How to Season Cast Iron
Why do you season cast iron?
You season cast iron to protect it and have a better non-stick cooking surface. Otherwise, food sticking to cast iron can be quite annoying.
When we season cast iron cookware, we are filling the pores and bonding a polymer to the iron.
With a sufficiently seasoned cast iron skillet you can cook foods as sticky as cheese and have it come right off the skillet, as shown below. No cooking in any fats or oils required.
Why do we use cast iron cookware?
There are several reasons people love cooking in cast iron.
Cast iron cookware is remarkably good at holding onto heat.
This heat retention is due to the thickness of the cast iron. The thickness of the iron protects the food from any sudden change from the heat source that might otherwise affect the food cooking.
Its durability makes cast iron cookware long-lasting, allowing it to remain in excellent condition as it gets handed down generation after generation.
Cast iron is a versatile cookware, from stove-top, to oven, to barbecue grill or smoker, or campfire (in fact it's our 1 campfire cooking essential).
Cast iron makes for such forgiving cookware. It can get a bit rusty but then the cast iron can be stripped down to bare metal, appearing like it had just been made in the foundry.
What is the science behind cast iron seasoning?
When we season cast iron we bond micro-thin layers of polymerized oils to the cast iron. Then, we bond subsequent layers to one another. This creates a durable, non-stick surface. Note: If your cast iron pan is sticky after seasoning, you applied more oil/Crisbee/etc. than needed. Please follow our instructions for either Initial Seasoning or Daily Maintenance of cast iron down below.
Seasoning cast iron helps us achieve a hydrophobic surface.
A Look at the Difference Between Unseasoned and Seasoned Cast Iron
Here we bought two cheap new cast iron skillets with a very coarse surface. The one on the left is right off the shelf, the skillet on the right is after a few layers of seasoning.
The Smoke Point Myth
A myth that circulates around the internet on the topic of cast iron seasoning is the claim to season a cast iron skillet, one must apply the seasoning/oil then heat the cast iron to or beyond the seasoning/oil's smoke point.
However, reaching or passing a smoke point is not the determining factor in getting a sufficient seasoning.
What you’re really after when seasoning your cast iron is thermal polymerization. This is the combining of small molecules to make a big network of molecules. Thermal polymerization requires heat, but it does not require combustion.
So, can I use SOAP on my cast iron or not?
Yes you can!
Another myth circulating is the topic of caring for cast iron is soap will ruin the cast iron's seasoning and so it should be avoided. This myth has become so embedded because of a misunderstanding about soap.
Lye is an essential ingredient in soap making, and lye is caustic, meaning it is capable of destroying or eating away by chemical action. Since lye has this quality, we use it to strip cast iron (removing cast iron seasoning and carbon from the cast iron).
When one hears soap is made with lye one might guess the soap shares that same caustic property, but it does not. This is because during the soap making process the combination of lye and fats or oils creates a chemical reaction called saponification. Once saponification happens the lye and fats or oils have become "soap" and there is no caustic lye left over that would otherwise erode your cast iron seasoning.
We've come a long way since lye soap. We even developed a soap particularly to help save some elbow grease with cleaning cast iron cookware, which you can check out here.
How Do You Season Cast Iron?
Below is a two-part instructional guide to help you with seasoning your cast iron skillets, dutch ovens, and carbon steel cookware.
Part One goes over initial seasoning of cast iron, Part Two goes over maintaining cast iron seasoning. Please don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions regarding cast iron seasoning!
How to Season Cast Iron (Initial Seasoning)
1. Preheat cast iron piece to be seasoned in a 200° (F) oven for 30 minutes.
2. Lightly apply Crisbee to the cast iron using the Crisbee Puck. Use a lint free cloth to spread evenly over all the cast iron skillet.
3. Once you have it coated take a shop towel or paper towel and try to wipe off all of the Crisbee until the pan appears completely dry. *This is an important step to prevent any Crisbee from puddling and turning into a sticky mess.
4. Place cast iron upside down in oven.
5. Heat in oven at 400° (F) for one hour.
6. Turn oven off and let the cast iron cool slowly.
7. Repeat steps 1 through 6 for a total of 3 times and your cast iron is ready for use!
8. Please watch the Crisbee Puck Demo below.
Daily Maintenance Seasoning of Cast Iron
1. After use, wash the cast iron and dry thoroughly.
2. Place the cast iron on stove top over medium low heat for just a few minutes.
3. Remove from burner and lightly apply Crisbee on cooking surface only.
4. Wipe off with a paper towel and it is ready for storage.
5. Please watch the Crisbee Puck Demo below.
What is Crisbee? & the Process of Seasoning Cast Iron
How do I reseason cast iron?
[#9 from our Frequently Asked Questions]
Here is a very helpful video done by guru Jeffrey Rogers, a.k.a. The Culinary Fanatic on stripping and reseasoning cast iron: Tap Here to view in new window.
You may also find our Crisbee Puck Demo video helpful for maintaining your cast iron cookware if it is already ready for seasoning.
On that note, a lot of people ask
Do I have to strip off the seasoning that's already on my cast iron before using Crisbee?
[#3 from our Frequently Asked Questions]
No, it is not necessary to strip your pan. Just follow our instructions for Initial Seasoning of Cast Iron.