In the realm of cookware, one of the most hotly contested topics is the proper way to season a cast-iron pan.
When considering how to season a cast-iron pan, a number of issues arise, including the following:
- Which oil is the most reliable and effective in getting the job done?
- It’s possible that there are certain kinds of food that shouldn’t be cooked in a cast-iron skillet.
- Is it okay to soap a pan that has just been seasoned?
Homeowners almost always have some kind of strategy up their sleeve for the most effective technique of seasoning. However, as of yet, no one has been successful in putting an end to the discussion.
To properly season a cast-iron pan, one must do more than just choose an oil at random and brush it on.
The melting point of each kind of oil is unique, and depending on how you use it, it may either improve the dish you’re preparing or turn it into a sticky mess. Continue reading for a rundown on the most effective seasoning oils if you haven’t been successful in locating the appropriate oil for your cast-iron cookware.
But before we get to it, let’s begin with a thought-provoking discussion on the scientific research.
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- The Chemistry behind Seasoning
- Understanding the Smoke Points of Cooking Oils
- Why Olive Oil May Not Be The Best Oil for Seasoning Cast Iron Skillets
- The Best Oils for Seasoning a Cast-Iron Skillet
- The Ultimate Way to Season a Cast-Iron Pan
- Additional Tips for a Well-Seasoned Cast-Iron Pan
The Chemistry behind Seasoning
The seasoning is accomplished using a method that is referred to as fat polymerization. When heated, lipids undergo reactions that result in the formation of massive molecules known as polymers.
There is a discernible rise in the viscosity of the fat after the appropriate quantity of polymers has been created.
The polymerization of fat is radically altered by the seasoning process. The process of heating the layer of fat that is already present on an iron surface causes the creation of free radicals, which then crosslink and create a thick film on the pan.
This layer will eventually solidify and protect your pan from losing its seasoning over time. In a nutshell, the molecular structure of the oil is altered as a result of a reaction between the heat and the iron’s surface. This results in the formation of a tough surface that acts as a covering that is resistant to sticking.
The production of free radicals almost always results in the development of cancer. Because of this, you should never heat oil to a temperature that is higher than its smoking point. If there is smoke coming from the oil, you should get rid of it and start again.
On the other hand, these free radicals won’t be present once the pan has been baked. After the pan has been cooked and allowed to cool, there will no longer be any free radicals.
The temperature at which the oil begins to smoke and how well it performs are the primary criteria that decide whether or not an oil is suitable for use as a seasoning. And this is what gets us to the next point in our discussion.
Understanding the Smoke Points of Cooking Oils
The point at which an oil starts to give off smoke, which is an indication that it is releasing fatty acids, is referred to as the smoking point.
When heated to a high enough temperature, oils and fats begin to break down into their component fatty acids. The length of time and level of heat that an oil is subjected to determines whether or not it will produce smoke when it is used in cooking.
Because seasoning often takes place at high temperatures, it is prudent to make use of oils that have greater smoke points. After spreading food-grade oil onto a cast-iron pan, it will be heated to a temperature that is higher than the oil’s smoke point.
Because of this, free radicals are released, which in turn causes the coating on the surface of the pan to get thicker. Utilizing “drying oils,” which are oils that have a better potential to make a stronger connection with iron, is the key to producing a high-quality seasoning oil.
Why Olive Oil May Not Be The Best Oil for Seasoning Cast Iron Skillets
It is well knowledge that olive oil has a relatively low smoke point, which ranges anywhere between 325 and 375 degrees Fahrenheit. When compared to other oils, such as canola or flaxseed oil, it burns significantly more easily.
You may add flavor to your pan by seasoning it with olive oil; however, the difficulty will occur once you start using it to prepare meals.
If the seasoning does not adhere to the surface of the pan in the correct manner, the seasoning will begin to deteriorate whenever the pan is heated to a temperature that is higher than its smoking point. When the coating of oil on your pan starts to wear away, you’ll notice that it becomes sticky. This may have an impact on the flavor as well as the quality of the food that you prepare.
Olive oil is naturally high in oleic acid, which gives it a more stable composition than other types of oils. It is also rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, both of which contribute to the oil’s overall superior healthiness. These advantages, however, are only applicable to the processes of cooking and sautéing.
Due to its low smoke point, it cannot be baked off in the oven without becoming unstable. Having said that, you are free to always resort to using it if there is no other choice.
The Best Oils for Seasoning a Cast-Iron Skillet
Olive oil is readily accessible, which is one reason why so many home cooks choose to use it to season their dishes.
However, it is not the greatest oil to use for seasoning a tough surface like iron because of its lack of viscosity.
As was said before, dry oils are more capable of forming a stronger connection with the surface of the iron than other types of oils. They are exceedingly stable, effective, and their viscosity does not alter even when heated to very high temperatures.
As a result of this, the following list of fats are the most recommended ones to use while seasoning a cast-iron pan.
Grape seed oil is considered to be the best of all the oils that may be used to season cast-iron cookware. It has a high smoke point, a low percentage of saturated fat, and it is very long-lasting.
It forms a very strong bond with the surface of the pan and leaves behind a rigid layer that lasts for a very long time.
It is able to withstand tremendous temperatures without being destroyed due to its high smoke point, which is 420 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the true source of its strength.
It is the ideal cooking oil since both the flavor and the smell are unaffected by the oil. Grape seed oil is the ideal oil to use for seasoning cast-iron cookware since it is quite safe for use in the kitchen.
The high concentration of polyunsaturated fats in it gives it superior cross-linking, which in turn produces a coating that is resistant to wear on the pan. Additionally, it is one of the least expensive cooking oils that you might use in your kitchen.
Flax Seed Oil
Even though the smoke point of flaxseed oil is just 225 degrees Fahrenheit, it is nevertheless considered to be one of the greatest “drying” oils. This indicates that it dries out on its own and produces a more durable layer over the surface of the pan.
If you are looking for a seasoning that will last a long time and won’t wear out easily, then flaxseed oil is the best option. Painters and woodworkers utilize it to create a thick, durable surface over their work, which is then displayed.
The properties of flax oil allow it to adhere very well to the surface of the skillet. It is possible for it to build the ideal non-stick, sheer coating that may even make your pan safe to put in the dishwasher.
However, in order to get the finest results when seasoning a cast-iron skillet with flax oil, it is essential that the oil be unfiltered and made entirely of organic ingredients.
When using flax seed oil of poor quality, re-seasoning will not be successful. You should be sure that the oil you purchase does not include any additives, flavors, or additional oils of any kind.
Because flaxseed oil has such a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, it must be stored in the refrigerator as soon as possible after purchase.
If you want the greatest seasoning results, you should make sure that you purchase in flax seed oil that is pure and made from 100% organic flax seeds. If you are seeking for a review on flaxseed oil that has been tried and tested, you have found it.
The use of soybean oil as a seasoning oil is recommended since it is both inexpensive and somewhat nutritious.
Soybean oil, in contrast to other oils, does not include any artificial chemicals, animal fats, or peanut oil. Since it is a very refined oil, there is almost no risk that it will cause any allergic reactions.
It is also very affordable, which makes it a perfect option; in fact, it is only second to grapeseed oil in terms of ideality. It has a smoke point that is very high.
Due to the fact that the majority of vegetable oils have a smoke point of 400 degrees Fahrenheit or more, they are always an excellent option for seasoning cast-iron skillets.
In comparison to sunflower or maize oil, it contains a level of saturated fat that is just 7% of its total fat content. However, this amount is sufficient to produce an oil that may be used as a stable seasoning.
Additionally, it has a large quantity of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Since of this, it is an excellent option for seasoning because it dries out rapidly and leaves a coating of fat that is dense and stable on the pan.
There are some culinary gurus that lean more toward the use of traditional saturated fats.
When you cook with animal fats or butter, the pan will often acquire a natural seasoning of its own on its own. You won’t need to purchase a separate seasoning oil or wait for it to bake down. Both of those steps are unnecessary.
It won’t be necessary to use any more nonstick spray since the coating of fat will do the job.
The Ultimate Way to Season a Cast-Iron Pan
Let’s get started with the procedure now that you have a general notion of which seasoning oils are the most effective. To get down to brass tacks, you can season food with almost any kind of cooking oil.
Even olive oil would do in this situation.
On the other hand, if you want that tough coating that won’t peel off even with the roughest washing, then you should choose an oil that is stable.
There is a wide variety of choice when it comes to seasoning techniques. In the past, when householders wanted to solidify the fat, they would often put some oil over the pan and then bake it in the oven.
The correct techniques to season a cast-iron pan are outlined in the following paragraphs.
Seasoning the Pan by Baking in the Oven
- To get started, fill the pan with a high-quality oil and spread it about with your fingertips until it is evenly coated. To get a uniform coating, be sure to work the mixture all the way up to the edges of the pans.
- The next step is to preheat the oven to between 300 and 350 degrees Fahrenheit. When the oven is ready, place the pan that has been greased inside. Bake it for approximately an hour, or until the layer is completely assimilated into the surface of the iron, whichever comes first.
- Take the pan out of the oven and put it somewhere where it can cool down. When it is no longer dangerous to touch, you may remove any excess oil with a clean, soft cloth. You may now begin using your pan.
Seasoning the Pan by Cooking on the Stovetop
- Pour some oil into the pan, and then use your hands to evenly distribute it. If you have to, you may use your fingertips to make sure that the oil is covering the pan in a uniform layer. This step is extremely crucial because if the layer is not even, the food will cling to the pan and you will have to start again.
- Adjust the level of the flame so that it is medium-high. Place the saucepan on the burner, and wait for the oil to warm up. Take the pan off the burner as soon as you see smoke coming from it.
- The residue may be removed from the cast-iron pan by waiting for it to fully cool down and then using a paper towel.
Also read: How to Season Cast Iron Without an Oven?
Additional Tips for a Well-Seasoned Cast-Iron Pan
It may sound easy, but seasoning a pan well requires a lot of attention to detail and accuracy.
The seasoning layer on your cookware will need to be protected and maintained, so here are some suggestions for doing so. Before you pour the oil into the pan, you need to make sure that it is seasoned properly.
Do a thorough cleaning of your pan by using some dish soap and warm water. This will assist you in removing any oils used for packaging as well as any food residue. After that, pat it dry with a towel. Process it using a heat source at a temperature of at least 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wait until it has cooled down before proceeding with adding the spices. After completing this stage, the surface of the pan will be well cleaned and prepared to receive a robust seasoning.
Remove Excess Oil
Even if you do an excellent job of seasoning your cast-iron pan, there is still a possibility that it could leave a sticky residue on the surface of the pan. This is essentially the accumulation of surplus oil that has not yet been completely transformed into seasoning. Baking it again is a simple solution to the problem.
Put the pan in the oven, but this time it should be in the inverted position.
The surplus oil will be rendered useless by being exposed directly to heat. Bake the cookware for one hour at a temperature of 44 degrees Fahrenheit. After it has cooled to the desired temperature, put it away in the cabinet.
If you’re grilling or otherwise cooking acidic items at a high temperature, your seasoning may have to work a bit too hard.
Because of this, a black residue could be left on the surface of the pan.
It is very normal for some of this residue to come off when you are cleaning, so try not to worry about it. It is natural and will go away on its own with consistent usage in the future.
Avoid Using Metal Spatulas
If you use a metal spatula or a scouring pad made of metal on your cast-iron pan, you run the risk of removing the seasoned coating.
Your first objective should be to maintain the integrity of the seasoning. For this reason, you should only use spatulas made of silicone, wood, or plastic while working with cast-iron cookware.
Using the appropriate oil for seasoning will result in a coating that is tougher, more durable, and more effective at preventing sticking on the pan. It is a better idea to make an investment in a high-quality seasoning oil that can be used for a longer period of time than it is to just pour in the next oil that is available.
What is the healthiest oil to season a cast iron skillet?
Grapeseed oil is, in our opinion, the greatest oil for seasoning cast iron, despite the fact that it does not get as much attention as flaxseed oil does. Flaxseed oil is considered to be the best oil for cast iron seasoning.
What’s the best oil to season a cast iron with?
Cast iron may be seasoned with any cooking oil or fat, but Lodge suggests using vegetable oil, melted shortening, or canola oil, such as our Seasoning Spray, since these oils are readily available, affordable, effective, and have a high smoke point.
Can I use extra virgin olive oil to season cast iron?
The Olive Oil. Olive oil is another common alternative for seasoning cast iron since it is likely already present in the kitchen pantries of the vast majority of people. However, since extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point that is quite low, heating it to temperatures that are higher than its normal operating range will cause it to degrade and become rancid.
How long does it take to season cast iron with olive oil?
Put a very tiny quantity of vegetable oil in the pan and spread it about so that it covers all of the surfaces. Put the cast iron pan in the oven on the highest rack with the handle facing down. Bake for about one hour, then remove from the oven and allow stand until totally cool. Repeat as many times as you want, but this time use a very little quantity of olive oil to help polish the finish.
What oils should not be used on cast iron?
Do not use olive oil or butter to season your cast-iron pan. Both of these ingredients are wonderful for cooking, but should not be used to season the pan.