Plus, we're sharing tips on preserving the condition of this essential piece of cookware along the way.

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cast iron skillet on slate surface
Credit: YelenaYemchuk / Getty Images

For anyone who takes their time in the kitchen seriously, one of the best tools to keep on hand is a cast-iron skillet. Its efficiency is unrivaled, and, like some wine, it gets better the longer you keep it. Cast iron's value for cookware is two-fold: It conducts heat consistently and evenly, and, if seasoned and maintained properly, it becomes naturally nonstick. Some brands preseason their products, but typically this is something the home cook does before using a cast-iron skillet. Here, we explain how to season this type of pan and keep the kitchen essential in top shape over time.

Seasoning

Prepping your cast-iron pan "gives your cookware the classic black patina that we all know and love," Kris Stubblefield, a chef at Lodge Cast Iron, says. "Seasoning forms a natural, easy-release cooking surface and helps prevent your cookware from rusting." The steps are easy to follow, too. To season a cast-iron skillet, first preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash the skillet with warm, soapy water, and then dry it thoroughly with a lint free cloth or paper towel. Stubblefield says to continue by applying a thin layer of cooking oil (he recommends canola oil) to the surface of your cookware (inside and out including the handles).

One important note: Coating with too much oil could cause your cookware to get sticky. We also don't recommend using vegetable oil since this could leave a sticky film on the cast iron. Complete the seasoning process by baking your cookware upside down at 450 degrees Fahrenheit in the oven for one hour. Let it cool in the oven, then the skillet is ready to use.

Maintaining  

Stubblefield explains that the best way to maintain seasoning on a cast-iron skillet is to use the pan regularly: "When oil is heated in cast iron, it bonds with the metal through a process called polymerization, which creates a layer of seasoning," he says. You can also sustain the seasoned skillet by making sure it's dried completely after each use. When you first obtain your skillet, it's a good idea to use it for cooking bacon and fried eggs, frying in oil, or other techniques involving fat, which helps strengthen the seasoning. Over time, you will have to occasionally re-season; especially if you cook acidic foods in the skillet, as they can erode the seasoning.

When your seasoning does end up becoming dull, gray, or food begins to stick, that's a sign it's time to add another layer of seasoning. Follow the instructions above to re-season your cast-iron skillet.

Comments (3)

Martha Stewart Member
July 8, 2019
Martha, thank you! I have several pieces of cast iron, which I take good care of; however, I have a question for which I can't seem to find an answer. I recently bought some stainless cookware and I haven't used it yet because I am wondering if I should/could season it. While we are on the topic, is it possible to also season the rings and drip pans on my stove to prevent food and spills from sticking?
Martha Stewart Member
March 15, 2019
I let food sit in my skillet overnight and now you can see the imprint of the country style steak pieces. I have seasoned it for about 4 months now and it hasn't gone away. Any suggestions, or have I ruined it?
Martha Stewart Member
July 11, 2018
Question, can you use your gas grill to season vs the oven?