Kitchen Tip: Caring for Cast Iron Cookware

Kitchen Tips & Tricks | 52 comments

Caring for cast iron cookware might seem like a chore, but it’s a chore that doesn’t take as much time as you’d think and is honestly completely worth the time. The first step in caring for a new cast iron pan is seasoning.

Cast iron pans don’t come with that wonderful smooth, dark surface (unless you purchase a pre-seasoned pan) that skillets handed down over generations have. In fact, before seasoning they can be rather rough. Achieving the beautiful patina that your great-grandmother’s pan has can be achieved over time without much work.

how do you season cast iron

Pictured for your visual enjoyment: Cast Iron Pan, enamel coating outside only.

How To Season Cast Iron

1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.

  • Position a rack in the middle of the oven.
  • Place a foil lined baking sheet on the rack beneath the middle rack.

2. Wash your new pan in warm, soapy water. Dry well.

3. Warm the clean, dry pan over medium-low heat on your stove top.

4. Brush 1-2 tablespoons of oil, such as corn, vegetable or grape seed oil over the bottom inside and sides of the pan.

  • There should be just enough oil to evenly cover the surfaces without any excess.
  • Alternatively, some choose to use vegetable shortening, such as Crisco, or food-grade coconut oil to season cast iron.

5. Place the pan upside down in the oven on the middle rack. Bake for an hour.

  • Some people choose not to invert the pan, however. This difference is probably just a matter of personal choice and not right or wrong.
  • After the hour of cooking, turn the heat off and allow the pan to cool inside the oven for an hour.

Seasoning your new pan can be helped along if the first few recipes you cook after the initial seasoning process include the use of oil, such as sauteing an onion or deep frying. Over time the pan will become dark and smooth with a beautiful, natural non-stick finish. Additionally, you can repeat this oven seasoning process.

Why Cook with Cast Iron

There are many advantages to cooking in cast iron. In fact, the only disadvantage that I can think of is that the pans are heavy. A small price to pan for a great piece of cookware.

are there benefits to cooking in cast iron

Seasoned, Nonstick Pan

Besides being beautiful, cast iron pans that have been properly seasoned and cared for can offer you a chemical-free non-stick surface to cook on.

Good Investment Piece

Because they don’t contain a chemical non-stick coating there’s no need to toss out a pan the way you’d toss a Teflon coated pan after a few years. They’re incredibly sturdy, too.

A well-maintained cast iron pan will likely outlive you. For a relatively small price you’ve purchased a pan that you can one day hand down as a family heirloom.

Even Cooking

Sure a cast iron skillet takes longer to heat, it is a wonderful heat conductor – the heat is even and well maintained. Additionally, cast iron is one of my favorites to cook with because it is safely used stove top or in the oven, unlike traditional coated non-stick pans.

Increase Your Iron Consumption

If you suffer from anemia, you may want to consider cooking in cast iron. Evidence suggests that eating food cooked in cast iron will increase the amount of iron in your diet.(source)

Katie Goodman

About the Author:

Katie’s lifelong interest in cooking good food has shown her that part of the goodness in life is enjoying delicious food with friends and family. She is: Mom. Writer. Photographer. Recipe Developer. Website Founder. Lover of all things good in life. A mix of great recipes, family memories, and yummy photography is what Katie serves up each week at GoodLife Eats™. Katie and her family reside in Colorado.

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  • 1
    Lisa {Smart Food & Fit} - February 22, 2011 @ 6:49 am

    I have to buy another cast iron pan. I lost it when we moved into our current house. Great tips!


  • 2
    Jessica @ Delicious Obsessions - February 22, 2011 @ 7:26 am

    Hahahha! This is AWESOME! Just last night, I realized my cast iron skillet is in dire need of seasoning and I had forgotten how to do it! This blog post is PERFECT timing! Thanks!!


  • 3
    brandi - February 22, 2011 @ 7:37 am

    I love my cast iron pans. They belonged to my husband’s grandmother and are my favorite pans in the kitchen – especially for pancakes!


  • 4
    Jess - February 22, 2011 @ 8:07 am

    We used to cook all the time using our cast iron skillet until my doctor said my iron levels were actually too high. First thing she said to do: stop using the cast iron pan!


  • 5
    Michaela - February 22, 2011 @ 9:01 am

    I share a kitchen so I always have to bring my equipment from my room down to the kitchen. I loved my cast iron pan, but it was just too heavy to carry back and forth. I’m looking forward to having my own kitchen next year and buying some good cast iron again.


  • 6
    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction - February 22, 2011 @ 9:34 am

    Great advice! I just started cooking on cast iron last winter, and I absolutely love it.


  • 7
    Amy A. - February 22, 2011 @ 9:41 am

    Can you season with coconut oil? Thanks for the great article!


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — February 22nd, 2011 @ 9:47 AM

      I don’t see why not. Some people use Crisco instead of oil. I have never cooked with coconut oil, but my understanding is that coconut oil is more solid like crisco. Is that right?

      I googled and it looks like some have used coconut oil with good results. I have never tried it but it sounds like a good idea.

    • Amy A. replied: — February 22nd, 2011 @ 9:58 AM

      Yes, it is a solid at room temp; it is a liquid above 75 degrees. I have used Crisco in the past, but I’ve been cooking with coconut oil a lot lately. It is very healthy and very tasty! Thanks for your blog; love it!

  • 8
    Kristen - February 22, 2011 @ 10:13 am

    I love cooking with my vintage cast iron skillets. They truly bring out such great flavor in the food.

    You know… now that I think about it, I’ve never seasoned my Le Creuset pans. For some reason I just assumed they were seasoned and ready to go!


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — February 22nd, 2011 @ 2:21 PM

      Someone else brought up that LC says you don’t need to season their pans. A well seasoned pan is practically non-stick and I didn’t feel that my LC cast iron (not enamel coated) was very stick resistant so I figured I’d give it a try and that it couldn’t hurt.

  • 9
    Melissa B - February 22, 2011 @ 10:26 am

    Any tips on how to properly clean a cast iron pan? My husband and I can’t agree on what’s right! :)


    • shalc replied: — February 23rd, 2011 @ 9:18 AM

      Usually we just wipe it out with a paper towel, or scrub it lightly with just water and thorougly dry – don’t use soap, it’s bad for the seasoned surface.

    • Edie Elfland replied: — October 19th, 2011 @ 12:21 AM

      It’s best never to get it wet. And leave a little film of oil or fat on it when you put it away so it won’t rust. If you ever do need something abrasive to scrub it, table salt works well.

  • 10
    Karen Morris - February 22, 2011 @ 11:29 am

    I love my cast iron cookware. I just feel that when I clean them they are not really clean. Hot water and not soap just doesn’t fit the normal for me. LOL I love to make cornbread in mine but I use it for so many things… like baking a chicken in it.


  • 11
    Brenda @ a farmgirl's dabbles - February 22, 2011 @ 1:23 pm

    I’ve been in on several conversations over the past year where this topic has come up. So, great info! We love using cast iron. Our favorite meal is a big pan of Macho Nachoz. The nachos stay warm while we eat, and the nachos and cheese get a lovely crispness.


  • 12
    heather - February 22, 2011 @ 2:00 pm

    That looks like a Le Creuset cast iron skillet in the photos. Le Creuset claims these particular skillets require no seasoning, but both of ours are discolored on the interior bottom after several times cooking various things — be it to sauté scallops, cook tortillas, etc. Do you recommend we try to season those now, even though irreparable damage may already be done? And do you also think we should automatically season anything cast iron, even if the company says no seasoning is necessary?

    Cheers and thanks,



    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — February 22nd, 2011 @ 2:11 PM

      Not sure. I don’t have a ton of experience with cast iron and I’ve never purchased Lodge brand skillet which is the most widely known pre-seasoned skillet.

      I didn’t realize that Le Creuset says that their cast iron skillets are pre-seasoned. Well seasoned cast iron cooks like a non-stick but I didn’t feel that my LC felt that way so I decided to try seasoning it.

      That probably didn’t really answer your question. I don’t think that additional seasoning would do harm as it is a process that naturally happens over the years. And may at some point need to be done again if something had burnt in the pan and you needed to scrub with soap and water.

  • 13
    Lisa - February 22, 2011 @ 8:44 pm

    I use cast iron for everything! My favs are the Lodge flat one handle griddles. When something burns, just throw it in the oven at 500F for awhile and the burnt crud lifts off. I also use two pans at a time for bread, pizza, etc instead of a stone. Heat them up, put on the bread, pop back in the oven. Wipe with a little oil every so often and they are superior nonstick pans–even for eggs!


  • 14
    TraceyJoy - February 23, 2011 @ 5:35 am

    wonderful tips. I love my cast iron cookware. I really hated that all of grandma pieces were thrown out after she passed (family member didn’t know how valuable they were & how precious they were to me) Anyway I’m slowly but surely gathering my own collection. I do buy Lodge cast iron, which are very heavy and nice. LOVE THEM!!!! The are pre-seasoned, however on my second piece I went ahead and seasoned it my way. It does not hurt the pans at all.

    I used shorting as my method to oil down/season my pans. I will say this any oil that you use your pan will pick up the flavor. When you heat the cast iron you opens up the pores to allow the oil to sink in. Once the pan cools and that layer of oil is in there, it closes the pores. That process gives you the patina aka the pretty black coating. The next time you heat the pores open and the flavors (oils) that are in your pan will be released. If you use olive oil or coconut oil all your food will have that flavor. That is why I use a plain shorting so that the flavor is always even no matter what you cook.

    Hope this helps, nice job Katie. Cast Iron is the best.


  • 15
    heather - February 23, 2011 @ 6:51 am

    Great, thanks for your reply, Katie. I’ll season those up then, b/c like you, I do not feel like they cook as nonstick would at all.



  • 16
    Trysha - February 23, 2011 @ 9:04 am

    I love my cast iron pans! I have one that was my grandma’s and it has a heavy cast iron lid. It makes the perfect papitas.


  • 17
    kate@ahealthypassion - February 23, 2011 @ 9:05 am

    thanks for the info I have a cast iron pan that I have never used and want to season it!


  • 18
    Amanda P - February 23, 2011 @ 10:51 am

    Thank you for the information! You have a great blog, it is always a nice read and good recipes. The mushroom picture above looks delicious, do you have a recipe?


  • 19
    Kristen - February 23, 2011 @ 11:47 am

    Any tips on how to bring back a cast iron pan that was forgotten about and allowed to rust?


    • Drew replied: — February 24th, 2011 @ 1:00 PM

      Kristen, Depends on how badly its rusted. If its just surface rust (Whats most likely), then a steel wool pad, some soap, and water should get it all off. Dry it off and season it with the method above as soon as possible….That all there is to it.

  • 20
    candela - February 23, 2011 @ 12:40 pm

    Hi Katie,
    I read your blog every day, it’s wonderful.( I follow you by mail.)
    Almost a year ago I bought MY first Lodge Cast Iron Skillet, I’m so happy! I’m in Italy and here it’s not so usual to find them…so It’s my piece of jewerly, with my Kitchen Aid.
    Katie, excuse me for my English.
    Your recipes and photos are so inspiring,thank you! :)


  • 21
    Tracy - February 23, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

    Wonderful tips! My cast iron skillet I got for Christmas is still sitting in the pantry…I definitely need to break it out!


  • 22
    Happy When Not Hungry - February 23, 2011 @ 3:38 pm

    Thanks for the useful tips!!!


  • 23
    TheGourmetCoffeeGuy - February 23, 2011 @ 8:53 pm

    Wow! An amazing post.
    Extremely useful tips.
    Thank you so much.


  • 24
    Candace - February 26, 2011 @ 8:34 pm

    I only use cast iron and love it. I season mine with REAL lard……leaf lard rendered from pigs….not the hydrogenated stuff (it’ll ill ya). Anyhooo, it works beautifully and my pans are working on the glorious patina :)


  • 25
    Wendy - March 07, 2011 @ 6:45 pm

    I store my cast iron pan in the oven to prevent any moisture from rusting pan. When preheating the oven for other uses, I tend to forget to take it out. I figure it just adds to the “seasoning”. Also, I use virgin coconut oil in my pan, I cook with it so the worry of my food “tasting” like the oil is irrelevent. Be sure you use an oil that is stable at very high temps. ENJOY!


  • 26
    Heidi - March 10, 2011 @ 2:44 pm

    I also wondered if that was a LC pan in your picture. I bought 2 of them and have hated them! Now I’m wondering if it’s just because they need to be seasoned. I’m going to try it and see because I’ve never had food stick so bad to pans and for the amount of money I paid for them it hasn’t made me very happy.
    Once you season them are you not supposed to wash them with soap and water anymore? Thank you for this post, I love your blog!


  • 27
    jennifer - March 15, 2011 @ 11:59 am

    I recently seasoned 3 old cast iron pans after reading about it in an ‘Americas Test Kitchen’ article. They said to use Flaxseed oil for an amazing finish. OMG! It’s the best and most slick surface! Absolutely perfect! Holds up longer and better than veggie oil. They said to repeat the whole process 6 times for best surface. I gave up after 5 and mine are all top notch!


  • 28
    Sandi - March 18, 2011 @ 7:51 am

    I have two very old cast iron pots and they have wooden handles. Any suggestion for seasoning them???


  • 29
    Melissa - March 20, 2011 @ 9:42 am

    I purchased a seasoned Log Cast Iron pan a while back and used it a couple of times and everything would stick to it!! It now sits in our oven and not being used. Do you think that reasoning it will help? What is the care after using your cast iron pan. I noticed some of your readers are saying you don’t wash with soap and water. How do you clean them?


    • Crys replied: — April 6th, 2011 @ 9:58 AM

      You are correct…NO SOAP. Really hot water and a kitchen brush. After you remove your food, pour some water in the hot pan, leaving it on the stove. After you have enjoyed your dinner and do the dishes it will be a snap to clean.

    • Connie replied: — January 21st, 2012 @ 10:24 PM

      After you clean your cast iron cookware with hot water and dry them you should wipe them down with a little crisco, lard, or spray a little pam on them and wipe it in. Also it is better if you put newspaper or a paper towel between the pan and lids or other pans if stacking them for storage. I don’t think you can over season cast iron. They just get better and better every time.

  • 30
    Cindy - March 22, 2011 @ 2:13 pm

    i tried to fry an egg and it stuck. what did i do wrong?


    • Crys replied: — April 6th, 2011 @ 9:59 AM

      Let you pan get warm before you add your oil or butter.

  • 31
    Trysha - March 28, 2011 @ 8:18 pm

    Ever since you posted this I was reminded to start using my newer cast iron skillet to build up to that nice patina. The grease from the bacon and sausage has been helping. Not quite to the non-stick surface of my grandma’s skillet yet, but it will get there.


  • 32
    Ana - February 16, 2012 @ 1:43 pm

    Help! In the process of trying to be helpful, my brother washed my cast iron skillet and put it on the burner to dry and forgot about it. An hour or so later, when I discovered it still heating, I noticed it was discolored (rusty). After letting it cool, I cleaned and re-seasoned it. However, when I fried potatoes they came out grayish. I’ve since re-washed and re-seasoned it several times but there is still a grayish color on the food which I’ve thrown away. I don’t want to throw the pan away, but I feel that the food cooked is not safe to eat. Any suggestions?


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — February 16th, 2012 @ 4:27 PM

      Wow…I’m coming up blank. I’ve never had that experience before and my helpful husband has a couple times accidentally washed my cast iron skillet with soap. Sorry!

    • Marti replied: — February 22nd, 2012 @ 12:59 PM

      Ana, try frying some potatoes (lots of oil) or something – it’s just not seasoned enough (I had the same problem with my “rescued” cast iron pans… it just needs to be used a bit and that grey will wear off.

  • 33
    Cynthia Comeaux - March 03, 2012 @ 7:34 pm

    Every single time we use our cast-iron skillets (I have two sizes), we wash with hot water, never with soap. If it needs scraping, use a nylon scraper. Dry. Place on stove-top, rub down well with oil (we use coconut oil), turn heat to low and leave for 10 minutes. Cool, wipe with a paper towel, put away. Do this every time. Your pan will be gorgeous and completely non-stick. We took ours camping one time and it got weird – we just repeated this process and it got wonderful again.


  • 34
    Jo Nosbisch - March 30, 2012 @ 3:53 am

    Hi I am a 71 yr.young Grandmother and I have 2- Iron frying skillets & 1- large chicken fryer and 2- small skillet for eggs (or a one person pan:) They belonged to my Grandmother,my Mother and now I have them & LOVE them. I gave the Large Dutch oven w/lid to my son and he uses it on his wood stove.. just keeping in the family..


  • 35
    Bracken - July 02, 2012 @ 9:22 pm

    I have one of those flat glass top /ceramic stoves…..other than worrying about placing the pan carefully on the burner so as not to break it from the weight of the cast iron pan, is it safe to use on that type of stove? Are there things to consider in using a cast iron pan on a glass top that you wouldn’t with other type pans?


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — August 6th, 2012 @ 6:37 AM

      Sorry, I don’t have any experience with those type of stovetops. I have always cooked on gas. I would consult the manufacturer to find out their recommendations.

    • Dom replied: — August 11th, 2012 @ 8:00 AM

      Hi – I used my Le cresuet ware for years on a glass top stove, without any problems. But I have a few tips:

      - never drag the pan across the glass as it can scratch the oven top and is not very safe for you either, always lift it and replace in gently on a new burner.
      - be aware of the type of stove you have, Vitro-ceramic burners take a while to heat up, but that is fine as it is always better to warm cast iron gently so the heat is evenly distributed. Induction stoves (which use magnetic fields to generate heat directly in the cast iron itself) have a lot of the immediate advantages of cooking on a gas stove; it is still best, however, to gradually heat the pans up – since rapidly raising and lowering the temperature will create to spots in the pan surface. This is not really dangerous, searing meat for a stew for example, but you need to give the pan time for the heat to distribute itself more evenly once searing is done.

  • 36
    Bill - October 17, 2012 @ 7:43 am

    Hi Katie, new food blogger here and just discovered your blog. You’ve done a great job. I just read this post and I agree with you about cast iron. It’s a great way to cook and I have one of every size. I’ll definitely be following your blog. Thanks for sharing!


  • 37
    sarah - October 25, 2012 @ 5:54 pm

    Found out that the reason most people say to put the pan in the oven upside-down for seasoning is to prevent pooling of the oil or lard in the bottom of the pan. Just FYI.


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