How to Season a Cast Iron Pan With SCIENCE!




Introduction: How to Season a Cast Iron Pan With SCIENCE!

About: Alton Brown taught me how to cook, now I want to tackle diy projects.

Watch the video on YouTube above (+ added lulz) or read the words with the pictures and the oy and the vey below.

There are millions of ways to season a cast iron skillet if you spent any amount of time on the internet. Many of them are here on this site too. I have tried a lot of them and they are all essentially similar in method.

  • Get pan hot.
  • Add oil with high smoke point.
  • Wipe oil into pan.
  • Remove from heat
  • Let pan cool.

Being a self proclaimed geek, I wanted something a little more scientific. Then I came across this blog post and it gave me the nerdy info I desired.

Step 1: Chemistry of Cast Iron Seasoning: a Science-Based How-To

This is the kind of info I love.

Something science based.

Something that told me how to do it.

Something that made sense.

Oh, and it;s easy so that helps too.

Step 2: Go Grab Yourself Some Flax Oil

The best oil for seasoning cast iron is an oil high in omega-3 fatty acids – in particular, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Free radicals are actually what enable the polymerization. Polymerization is that slick, non stick surface we are all after for our pans.

Sheryl explains all of this much better than I can, so again, check out her blog post if you want to really dig into the details.

For now, I presume you have your Flax oil and are ready for the next step.

Step 3: Get Your Favorite Seasonings.

Get your favorite seasonings ready and put them into your pan.

Now throw them in the trash and look at yourself in the mirror. Look how silly you feel. You don't use spices to season a pan. If you actually did this step go sit in the corner and think about what you did.

Step 4: A Little Dollop Will Do Ya

Pour in a small dollop of Flax oil. A teaspoon to a tablespoon is roughly what you will need depending on the size of the pan. I know it's counterintuitive, but putting more oil on your pan will make it less sticky so be sure to not use too much.

Step 5: Wipe the Oil Into the Pan

Wipe the oil into the pan. Make sure you get into the angles and the corners really good.

Flip the pan over and wipe that down too. Having a perfectly seasoned cast iron pan includes the outside. A rusty pan is still a rusty pan no matter the location.

Step 6: Get the Pan Smoking Hot...literally. (stovetop)

Get the pan smoking hot. You can use your stovetop or a 500 degree oven. It's your choice.


Get the pan just to the point of when it smokes. Then turn the heat off and let it cool back down to room temp. Do this at least 3-4 times. I tend to go with 6.

Step 7: Get the Pan Smoking Hot...literally. (oven)

If you chose to do it in the oven, do this.


Turn the temp up as high as you can go. 500 will work.

Put your oily pan into the oven and let it cook for 30 minutes.

Turn the stove off and walk away until the pan is cool. This will take a few hours.

Repeat this process 4-6 times.

Step 8: Voila! a Perfect Pan Season.

That's it. Your pan is good to go.

In my next tutorial I will show you how to clean your pretty pan and not ruin your hard earned surface.

Buying Flax Oil.

Flax oil isn't terribly easy to find like peanut oils and olive oils. It will need to be refrigerated so look for it in the health food section of your grocery store or health market. I just buy mine from Amazon here. It's way easier.

Step 9: What If I Don't Have Any Cast Iron?

What is wrong with you man!?!  Cast iron is cheap, durable and will last you the rest of your life.  Those crappy non stick pans you get from Smal-Mart are garbage.  Get some real pans now from Amazon for 24 bucks ya cheap ass.

Want to step up your cast iron game?  Grab some vintage Wagner stuff from eBay.  These are better than my new Lodge pans and my Wagner pans are 50+ years old.

Step 10: Check Out My Followup Video

While I have your attention, be sure to check out the followup video for this on "How to Clean Your Cast Iron Pan."

Feeling spicy? Try another of my videos, How To: Make Sriracha Salt



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    19 Discussions

    I have a question that the many seasoning things I've read didn't mention. When putting the pan in the oven - is the oven already hot and the pan cold?

    Or do you put the pan in a cold oven and bring it up to temperature?

    1 reply

    Cold oven so the pan can warm up gradually and is less likely to warp.

    We always cook with a healthy oil, but used lard. Just how I learned to do it from my grandfather. I have used salt, sand, or even a brass brush on the rare times I have to really scrub a pan. Never thought of Flax oil.

    You make seasoning a pan sounds like FUN! I know what I'll be doing this afternoon, thanks!

    I might just give it a try and see what happens... Maybe throw in a Rossetti potato and some vinegar! :)
    Sounds it could be a winner for another Instructable! :)

    I also came upon that bog, wanted to do this instructable, darn.

    As a funny bonus one get to see how to season an allready perfectly seasoned pan :-P
    Maybe restore a old one next time for more dramatic pictures :-D

    1 reply

    Hah, I hear ya. That occurred to me too. I bought some ebay iron in the hopes that it wasn't in good shape and it was perfect. Oh well. I had to roll with it. :)

    Would I be correct in assuming the science behind this method would also apply to restoring a baked in grimey electric hob? I sure hope so! :)

    1 reply

    you got me on that one jmyers. I have no idea. :)

    Look for cast iron in thrift stores. Well-used cast iron will have a very smooth cooking surface (brand new typically has a texture).

    If you find yourself in possession of old cast iron with years of baked-on love, you can remove it by throwing it in a hot bonfire. Remove it the next day (after it's cooled) and re-season.

    If purchasing new cast iron, you can sand down the textured surface with a power sander, or lots of elbow grease. Then wash and season.

    When cleaning your cast iron pan, do no use soap. Rather, pour some course salt into the pan and scrub it with a cloth until any cooked-on food stuffs is removed.

    3 replies

    I've used a potato and vinegar to remove light rusting (pretty common with old, unused cast-iron). You slice an end of a russet potato and use it like a Brillo pad; it's flesh is surprisingly rough. Scrub the metal with some white vinegar until the potato is 'dull'. To 'sharpen', just slice off another millimeter of flesh.

    I use canola (rapeseed) oil when seasoning. Is there something special about flax other than it high smoke point and 'crunchiness'?

    Awesome style; I can't wait to see this Instructable blow up (figuratively).

    Thanks. I've heard about the potato trick when I bought my DeBuyer pans last year but didn't think much of it. Using a potato for a scrubber is a neat twist on that.

    I can't speak too much on the Flax oil. Sheryl covers it better than I can ever put into words on her site. In a nutshell it's the best for polymerization. It has omega-3 fatty acids and they are super resilient when brought up to high heat and cooked in.

    Thanks for the kind words. I'm really hoping my Instructables profile is well received. I've played around with it years ago but I am really going to churn out some content now that I have all my ducks in a row. :)

    All good tips. I'd have a 3 hour video if I really wanted to go nuts about it. I love cast iron.
    I just picked up some old Wagner / Griswold stuff and it is profoundly better than the Lodge iron I've had for a while.
    I might take up your suggestion on sanding down the Lodge stuff. It's way too damn textured.

    My followup up guide will cover all sorts of cleaning do's and don'ts.

    Thanks again Oakback.

    I'm a cast iron lover too, cast iron and copper. My pans belonged to my grandma so they live longer then a lifetime :)

    1 reply

    Very jealous. I have some newer cast iron but I'm starting to realize the old stuff is just better.

    Mission accomplished. I aim to laugh and educate. :)

    Right on! I read that Sheryl Canter a while back, and it's the best ACTUAL information I've ever found on seasoning.

    Nice camera angles in that video too!

    1 reply