After months of daily use, our trusty iron skillet was showing signs that it needed some love. I noticed it was greying in some areas and had some stubborn baked on bits of food even after washing. Fortunately, all it takes is a quick scrub and a few minutes of my time to reseason a cast iron skillet.
Whether you’re trying to revive an old cast iron skillet or just need to do some maintenance work on frequently used pans, it’s not uncommon to need to reseason a cast iron skillet from time to time.
Cast iron is an ideal material for sauteeing, frying, simmering, baking, and more. But you need to season a cast iron skillet before use so that food you cook in it doesn’t get stuck and burn.
Many cooks are such big fans of cast iron that they’ll purchase used ones at antique stores, yard sales, and online. There’s no real danger in buying cast iron skillets used because they are virtually indestructible and are frequently passed down in families for generations.
Seasoning a cast iron skillet is simply a process of coating the pan with oil and heating it in the oven for a few hours. Seasoning cast iron creates a non-stick surface, but that’s not the only reason you should season a pan before using it.
According to Wikipedia, “heating the cookware (such as in a hot oven or on a stovetop) facilitates the oxidation of the iron; the fats and/or oils protect the metal from contact with the air during the reaction, which would cause rust to form.”
So you can see owning cast iron kitchen pans is no joke. It comes with some responsibility to maintain them to ensure they last effectively for many years.
How to reseason a cast iron skillet in 3 easy steps
If you been neglecting your cast iron skillet for some time, chances are you need to do some maintenance on it. As years go by, if you don’t’ care for it properly, your cast iron skillet will lose its seasoning which could make cooking in it difficult and unhealthy.
Step 1: Clean the cast iron skillet
Your first step to reseason a cast iron skillet is to make sure you wash it well. In most cases, gently washing with warm, slightly soapy water is all you need to clean your cast iron pans. To get off stubborn bits, try scrubbing with some coarse salt and a paper towel.
For very dirty pans, you can use a firm bristled brush or even steel wool in extreme cases. Intense scrubbing like this will remove any seasoning on the pan, so take care to follow the rest of the steps here to reseason your cast iron skillet after scrubbing it with steel wool.
Trying to clean a rusty cast iron pan?
Here’s a natural method for removing rust from cast iron pots and pans: Mix 1 part molasses with 9 parts water (that’s about 1.5 cups of molasses per gallon of water). Pour the mixture into and/or around the rusty pan, and let it soak for 3 weeks in a warm location.
After 3 weeks, just scrub the pan with a cast iron pan brush or coarse salt.
I know that sounds crazy, but the molasses solution will actually break down the rust so you can scrub it out just like that!
The most important step in cleaning a cast iron pan is making sure to wipe it dry completely. The iron will rust if you allow water to sit on it.
Step 2: Apply oil all over your skillet.
Which oil should you use to season a cast iron skillet?
Many home cooks simply use vegetable oil, bacon grease, or lard to season cast iron. Organic vegetable oil is a non-gmo option.
Although technically you can use any oil for seasoning a skillet, some say that flaxseed oil is the best option.
Using a paper towel, make sure the oil is applied to every nook and cranny of your cast iron skillet. Set the skillet aside while you prepare the oven.
Step 3: Bake the oiled cast iron pan in the oven
First, place some aluminum foil on the bottom rack of your oven to catch any oil that drips off the pan. Then preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Place the oil coated cast iron skillet on the top oven rack. Be sure to place your skillet upside down inside of the 350 degrees preheated oven.
Leave the skillet in the oven for one hour. After one hour, turn off the oven but leave the pan inside while it cools.
Once reseasoned, the cast iron skillet should remain on a heat-safe countertop to dry fully without being covered. An uncovered cast iron skillet left to dry will help ensure the oil soaks in and allows for your cast iron skillet to be reseasoned fully.
Try this delicious recipe for blistered shishito peppers in a cast iron skillet.
Tips and tricks for cooking with cast iron pans
Go through this process to reseason a cast iron skillet whenever you notice that bits of cooked food are getting stuck to the pan or you notice grey colored spots.
Clean your cast iron pan after every use. You may choose to simply wipe your pan or gently scrub it with a brush and warm water. Usually, you won’t need to use any soap to get the pan adequately clean.
Always. Always. Always completely dry off your cast iron cookware after cleaning.
Acidic substances like tomato sauce can damage cast iron if it’s not seasoned well. Avoid simmering acidic sauces in cast iron for long periods of time. We cook tomato sauce in our skillet all the time, so just keep an eye on it and reseason as needed.
Sometimes, the cast iron will take on the flavor of cooked items. Beware of cooking fish in your cast iron pans.
Use only wooden spoons and the like when cooking in your cast iron pans. Sharp edges on forks, knives, and kitchen tongs can damage the seasoned coating.
Things you should never do with cast iron cookware
Never ever put your cast iron cookware in the dishwasher or the microwave!
Cast iron is not a good choice for food storage. Don’t try to hold or freeze food in cast iron pans.
Don’t boil water in cast iron pans. It will degrade the seasoning.
Cast iron cookware is a staple in any homestead kitchen
We love the unique flavor we get from cooking in well-seasoned cast iron pots and pans. Cast iron cookware works well on electric and gas stoves and is a great choice for cooking outdoors over an open fire.
This is the exact set of cast iron cookware that we use in our home.
We use the 12 inch skillet and the dutch oven almost every day. I can’t imagine dinner without them.
Taking care of cast iron pans isn’t really much more work than taking care of any other type of cookware.
And, if you follow the proper care instructions for your cast iron kitchen pans, then you can certainly expect to get years of great use out of them.