It’s cooking time! You went into the kitchen to make up your favorite meal and picked up that iron skillet just to realize that it isn’t in the best of its form.
It’s time to layer the bad boy with some seasoning. The problem at hand is – How to season a cast-iron skillet.
You are wishing only if there was any simplified way to do it or if you could just use your non-stick next time?
Just give us 8 minutes, and we will clear all your doubts one by one.
You’ll be glad you read it all so let’s begin with answering the question of why using a non-stick instead of a cast-iron skillet wouldn’t be a wise choice.
What is Seasoning?
The text-book definition of the seasoning process is “the process of exposing the surface to consistent heat and fat to prevent the gradual corrosion and amplification in the sticking ability of the surface.
In layman’s language,” It’s the heating process that increases the life-time of the cookware and rewards the surface with a natural non-stick coating.
The Seasoning process forms a black patina which is the darkened base coat preventing your cast-iron skillet from:
- Rusting which decreases the lifespan of the metal
- Furnishing a physical attachment with the food
The Science Behind the Process of Seasoning
We know you are just here for the instructions on how to season the cast iron skillet, but knowing the scientific process behind it will make it exciting, and you won’t have to google every time your skillet needs some seasoning.
It will stick in your mind just as the food bits on your skillet when cooked without seasoning.
When the iron skillet is exposed to high heat with few drops of oil on the surface, the long-chin of fat molecules break down and bond with natural iron produced by the surface resulting in the non-stick properties.
It also facilitates a defense mechanism against the rust as, during the oxidation process (High heat), the layer of oil protects the metal by preventing its contact with air.
The surface of the cast-iron skillet has pores that expand when the skillet is subjected to high heat. The seasoning fits in the pores correctly, gradually smoothing the surface and contributing to the strength of the skillet.
Over time multiple layers of seasoning add up resulting in a robust and fully secured iron skillet.
Types of seasoning
There are two methods of the seasoning process.
1. The Natural Method
Naturally, building up a coating of seasoning is something you must already be doing before reading this blog.
Just use the skillet for cooking as many times as possible. As simple as that. Every time you cook something on your iron skillet, you subject it to high flames of heat and oil, which are the primary ingredients for a crisp seasoning.
Thin layers of seasoning begin to add up whenever you cook, gradually making it more durable than before.
An important thing to keep in mind:
Exposing the iron skillet to thick layers of oil will not reach the intended result. Those layers scrape off quickly with excessive use. Only thin coats tend to build up a firm surface, which can easily prevent the sneaking in of the unwanted air molecules.
Bottom line: You want a stack of thin layers on the surface of your cast-iron skillet.
Since this exercise is unorganized and performed without any strategy, you might come across some different shades of the patina.
These layers of seasoning are formed in patches, ultimately contribute to the overall durability of the skillet. So you have nothing to worry about while moving on with the natural process of seasoning.
2. Heat the iron skillet in the oven
Some chefs season the iron skillet upon purchase and then rely upon the much slower “natural method of seasoning.” But this method incorporating an oven is faster and yields efficient results as compared to any other techniques of seasoning.
Since our main two ingredients of the seasoning process are heat and oil, we have to make sure we are incorporating the ideal temperature and quality oil.
The Ideal Temperature:
Starting directly with high temperatures is not the best way to go as far as the seasoning is concerned. Instead, a gradual increase in temperature results in better baking of the seasoning into the surface, and it also ensures that the seasoning just doesn’t stay on the outer surface of the Iron Skillet.
The best temperature you can subject the skillet to is is just below oils Smoke point. Anything above or below will ruin the whole process resulting in either unfinished polymerization of the carbon or overheated or even burnt particles of carbon.
The Best Oils for Seasoning the Skillet
The best way to add a layer of fats on the surface is by using oils with polyunsaturated fatty acids. This will provide the surface with the right kind of seasoning credits to its ability to thicken in air.
So for that, you have to make sure you are picking up the right kind of oil unless you want an unsecured layer to work in on your skillet.
From a bunch of options, we have selected these three winners which work the best and also are easily available:
- Flaxseed oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Canola oil
These are drying oils with a low-smoke point.
You might want to stay away from the oils with saturated fats like coconut oil as they tend to open fewer carbon bonding points. Flaxseed oil is used by most of the people, but its high point of unsaturated fats is not entertaining for everyone.
You can replace it with grapeseed oil, which is usually an everyday-use choice.
Now it’s time for the actual process of seasoning. Here’s a step-by-step process for you to follow exactly as per the instructions, and you will find yourself with nice seasoned iron skillet as a result.
How to Season a Cast-Iron Skillet in a Oven
- Oil – (grapeseed/flaxseed/canola)
- An iron skillet
- Paper towel
Step 1: Pre-heat the oven.
Before going in to put up a layer of seasoning, pre-heat the oven to around 90 celsius. You might have heard that going up to high temperatures is good, but actually, 90 Celcius is the ideal temperature for this part of the process.
Going in slow and gradual results in a more robust coating of seasoning that will last you way longer.
Step 2: Pre-heat the iron skillet.
In the meantime, give your iron skillet some evaporation as most likely, the skillet will have some moisture. Give it 300 seconds to discard all the moisture once the oven is all-set put in the iron skillet and heat it up for 10 minutes as soon as the timer ticks, remove the skillet and turn up the temperature.
The benefit of pre-hearting the skillet is that you will find it completely dry, and the pores of the skillet will be up and running for the seasoning to fill in.
Step3: Add a layer of oil to the skillet
Pour in one tablespoon of oil (whichever you are going for) on the surface of the iron skillet. This will make sure that the entire surface is covered and ready for some seasoning.
Step 4: Spread the oil
Take the clean paper towel and gently spread the oil all over the surface. Performing this activity in concentric circles is recommended for better results. There will be some residue left. Take another fresh paper towel and remove any excess oil.
Step 5: Cover the whole surface area of the iron skillet
Put half tablespoon of grapeseed or flaxseed or whatever oil on the bottom and the handle. This should be more than enough after removing excess oil.
The Iron Skillet will have a dry finish. It might not be noticeable, but there will be a lot of oil hanging onto the surface of the iron Skillet in the form of a thin layer.
This is the ideal amount you want on the surface as it will bake a layer of seasoning in the skillet and not just on the outer part.
Step 6: Put the iron skillet on a stovetop.
Heat up the oven to 150 celsius. Once the oven is hot enough, put the iron skillet inside the oven in a way that any oil does not rush to the edges i.e., upside down. After 600 seconds of heating, move the iron Skillet on to the stove and remove oil, if any.
Step 7: Back to the oven
Now move back to the oven and increased the temperature again. This time we would like to touch the 200 Celsius mark.
When you’ve reached the desired temperature, put the iron Skillet in the oven and leave it for at least 70 minutes. This process might be taking a little time, but trust us, it is totally worth the effort.
After good heating of 70 minutes, turn off the heat and let the iron Skillet stay in with the heat turned off. The magic of seasoning will start kicking in as you wait for another hour before taking the iron skillet out of the oven.
When the timer rings 60 minutes, take out the iron Skillet. The seasoning process is finally over. A thin layer of patina has been added to your iron Skillet, and it is more robust than before.
The base layer is ready, and the next step would be to cook as many times as you can to add more layers by exposing it to the primary ingredients in an unorganized manner.
Benefits of Pre-seasoned Skillet
We are living in the 20th century with the most advanced technology you can ever find. This calls for the products that facilitate the utmost comfort.
Pre-seasoned skillets are one of them. You can start cooking your favorite meal right away as soon as the delivery hits your door. The only drawback is they won’t be totally non-stick.
The average pre-seasoned skillet comes with two layers of oil seasoned into the surface of the iron Skillet. This approach works better than the natural method as the base layer is already ready, and all you have to do is cook as much as you can for further seasoning of the iron Skillet.
The best thing about a pre-seasoned Skillet is that you don’t have to oven season it.
If you want to, you can, but it is not mandatory. Just take it out of the pack and start using it. There might be a chance of some food sticking on to the pan, but this is all part of the seasoning process.
The best you can do is cook as much as you can, and the patina will start setting in. We have furnished some of our favorite all-time cooking guidelines that will help you to get the best out of your cast-iron skillet.
Perform these guidelines with at least your first 30 cooking sessions with the iron skillet for a well-settled seasoning texture:
Tip 1: Use low to medium heat.
If the iron Skillet you are using is pre-seasoned or you have the one you have oven seasoned yourself, there is a good chance of some food sticking to the surface.
Low to medium heat is the best temperature you can possibly subject your iron Skillet for the purpose of seasoning to. Our favorite food, to begin with, is Fried Chicken or some baked cornbread. It’s one of the healthiest foods for the seasoning routine.
Tip 2: Cook with a good amount of cooking oil. Even butter works
Before placing your favorite meal on the surface of the iron Skillet, try greasing it with two or three tablespoons of cooking oil or butter. If you are preparing for the sake of seasoning, then try to add some unsaturated fats to the skillet that is any oil from the previously mentioned lot.
Tip 3: No acidic foods for at least 30 cooking sessions
Acidic food is not recommended. You might want to keep acidic foods such as tomatoes and vinegar away from the surface of the iron Skillet.
Even a light seasoned Iron Skillet can add unfavorable flavors to the food that has high amounts of acid present in them. That is why we recommend you not to cook acidic foods at the beginning of the seasoning process.
Once you have subjected your iron Skillet to a good amount of unsaturated fat heating sessions, you are good to cook any type of food.
Tip 4: No use of chemicals to clean the iron skillet
Do not incorporate the use of detergent soaps or dishwashers. It can discard the seasoning on the surface of the iron Skillet. Instead, just wipe the skillet with the paper towel or clean it with boiling water.
This was all about the seasoning of an iron skillet. This 10-minute read will ensure that you are using an iron skillet instead of non-stick cookware.
You know both of the primary methods to season an iron skillet, you are aware of the benefits of pre-seasoned cookware and the dos and don’ts you need to incorporate right after the seasoning process ends.
We assure you with these golden methods; your iron skillet will serve many generations after you.