreading around the oil should be burned for disposal. Don't just throw them in the trash. Because of the chemical reaction of the drying oil, the rags can spontaneously combust. Not kidding.
This true- I had it happen. We had used linseed oil on some furniture and put the paper towels in the garbage and the bags in the garage. Fortunately , I went in the garage and saw smoke billowing out of the bag before there was a serious problem. The one thing I would say is that rather than burning the wipes, it is safe to put them in an air tight container and dispose of them that way. I use old jars or clean paint cans.
_Storage_ in an airtight container is OK, but wouldn't disposal in this manner - unless you know it's going to an incinerator - just push the spontaneous combustion problem on to some unsuspecting unfortunate? IMHO, it's still better to dispose by burning. Thanks :)
I am not sure if that is the case- the heat is caused by the polymerization of the oil. Once the process is finished the heat will not be generated so it would be safe (we have a fair bit of wooden furniture with linseed oil finish in the house). I think that oxygen might be needed for this but note sure. But you do bring up an interesting point- Next time I go to the hazardous waste depot I will ask about it.
chrisj554323 years ago
After seasoning a skillet in this manner, should I store my cookware between uses with a light coating of flaxseed oil, or should I use some other oil for protection of the already seasoned surface when I'm not cooking? Is rancidity of the flaxseed oil the only concern? I cook frequently with my cast iron, so it shouldn't go rancid during short storage periods.
Thanks - great instructable - I did read Cheryl Canter, but she doesn't really address this question.
you shouldn't need any oil on the pan if done right the carbon layer will keep it from rusting with consistent usage.
I have found that using a non abrasive sponge meant for non-stick pans you can get any pan really clean.
gymbalglot3 years ago
Great 'ible and thank you for sharing!

As I have to switch between meat dishes and veg only dishes for the family vegetarian I have adopted the sacrilegious method of washing the pan with soapy water and scrubbing all meat bits out after bacon, burgers, etc. Then to re-season the pan I just make pancakes!

The high temps and copious quantities of butter I use blacken that sucker right up! Now I have no guilt when I have to scrub the iron and we all get to eat pancakes. Best of all this method only takes the time of a batch of pancakes and if no nasty burning oil or fat smells.

Wouldn't it just be easier to have a separate veg only cast iron pan? Less scrubbing and you allow the seasoning to build up.
timnterra3 years ago
I have tried this but I read in a cast iron cookbook that you should turn the pan unside down and place a baking sheet under it to catch the dripping oil. The book said many of the pours in the cast iron are too small for liquid oil to fill them but when the heat vaporizes the oil it enters and fills the pours as a vapor. But... the vaporized oil will rise out fo the pan, instead of going into the pours, when the pan is right side up. Thus the need for turning it upside down so the vaporized oil can rise up and fill the microscopic pours in the pan. It worked well for me...
That's not really how the science works there. The oil doesn't vaporize and then get deposited in the pores. The oil fills in the pores and then becomes carbonized - some of the oil smokes off but that's not important to the seasoning process. A pretty good method puts the oven no higher than 325 - just enough to be above the smoke point of the oil but that's about it. You end up with minimal smoking and maximum carbonization.

People are often instructed to turn the pan upside down because they almost always put too much oil in the pan. If you wipe the oil out of the pan (just leaving a *light* coating) there is no need to invert the pan. Inverting the pan may also be somewhat counterproductive. The goal is to fill the pits and then have the oil carbonize filling in those pits. If it's inverted the oil is more like to come out of those pits and collect on the high points. With enough coating those pits will eventually fill in but you'll end up with a rougher surface than you would otherwise.
cece743 years ago
"The pan will smoke a bit during this process. That is completely fine and natural"

Natural OK, but is it really fine in your kitchen ? I thought smoking oil was very toxic to breathe....

Anyway I'll try to only use my gas grill, outside, for seasoning...
rapier1 cece743 years ago
You don't want to be breathing in vast quantities of it but it's not going to kill you or even harm you without long term repeated exposure. And seriously, just turn your vent fan on. If your vent doesn't actually vent but is one of those idiotic carbon filter that pumps the air and smoke right back into the kitchen - open a window and put a fan in it.
Hey, great Instructable!
Lots of info in a short amount of time, to the point. If by chance you maybe made a mistake somewhere, it was so small that it should have been over-looked on purpose. After all, this is not the "Gong Show". Most of the people that come to this website for information have and understanding that most of us are not pros but mere hobbyists. I want to thank you for taking the time to make this article for all to enjoy. I, like a lot of folks, when searching for information on a subject will go to several different resources on the web anyway. I now have a much better understanding of how to season cast iron than I did before!

RMS473 years ago
Fostermoody - I've been using cast iron for about 12 years and I've heard the reports of the new way to season cast iron, which is to use Flaxseed oil.

It is food grad linseed oil, which is what oil paints are made of. Although it does season the pan, it leaves a weird taste on the food and make the pans smell a bit off.

There are hundreds of methods on seasoning cast iron, but each one uses the same way - it's heat, grease, repetition, and cool down. that's it. Whether you use vegetable shortening (which I recommend), lard, or Flaxseed oil, it's all the same principles.

Warm the pan on top of the stove, grease the inside of the pan using vegetable shortening and a cotton cloth, then increase the temperature to about 7 and allow to smoke for 10 - 12 seconds, wipe the inside of the pan again, and put in the oven to cool down. It's that simple and this will give you a good pan in which to cook.

Here's a good link I found:



macruadhi RMS473 years ago
I found the linseed oil method of seasoning months ago, I've yet to taste any strange flavours in food or smell any off odours.
Isn't linseed oil poisonous?
You want to get "flax seed oil" in a grocery store, and not "linseed oil" at the hardware store. Food-grade v. industrial-grade. (one would hope they take a bit more care in its manufacture...)
No, its AKA as "flax seed oil" !! I wouldn't eat the solvent extracted stuff mind you....
Please read first before cluttering up the board.
mjursic3 years ago
My own seasoning regime goes like this: I heat up the pan, add oil and spread the oil around the bottom and up to the sides with paper towel. Then I cook on it. Then wipe it up with a dry paper towel, and reapply oil before I put it away. When I get it out next, I heat up the pan, apply a dab of oil and spread it around a bit, etc..

Now if I could only get my wife to stop scrubbing my cast iron pans with soap and abrasive sponges!
ZUBEAJAY3 years ago
i use bacon grease to season cast iron skillets if i have any.
I've been cooking with cast iron since I was young. Each time I use my cast iron, I gently wash it then dry it out with a paper towel over a low heat on the stove. Then, while the cast iron is still warm, I apply a very thin coat of vegetable oil. So far, I have a very nice no-stick finish on my skillet, dutch over and other cast iron.
I do the same with mine after use - it works great, they have yet to develop any rust spots after years of daily use. An ounce of prevention goes a long ways.
ZUBEAJAY3 years ago
all this is good , but most important of all is what RMS47 said DONT USE SOAP OR DETERGENT thats what removes the grease, REMOVES THE SEASONING !! just soak in water to soften cooked on food then remove with a scratcher. you can use a metal one if you prefer but i use a green scotch brite. ive been cooking with cast iron for many years and its the best. heat the pan first then add your grease , when it shimmers then you are ready to add your food, that way theres no sticking.
Gearz3 years ago
as for getting the pans super clean there is two ways, ive used, the first and my personal favorite is to build a nice bond fire and set the pans in the embers till fire burns down.
second not as much fun method, if you have a self cleaning oven just put em in and let it run through a full cycle,
season amediately they will start to rust almost amediately.
To avoid the in-house smell, a gas grill is great for this.
dhellew23 years ago
There is another editable drying oil. I have not tried it on cast-iron but it polymerizes when heated. Has anyone tried it? It is used primarily on food products made of wood. dh
awoodcarver3 years ago
No Matter the negative or positive comments I found this helpful ..I have used cast iron for at least 48 of my 50+ years and have seen and heard of so many different ways to do this ...so just like a nose almost all of us have an opinion on the best way to do it .I will try this way even tho my mom , dad ,grandpa and wife have all shown me how to do it they( the best?) way ...last year I broke my grandpa,s 14 inch cast iron chicken pan and am stilll looking for a replacement when I do I will use his tempering/seasoning recipe .very well written and even if I only use it one time it will give me another way to do it thanks and keep up the good work
djimdy3 years ago
A quick-n-dirty seasoning can be done for regular steel and aluminum pans, as well, since such hard-core seasoning may not be for everyone.

The concept is basically the same, but no oven time and takes but a couple of minutes:
1- coat a clean, dry pan with a decent layer of regular cooking oil (not too thin/thick)
2- heat on range med/high until it starts to smoke for at least 10 seconds
3- reduce heat to normal cooking temperature
4- add fresh oil and cook your food.

It may take a couple of tries, but if you get the hang of it, you can cook eggs on such a surface without any stiction whatsoever.

Key of course is not using soap to wash out. Just wipe it down when cooled or douse with water and scrub with a natural bristle brush. Chinese restaurants do this for all their woks.
So glad you wrote the above... The biggest key (after seasoning) is NO SOAP when washing!
Great Idea: I am thinking Reds ground Flax seed would work too, Just heat it in the pan , maybe use a bit of some bean oil this oil bonds to metal at the molectural level, I read and was used in race cars long ago..This stuff has a nutty flavor so I use it almost every day for the omega 3 oils.
Dr Jon
j_a_wolfe3 years ago
One thing to be aware of when seasoning; if your pans remain sticky, you've probably used too much oil. Cut back a little since it only takes a very thin coating to do the trick. Too much oil can turn rancid and develop "off" flavors. Another thing that works for me when storing my dutch ovens, make sure they are completely dry and use a folded paper towel to keep the lid ajar. Lets in some air and keeps the rims from rusting.
em217013 years ago
I do this part on my grill. It can get hotter and the smoke stays outside.
noahw (author)  em217013 years ago
That is an awesome idea! The smoke inside the house is really the main drawback to this. I'm going to have to update my Instructable with your method.

Thanks so much for this idea.
em21701 noahw3 years ago
Your very welcome
devonfletch3 years ago
Related subject: for hot frying, peanut oil allows high temperature without smoking. It will smoke of course, if you go too far, but it's better than others.
neilh3 years ago
Nice instructable. I will try that on our next cast iron pan (we have 2 that are already well seasoned).

One thing I have done when I thought the seasoning was wearing off, or needed a refresh, is to un-season the pan by putting it in the oven when I was running the self clean cycle. It's the same idea as the campfire method above, but good for people without a campfire handy.

I also do that with my barbecue grills (they are in sections so I can stack them in the oven) once a season.

ibwebb3 years ago
I hope that I have read all the comments so that I do not repeat anything, but have several comments to make. FIRST, I have never tried this method and look forward to trying it. I have a seasoning method passed down from my great great grandmother that I have used. It works very well as far as the nonstick, look, and protection, BUT it doesn't seem to last long and leaves the pan with a 'strange' smell (IMO) that doesn't taint the taste at all. I will leave it at the basics of melting animal fat slowly in the pan, smearing evenly, leaving in a 200 deg oven for 2-3 hours, turning it off, and leaving until morning. Like I said, works great for a shorter period (so you do often) and takes a lot longer than you might think (NOT lard, actual animal fat). ANYWHO.... I look forward to trying this as soon as I get to the store and get the Flaxseed oil.

I have been using cast iron for almost all my life. I starting learning to cook with my mom at 8 and loved it. By 10 I was making family dinners alone (mom in a near by room of course). and by 14 was making dinner most nights for the whole family. Cast iron was/is a HUGE part of my favorite cooking utensil. My mom as a gift gave me one of my great great gandmothers iron skillets when I moved out that is almost as precious to me as my kids (lol) then I have some newer ones (mostly flea market finds as I prefer the older cast iron to new). Now on with my comments that I hope help.

I wanted to comment first that someone said they use linseed oil PLEASE be very careful and really.. use flaxseed oil. Basically they are the same, BUT flaxseed is the edible version.. the keyword is edible.

Next, DON"T be afraid to use real fats in your cast iron. Spray cra..stuff.. doesn't provide the proper surface for these. Stick with a small amount of shortening or at least a dose of veggie oil. The pan will thank you in many ways including the bits of oil/fat it will absorb.

Also, if something sticks in yours; put a center palm (?Tbsp) of sea salt in the iron skillet with a few cups of water and let it boil for about 10-20 minutes (depending on how much/hard it is stuck) and let it cool. It will wipe right out. PLEASE do not do this on everything that sticks. If a little elbow grease can do it with a rag do that instead. The salt water will not destroy your skillet, but will rob it of some of the fats it has absorbed. Always make sure to dry your skillet and even put in the warm oven for a bit to help make sure it is dry.

Someone asked when to season. Really you should get in a routine of doing it every so often to keep it from ever losing the black. With the method from my above situation I have to do it every 1-2 months depending one how much and what I cook. Don't ever let rust build up or wait until you can see the bare metal. BTW that sea salt thing works to remove mild rust I have found too when I buy a mistreated at the flea market.

Lastly, I have read a few that have used this and said that they have had LOTS of smoke that was horrible. You need to look at the time you are cooking not the temp on that. The short extreme temp helps season.. the length of the time burns the oil. (see this: http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/collectedinfo/oilsmokepoints.htm ), Notice at 225 deg Flaxseed oil is starting to burn. The 30 min is plenty of time at 500 deg to let the pores of the iron open and the faxseed oil to 'dry' in them and season the pan.

END: PLEASE PLEASE don't be offended if I contradicted anyone! I am giving my opinion and experience to this. Most came from my relatives (both sides) and a bit from personal experience/experiments that have worked (though not all have *sigh*) I am not trying to argue with anyone, just perhaps help someone that might be reading out.
gingerkatt3 years ago
How do you know when to re-season the pans?
Season when you start seeing bare grey metal or rust spots.
I can season without removing the rust spots? (If not, any advice on removing them?)
I found in the trash a 10" cast iron fry pan that had been teflon coated, the coating was peeling badly and there was a lot of rust as it was left wet for a long time. I used 80 grit sand paper to get all the coating and the heavy rust off then switch to a knife sharpening stone and scouring power and water to "hone" to very smooth surface then seasoned as as a new pan.

uncle frogy
Large patches or thick rust should be removed as it might flake off while cooking. Just rub with coarse salt or if necessary, a Scotchbrite pad. But hints of rust here and there will make no difference. The coating will soak into it and cover it up.
raybob3 years ago
I did this with three of my cast iron pans using the method outlined on the Cooks Illustrated web site. I did 6 rounds and it took many hours according to their way which is longer than yours is.

The house didn't smell "a little funny": it was AWFUL, I'm talking choking fumes that lingered at the back of the throat for a couple of DAYS. Whatever this is it can't be good for you.

Do this when you can vent your kitchen with a huge fan. I'm not kidding; the smell is acrid and terrible. But the pans are now relatively well seasoned - they work best if heated up before food is put into them; there is still some sticking, but it's very minor compared to what it was before. I need to do a couple more coats to really get them done well.
squawkamole3 years ago
drying oil- are the key words, it will not have an oily finish when done. As with so many other oils :~)
fostermoody3 years ago
Interesting trick. I've recently become a big fan of cast iron cookware, but I've mainly used lard as the seasoning agent. What, if any, kind of taste does the flax oil lend to food cooked in these pans?
noahw (author)  fostermoody3 years ago
The flax seed oil has no taste whatsoever.
mrtidy noahw3 years ago
Excellent tutorial, thank you very much for your time and effort to post it.
sniffydogs3 years ago
Good points. I'm using my great-grandma's cast iron. Lots of times you can pick up old cast iron for next to nothing at garage sales, etc. If it has rust or crud, take it camping and toss it into your fire. A fireplace also works. Rust and crud all burn off.. Then you just re-season. Wagner, Lodge and Griswold are some decent brands to look out. for.
czarnian3 years ago
Good tutorial. And for people who talks spanish, or that are from spanish-spoken countries (like me), the flaxseed oil is simply aceite de linaza, easy to buy in any drugstore.

Again, good tutorial!