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Seasoning Cast Iron Pans

Seasoning Cast Iron Pans

Clean Pan to Bare Iron

Before seasoning your vintage cast iron pan, it should be cleaned to bare iron. There are different methods to clean iron, from lye baths, easy-off, to electrolysis

Once your pan has been cleaned to bare iron, it is time to season, or “cure” your pan.

Why season your pan?

The purpose of seasoning is to protect the bare iron from rust, as well as to provide a hard polymerized surface to the iron which assists in making the pan non-stick. A well- and properly-seasoned vintage cast iron pan with the glassy smooth surface will be virtually non-stick. 

How I season my pans

There are many different recommended methods to season your pan. I’ve tried most of them. I have seasoned thousands of pans, and have developed a methodology that works for me.

The method I use is not the “right” or “only” way to season vintage cast iron cookware; it is simply the method that works for me. 

  1. Place your clean and thoroughly dried cast iron pan into the oven. Turn the heat to 450 degrees. Let the pan preheat along with the oven. 
  2. Let the pan “cook” in the oven for an hour. This step darkens the pan. 
  3. Turn off the oven and let the pan cool for a little while – about 15 minutes or so. I typically pull the pan out while I still need to use a pot holder (or gloves), but after it has cooled a bit. 
  4. Protect your skin from the heat. Using a cotton cloth, apply a very thin layer of Crisco (or Crisco + beeswax) to the pan. Cover all areas of the pan both inside and out.
  5. Wipe away the Crisco using a different rag. Be sure to remove all excess oil. The pan should not look “wet.” Even though it may seem like you are wiping away the oil you are not; it is still present.
  6. Place the pan upside down on a rack in your oven. You may wish to put foil, a foil oven liner, or an old cookie pan on the bottom of the oven to catch any drips. If you have a thin coat of oil as you should, you will not have any drips. You can season multiple pans at the same time in the oven if you wish.
  7. After placing the pan in the oven, turn the heat to 500 degrees. Once it reaches 500 degrees, let the pan “cook” for an hour. You may notice some smoke coming from the oven during this step; you will want to turn on the vent fan. The amount of smoke depends on the amount of oil used. When you have a very light layer, the smoke is minimal. If it is not a very light layer, you may have significant smoke. Your smoke alarms may go off, and you will get complaints from household members. You will notice an odor during this step.
  8. After an hour, turn off the heat and let the pan cool in the oven.
  9. Once the pan has cooled so that it is still warm but not hot, remove it from the oven. Using the rag you used to place the oil on the pan, wipe the pan – placing another coating of oil all over the pan, inside and out. 

Now that the pan is seasoned, start using the pan. Additional seasoning will build up with use. I typically recommend liberal use of oil as you begin using your newly-seasoned pan, as well as cooking fatty foods. 

I made a video (11 minutes) that demonstrates my process of seasoning. Take a look if you like; it shows exactly how much (or how little) oil I use to place the initial layer of seasoning. 

Now go and enjoy your pan! 

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