How to Clean and Season a Cast Iron Pan

How to Clean and Season a Cast Iron Pan - Step By Step Photo Tutorial for Extending the Life of   Your Cast Iron Cookware by Tori Avey

The history of cast iron cookware goes back at least as far as 6th century China, but we are perhaps most familiar with its history in Colonial America. At this time, the majority of cooking was done in a hearth. Cast iron’s ability to hold high and even heat for an extended period of time made it ideal for cooking over an open flame. The handles on the pans allowed cooks to hang them above the fire. Because of its popularity, cast iron cookware was manufactured in huge quantities, which is why we see so much of it being sold at vintage shops and antique stores. You can get a great used cast iron for around $10 (sometimes even less). Clean it up, season it… good as new!

You can cook just about anything in a cast iron pan – meat, vegetables, even cake and cornbread. As the name suggests, cast iron cookware is made from a molten hot alloy that is poured into molds, or casted.  You can find the pans in all shapes and sizes and in an assortment of baking molds, from corncobs to hearts to stars. Cast iron is built to last and if you know how to take care of it, you can use the same pan for an entire lifetime.

Here I will teach you a simple technique for cleaning and seasoning your cast iron pans. If you’re in the market for a new cast iron pan, check out my recommendation below.

Do you cook with cast iron? Share your cast iron tips in the comments section below!

Recommended Products

Lodge 12-inch Cast Iron Skillet

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How to Clean and Season a Cast Iron Pan

You will need

  • Cast iron pan
  • 1 raw potato, sliced in half
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1-2 tbsp cooking oil with a high smoke point (flax, grapeseed and peanut oils work well)
  • paper towels
  • Wooden or metal flat-edged spatula
Total Time: 1 Hour 15 Minutes
Servings:
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Start by using a spatula to scrape any food residue from the surface of the pan. If your pan is mostly clean it can be wiped out with a damp cloth. Never use soap on your cast iron cookware.
  • How to Clean and Season a Cast Iron Pan - Step By Step Tutorial for Extending the Life of   your Cast Iron Cookware by Tori AveySprinkle the salt into the pan.
  • How to Clean and Season a Cast Iron Pan - Step By Step Tutorial for Extending the Life of   your Cast Iron Cookware by Tori AveyUsing the flat side of the potato, scrub the salt into the surface of the pan. The moisture from the potato, combined with salt, helps to remove any debris or rust that cannot be eliminated by simply wiping out or scraping.
  • How to Clean and Season a Cast Iron Pan - Step By Step Tutorial for Extending the Life of   your Cast Iron Cookware by Tori AveyUse a slightly damp paper towel to wipe the salt from the pan.
  • How to Clean and Season a Cast Iron Pan - Step By Step Tutorial for Extending the Life of   your Cast Iron Cookware by Tori AveyOnce the salt has been removed and the pan is dry, pour in the oil.
  • How to Clean and Season a Cast Iron Pan - Step By Step Tutorial for Extending the Life of   your Cast Iron Cookware by Tori AveyWith a paper towel wipe the entire surface of the pan, including the inner sides, edges and handle, with the oil. The surface should be lightly coated in oil, with no excess oil pooling anywhere. Wipe out all of the excess oil before placing in the oven.
  • How to Clean and Season a Cast Iron Pan - Step By Step Tutorial for Extending the Life of   your Cast Iron Cookware by Tori AveyOnce the pan has been thinly coated with the oil, place it in the oven at 400 degrees F for one hour. Allow the pan to cool and wipe out any excess oil that may be left behind. For pans that have been completely stripped of their seasoning, you may need to repeat the oiling and heating process multiple times to build up a thicker layer of protection. Do not use too much oil on the surface of the pan-- it should be thinly coated, not dripping.
  • How to Clean and Season a Cast Iron Pan - Step By Step Tutorial for Extending the Life of   your Cast Iron Cookware by Tori AveyOnce your pan is cool and you've wiped out any excess oil, your cast iron is cleaned, seasoned and ready to use! Every time you cook with oil in your cast iron pan (deep frying, sauteing, etc.) you will continue to build the non-stick coating, making it better with age.
  • You do not need to re-season your pan each time you use it. Once you've cleaned it after cooking (using the instructions above), wipe it with a thin layer of oil before storing. This will help to keep the seasoning intact between uses. Re-season the pan once every 15-20 uses, or whenever you start to notice foods sticking more and/or the seasoning wearing away.

Comments (102)Post a Comment

  1. thanks for sharing this useful information about cast iron cookware. now its easy to seasoned my cast iron griddle . earlier i use to seasoned it with onion to make dosa .

  2. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    I’ve been debating over whether or not to purchase a cast iron skillet – I have it in my mind that you can’t make a decent roux any other way, although I’ve never tried to make roux at all, so how would I know anyway, right? My local HEB (and those of you from Texas will know how wonderful HEB stores are!) carries enamel coated cast iron pans and dutch ovens, so I was wondering what your opinion of these are? I’m assuming they would not need to be seasoned, but what of the operational benefits?

    1. Prissnboot, the advantages of enamel coatings apply more for dutch ovens than for skillets. Dutch ovens are usually used to make stews and braises, long slow cooked dishes that can be harder on the seasoning. Also the enamel coating makes the pan non-reactive, which means that it won’t react with acidic ingredients (meaning it will not discolor or “pit”). Cast iron is reactive and does not work well with citrus or tomatoes. Bare cast iron (no enamel) is best for searing, frying, etc. I have an enameled dutch oven for stews and cholent, and a cast iron skillet for frying and searing (steaks, schnitzel, latkes, etc.). Hope that helps!

  3. I seem to remember my mother-in-law putting hers in the wood stove to burn off the outside crap. Does anyone have any ideas on this as I would love totry it but am sort of afraid too.

    1. Lou if you want to strip off the old seasoning and reseason the pan, you can heat it up really hot (glowing red) in a wood stove or on a grill with a closed lid. Some people even use sandblasters and power tools with wire scrubbers. I have also heard of stripping them using the oven’s self cleaning setting– note that if you have too much seasoning built up the pan can catch fire, so use this method with caution and don’t leave the pan unattended. It will lose its black patina and look somewhat grayish after the seasoning has burned off. You’ll need to build up a layer of seasoning again; use the instructions in this post and repeat them several times till the pan is seasoned again. Cast iron is virtually indestructible, so don’t be afraid of hurting it… if it is pure cast iron you won’t be able to put a dent in the actual pan itself, but the seasoning can easily be removed and reapplied as needed.

    1. Peggy no need to season it again just yet– follow the cleaning instructions outlined in this post and wipe it with a thin layer of oil after each use. Your pan will stay seasoned for quite some time. You only need to reseason when food starts to stick or the seaoning is visually wearing down, resulting in scratch-like indentations in the coating.

  4. My husband puts the skillet on an open fire outside until it is almost red hot. As it is cooling down, he uses Crisco shortening and a clean rag, working it into the bottom and sides of the skillet. It will take years before it will be seasoned again. My husband was born and raised in the south, and he said the old people used lard. Told him if he ever uses lard on my iron skillets, I will be using it on his head. Took a long time, to get him eat Kosher.

  5. I rescued an iron flat griddle pan from a distant cousin, that was throwing it away because of the build-up of crust making it unusable. After putting it in an open fire for an hour the pan came out as gray iron with no build-up and after several seasonings with Crisco it was like brand new; and I am still using it after 40 years. I also have a large iron fish pan that barely slides into my oven that makes the best baked Lasagna you ever tasted.

  6. I like to use Crisco for seasoning and I invert the skillet on the oven rack during the baking process. This prevents uneven seasoning of the pan. Just make sure u place a baking sheet under your skillet!

  7. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I picked up several old pieces at thrift stores when I lived in Phoenix. They were Wegner. My husband cleaned them up and they were great. But as I got older they were just to heavy so gave them to a friend. Now I have bought a few pieces from Walmart made in the USA but they are very rough on the bottom. I had trouble with sticking after I seasoned them but seen one of the top chefs on TV and he had same problem but took them to someone who had a grinder and he ground them down smooth then reseasoned them so had my husband to grind mine down and they work much better

  8. I use my old Wagner cast iron pans to cook nearly everything.
    Start by browning the food on the stove over high heat, then finish in the oven…

    Best oil to season a cast iron pan is flax seed oil…

  9. I’ve used cast iron for years and love it. But now most brands (like Lodge) only sell “preseasoned” pans. How can I give my son and daughter-in-law a cast iron pan that can be used in a kosher kitchen? I’ve phoned Lodge and you cannot preorder a non seasoned pan. I’ve been told the pans are seasoned with a soy product…not certified kosher or usable for Passover. Please help!

    1. Hi Helen, in this case it seems it would be best to burn off the existing seasoning of a pan and re-season it yourself. I’m not sure if you’d need a mashgiach to oversee that process… it’s beyond my area of expertise. Perhaps call one of the kosher certifying agencies and ask for their guidance?

  10. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Thanks for another great post. Will try to reseason my two pans using your instructions.
    One suggestion I saw on a website (can’t remember where) is to season the pan upside-down in the oven so that any excess oil drip out.
    Have a Freiriliche Purim!

    1. Happy Purim Susann! Based on another reader’s comment I may be trying flax seed next time I season… it sounds like a great option! I’ll update the blog with results. Meanwhile I’m going to add it as an optional oil to the instructions.

    1. Hi Terri– that depends on how deeply the cast iron is rusted. It will help with small shallow rust spots (the kind that develop overnight if the skillet has any moisture left in it). A plastic scrubber or steel wool pad can help as well. All else fails, a 50/50 vinegar/water solution can work wonders… just don’t let it sit on the cast iron for long, as it strips the seasoning. For deeper, more ingrained rust, you’ll need to un-season and re-season the pan again.

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