A cast iron skillet or pan is an incredibly versatile tool for cooking. Once I learned the benefits of using cast iron over typical Teflon non-stick pans, I was sold.
Even if you only use a cast iron skillet for cooking steaks or smashed burgers (link to recipe), it’s worth it for the perfect sear it can give you. It can also give you golden-brown fried chicken cooked to perfection, crispy bacon, effortless eggs, or even a surprisingly good pizza.
If you use cast iron, bookmark/favorite this page as it contains everything you would want to know about getting the most out of your equipment.
To get the most out of a cast iron skillet, pan or grill pan, let’s look at:
- How to properly season your cast iron and why it matters
- How to clean and maintain your cast iron gear
- Typical cast iron myths and why people get sucked in by them
- Tips that will give you the best results with your cast iron cookware
- Cast iron FAQs
While researching cast iron, I found that a lot of myths are shared around as if they are fact. Almost every cast iron video I watched on YouTube contained a few myths touted as fact.
So in this guide, my goal is to give you the facts and debunk a few myths along the way so you can make better choices with your cast iron equipment.
Let’s start by the most important topic when it comes to cast iron – seasoning.
What is Seasoning on Cast Iron?
We’re used to hearing the word seasoning when talking about the herbs and spices you add to your food. But seasoning means something very different when talking about cast iron skillets and pans.
Seasoning your cast iron skillet is when you create a non-stick protective coating on the skillet’s surface using oil. Seasoning not only creates a non-stick surface on your cast iron skillet, but it also protects against rust.
While seasoning is an extra step that you don’t need to take when you buy a non-stick pan (eg: coated with Teflon), it’s worth the effort. A good quality cast iron skillet with proper seasoning and care can last a lifetime.
Why you need to season a new cast iron skillet
When you first buy a cast iron skillet or pan, it will have a dull and dark grey finish (unless you buy a pre-seasoned pan). It may also have a fairly rough surface like the photo below:
The above photo is a brand new cast iron pan I bought that arrived without seasoning. It might be hard to tell in the photo, but the surface is very dull and rough when I run my fingers along it.
If you were to try and cook something with a cast iron skillet without first seasoning it, you’re in for a major headache. An unseasoned cast iron skillet will stick to food like glue. Actually, it’ll be worse than glue.
The tiny holes and surface irregularities give the food plenty of opportunities to sink in and grab hold of the pan. The food will seriously bond to the pan and you’re going to spend a lot of time trying to scrub it off.
Even worse is that modern cast iron kind of sucks compared to what was produced 50+ years ago. In the past, cast iron was polished to a silky smooth finish before arriving in the store. Today, when you buy a new (and expensive) cast iron skillet, you get a rough surface like the above photo.
But the good news is that a modern cast iron pan can transform into a completely non-stick surface with proper seasoning.
Once you properly season your cast iron, that rough surface will turn into a smooth finish that lets eggs cook and slide off with ease. Instead of food bonding to the cast iron, a protective non-stick coating allows the food to slide around – even at a high temperature.
Extra tip: if you happen to buy a ‘preseasoned’ cast iron skillet, I highly recommend you still follow the below process to season it. You’ll be able to achieve a far better seasoning than the manufacturer.
How seasoning creates a protective coating on cast iron
To season your cast iron skillet (full step-by-step details later), you first coat your skillet in a light film of oil. Then you heat your skillet up past a certain temperature.
When oil is heated while in contact with both oxygen and metal, it goes through a process called polymerization.
This basically means the oil turns into a rock-hard plastic surface that binds to the cast iron.
If you repeat the process, another coat will form on top of the first coat, providing a thicker and stronger non-stick surface.
This is why a lot of people say that cast iron improves as you use it. When you cook with oil in your cast iron skillet, some of it may add to the coating and create a better non-stick surface.
It’s important to point out that we need to try and build many thin coats rather than try to form one thick coat. Remember that the oil needs to be in contact with both oxygen and metal to polymerize. This works best with very thin coats of oil as you will see later in the step-by-step process.
What is the best oil to season a cast iron skillet?
The type of oil you use will impact the quality of the coat you create. Everybody seems to have their own opinions on what oil is best for seasoning cast iron and there are a lot of myths and old wive’s tales on what works and what doesn’t.
Whatever type of oil you use, somebody will tell you that you’re doing it wrong.
For example, you’ll often hear people say that bacon grease or lard creates the best cast iron seasoning. But is it really the best option? Why do people say it’s the best?
Well, it turns out that there are many better options, but those options weren’t available back in the day when cast iron was king. Back then, bacon grease was cheap and readily available, so it was the default option for seasoning cast iron. That’s all it took for it to stick as part of tradition (like many cooking traditions and methods).
People don’t say lard is the best because they’ve done A/B tests, they say it’s the best because that’s what they were told is the best.
So while we can learn a lot from tradition and cooking history, let’s look at the science on what really works.
Knowing why a certain oil is better than another is far more important than me simply saying “x is the best oil to use”. So let’s look at what actually matters.
Unsaturated vs Saturated Fats
The most important factor when it comes to choosing oil to season your cast iron is the type of fat it contains.
The best types of oil to use to season your cast iron skillet have a high level of unsaturated fat. Unsaturated fats polymerize far better than saturated fat and produce a superior coating on your cast iron.
Here’s how the two types of fat work for seasoning your cast iron:
- Unsaturated fats are able to easily form bonds with other molecules (ie: the cast iron). This means we end up with a surface that properly bonds to the metal in the cast iron.
- Saturated fats aren’t able to bond with other molecules very well, which means you don’t end up with a good seasoning.
So you want to find an oil that is high in unsaturated fat and as low as possible saturated fat.
The other important factor to consider when choosing the type of oil for seasoning your cast iron is the oil’s smoke point. The smoke point is the temperature where the oil starts to break down (and create smoke).
When unsaturated fat starts to break down in the presence of oxygen, the molecules join together (called polymerization as explained earlier). If the temperature doesn’t reach the smoke point, the fat won’t break down and you won’t get polymerization.
So it’s important that you make sure you know the smoke point of any oil you use to season your cast iron and you heat the oil up past the smoke point. If you don’t heat it up high enough, it won’t polymerize.
Let’s look at some different types of oil and whether they’re good for seasoning your cast iron or not:
As I mentioned above, a lot of people feel that bacon fat is the best option for seasoning your cast iron. I mentioned that this is likely due to how cheap and readily available bacon fat was in the past when cast iron was the main choice for cooking.
When we look a little closer, we can see that bacon fat has a high percentage of saturated fat (39%). This is why we know that bacon fat isn’t as good for seasoning as people make it out to be.
Bacon fat contains:
- 44% Monounsaturated Fat
- 11% Polyunsaturated Fat
- 39% Saturated Fat
When you compare the above numbers with the other options below, it will become obvious why it isn’t a good choice.
The only advantage bacon fat has is a low smoke point of 325°F (162°C). This is probably another reason why it was so popular in the past – it didn’t need to be heated very high to reach the point needed to polymerize.
Verdict: despite tradition, bacon fat is not a good choice. It may have been the only option in the past, but there are plenty of better options today.
This is another option that tradition has sworn by. You’ll hear a lot of recommendations for lard on other websites and videos. I’ve even heard chefs learn at culinary school to use lard to season their cast iron.
This is a good example of why it pays to question why the tradition exists. Sometimes traditions exist for good reasons, other times they exist due to poor reasons. The tradition of using lard to season cast iron only exists today due to poor reasons (ie: “that’s the way it has always been done, so it must be the best way”).
The reality is that lard contains a high percentage of saturated fat (32%) and is far from the best choice for seasoning your cast iron.
- 41% Monounsaturated Fat
- 11% Polyunsaturated Fat
- 32% Saturated Fat
Lard’s smoke point is 374°F (190°C). Just like bacon fat, this is likely another reason why lard was so popular in the past.
While tradition may give lard the thumbs up, you’re going to get far better results with one of the below options.
Verdict: a lot of people will be angry to hear this, but lard isn’t a good option. It works, but it doesn’t give ideal results.
Flaxseed oil is a popular option today and creates a significantly better quality seasoning than most other oils thanks to a very high percentage of unsaturated fat (86%).
Out of all the oils I researched, flaxseed oil had the lowest percentage of saturated fat (9%). That means in theory it can create an impressively solid bond to your cast iron.
Flaxseed oil contains:
- 18% Monounsaturated Fat
- 68% Polyunsaturated Fat
- 9% Saturated Fat
Flaxseed oil’s smoke point is 225°F (107°C). This low smoke point makes flaxseed oil a poor choice for cooking, but it does make it easy to heat for polymerization.
If flaxseed oil is so good, why don’t more people use it to season cast iron?
You can probably guess the answer. Flaxseed oil wasn’t available in the past, so it’s no surprise that there isn’t a tradition of using it to season cast iron. When it comes to cooking, tradition seems to override facts.
If you use flaxseed oil to season your cast iron, don’t be surprised if people tell you that you’re doing it wrong and that bacon fat or lard is better. Even if you explain unsaturated vs saturated fats, people will likely cling on to tradition rather than listen to you.
One of the goals of this website is to question tradition and focus on the real principles that matter in cooking. This is something most food blogs never consider, so taking a deeper look at something as simple as the type of oil to use will edge you ahead of most other people.
The only reason you may choose not to use flaxseed oil is that it’s quite expensive compared to other options. A good compromise is to use flaxseed oil for your first seasoning, then use a cheaper oil for future coats.
With this approach, you’ll get a great bond to the metal without having to spend too much on oil as you maintain your seasoning. If you ever recondition your cast iron, you can go back to flaxseed oil for that important first coat.
Verdict: highly recommended if you’re willing to spend extra on this oil.
Grapeseed oil is almost as good as flaxseed oil and has an almost identical split between unsaturated fat (86%) and saturated fat (10%).
Grapeseed oil is my preferred choice for seasoning my cast iron because it’s far cheaper than flaxseed oil while providing almost identical characteristics. It’s also a great oil to cook with.
Grapeseed oil contains:
- 16% Monounsaturated Fat
- 70% Polyunsaturated Fat
- 10% Saturated Fat
Grapeseed oil’s smoke point is 420°F (216°C). All ovens should be able to easily surpass this temperature.
Verdict: highly recommended. Cheaper than flaxseed oil with almost identical benefits.
Corn oil is nice and cheap and contains a high percentage of unsaturated fat. It also has a very high smoke point, which is good to keep in mind when you want to cook at high temperatures.
Corn oil contains:
- 28% Monounsaturated Fat
- 55% Polyunsaturated Fat
- 13% Saturated Fat
Corn oil’s smoke point is 449°F (232°C).
Verdict: a very popular option and almost as good as grapeseed or flaxseed oil.
Most people already have olive oil at home, so it’s a very popular option for seasoning cast iron. But let’s look a bit closer to make sure it’s a good choice.
Olive oil contains:
- 73% Monounsaturated Fat
- 11% Polyunsaturated Fat
- 14% Saturated Fat
Olive oil is quite different than the other above oils as it contains high levels of monounsaturated fat. While there is plenty of debate over whether polyunsaturated fat or monounsaturated fat is better for cast iron seasoning, the main point is that the saturated fat level is still quite low.
If you compare olive oil against grapeseed or flaxseed oil, olive oil has a much higher level of saturated fat (14% vs 9-10%). 14% is still in the low range compared to other oils, but less is better when it comes to polymerization.
Olive oil’s smoke point can vary greatly depending on whether it is virgin or extra virgin. The quality also changes the smoke point. This means the smoke point of olive oil can be anywhere from 320°F – 410°F (160°C – 210°C).
If you want to use olive oil to season your cast iron but don’t know the smoke point, just heat your oven as high as possible and pay attention for the smoke. You’ll know when you hit the smoke point.
Verdict: a very popular option that gives good results. Not as good as the other oils listed above, but still a solid choice.
Sunflower oil is another solid choice for seasoning cast iron due to the fairly low level of saturated fat.
Sunflower oil contains:
- 46% Monounsaturated Fat
- 36% Polyunsaturated Fat
- 13% Saturated Fat
Sunflower oil’s smoke point is 449°F (232°C).
Verdict: perfectly fine choice if you already have it.
Cheap Vegetable Oil
What about the cheap vegetable oil most people have? Is it good enough to season your cast iron?
Cheap vegetable oil can vary greatly depending on what it’s made from and how cheap it is.
Here is a breakdown of some cheap vegetable oil I found in my local supermarket:
- 54% Monounsaturated Fat
- 28% Polyunsaturated Fat
- 6% Saturated Fat
That’s the lowest level of saturated fat out of all of the above oils! Sounds great, right? Well, no.
If you add up the three above numbers, you’ll see the total fat content of this cheap oil only makes up 88% of the oil. That means there is 12% of impurities that may get in the way of polymerization.
This is a good example of how easily numbers can throw things off if not looked at closely.
A good quality vegetable oil (that should have a total fat level of 100%) will have a similar profile as sunseed oil and is fine to use. But don’t use a cheap vegetable oil.
Verdict: don’t use cheap oil. Use a good quality oil to season your cast iron and you’ll be far happier with the results.
I noticed on other websites that a lot of people ask whether coconut oil is good for seasoning cast iron. Coconut oil is highly praised as a healthy oil, and not surprisingly, a lot of “health” food blogs swear by coconut oil to season your cast iron.
But the reality is that coconut oil is almost completely made of saturated fat (87%). While that’s perfectly fine for other uses, it is not suitable for seasoning cast iron. Saturated fat struggles to form bonds, so coconut oil will form a weak coat on your cast iron.
After searching around to see what food blogs recommend coconut oil to season cast iron, I wasn’t surprised the slightest when I found comments from people complaining that they couldn’t properly season their cast iron following the instructions.
Coconut oil contains:
- 6% Monounsaturated Fat
- 1.8% Polyunsaturated Fat
- 87% Saturated Fat
If you see a website claim that coconut oil is great for seasoning cast iron, you now know that the person doesn’t know the science behind polymerization.
Verdict: possibly the worst choice for seasoning cast iron. Avoid coconut oil.
The best oil to use to season your cast iron is either flaxseed oil or grapeseed oil. Corn oil, sunflower oil, or olive oil and all great alternatives that will give you just as good results.
While a lot of people will continue to rave about bacon fat or lard, there are far better options available today. Just because bacon fat or lard has been used since the invention of cast iron, it doesn’t mean it’s the best option. The high levels of saturated fat tell us they aren’t good options.
I highly recommend using either flaxseed oil, grapeseed oil, or corn oil to season your cast iron.
How to Season Your Cast Iron (Step-by-step)
Now that you understand how seasoning works and what type of oils work best, let’s look at a foolproof process you can follow to develop a great seasoning on your cast iron.
Step 1: Clean Your Cast Iron
Whether you have a brand new cast iron skillet or bought an old second-hand skillet (which can be just as good or better than brand new), it’s a good idea to start by cleaning it.
We want a perfectly clean surface so the oil can get perfect coverage and develop a strong bond with the metal.
To get the best possible results, an optional step is to first scrub the cast iron with kosher salt. Pour about 1/4 cup of kosher salt into your pan and use your fingers to press the salt into the pan and scrub the entire surface.
Kosher salt is an excellent way to remove any impurities on the surface. The salt will melt away as soon as you get to the next step, so it leaves no trace behind.
Even if the surface of your brand-new cast iron looks clean, it isn’t. Here is what the salt and my fingertips looked like after some light scrubbing:
Removing all of this from the surface will give your seasoning a far cleaner surface to bond with, so it’s worth the effort.
Once you finish scrubbing the surface using salt, thoroughly wash your cast iron in hot soapy water and completely dry it out.
Do not let your cast iron soak in water and don’t let it drip dry as it won’t completely dry it out.
The best way to quickly dry your cast iron is to lightly heat it either on the stove or in the oven to quickly evaporate any residual water.
I recommend using your oven to lightly heat your cast iron. After you’ve dried your cast iron, you can turn the oven up to start preheating it.
Step 2: Lightly cover the entire surface with oil
The key word here is lightly. Using too much oil will cause issues with polymerization and leaves a sticky surface.
Take your chosen oil (I prefer grapeseed oil as it isn’t as expensive as flaxseed oil and is very high in polyunsaturated fat) and pour a teaspoon into the pan.
You can easily add more oil if you need to, but trying to remove excess oil isn’t as straightforward. We’re aiming for a very thin film, so use less oil than you think you need to.
Use your finger to spread the oil into every square inch of the pan’s surface.
I don’t recommend using a paper towel because the cast iron’s rough surface will create small tears in the paper and leave traces on the surface. The last thing you want after cleaning your cast iron is for paper particles to be embedded in the oil. Even if you don’t see it, there will be there.
Lightly cover the entire outside surface and handle in the oil. It’s not as important as the inside surface, but seasoning the outside prevent rust.
In the above photo, the entire surface (and outside surface) has been lightly oiled. There aren’t any pools of oil or build-up near the edges. Aim for a very light coat for the best results.
Step 3: Heat your cast iron past your oil’s smoke point
Once your cast iron has a very thin coating of oil evenly across the entire surface, you can heat it up in the oven.
Why use an oven: while you could use a stove to season your cast iron, it will give inconsistent results. A stove doesn’t heat your cast iron evenly compared to an oven which will provide constant and even heat across the entire surface of the cast iron. I highly recommend using an oven.
You can either place the skillet in your oven upside down or upright.
The advantage of placing it upside down is that any excess oil will run out of the pan instead of pooling up. But if you properly oiled your cast iron, you shouldn’t have need to worry about draining excess oil.
Most people recommend setting your oven to 450°F (232°C). The reason is that this temperature should be high enough to surpass the smoke point of any type of oil you use.
A smarter approach is to set your oven at a margin above your oil’s smoke point.
For example, if you’re using flaxseed oil (with a smoke point of 449°F/232°C), try to set your oven to at least 465°F/240°C to make sure you definitely surpass the smoke point.
If you’re using an oil with a lower smoke point such as grapeseed oil (smoke point 420°F/216°C), setting your oven to 450°F/232°C will be more than enough to surpass the smoke point.
Keep your cast iron in the oven for at least 30-40 minutes, or until the entire surface has blackened.
Remember that you will be heating the oil past its smoking point, so expect smoke. You should be able to smell the oil after about 15 minutes.
I recommend doing this on a day when you can open up windows or use ventilation to extract as much air as possible. You’ll likely end up with a hazy room from the light build-up of smoke, so plan ahead with proper ventilation.
Once the time is up, remove the cast iron from the oven and set it on a stove or heat-proof surface to return to room temperature. I rest it on the stove and use the overhead extraction fan to help cool the pan down.
Step 4: Repeat Steps 2 & 3
Following this process only once will create an incredibly thin film that won’t last long. We need to repeat this process multiple times to gradually build up the seasoning layers.
Multiple thin layers are superior to one thick layer. Imagine painting your car. If you spray one thick coat on the bare metal, you’ll end up with runs and a dodgy result. But if you take the time to use primer, do a proper tack coat, sand between coats as needed, and build up multiple thin coats, you’ll get a far better result.
After you repeat this process (do not repeat step 1 as it will ruin the coat you just created) around 4-6 times, you will have built up decent protection for your cast iron.
You should end up with an almost pitch-black skillet with an even and glossy coat across the entire surface as shown below:
I repeated the steps 5 times and the end result was a nice glossy and dark surface across the entire pan.
The first few times you use your newly seasoned cast iron, avoid cooking any acidic foods or sauces. The last thing you want for your newly seasoned skillet is to ruin it by cooking with some acidic sauce.
Common Cast Iron Myths
As with most topics related to cooking, there are plenty of myths and old wive’s tales that stubbornly cling on to countless people. Anything that has a long tradition (such as cast iron) is bound to collect a few myths over time.
Here are some cast iron myths that people continue to regurgitate today.
Myth 1: Never cook tomatoes or any other acidic food in cast iron
When my Auntie heard I had just bought myself a cast iron pan, the first words that came out of her mouth were “make sure you never cook tomato sauce in it”.
Acidic foods such as tomato can eat away at the seasoning in your cast iron. So this myth does has some truth in it (like many myths). But that doesn’t mean all acidic food should be avoided at all costs.
The reality is that if you have a well-seasoned pan, it is perfectly capable of handling acidic foods on occasion.
On the other hand, if you cook tomato sauce for an hour non-stop or every week you use your cast iron to only cook acidic foods, then you’re going to quickly run into a problem.
If you want to cook tomato sauce or anything else acidic on your cast iron, make sure you have a well-established seasoning and limit the time you spend cooking with it. Plan for your next use of your cast iron to use something non-acidic to restore some of the seasoning lost.
Myth 2: Only use non-stick utensils when cooking with cast iron
The seasoning on cast iron can be surprisingly resilient. While it’s a good practice to use plastic spatulas when scraping your cast iron clean, you don’t need to be too careful.
I regularly make smashed burgers on my cast iron (link to guide and step-by-step recipe) and scrape them off to flip using a metal spatula. I’ve only noticed minor marks in the seasoning and nothing has ever reached the actual surface of the metal. I’m pretty rough with my cast iron and it’s surprisingly durable.
As with most of these myths, if you have a well-seasoned pan, you’re unlikely to experience any issues with any utensils.
Myth 3: Soap will ruin cast iron
Soap can ruin a cast iron’s coating, but that doesn’t mean it will ruin it. If you soak your cast iron in hot soapy water, then yes, it will ruin your cast iron’s seasoning. You’ll have to completely re-season it and it will be annoying.
But some mild use of soap to quickly clean your cast iron is perfectly fine if you know what you’re doing.
Myth 4: Bacon fat or lard is the best choice for seasoning cast iron
As explained earlier on the section looking at different oils, bacon fat or lard was the most common options back when cast iron was king. There is a long tradition of using bacon fat or lard to season cast iron.
While they were perfectly fine choices back then, today they’re less than ideal.
The best types of oil for seasoning cast iron are high in unsaturated fat and low in saturated fat.
Oils such as flaxseed, grapeseed, corn, olive, or vegetable oil are all high in unsaturated fat and low in saturated fat. When you compare these oils to bacon fat or lard, it’s pretty clear that they’re far better options.
But flaxseed, grapeseed, or corn oil weren’t available back then, so it’s no surprise that there isn’t a long tradition of using them to season cast iron.
But this myth remains because “it’s what my grandmother used and she never had any problems in 60 years of using it!”
This is a good example of how many people are stuck in the past when it comes to cooking and won’t even consider that there are better options or methods available today.
Myth 5: Cast iron is difficult to maintain
Cast iron only becomes difficult to maintain if you don’t use it properly. If you don’t develop a good seasoning on your cast iron, it will be difficult to use. Food will stick to the surface, you’ll spend a lot of time scrubbing the pan, and you might get metallic tastes in your food.
But if you properly season your pan and clean it properly after use, cast iron is simple to maintain.
Myth 6: Cast iron heats evenly
This myth is due to a misunderstanding of heat. Cast iron retains a lot of heat, which people mistakenly identify as providing even heat. After all, if the entire surface of the pan seems to cook everything with ease, that means the pan has heated evenly, right?
A simple laser thermometer is all you need to debunk this myth. I found that my cast iron heats incredibly uneven compared to a stainless-steel pan.
If you want a pan with evenly distributed heat, try preheating your cast iron in the oven before cooking. It might be overkill, but the oven will definitely heat the entire surface of the pan up evenly, then you can use your stove to maintain the heat while cooking.
Cast Iron FAQs
Here are some common questions about cast iron that haven’t already been answered above.
How often do you season a cast iron skillet?
How often you need to season your cast iron depends on how often you use it, the type of food you cook, and how well you care for it.
For example, if you regularly cook a lot of acidic foods, then the acidity in the food will gradually eat away at the seasoning. This means you’ll need to re-season your cast iron more regularly than if you only cook non-acidic foods.
How do you clean a cast iron after cooking?
The best way to clean your cast iron is while it is still hot. Carefully remove any excess food and wipe away any residual oil with a paper towel.
Do not use any scouring sponges or materials as it will damage the seasoning. If you have created a good seasoning coat, then you shouldn’t need to scour your pan to remove any build-up.
If you can’t remove any build-up, try lightly scrubbing it with kosher salt. Then add some warm water and heat the water on a stove. You’ll find that anything stuck to the surface will easily lift off once heated.
While you will hear a lot of people adamantly tell you to never use soap on your cast iron, it’s perfectly fine when used properly. Using some light soap and hot water to quickly remove any build-up on your cast iron is fine.
Do not let your cast iron remain in contact with water or soap for long. As soon as you’ve removed anything from the surface, wipe it down and dry. Don’t let your cast iron soak in water.
Be sure to completely clean and dry the pan afterward. The best way to completely dry it is to place it on the stove to heat back up for a few minutes. Any residual water will quickly evaporate. This isn’t necessary, but helpful to remember.
Can you cook tomato sauce in cast iron?
You can cook tomato sauce or other acidic foods in cast iron if you have an established seasoning. Avoid cooking anything acidic on your new pan and wait until it has built up some seasoning from cooking non-acidic food.
If the seasoning hasn’t built up enough, acidic food like tomato sauce can eat away at it and you’ll end up with metallic tasting sauce and a ruined cast iron seasoning.
If you get a metallic taste from anything you cook in your cast iron, it’s a sign you need to re-season it.
Can you ruin a cast iron pan?
Cast iron is incredibly resilient and you’re unlikely to do anything that will permanently ruin it. Even an abused and rusted cast iron can be brought back to life with some effort.
If you neglect your cast iron, it may develop rust, scratches, or dents. Unless the rust has been building up for a very long time, it can be sanded back and re-seasoned into a good condition.
Here are some tips to keep your cast iron in good condition:
- Scrape off any food or residue after cooking before the pan cools down
- Don’t soak your pan and avoid using soap
- Regularly re-season your pan if you cook a lot of acidic foods
- If you ever notice some rust, sand it back to bare metal and go through the process of seasoning your pan
- Don’t place your cast iron in the dishwasher
If you’ve read through this article properly, the above tips will be pretty obvious. That’s the benefit of learning the science behind seasoning.
Can you soak cast iron?
Do not soak your cast iron to clean it. Soaking your cast iron will ruin the seasoning.
If you need to clean your cast iron, the best method is to heat it up on the stove. You will find that anything stuck to the surface will easily release when it has been heated up. Try to wipe down your cast iron after cooking while the pan is still hot.
Can you absorb iron from a cast iron pan?
If you get a metallic taste from anything you cook in your cast iron, that’s a sure sign that you need to season it. While acidic foods can leach iron, the coats of seasoning act as a strong barrier separating the food from the iron.
A well-seasoned cast iron is highly unlikely to have any iron leaching into your food.
Why is my cast iron seasoning sticky?
This is a common problem I see in forums and in comments. If your cast iron feels sticky after going through the seasoning process, it means too much oil was used or oil with too much saturated fat was used.
Remember that polymerization happens when fat is heated while in contact with metal and oxygen. If a thick layer of fat or oil was used, you end up with sub-par polymerization as there won’t be enough oxygen at the metal’s surface to form a bond.
To avoid this problem, use a minimal amount of oil and repeat the process several times to build up the coatings.
You may also get a sticky surface if the oil or fat you’re using is high in saturated fat. For example, coconut oil is extremely high in saturated fat (87%). As a result, it won’t form a strong bond with the cast iron and will likely leave a sticky surface.