Sheryl Canter

Chemistry of Cast Iron Seasoning: A Science-Based How-To

The post after this one on “black rust” describes why you should heat the pan before applying oil for seasoning. This helps the seasoning to adhere and makes the pan pleasantly black.

http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/02/black-rust-and-cast-iron-seasoning/


In a previous post, I illustrated how I cleaned and reseasoned an antique cast iron popover pan. This was my first attempt, and my seasoning technique was somewhat haphazard because I couldn’t find consistent, science-based advice. I used a combination of organic avocado oil and strained drippings from organic bacon. This worked pretty well on the popover pan, which doesn’t have a polished surface. But the smooth inner surface of a skillet showed an unevenness of color and texture, and the seasoning wasn’t hard enough. It was too easily marred by cooking utensils or scraping against oven racks.

I wanted to understand the chemistry behind seasoning so I’d know how to fix this, but there is nothing that addresses this issue directly. A Web page on cast iron posted by someone similarly obsessed with the science gave me two crucial clues, the phrases “polymerized fat” and “drying oil”. From there I was able to find the relevant scientific literature and put the pieces together.

The pictures below are both of the same antique cast iron skillet. The “before” close-up on the left is from a picture of the skillet in my previous blog post on making German Pancakes. I stripped the pan with oven cleaner and reseasoned it based on my new understanding. The “after” close-up on the right shows the result.

Griswold skillet closeups: old seasoning on left, new seasoning on right

Griswold skillet closeups: old seasoning on left, new seasoning on right

Start With the Right Oil (It’s Not What You Think)

I’ve read dozens of Web pages on how to season cast iron, and there is no consensus in the advice. Some say vegetable oils leave a sticky surface and to only use lard. Some say animal fat gives a surface that is too soft and to only use vegetable oils. Some say corn oil is the only fat to use, or Crisco, or olive oil. Some recommend bacon drippings since lard is no longer readily available. Some say you must use a saturated fat – that is, a fat that is solid at room temperature, whether it’s animal or vegetable (palm oil, coconut oil, Crisco, lard). Some say never use butter. Some say butter is fine. Some swear by Pam (spray-on canola oil with additives). Some say the additives in Pam leave a residue at high temperatures and pure canola oil is best. Some say it doesn’t matter what oil you use.

They are all wrong. It does matter what oil you use, and the oil that gives the best results is not in this list. So what is it? Here are some hints: What oil do artists mix with pigment for a high quality oil paint that dries hard and glassy on the canvas? What oil is commonly used by woodturners to give their sculptures a protective, soft-sheen finish? It’s the same oil. Now what is the food-grade equivalent of this oil?

The oil used by artists and woodturners is linseed oil. The food-grade equivalent is called flaxseed oil. This oil is ideal for seasoning cast iron for the same reason it’s an ideal base for oil paint and wood finishes. It’s a “drying oil”, which means it can transform into a hard, tough film. This doesn’t happen through “drying” in the sense of losing moisture through evaporation. The term is actually a misnomer. The transformation is through a chemical process called “polymerization”.

The seasoning on cast iron is formed by fat polymerization, fat polymerization is maximized with a drying oil, and flaxseed oil is the only drying oil that’s edible. From that I deduced that flaxseed oil would be the ideal oil for seasoning cast iron.

As a reality check of this theory, I googled “season cast iron with flaxseed oil” to see what came up. The very first hit is a page written by a guy who seasons his cast iron cookware with linseed oil from the hardware store because it gives the hardest surface of anything he’s tried. (I’m not sure how safe that is; I don’t recommend it.) Below that were several sites selling traditional cast iron cookware from China, which they advertise as being “preseasoned with high quality flax oil”. I don’t know whether they really use food-grade flaxseed oil (which is expensive) or linseed oil from a hardware store. What’s significant is the claim. Seasoning with high quality flaxseed oil is something to brag about.

With this encouragement, I stripped one of my skillets and reseasoned it with flaxseed oil. As you can see in the picture above, the result was a dramatic improvement. The finish is smooth, hard, and evenly colored.

Seasoning Is Not Cooking: Different Principles Apply

The first time I seasoned a pan I chose avocado oil because it’s monounsaturated and doesn’t easily go rancid. It also has the highest smoke point of any edible oil, 520°F, so I could heat it in a 450°F oven without passing the smoke point. I knew that when cooking, you should never heat an oil past its smoke point because that causes the release of “free radicals”, which are carcinogenic. I was careful not to choose a polyunsaturated oil – and especially not an oil high in omega-3 fatty acids – because these are especially vulnerable to breakdown with heat and the release of free radicals.

Ironically, it’s for exactly these reasons that the best oil for seasoning cast iron is an oil high in omega-3 fatty acids – in particular, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Free radicals are actually what enable the polymerization. Drying oils, which produce the hardest polymers, are characterized by high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially the omega-3 fatty acid ALA.

The lard that was traditionally used for seasoning 100 years ago was much higher in ALA than fat from pigs today, because back then pigs ate their natural diet. Today they are raised on industrial feedlots and forced to eat grain, making their fat low in omega-3s.

Since lard is traditional but no longer readily available, many people substitute bacon drippings, but this is a bad idea. If it’s conventional bacon, you’re baking in carcinogenic nitrates. But even organic bacon is not good for an initial seasoning because it’s filled with salt.

The reason that Pam seems to work well in seasoning is that its main ingredient is canola oil, which is relatively high in ALA (10%), making it a “semi-drying oil”. Flaxseed oil, a drying oil, is 57% ALA. But it’s not a good idea to use a spray oil, no matter what oil it’s made with, because of its additives. You’re doing chemistry here. If you want good results, use pure ingredients.

Fat polymerization can be triggered or accelerated in a variety of ways. As best I can tell from my reading, the cast iron seasoning process is an example of “radical polymerization”. The process is initiated when something causes the release of free radicals in the oil. The free radicals then “crosslink” to form the tough, hard film you see in a well-seasoned pan.

So what is the “something” that initiates the release of free radicals in fat? Iron, for one thing. High heat, light, and oxygen, for some others. To prevent cooking oils from going rancid – i.e., breaking down and releasing free radicals – you need to store them in dark, tightly sealed containers in a cool location. To initiate or accelerate the release of free radicals, put the oil in contact with bare iron and heat it above its smoke point, which will cause even non-drying oils to release free radicals.

I haven’t defined “free radical” or “crosslink” because that gets into details of chemistry that you don’t need to understand to season a cast iron pan. All you need to know is that the molecular structure of the oil changes and becomes something else, something tough and solid. The process is initiated with the release of free radicals, which then become crosslinked, creating a hard surface.

Free radicals are carcinogenic inside your body, and also a cause of aging. So don’t ever heat oil you’re going to eat above its smoke point. If the oil starts to smoke, toss it out and start again. When you’re seasoning a pan, you’re not cooking food. By the time the seasoned pan comes out of the oven, there are no more free radicals.

The Recipe for Perfect Cast Iron Seasoning

The basic idea is this: Smear a food-grade drying oil onto a cast iron pan, and then bake it above the oil’s smoke point. This will initiate the release of free radicals and polymerization. The more drying the oil, the harder the polymer. So start with the right oil.

Go to your local health food store or organic grocery and buy a bottle of flaxseed oil. It’s sold as an omega-3 supplement and it’s in the refrigeration section because it goes rancid so easily. Check the expiration date to make sure it’s not already rancid. Buy an organic flaxseed oil. You don’t want to burn toxic chemicals into your cookware to leach out forever more. It’s a fairly expensive oil. I paid $17 for a 17 ounce bottle of cold-pressed, unrefined, organic flaxseed oil. As it says on the bottle, shake it before you use it.

Strip your pan down to the iron using the techniques I describe in my popover post. Heat the pan in a 200°F oven to be sure it’s bone dry and to open the pores of the iron a little. Then put it on a paper towel, pour a little flaxseed oil on it (don’t forget to shake the bottle), and rub the oil all over the pan with your hands, making sure to get into every nook and cranny. Your hands and the pan will be nice and oily.

Now rub it all off. Yup – all. All. Rub it off with paper towels or a cotton cloth until it looks like there is nothing left on the surface. There actually is oil left on the surface, it’s just very thin. The pan should look dry, not glistening with oil. Put the pan upside down in a cold oven. Most instructions say to put aluminum foil under it to catch any drips, but if your oil coating is as thin as it should be, there won’t be any drips.

Turn the oven to a baking temperature of 500°F (or as high as your oven goes – mine only goes to 450°F) and let the pan preheat with the oven. When it reaches temperature, set the timer for an hour. After an hour, turn off the oven but do not open the oven door. Let it cool off with the pan inside for two hours, at which point it’s cool enough to handle.

The pan will come out of the oven a little darker, but matte in texture – not the semi-gloss you’re aiming for. It needs more coats. In fact, it needs at least six coats. So again rub on the oil, wipe it off, put it in the cold oven, let it preheat, bake for an hour, and let it cool in the oven for two hours. The picture above was taken after six coats of seasoning. At that point it starts to develop a bit of a sheen and the pan is ready for use.

If you try this, you will be tempted to use a thicker coat of oil to speed up the process. Don’t do it. It just gets you an uneven surface – or worse, baked on drips. Been there, done that. You can’t speed up the process. If you try, you’ll mess up the pan and have to start over.

The reason for the very hot oven is to be sure the temperature is above the oil’s smoke point, and to maximally accelerate the release of free radicals. Unrefined flaxseed oil actually has the lowest smoke point of any oil (see this table). But the higher the temperature the more it will smoke, and that’s good for seasoning (though bad for eating – do not let oils smoke during cooking).

I mentioned earlier there’s a myth floating around that vegetable oils leave a sticky residue. If the pan comes out of the oven sticky, the cause is one of three things:

  • You put the oil on too thick.
  • Your oven temperature was too low.
  • Your baking time was too short.

It’s possible to use a suboptimal oil for seasoning, like Crisco or bacon drippings, and still end up with a usable pan. Many (most) people do this. But the seasoning will be relatively soft, not as nonstick, and will tend to wear off. If you want the hardest, slickest seasoning possible, use the right oil: flaxseed oil.

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492 Comments

  1. Kyle:

    Very interesting post Sheryl!

    I have a question though: I was under the impression that once you heat an oil to much past the heat point and it’s done polymerizing it begins to carbonize, loosing the slick surface were after. If that’s the case wouldn’t the flax seed oil have to low of a smoke point, and baking it at 400 degrees bake it past the polymer stage?

  2. Sheryl Canter:

    Hi Kyle. Temperatures have to be way above 400-500 degrees to burn off polymerized fat. You can observe that just with the spatter mess that builds up in an oven. That’s polymerized fat. Once the chemical conversion to polymer has taken place, it’s not oil anymore and has a different burning point. A self-cleaning oven will burn the seasoning off cast iron (and the polymerized fat in the oven itself), but that’s 900-950 degrees.

  3. Josh:

    A more direct measurement of an oil’s ability to polymerize is its iodine value. In a nutshell, this measures how much iodine an oil can absorb, which in turn is an indication of how many bonding sites are available for polymerization.

    Now, you’re certainly heading down the right path with linseed oil, with an iodine value of around 185. Fish oils like sardine are up there too. (I’m sure you’ve heard that oily fish like salmon and sardines are rich in omega-3s.) The best oil available for cheap at any grocery store is soybean oil, with an iodine value around 130.

    A couple links:

    http://www.journeytoforever.org/biodiesel_yield.html#highiodine

    http://vegburner.co.uk/oils.htm

  4. Sheryl Canter:

    Hi Josh. I’d read about iodine values, but it was just one more thing to explain in an article that was already long, so I left it out (though you explained it very succinctly!).

    Thanks for the links. I wish canola oil was in the table with the iodine values. I’m pretty sure that’s higher than soy oil. I found a link with another table at one point, but I can’t find it again to save my life. Both canola and soy oils are semi-drying. But yes, soy is cheaper, mostly because of the massive government subsidies for corn and soy (but don’t get me started on that…).

  5. Josh:

    Actually, canola is in all those tables – it’s also known under the less marketing-friendly name rapeseed oil. :)

  6. Sheryl Canter:

    Ah – there it is. I was skimming for the letter “c” (which I think is for “Canada”, isn’t it?).

    Interesting – soy oil has a higher iodine value than canola. I knew sunflower oil was high because I’ve seen it mentioned in research papers on polymerization. But sunflower oil is very high in omega-6s and low in omega-3s, as I recall. So you’re right – omega-3 content is not the most direct measure!

    Someone sent me a link yesterday that talked about the importance of carbon being bound up in the polymerized fat for slickness, but I don’t understand why that would make a difference. Polymerized fat is already very hard and slick. Someone just stated it in a forum post without explaining why, so I don’t know if it’s true.

  7. Chris:

    Sheryl,
    Thanks for this. I am trying it out right now and I followed all your directions. My first coat came out gray with black spots. It looks dry, almost as if I didn’t season it except there are those spots. I did bake it at 550 for an hour. Also, I used a very thin coat of canola oil to keep it from rusting after I cleaned it initially. My flaxseed oil is filtered, cold-pressed from whole foods. I tried another coat this morning and it is cooling in the oven now. Do I need to start over? Thanks!

  8. Sheryl Canter:

    Chris,

    It almost sounds like the pan wasn’t completely dry before you oiled it. I always dry the pan for a few minutes in a 200 degree oven before oiling, to make sure it starts out bone dry. Do you think it might have been damp when you put on the oil?

    - Sheryl

  9. Chris:

    Sheryl,
    Actually, yes it may have been damp. I did dry it with a towel, but I didn’t put it in the oven before putting the canola oil on after my initial cleaning. I did put it in the oven at 200 before doing the flaxseed oil regiment.

  10. Sheryl Canter:

    That’s definitely the problem, then. Water will prevent the oil from adhering. You also could get rust beneath the seasoning if the pan wasn’t completely dry. That could ruin it, so I’d strip it again, make sure it’s bone dry (at least 10 minutes in a 200 degree oven), and then oil it for seasoning.

    Or better yet, heat it stripped and unoiled in a hot (450 degree) oven for an hour to darken the pan with what I believe is “black rust”. I’ve started doing this. Just did it, in fact – the pan is still in the oven. Here’s a link with more info about black rust:

    http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/02/black-rust-and-cast-iron-seasoning/

  11. Chris:

    Thanks, stripped it down using the self-cleaning oven method this time, the lye is just too gross. It worked much better and faster! I just finished wiping all the ash off and put it in vinegar and water then rinsed with soda water and then regular water. Now it is in the oven baking at 450 for an hour. We’ll see if it works!

  12. Sheryl Canter:

    I don’t have a self-cleaning oven. But even if I did, I’d be a little nervous about using it because the high heat could warp the pan. I use oven cleaner with lye. I hated doing it at first because the lye made me so nervous, but after having done it a bunch of times now, it’s no big deal. It takes just a minute to spray it, I seal it in a plastic bag for a couple days, then rinse it off and give it a quick wash. Usually it doesn’t require much more than that.

    I just seasoned a new gem pan yesterday – or rather, new to me. The pan was made by Griswold between 1890-1910, and it’s in great condition. I did the one-hour at 450 thing (no oil), then three coats of flaxseed oil. The only time I put the oil on hot rather than letting the pan cool in the oven first was after the initial no-oil baking. I have an idea this opens the pores of the iron, but I can’t say for sure that’s true. In any case, the pan came out great. Here are pictures, taken right after I finished seasoning it (no additional oil afterwards – this is the natural sheen from the seasoning). Today I made oatmeal scones in the pan and they slid right out.

    Griswold Gem #1, top

    Griswold Gem #1, top

  13. Chris:

    nice! I did the bake at 450 for an hour today on a bare pan and it did darken. I wiped some flaxseed oil on it after it cooled enough to handle and the paper towels keep on looking like they have stuff on them. They get grey on them from the inside of the pan and they get brown stuff from the outside. Is this normal?

  14. Sheryl Canter:

    > I wiped some flaxseed oil on it after it cooled enough to handle and the paper towels keep on looking like they have stuff on them. They get grey on them from the inside of the pan and they get brown stuff from the outside. Is this normal?

    Yes, that’s normal for naked iron. What you’re actually seeing is iron, rubbing off onto the paper towel. If it’s slightly brownish, there might be some flash rust mixed in. Once it has a layer of seasoning, this no longer happens.

  15. katie:

    just curious . . . can you use lard, if you have it? I rendered some pork fat and was going to use that. It’s what my great Grandma swore by?

  16. Sheryl Canter:

    Sure, lard is fine. If it’s from naturally fed pigs like your grandmother had access to, even better. Naturally fed pigs have fat that’s higher in omega-3s and produces a harder seasoning.

    Really any fat will work fine as long as it doesn’t have a lot of additives (like bacon fat does). Some fats produce a harder seasoning than others, that’s all.

    Don’t forget to heat the pan first, as described in the next post. This is important.

    http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/02/black-rust-and-cast-iron-seasoning/

  17. John:

    Great read! I’m having problems finding flaxseed oil. I prefer to buy on the internet because of my rural location. This is an Amazon search and I would like to know if any or all of these are the right thing to buy: http://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=sr_nr_n_0?rh=n%3A16310101%2Ck%3Aflaxseed+oil%2Cp_76%3A1249146011%2Cn%3A%2116310211%2Cn%3A123382011&bbn=16310211&keywords=flaxseed+oil&ie=UTF8&qid=1267464416&rnid=16310211

    Thanks!

  18. Sheryl Canter:

    Hi John,

    Any food grade flax oil is fine – the one you link to is fine. Just don’t use linseed oil from a hardware store!

    - Sheryl

  19. Jill:

    Hello Sheryl,
    I have loved reading your entries about your experiments with cast iron cookware. I have enjoyed them so much that I have bid on a few Griswold items on ebay and hope to have a few pieces soon! I am excited to begin the cleaning/seasoning process.

    Once your cast iron cookware has been seasoned, how do you clean it after cooking a meal? I read that a lot of people never use detergent while others say detergent is okay. Do you re-oil after cleaning?

    Thanks for all the great information.

  20. Sheryl Canter:

    Somebody posted some great feedback on this seasoning method in another forum. I’ll quote the message, and also link to it:

    http://www.permies.com/bb/index.php?topic=3385.msg28406#msg28406

    Paul, after reading/following your cast iron thread I was still using a sticking cast iron skillet, because everything I had tried didn’t work, I don’t know what I was doing different than others, but I tried everything.

    I followed the link you posted to Sheryl’s Blog -
    http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/01/a-science-based-technique-for-seasoning-cast-iron/
    http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/02/black-rust-and-cast-iron-seasoning/

    The article titles are at the end of these URL’s

    I followed her directions and now have the nicest, slick black finish on my pans ever! They look better than they did when purchased, and we are making pancakes again for the first time in years…. I’m a happy camper to say the least.

    I used the health store flax seed oil – it works great. I do not see why you are having trouble excepting it’s use for this purpose. I now love cooking with my cast iron, but most important I’m not afraid to use it, I know I can easily re-season it should the need ever pop up again.

  21. Sheryl Canter:

    > Once your cast iron cookware has been seasoned, how do you clean it after cooking a meal? I read that a lot of people never use detergent while others say detergent is okay. Do you re-oil after cleaning?

    Hi, Jill. Glad you liked the articles!

    I handwash my cast iron cookware with dish soap and a nylon sponge (nothing abrasive). I towel it dry, stick it in the oven, set the temperature to 200 degrees, and leave it in there until it’s bone dry (just a few minutes). Then I take it out and lightly oil it with avocado oil, which is highly monounsaturated and won’t go rancid. Olive oil would work, too.

    If you have burned on food that’s stuck really badly, boil water in the pan and it will loosen. I have a cast iron grill that got really badly caked with burned whatever and I got it loose without any scrubbing by boiling washing soda mixed with water. Washing soda is like baking soda, but stronger. It’s next to the clothes soap in the store.

    I don’t know where people get the idea that washing with dish soap will remove seasoning. It’s very difficult to remove seasoning – you need oven cleaner with lye. Dish soap doesn’t harm the seasoning at all.

  22. Myra:

    Sheryl,

    I just stumbled on your site and am so fascinated with this post. I would love to try it. I just bought a Griswold from that looks very clean and smooth, although I see some minor marks (probably from cooking with a fork?). I want the completely smooth surface you have with your pan. Again the skillet is very clean. Do you think I need to strip with oven cleaner before re-seasoning using your method?

    Thanks,
    Myra

  23. Sheryl Canter:

    Hi Myra. Seasoning won’t remove imperfections in the iron itself.

  24. anatoliy:

    Hi Sheryl,

    Glad that I found this post before seasoning my cast iron. I followed your instructions starting from the “black rust cast iron seasoning” and my first coat with unrefined flax oil came out perfect. However after my second coat, there were patches, for lack of a better description, of dark yellow-extreamly sticky-goo. After scratching at it, much of the rim started to peel off.

    I had preheated the pan, and it was completely dry before rubbing the oil onto it. I left the pan in the oven at 450 for an hour and let it cool for 2 hrs in the oven as per your instructions. I tried washing off the residue, and noticed that the pan smoked aggressively when placed on a burner to dry. Any ideas on where I went wrong?

  25. Reid:

    Hi Sheryl,
    I don’t mind the possibility of losing a $16 lodge skillet to a self cleaning oven over the mess of soaking with oven cleaner for days. Was wondering if, in your opinion, the water/vinegar and the black rust process would be necessary after the high heat?

  26. Sheryl Canter:

    > However after my second coat, there were patches, for lack of a better description, of dark yellow-extreamly sticky-goo. After scratching at it, much of the rim started to peel off.

    You put the oil on too thick. That never works – you can’t speed up the process this way. It just forces you to start over. You have to use the thinest coats of oil possible. Wipe it on, then take a dry paper towel and wipe it off until the pan looks dry. There is still oil on it – it’s just a very thin coat. That’s how thin it needs to be for seasoning.

    > Was wondering if, in your opinion, the water/vinegar and the black rust process would be necessary after the high heat?

    Vinegar is only to remove heavy rust – too much rust to scrub off with steel wool cleaning pads. I don’t know if self-cleaning ovens remove rust. I never tried one. But if it’s a Lodge pan that’s got the original gunk on it, it’s probably not rusty so why would you need vinegar? Vinegar – even diluted 50/50 with water – can damage cast iron. You only use it as a last resort to remove significant rust. No rust, no vinegar! I only had to use the vinegar solution on one pan. The rest had little or no rust.

    I recommend always heating the pan first before applying the oil. It helps the seasoning to adhere.

  27. John:

    Very thorough analysis Sheryl, much appreciated.

    I also noticed, like anatoliy mentioned, that my pan begins to smoke when placed on a hot burner. I typically like to get my pan nice and hot before searing a steak, and an not sure if I’m overheating it or if the pan is not meant to be used at high temperatures.

    After keeping the pan on high heat, (maybe a 15-20seconds) I noticed that the colour on the bottom and the inside bottom turned a lightish grey colour, almost like the seasoning evaporated in patches.

    I would very much appreciate any thoughts.

  28. Gloria:

    Sheryl,
    I want to season a new carbon steel wok. I would like to do it in the oven. I am wondering if the same oil and technique will work as will the cast iron skillets? You said the iron in the pan helped to create the hard finish, is there another oil that works better on carbon steel?

    Also i have several old cast iron skillets that I am using. Can I just start using some flaxseed oil on them? or do i need to strip them first?

    And someone mentioned using Soy oil as it was high in the iodine test. You said it was semi-drying. I assume you are still using the flaxseed oil because it gives a superior finish?
    thank you,
    Gloria

  29. Dimitri:

    Hi Sheryl:
    I’m wondering how those 6+ layers of flaxseed oil will make any difference, if they’re going to be covered up anyway, over the natural course of time, with seasoning from the fat that will be cooked in the pan.

    Ultimately, what’s the difference?

    BTW, love your blog. I’m new to cast iron and have found it very informative.

  30. Paul:

    Sheryl,

    What a terrific blog! Thanks for doing this.

    I have a question: I used your method on a fairly new (but not completely stripped; it had some patchy seasoning from minimal use ) browne-halcon skillet. Over several days I put 6 or 7 coats on. I have been using it for the last few days. Tonight, after making fajitas in it I noticed what looked like patches where the seasoning had worn off. Assuming I followed your directions accurately (big assumption), is this possible? Does the pan need to be stripped clean to season properly, or can one simply re-season right over existing?

  31. Dimitri:

    @Paul:
    I’m not sure if Sheryl is still responding to these posts. Maybe she’s busy with other experiments. But I’ll take a stab at your question:

    I think it’s important to strip the seasoning first.

    It’s incredibly easy to do so, by putting your skillet (face down) into your oven, and running it through a clean cycle. Done!

    You may also wish to put some good, thick aluminum foil on the bottom rack, to catch the old seasoning.

    Some folks suggest putting the foil directly on the oven floor, but that risks having it melt (that’s what happened to me anyway).

    Hope that helped.
    D

  32. cal:

    Dear sheryl,

    I bought a brand new oval cast iron hibachi griller which i suspect is not pre seasoned. The whole construction is black but doesn’t look as shiny or glossy as the Lodge logic hibachis (preseasoned, much more expensive than mine). It is also rough to the touch. What are my options? should i sand it down until all the black coating is off and then season it myself? or should i just give it a quick wash and just season on top of the already present black coating?

  33. Sheryl Canter:

    Some quick responses (true I’ve been pretty busy lately)…

    > I also noticed, like anatoliy mentioned, that my pan begins to smoke when placed on a hot burner. I typically like to get my pan nice and hot before searing a steak, and an not sure if I’m overheating it or if the pan is not meant to be used at high temperatures.

    I don’t know what’s happening to your seasoning. I do know that you don’t need to heat cast iron to a very high temp – sounds like you are overheating the pan. Cast iron holds heat very well – you don’t have to use very high heat. Also, are you aware that burned meat is carcinogenic?

    Re another comment… I always strip pans before seasoning. Who knows what’s on there – better to get it off and start clean.

  34. Dave:

    This is a great post. Assuming I seasoned using your method, how often do you think you would need to reseason?

  35. Mycroft:

    Safflower (not sunflower) oil works equally well. It’s available in many grocery stores, and dries fairly aggressively. I’ve been using (and recommending) it for years, for exactly the same reason.

  36. Mycroft:

    I should add: there is now some safflower oil in the market that’s been modified to not dry. I use Hollywood brand, which is widely available in the Boston area. If the oil tends to gum up around the cap, that’s the good stuff. (Note: It will also do that on your clothing. Wash out any oil spots immediately, or you will never get them out.)

  37. Russell:

    Hi Sheryl, Just saying THANK YOU, I did waste alot of time reading all the crap info on the internet until I found your site. You have good solid information that is logical and tested. I think the most common misleading information on seasoning is “turn the pan upside down so all the grease can drip out.” But you’ve definitely cleared that up.

  38. Herman:

    Hi.

    Im not sure why you regard linseed oil as not edible.
    Here in Germany, at least in some northerly regions of, it is totally common to eat linseed oil on top of potatoes with cottage cheese. You will see linseed oil being sold right next to olive or corn oil in the grocery store.
    It has a very distinctive taste, and you will certainly not use large quantities, but so far nobody seems to have had any ill effects from digesting linseed oil to my knowledge.
    The small amounts transferred from the pan to your food will be neglectible.
    In general, people should be more concerned about what is _already_ in their food, rather than getting mildly paranoid about leftover detergents or aluminium spoons or something.

  39. Sheryl Canter:

    There seems to be some confusion here.

    Unrefined oil from flax seed – not edible – is called linseed oil. Don’t use this to season pans. Use the high quality edible version, called flaxseed oil. It’s available in health food stores.

    If you eat it, don’t heat it. The polymerization that makes flax seed oil so effective for cast iron seasoning is not something you want to occur inside your body. That’s carcinogenic.

  40. Phaedrus:

    A million times thank you. Thank you for FINALLY cutting through all the anecdotal GARBAGE surrounding this topic. Thank you for being intelligent enough to step back and evaluate it with a scientific, skeptical and analytical mind. Thank you for figuring this out from the ground up. Thank you for not simply writing a somewhat twisted and half-hearted ‘what worked for me’. And most of all, thank you for allowing us to read it, and benefit from it. I have been trying in vain to figure this out for years, and this is the answer I’ve been looking for. THANK YOU!

  41. Sheryl Canter:

    Thank you for your thank you! I’m very glad that others find my research useful.

  42. Linda:

    Yours is not the only site to promote the use of oven cleaner (lye) to remove the old seasoning on cast iron. I am troubled, however, as my soap-making book makes clear that ANY utensil which has touched lye is no longer to be used for food. Would lye not be trapped by the pores of the iron? Would the new seasoning sufficiently seal in the lye? Sounds scary…

  43. Dimitri:

    @Russell

    Using your oven’s cleaning cycle (and turning your pans upside down, to catch some of the old seasoning, as it flakes off) is the safest and easiest way to strip old seasoning. It’s not “misleading”. It works. Using lye and oven cleaner is not necessary, and downright dangerous.

    That said, using 7 layers of flaxseed oil (after I stripped the old seasoning from my pans) was amazing! The new seasoning is superb.

  44. Sheryl Canter:

    Some of us (for instance me) don’t have ovens with a self-cleaning cycle. Also, there is a risk of warping the pan when you use extremely high heat. A self-clean cycle reaches temperatures of 900-950 degrees F – hot enough to soften the iron.

    Lye (as a bath or sprayed on as oven cleaner) isn’t toxic – despite what somebody may have written in a book. It rinses off completely. You do need to handle it carefully. Wear gloves and goggles – it’s not a joke.

    The best way to clean is electrolysis, but I have no way to do that, living in a small NYC apartment. You need space and ventilation for that, and a lot of equipment. So I use oven cleaner and it works fine.

    I talk about the cleaning issue more in my previous post:

    http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/01/perfect-popovers-and-how-to-clean-reseason-cast-iron/

  45. Russell:

    @Dimitri – Thanks for nothing

    You clearly did not read my comment. I was talking about seasoning a pan. And you are talking about the exact opposite – stripping the seasoning
    I said “misleading information on seasoning”

  46. Kevin:

    Great article, I have read on other places of the internet that claim that Carbon is the substance that stops sticking. To my line of thinking polymerization is a more likely. Possibly a combination of both.

    It’s been a couple of months since you’ve posted. Has the flaxseed oil worked out as hoped? I can’t see stripping a pan unless there was a good reason.

    I have been very happy with my skillet but I recently cooked up some fajitas and now everything sticks. It’s not the first time something like this has happened. I’m on my second run through in the oven with some canola oil. I’m certain this will fix it for a while but I’m wondering if flaxseed would be more permanent.

    How thick does the flaxseed build up? You said that you used 6 coatings. Did that seem right for you?

  47. Sheryl Canter:

    The pans I’ve seasoned with flaxseed oil are great. I use the muffin pan pictured above all the time, and the muffins slide right out. I’ve had problems with muffin pans seasoned in other ways, so this is great.

    The seasoning doesn’t get literally “thick”. When you put it on thick enough to be detectable, it tends to come off – which may be the problem you’re having. After 6 very thin coats, the pan starts to develop a slight sheen. That’s when I figure it’s done.

  48. Kevin:

    I have done the seasoning thick but that ends up pealing or speckling off. I’m pretty sure last night when I used EVOO I made it to thick. Eggs did wonderful this morning but I’m sure I’ll start seeing pieces come off in a month or so. Depending on my use. Canola oil doesn’t go on thick but it doesn’t seem to last. My Initial seasoning with was last year when I used lard. I’ve probably did a mild re seasoning about 4x since I’ve had the pan. One thing you got to love about cast iron. Even if you do mess up the cooking surface, you can still fix the pan. When I get used to it cooking well, I can’t tolerate having it preform poorly.

    I’m surprised my favorite way to clean cast iron isn’t posted yet. I use the high intensity burner on my grill. 1 hour of that and it’s cover with ash.

  49. Skillet:

    Hi Sheryl,
    Your blog has been very helpful. I recently cleaned and derusted 2 cast iron pans using your techniques. I did my first seasoning with flaxseed oil that I bought from Whole Foods. Expiration date 12/10. The oil has a fishy smell. Is this normal, or does it mean it’s rancid? It doesn’t smell “skunky”, just fishy. I’m assuming it’s not normal, or you would have mentioned this in your post.
    Thanks for your help!

  50. Sheryl Canter:

    Flaxseed oil has a smell, but I’m not sure I’d describe it as “fishy”. It does go rancid very easily – that’s why it’s the ideal oil for seasoning cast iron. Chemically, the seasoning process is the same process as “going rancid” – the release of free radicals. If the oil is rancid, it’s still fine to use for seasoning, but DO NOT EAT IT.

  51. Todd:

    I have a newer lodge skillet. (2 months old) would it still be necessary to use lye and strip it? Or could I begin the process of seasoning it with flax oil?

  52. Sheryl Canter:

    Lodge skillets come “preseasoned” with a waxy coating. It makes no sense to season on top of that. If you don’t like the idea of the waxy coating, strip it down. Most people just use it. The quality of the cast iron isn’t as high as antique cast iron such as Griswold. It’s bumpy rather than smooth. You’ll never get the glassy finish.

  53. BC:

    Hi Sheryl!

    Love these articles. I just inherited my dad’s old cast iron- one deep skillet, one shallow, and a large Dutch Oven. I’ve seasoned them with sunflower oil after heavy scrubbing (they were in storage for 10+ years). They came out black and pretty shiny. The next time I reseason them, I’ll definitely try out the flaxseed oil, I already know where it is in the supermarket!

  54. Sheryl Canter:

    Hi BC. I expect that sunflower oil is also very good for seasoning because, like flaxseed oil, it’s very high in polyunsaturated fatty acids and goes rancid (the “seasoning” effect) at relatively low temperatures. You can’t safely use sunflower oil in cooking. That makes it a good seasoning oil.

  55. BC:

    That’s great! I haven’t actually used the pots yet, though. I’m actually tempted to just burn the seasoning I have on there and restart with a flaxseed seasoning.

    Do you have any recommendations on what kind of spatulas to use with cast iron? Some say to use steel to even everything out, but others say to use plastic so as to not scratch the seasoning.

  56. Sheryl Canter:

    I use plastic (or silicone or wood) so as not to scratch off the seasoning. I tried the metal spatula advice, and I had to reseason the pan.

  57. snaxalotl:

    great article – glad to see people seriously interested in seasoning rather than blindly following whatever traditional advice. I’ve always been most bothered by instructions to season by filling the pan with oil

    just to clarify a couple of things: lye is caustic but non toxic; it’s not the fact it washes off easily, but that the components of ionic compounds can generally be considered independently (eg a solution of NaCl and KI is identical to a solution of KCl and NaI). lye – NaOH – comprises the sodium you find in table salt and the hydroxide found in (the small dissociated proportion of) water. second, the problem with hardware store linseed oil isn’t that it’s unrefined, but that it contains “dryers” … metallic salts that speed up polymerization at room temperature. this oil is often, misleadingly, called “boiled” linseed oil. this is easily confused with “stand oil” – linseed oil that has been held at high temperature in oxygen free conditions. stand oil is used by artists and in high-end violin varnish etc. because it not only dries quickly but also gives the toughest outcome of the linseed products; and since it doesn’t contain dryers it could very possibly be safe and effective for seasoning (i’ll leave it to others to do that research)

    couple of other thoughts: (a) tung oil is apparently tougher than linseed oil as a wood finish. i believe candle nuts are very closely related to tung, so next time i season a pan i’ll probably rub one of these very oily nuts against the hot surface. (b) I once poured a sizeable layer of oil in a pan and heated it for ages just for the heck of it, and i got a very (~1/8 inch) thick layer that was very hard and slippery and didn’t have any tendency to chip off (can’t remember which oil i used). (c) in addition to polymerization, it seems to me an important aspect of seasoning is that any components that can’t cope with the heat will vaporize off, giving a process of survival of the fittest (= most polymerized). (d) the reason i don’t like cleaning a seasoned pan with detergent is that i like to leave a slightly greasy surface after cleaning so i can dry the pan off on the stovetop and slightly re-season it

  58. Larry:

    What a great article. I’ve got a couple of oldish cast iron pans with patchy/sticky seasoning, so I’m going to give stripping and re-seasoning with flaxseed oil a try.

    Upthread, someone asked about using this method to season carbon steel pans, but nobody seems to have answered. I’m no chemist, and I’ve got a CS paella pan that needs seasoning before I use it. Any idea as to whether this technique will work for me?

  59. Russell:

    Anyone want that glossy finish and not smoke up your house?
    This is how I did it. You can use whatever oils you want.(Flax, sunflower, soy, canola…)

    1. I used canola and wiped it on thin
    2. Then you want to dry the oil by cooking below the smoke temperature at first. Canola smokes pretty hot at about 475F, so bake your pan at 350F for 1.5 – 2 hours, it will not all disappear in the form of smoke. Instead it will be slightly tacky.
    3. This is where you follow the high heat advice and crank the temperature beyond the smoke point of the oil you’re using 475F-500F for canola for 1 hour. That bakes the dried oil on the pan and really does feel like smooth enamel and will no longer be tacky.
    4. So it’s a combination of peoples advice that is the actual way to season a pan. Found out from experimentation. This also saves money on oil because it doesn’t all turn to smoke. Even when I baked on the tacky oil past smoke point at 500F it wasn’t that smokey in here. Didn’t even use my fan. Cool and repeat
    Good luck

  60. Carry:

    First of all, I am far from scientifically minded. Most of what you discuss is over my head, I just don’t analyze the same way you can ;)

    I’m in the massage therapy business so when I saw that you have used avocado oil, I was intrigued. Brought a bottle home from the warehouse today, because I have been stripping off the pre-seasoning of a 12″ Lodge. Was hoping to smooth it out a bit, but reading the comments discussing that it will always be a rough surface I am a little disappointed. :( One thing that was driving me absolutely batty was the rust. I left the skillet inside a bag after spraying the heck out of it with Easy Off the day before. Obviously it was slimy with gunk when I took it out. Tried to rinse it well in the sink, and used a 0000 steel wool to try and get any last black bits off. No sooner did I try and dry it than it would rust over. I tried and tried to get it off, wipe it down, wrecked some bar towels, shredded paper towels. Eventually tried to subdue the rust with a swipe of vinegar/water solution, which held it off a little, so i put it in my oven that was at 250 degrees to dry out. Took it out and swiped it with a thin layer of avocado. Looked fantastic right there, popped it back in and cracked the heat to 500, left it there for about 45 minutes.

    Of course the entire time I was second guessing the steps I took. Should I have used anti-bacterial soap when rinsing off the oven cleaner? Should I have not bothered with the steel wool at all, which did get a little wet in the process? Should I just have done what other people have done with theirs – build a campfire and toss it on the coals?

    Please let me know if you think I made any grievous errors. Right now the pan is still cooling slowly in the oven (second floor apartment, it’s so hot already I can’t leave the oven open a crack to cool faster).

    Thanks so much for your blog, I am hoping to make the popovers someday when the Fat Man in the Red Suit brings me something to make them in :)

  61. Steve:

    Sheryl,

    Have you ever seasoned a stainless steel pan with a similar process? Right now my eggs stick like crazy and I am thinking of using this process to help.

  62. Sheryl Canter:

    Steve – you cannot season stainless steel the way you can cast iron. It’s a completely different thing. There are techniques for cooking with stainless steel to prevent sticking. I can’t tell you what they are because I never liked it either and chose cast iron instead.

  63. Steve:

    Sheryl – Thank you for the reply! I am still considering seasoning for an egg pan I use because my grandfather swore by his seasoned egg pans. I was never able to get the entire process out of him, and not sure he even remembered the details. But I’ve used the pans and they are great! I’ll let you know how it goes if you are interested. Also, thanks for the great article!

  64. KingsthorpeDavid:

    Sheryl this is fascinating and the best information I have ever sourced on seasoning cast iron. I now have my bottle of New Zealand organic cold pressed Flax seed oil and ready to start! And yes it was in the refrigerated section in the store!
    I am a cast iron Camp Oven collector and cook in Queensland Australia.
    Your dedication is really appreciated.

  65. Tom Murphy:

    Since hemp seed oil is a drying oil, which used to be used in the manufacture of paints, would it be good to use to season cast iron as well? I have a lot of Griswold cast iron pans that I could try this on.

  66. Ted:

    Sheryl, Thanks soooo much for all your work and expierments here. I love cast iron and have been trying your methods for the past couple of weeks. I seasoned my pan with the flaxssed oil as mentioned, and everything came out looking good. Used it a couple of times and worked great. Then I was making a recipie that called for italian dressing. After finishing dinner and looking at the pan, it looked as if all the “seasoning” had been washed away???? Was this do to the vinager in the dressing??? I have also boiled water in the pan for making other dishes and it seems the “seasoning” gets washed away again. Are there things you should not cook in a seasoned cast iron pan that will ruin, or deteriorate a well seasoned pan?? Would love to hear your thoughts.

    Thanks!!!

  67. Sheryl Canter:

    Hi Ted. You did manage to find the two great no-nos of cast iron cooking: boiling water and cooking acid-based foods (like tomato sauce or anything with a lot of vinegar). Both can actually damage the iron, as well as the seasoning. People soak in vinegar to remove rust, but if you do it too long you can destroy the pan (see my popover post).

    I use a ceramic pot when I need to boil water or cook something highly acidic.

  68. Scott:

    Sheryl, what would your second recommendation be for a good oil if I’m not going to use flaxseed oil? Canola or soybean, or something else?

    Thanks.

  69. Matt:

    WOW! There are some fantastic tips and tricks here. Thanks both to Sheryl and everyone else for posting! Seasoning cast iron cookware seems to me akin to fishing; everyone has a different technique but none of them work for me. I have a dutch oven and a double sided griddle that I have “seasoned” with Crisco by various methods. It began with seasoning in the oven but my wife ran me out of the kitchen after I smoked up the house. Next, I moved my operation outside to the grill but my seasoning came out splotchy with some tacky spots. I was convinced that it was because I couldn’t keep the coals going long enough to finish the seasoning process. The only logical thing to do in my mind was to do the same thing over a campfire. I heated my cast iron and took a rag full of Crisco and wiped all surfaces repeatedly. The Crisco immediately smoked because I was putting it on a surface that was already screaming hot. After letting it cool, it seemed to be seasoned pretty well so I tried to cook in it but it seemed like the seasoning broke down a little and wasn’t smooth and uniform. I was pretty frustrated and discouraged that I would never get the smooth, seemingly indestructible surface that my grandmother’s cast iron cookware had. I chalked it up to repeated use and I figured that I would eventually have a good seasoning. Flash forward to this last weekend. I was grilling some food and on one side of my grill I had my griddle heating to cook some bacon on the flat side and my dutch oven heating up empty next to it. After all, this was the kind of use that provides the seasoning I was looking for, right? After the bacon was cooked, I took the grease from the griddle and smeared the dutch oven down with it. I wiped both pieces down until they were lightly coated and turned both upside down to prevent any pooling. I let them both sit over the hot coals for about 2 hours until the coals went out and the pieces cooled enough to touch. I rinsed them under hot water and wiped them out. The first thing I noticed was that the griddle had a line across it where the seasoning was worn off but the dutch oven had a very metallic looking glaze all over it that doesn’t wipe off. The inside looks great but the outside has patched of carbon(?) and a light rust spot on the bottom. Can anyone explian what happened to these pieces? Do I have to totally strip and reseason both of them? I am hoping that I can just hit these spots with a little steel wool to sooth them / knock the rust out and try the flaxseed oil method that Sheryl outlines. I want the seasoning like the pictures she has above! Also, I do cook over campfires / grills quite a bit so I need everything to be able to handle heat very well. Thanks for reading…any advice is welcomed.

  70. Tim:

    Thanks for a very interesting post. The one thing that it left me curious about at the end is – what is the polymer created, and is it as OK for health as the oil it is created with? I will do some further reading. :-)

  71. Tyler:

    Hey, great guide, glad to see someone giving a thorough explanation about the whole thing. My pan is currently baking through its 3rd coat, and the first two have gone great. I plan to make a youtube video once it’s all done showing the results and directing people here to give due credit! I’m wondering how you think soap will affect this coating. I’d have to imagine it wouldn’t hurt – in fact, I doubt you’d be able to get this coat off with anything but the cleaning methods you mentioned in the other post. Still, wondering what you think. Thanks again.

  72. Gloria:

    I had stopped using my iron skillets, hanging them on the wall for decoration, due to unusual iron levels in my blood. I am assuming if the skillet is polymerized as you describe if it would be less likely to leach iron into the food? Any comments appreciate. thanks

  73. Sheryl Canter:

    A properly seasoned skillet doesn’t leach a lot of iron into the food. When a cast iron skillet is unseasoned, you can see the iron when you wipe it with a paper towel. When it’s seasoned, the paper towel wipes clean.

  74. Vizzle:

    Do you know where (online) could one purchase a good quality, bare (not pre-seasoned) cast iron pan? Even the names of some of the brands that manufacture them would be helpful.

    Thanks

  75. Sheryl Canter:

    The only “bare” (not pre-seasoned) cast iron pans you can buy are the antique ones. All new pans are pre-seasoned. I buy my cast iron pans on eBay. I like Griswold.

  76. Vizzle:

    Thank you for the information. Interestingly, I’ve read on various pages over the internet that cast iron pans don’t like acidic foods like vinegar, tomatoes etc. as they damage the seasoning. Is the polymer resulting from the drying of flaxseed oil not chemically resistant to acids?

    I don’t have a cast iron pan to experiment as I’m only just discovering cast iron cookware and this point makes me question the versatility of cast iron. I would certainly like to hear your take on this.

    Thanks

  77. Vizzle:

    A further question relating to my first post, if I may. How does the flaxseed oil seasoning you describe in your article compare with a newly purchased pre-seasoned pan?

  78. Elizabeth:

    Hello there.

    Thanks for this article. I have a large batch of flaxseed oil that has gone rancid (I bought it for the first time and wasn’t aware that it had to be refrigerated). As I can read here I can still use it for my iron pans since chemically, the seasoning process is the same process as “going rancid” – the release of free radicals. I’ll try that process as it is described above.

    But since I have a lot of this rancid flaxseed oil and not so many pans to season, I was wondering if anyone knows whether rancid flaxseed has any other practical uses, since it is no longer edible. I know linseed oil for wood and paint is from flaxseed oil, but it has been through a different process than the edible kind of oil?? Can I use my rancid flaxseed oil as a wood finish?? Or in the oil paint I use for art?? And are there any other uses?? I feel it’s a shame to throw it out if it has some practical uses around the house. I would really appreciate anyone’s knowledge on this issue. Thanks :-)

  79. Elizabeth:

    Oh, and one more question. Can I store this rancid flaxseed oil outside of the fridge, if I only use it for non-edible practical purposes. Or should I store it in the fridge so it doesn’t get “too” rancid. I wouldn’t know if it can get “too rancid” for these purposes. Hope someone can educate me about this :-) – Liz

  80. Hamilton:

    Thanks for the info. For day to day cooking, not seasoning, what oil have you found that works the best? I am trying to find an oil that is low in saturated fat and does not stick.

    Thanks

    Hamilton

  81. Nick:

    Very Insightful! Have you looked into Hempseed oil? I’m curious what you think. Its Omega’s are very high.

  82. Mike:

    I’ve been following the instructions in this post, but after 6 cycles my pan is a deep brown instead of black. Is that ok, or is something going wrong?

  83. Sheryl Canter:

    That’s fine. Did you do this first? (This link is at the top of the post):

    http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/02/black-rust-and-cast-iron-seasoning/

    When you do this, it turns more black than brown.

  84. kev:

    used rendered horse fat to session a dutch oven and it has turned a onyx black and as to the hardness it is like a diamond nothing scratches it under normal wear but to get the finish i had to sand it with 1200 wet and dry sand paper

  85. Nick:

    Thank you Sheryl for the equally insightful response!

  86. Aaron Smith:

    I just wanted to say thanks for the cornucopia of information on your site that I’ve stumbled across. I just bought a cast-iron skillet today (from the Emeril Lagasse line of cookware) and I was looking around at various sites to make sure I seasoned it correctly.

    Your articles seem to cover everything quite well so I’ll obtain some flaxseed oil tomorrow and start the process of curing.

  87. Sudhir:

    I’m a Research Engineer and I appreciate your scientific analysis and thanks for sharing. It would be interesting to test the Mohs Hardness of carbon polymer layer formed by all these oils. If the Hardness of Flax oil and soy oil are close then we can use inexpensive soy oil. I bough a lodge logic skillet ad a griddle pan and still debating which oil is better Flax or Soy. After digging I found that Lodge uses proprietary soy oil for pre-seasoning.

  88. Lars:

    Great info, thank you!

    What are your thoughts on Flax oil labeled “high lignan” or oils with added antioxidants?

  89. Sheryl Canter:

    No thoughts on that – haven’t researched it. (Sorry about the spammer. I’ve deleted about a dozen comments from that jerk – missed that last one.)

  90. Lars:

    Do you think that the antioxidants could inhibit the drying?

  91. Sheryl Canter:

    Theoretically, yes, it makes sense that antioxidants would interfere with seasoning, now that I think about it, since oxidation is part of both black rust and polymerization – both of which you want when seasoning cast iron. I haven’t tried it, though.

  92. Bryan:

    I am attempting to season my first cast iron pan (brand new uncured) and was wondering: is it necessary to bake the oil above its smoke point to achieve a desirable finish?

    Already having baked my pan once, I was left with an unsatisfactory brown and sticky finish. I used a Non-Hydrogenated All Vegetable Shortening (the only ingredient being Mechanically Pressed Organic Palm Oil). The smoke point for palm oil is 450 and I baked my pan at 350 for one hour, so I thought that might be the problem. Thoughts?

    Thanks for the article.

  93. Lars:

    My thought would be that you didn’t read her suggestions

  94. Brian:

    Sheryl, thanks so much for the information! I am on my last coat before I try re-using my pan after your method. After completely reading this page, I was disappointed to find the comments on the Lodge, specifically related to the rough surface as opposed to the glassy/smooth one that I so desire. (for the record, this is my first foray into cast iron cooking and I didn’t know anything about the surface). With that, do you know or think I should still get a relatively non-stick experience? If not, I am certainly willing to go gor a different kind and certainly would entertain the Griswold ones. If I do go that route… any suggestions as to what to look for or avoid on eBay? do you think your stripping method should pretty much guarantee that any pan should be fine? Thanks again for your effort with this page.

  95. Lars:

    I have baked on a few coats of flax oil and am left with a nice semi-matte surface that feels very slick to the touch, or when wiping with a dry paper towel. Still though, when I try to cook eggs, I will preheat the pan, add a bit of fat (I’ve tried bacon grease, olive oil, ghee, coconut oil), I’ve even tried a sprinkle of salt also… they stick like crazy.

  96. Sheryl Canter:

    You probably need more coats. After a while it starts to develop a sheen and then things stop sticking, though you still need some fat. It gets more nonstick with use.

  97. Larry:

    Where or how to get cast iron worth the trouble?

    With the work involved, and limited space I want to have a few good pieces of cast iron cookware, but I’m not sure where to get them. I like the simple and no bs nature of cast iron, especially after one guest instantly destroyed two pieces of teflon nonstick while being ‘helpful’. Knife marks clear through to bare aluminum… she would have wrecked a full set if I’d had one!

    I don’t like the visibly rough finish on the new pans, even if that is not the most relevant issue. I’ve also read in blogs that the finish is different from the old ones at a small scale – under a microscope – because of either different casting methods, machined vs raw castings (the machining process creates a graphitic layer, as with CGI engine blocks??) and possibly the iron recipe used.

    In any case I want cookware that becomes glass-smooth after seasoning, preferably with tight fitting lids. A lid that can lock on (so you can carry it around with less risk) would be even better.

    I don’t have a self cleaning oven to conveniently clean old cookware, nor a workshop (stuck in a small apartment w no basement, tho I can hang out on the fire escape).

    Should I
    get something new, smooth it with sandpaper and then try to wash/brush out the embedded abrasive grit,
    hunt for old stuff on eBay and re-season it, or
    something else I haven’t thought of?

    It just seems Lodge is being lazy by omitting the last step, it would be trivial to do a polishing/machining operation one the line is set up for it. They’re about the only game in town and they know it, and they figure most people don’t know any better. Thus I’m hesitant to give them my money, even though they’re cheaper than locating and shipping the older stuff.

    any advice from experience or reliable sources, especially near NYC are appreciated

  98. Lars:

    Shoot, more problems. I spent a good bit of yesterday seasoning my pan. I scrubbed it with a scotchbrite before hand and wiped out with alcohol to start with a nice clean surface. Dried it with heat then began the process. I would coat the pan, then wipe everything off, stick in the oven at 505 for an hour. Then I would take it out, wipe on (and off) another layer, then back in for another hour. I think I got 7 coats on this one pan and it was looking good (sort of a dark reddish color to it). I was also putting just a couple coats on a well seasoned pan, so it spent more time in the oven. Up till the end everything looked good. I shut down the oven when I went to bed and left them in to cool slowly.

    When I woke up to look, both pans had what looked like sparkly spots. Upon further inspection, this is the seasoning flaking off. On the well seasoned pan it is really bad, basically all the old seasoning it flaking off in tiny flecks. On the other pan, the new seasoning is doing so to a lessor extent. I don’t understand why… I shot the pan with an ir temp gun a number of times and it was generally around 460

  99. Sheryl Canter:

    All I can say is, you didn’t do what I described in this article. You baked each layer for a much shorter time than I did, so each layer was not fully polymerized before you put on the next layer. You did one hour; I did three or more – one hour at full heat, then let it cool in the oven as the oven cooled (it’s still baking). Also, I have no idea what affect alcohol has on the whole thing. I didn’t add a layer of alcohol. It could have added a film that prevented the polymerized fat from adhering.

  100. Lars:

    Rubbing alcohol will not leave any type of film, that’s why it is used to clean surfaces in preparation for adhesives. How long the over retains heat is going to vary quite a bit between ovens, but I think it’s safe to say that the pan temp will dip below the point which the oil is undergoing changes long before 3 hours.

    The well seasoned pan only got 2 layers over that time, so it did spend about 3 hrs between coats. That is the pan that suffered the most, it lost nearly all of its seasoning.

  101. Paul:

    Sheryl,

    Thank you for the advice. I’d like to note that Lodge is not the only company currently selling cast iron cookware. Meijer (At least where I live) sells a brand called Grand Gourmet. I was able to purchase a 10″ skillet for about $14, while an 8″ skillet was only $9 – well worth the money to experiment with. I originally wanted just an 8″ skillet to replace an aging teflon coated egg pan – I thought it’d be much better to avoid using teflon, especially because I eat eggs often. I ended up with both pans.. not sure if either were pre-seasoned as I scrubbed them as soon as I got home and got to putting a good layer of seasoning on them.

    My first pan was seasoned haphazardly with peanut oil, and after a few cycles I could cook eggs in it. I picked up the 8″ pan recently, and I’m currently seasoning it to your exact instructions with the exception of using peanut oil instead. I’ll give an update with how well this works. To be honest I can’t remember why I chose peanut oil other than the fact that I haven’t had the chance to pick up flaxseed oil. Worst case scenario, I strip it and re-season it with flaxseed oil.

    Just a few random notes, and thanks for the scientific approach! As a student in biology I definitely appreciate it.

  102. Martin:

    After reading you article, I have a question for you. But first, let me thank for an amazing read!

    Would you happen to know if this method works for seasoning my blue steel frying pan?

  103. Jason McCay:

    This method is featured on the new 2011 January/February issue of Cooks Illustrated (only available on the website at the moment AFAIK) and credits this article!

  104. Sheryl Canter:

    Thanks very much for letting me know, Jason!

  105. Sheryl Canter:

    Jason, I just read the article in Cooks Illustrated. Great independent testing of the method! Here’s the link, for those with a Cooks Illustrated Web subscription (requires payment):

    http://www.cooksillustrated.com/howto/detail.asp?docid=26897

  106. dane:

    I forgot to ask my question in my post above! Sheryl, my seasonings came out glassy, onyx black with the Crisco (many coats), and I have managed to have very little smoke as opposed to when I used the vegetable oil. The surface also seems pretty hard, and is very non-stick. Do you think that going over the vegetable oil added any difference to my particular process?

    If I had found this blog sooner, I would have gone with the whole process here, including stripping the Lodge coating, but unfortunately I was too late.

    My seasonings look and perform like you can’t get better, but I am curious about your thoughts. I do put a little olive oil or butter before cooking and really do not need a spatula to “scrape” with, only lift/flip.

  107. Richard T.:

    This is a great site.

    I wanted to pass on another way of cleaning and using cast iron.

    I have an old gas grill outside, and I have a cast iron skillet that lives inside it. I like to use it to cook steaks, as the heat buildup of the cast iron sears the juices in and cooks faster than using the racks. I have no idea of the identity of the skillet, the terms “NO. 10” and “12 7/16 in.” are cast into the bottom.

    I preheat the grill with the pan inside for about 10 min. Then I throw the pre-oiled ½ in. steaks in, turn every 30 sec., and in about 3 min. they are cooked to perfection.

    I then leave the pan inside the grill without cleaning. Any residue seems to turn to ash during the cool-down. However, crud gradually builds up, and periodically to clean it out, I do the following.

    I get my right-angle grinder with a wire wheel cup head and grind the crud out down to the bare metal. It seems to work very fast, and the wire brush seems to “burnish” the bare metal, reducing the tendency to re-rust, much as it does when I use it in my other metal working construction projects.

    I actually have never properly seasoned this pan. After I clean it, I just wipe a little oil on it and put it back into the grill. I have never really had any problem with sticking.

  108. Eli:

    Super Info! I have tried numerous self cleanings and 400 degree oven seasoning to no avail. The only thing I found that worked was to heat the pan on a high on a gas stove and wiping very light coats of canola oil while it was at a “low-medium” smoke. The pan turned much blacker and allowed me to cook eggs as non-stick as a teflon pan. My wife couldn’t understand what I was doing at the time.

    After reading this blog, I see why my method had some success! Now I need to try the higher oven temps/linseed oil/and very thin and numerous coats.

    Thanks for studying this and sharing it with the world.

    Eli

  109. Eli:

    Oops, meant flaxseed oil, not linseed oil!

  110. ega278:

    Thank you for all your time and effort in discovering the best way to season cast iron!

    I switched over to all cast iron cookware over the last few years and got rid of the teflon stuff. I do have a few stainless pieces for boiling water and tomato based sauces and such though. I read about how well good old cast iron performs and I wanted to create that too. I did a little research and went to work burning in lard from free range pork. It worked for awhile and then started to come off. Re-seasoning didn’t help much and it became very tedious to try to maintain the seasoning. I realized I really wanted to start over and season it properly but had no idea how to get the seasoning off. That’s when my enthusiasm dissolved because I knew there was going to be a lot of elbow grease involved. a LOT. I envisioned hours of work with a hand held grinder with a wire wheel and steel wool and trying to get into all the crevices and corners. So I just limp along with my “kinda/sometimes” non-stick cast iron cookware.

    Then I discovered your research! My enthusiasm is recharged!!! First I had to decide how to strip the pans. I considered the oven cleaner method and even went to the length of finding pure lye to make a bath for the pans. I was quite apprehensive about it though because of the severe caustic nature of lye, plus I’ve got three kids (6,4,2) running around. Anyway, once I found I could obtain pure lye, I decided to consider the other method using electrolysis. It sounded way too complicated and expensive, but I checked it out anyway just so I was sure I was right in discounting the method. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was the most simple and safe method out of all of them! Battery charger, 5 gallon bucket, water, some baking soda and some scrap steel for the anode. I selected a bread pan as the test subject because it was the only one I was willing to lose if it didn’t work as planned, and I set the rig up. The next morning I was disappointed to see the pan was still black with only a few silvery speckles peeking through. That was until I wiped at the surface and the black wiped right off! a little repositioning, a little more time, then after wiping clean the pan was a dull grey when dry. I then scrubbed the pan down in water until there was no residue left and popped it in the oven for about a half hour at about 200 degrees to get it bone dry and as soon as it was cool enough to handle I slathered it with cold pressed unrefined organic flaxseed oil. That oil sure smells grassy! Especially when it’s in the oven. I’m sure it’s probably the same exact stuff you used, I got it from Whole Foods brand new with a far expiration date. I put it in the freezer until I was ready to start the burning in process, then I stored it in the fridge during the consecutive layering process. I wiped the oily pan with paper towels until the pan looked dry and there was barely any residue showing on the paper towels. Into the cold oven it went and I turned the oven all the way up. The oven has a “Broil” setting that’s past the 500 mark, I would estimate if the temperature increments are linear, the “Broil” temperature should be close to about 600. If not, then it’s somewhere over 500. It takes about an hour for the oven to reach that maximum temperature, then I leave it in for an hour, then turn the oven off and let it cool for two hours. More residue came off on the paper towels for the second coat, but much less this time, and the pan was still grey, not black. Back in the oven, then the third layer produced no residue on the paper towels, just excess oil and every layer thereafter was identical. The pan was STILL grey though, not black whatsoever. Weird.

    Now for my issue. First off, I’m not working with a Griswold pan so the casting has a rough texture, but not anything crazy like 60 grit sandpaper or anything. So, I’m currently on layer #9 and I still don’t have a semi-gloss finish. It’s more like a very dull sheen over the textured surface, hardly shiny at all. The surface does seem less abrasive, but still textured though. Sooooo….what do I do now? If I’ve gotta put more than 10 layers on this thing, it’s almost like the work to do this seasoning just isn’t worth it. I want to test and see if it really is non-stick now, by frying an egg in it or baking bread in it or something. BUT if it’s NOT non-stick and needs more coats, then will the cooking of food on the surface contaminate it so the succeeding coats of oil won’t adhere properly like the previous coats? Is it possible that I wiped the oil off “too much” oil between coats? I also realized I completely skipped the “black rust” step where you put the pan in the oven at 450 for an hour (doh!), so that’s why my pan is still grey. Will it ever turn black again? (I don’t really care if it’s black or not, as long as it’s non-stick) Should 9 layers be enough regardless and just put it to use? Must I absolutely positively have a semi-gloss finish before I can consider it properly seasoned?

    Thanks again for all your research and experimenting! I’ve got lots more cookware to season, so I know I’ll get it 100% right next time and from there on out.

  111. Heidi:

    You are awesome. Thanks for sharing what took you a lot of time and energy to discover. I really appreciate it. Do you know if I need to do this process on a cast iron kettle before I start boiling water in it?

  112. Paul:

    I had the same problem as ega278. I stripped an 8″ fry pan using oven cleaner and got it to the dull gray color. I scrubbed it like crazy to remove anything that was left over. Dried it in an oven for about a half hour, took it out and rubbed it down with oil until the paper towels no longer had a rust-like residue on it. I used unrefined flax seed and stuck to the procedure, heating to 500*F and allowing it to cool, then re-coating. In the end it came out a little darker and slightly shinier than it was with the original seasoning.

    Just tried to fry an egg in it using extra virgin olive oil in the pan, and it stuck like crazy. When I used water, a sponge, and a plastic flipper to scrape the bits of egg off, I found that the seasoning inside the pan is almost gray again!

    I’m frustrated, mostly because this took me a week to complete and my fiancee is going to kill me if I try to go through the entire seasoning process again. I can’t figure out what I did wrong here.

  113. Paul:

    Forgot to mention, I did nine cycles of heating/oiling/cooling.

  114. Cedarglen:

    Thanks for a wonderful, informative article. I’ve been through the process several times. While flax seedd oil is a great choices, I also think it is a waste of money. Several lower temp cycles with a lesser fat and your methods is just fine. It maintain and improve the seasoning, just use the darn thing and treat it well. One is not going to achieve that 5-10-50 year patina through the seasoning process.
    The area of my major reservations is the cleaning process. Vinegar and then soda are fine, but the Oven Cleaner is a poor choice, unless the bad build up is truly excessive. I have used the Self Cleaning oven with great results. Again, the Sodium Hydroxide (or Potassium) is an absolute last resort and only if the physical build up is thick enough to chip. Bad news stuff on a porus food contact surface. Otherwise, very impressive articles. Thank you.

  115. Cooking in Mexico:

    Great article! I have been seasoning cast iron pans for decades with mixed results. Now I can do it right.

    After reading Josh’es comment from January, can I assume that soy oil will give just as good a finish as flaxseed oil? It may be easier for me to find here in Mexico.

    Thank you,

    Kathleen

  116. burgeoningfoodie:

    I may have missed this somewhere. Did you do all 6 coats in one session/day? How long did it take? I have one of the preseasoned Lodges and didn’t realize it was good to go. Most people suggested I reseason. Tried it with canola and got the typical sticky residue. Will try and maybe start from barebones even if I won’t get the smooth surface. Thankfully there are no pits. Just some orange gunk (not rust as it is soft). Could you state again how you store your cast iron after it is dry. I too have small space. Right now it is on a pantry rack with paper towel covering it.

  117. Sheryl Canter:

    > After reading Josh’es comment from January, can I assume that soy oil will give just as good a finish as flaxseed oil? It may be easier for me to find here in Mexico.

    No, that may be Josh’s opinion, but it not mine.

  118. Sheryl Canter:

    > I have one of the preseasoned Lodges and didn’t realize it was good to go. Most people suggested I reseason.

    You don’t need to season a Lodge. The insert tells you how to care for it, or visit their Web site.

  119. Shane:

    Hi Sheryl,

    I followed these directions to the letter, starting with a clean, dry pan, adding six very thin (essentially invisible) coats of unfiltered, shaken flax oil, baking at 500 for 1 hour and leaving the pan in the cooling oven for 2 hours after for each coat, and I got a great-looking glaze when I was done. It had that semi-gloss sheen and felt nice. However I cooked with it once, and when I went to clean it, just scrubbing with no soap, it looks like most of my seasoning has come off already. I wonder if I’ve done something wrong after seasoning? Are there guidelines for what should be used to clean a seasoned pan? Or do you have any other thoughts? Thanks for the great article. I’m just bummed that I have to do it again and I hope I can figure out what went wrong.

  120. Scott:

    Hi Sheryl,
    I am following your flaxseed oil seasoning method for my cast iron skillet, as present in the most recent Cook’s Illustrated. My question is this: it says to ‘repeat the process 5 more times’… I imagine that means to just repeat the 1.) tbsp of flaxseed coating step and the 2.) 1 hr heating/2 hr cooling steps, NOT the strip seasoning/200 degree pore-opening step… is that correct? Thanks so much. Scott, L.A.

  121. burgeoningfoodie:

    Hi Sheryl,

    I’ve already tried to add more seasoning to it and gunked it up. Best way to get the gunk off? I’ve heard salt and water. Not sure about a baking soda paste. Currently don’t have a wool. Thank you again for your previous input.

  122. Steven J. Owens:

    Good article, even better comments. I’d love to see a lot more practical science in cooking.

    The main reason I’m commenting is the comments about removing rust, and the risks of using vinegar. Two things:

    First, I’d like to learn more about the vinegar risks, since an old family recipe is sauerbrauten, which involves marinating chuck in apple cider vinegar for three days, then braising it in the vinegar in a cast-iron dutch oven.

    Second, a trick I learned for removing rust from cast iron is to scrub it with a 50/50 mix of cooking oil and salt. It was a cast-iron dutch oven that had been rained on during a camping trip, so it took a lot of elbow grease, but it worked like a charm.

    I have (accidentally :-) seasoned my cast-iron pan on a high-output burner, so it’s possible, but I don’t know how wise it is.

  123. John Hershner:

    Re Cleaning using a Makita or other power grinder with wire wheel and other issues

    I bought a Makita gringer to clean rust off an outside iron spiral staircase a block from the ocean in SCAL. (I used, a pretty course, heavy gauge wire wheel.) Heavy duty work!

    I had 2 old smooth surface Wagner griddles (10″ and 9″)that had been abandoned for years in the trunk of a family member’s car. They were trashed and rusty top and bottom. They ended up on a shelf in my garage for several years again a block from the beach to further rust.

    One Saturday afternoon I got a beer and the grinder and went to work on the two griddles out on my driveway (eye protection is a must-I wear glasses but googles would be better (a broken wire could blind you) and the next time I used a mask for dust protection). After 4 – 5 beers and a *ton* of black dust everywhere, I had them looking pretty good. You can do this job without beer but it sure washed the throat dust down thus the mask – my sinuses were another matter. I then soap and water cleaned/dried them and further heat dried them on my gas stove top. I then seasoned with Canola oil while still warm. Probably, I did not wipe down enough for excess oil removal. Then into the oven at whatever temperature/time that was consensus 12+ years ago. Probable repeated seasoning 2 or 3 times. Probably a little too heavy with oil each time.

    Worked pretty well but I’ve come to dislike the “sticky” touch or texture of the resulting Canola oil “varnish” and the slow build up of residue from preparing various meals like sandwiches and pancakes. I have read that some of the other oils have the same tendency.

    When cooking, I probably put excessive oil on the cooking surface rather then a very thin sheen and then left it on the surface after use thus the buildup.

    Hence, I’ve been researching for a better approach. I was not satisfied with the recommendations including those of ATK in recent years. Cleaning seemed problematic with salt etc. all had one or another issues and the proper oil to use didn’t seem thought out/researched.

    A couple months ago I again used the Makita and wire wheel on my #12 lodge (also smooth surface) and again on the 10″ griddle due to oil/carbon residue build-up on the sides and cooking surfaces. I see no damage eg. gouging, scratching, or pitting etc. being caused by this aggressive technique now on two occasions however a finer gauge wire might be better. Another writer in these blogs seems to have had a similar experience. He used the word “burnish” with which I would agree. Although we might also be just smearing around that portion of the surface material that is residual oil/grease. I will re-season with flaxseed oil per instructions.

    I am now being much more cautious about using minimal oil applied with a paper towel and better post-cooking cleanup of oil residue. I’m going to stop cooking with Canola if I can figure out what would have less tendency to turn sticky over time. Canola is better suited to dish washer safe, stainless steel but even there I can get a varnish but at least it can be cleaned with Bar Keeper’s Friend but you have got to stay on top of it.

  124. Tim:

    Hi Sheryl

    I did all that you suggested – including using the oven cleaning method – and after 6 applications both skillets have a “gritty” surface texture – not smooth (and probably not non-stick). Is this the fault of the quality of the skillet, or perhaps some rust (it was pretty much rust free when I started – just a fine dusting), or something else that I did? (I followed your instructions to the tee – baking at 500, etc).

    I really don’t want to go through the entire process again if I will get the same results – the electricity use is no joke.

    Thanks
    Tim

  125. Tim:

    Ugh – and now on one of the skillets the seasoning is starting to flake off… on the only smooth surface on it.

    Tim

  126. Sheryl Canter:

    You did something really weird, Tim. I can’t begin to imagine what. “Gritty”? No clue.

  127. Chris:

    Sheryl,
    Thanks for the effort that went into this technique/site. I found it by reference from the Cooks Illustrated magazine.

    I got a Lodge 7 qt dutch oven for Xmas, but am trying to decide whether to trade it in for one with an enamel surface. I like the cost and less chance for other issuees with a pure cast iron, but am wondering how many recipes you can’t use because of ingredients that are too acidic. Is chili OK? I know there isn’t a simple answer, but do you have a Top 5 list of dishes that you won’t use in cast iron?

    Thanks for your time and help.

    Chris

  128. Sheryl Canter:

    I tried enamel and found it unusable – sticks like crazy. I use ceramic for dishes that are acidic (e.g. tomato-based sauces). The brand I like is Xtrema. These can be used in the oven and the microwave, as well as the stove top.

    - Sheryl

  129. Chris:

    I just looked up a few recipes (beef stew, pot roast, short ribs) and each called for a few Tbsp of tomato paste and/or 1-2 cups of red wine. Would you feel comfortable with these in cast iron?

    Thanks,
    Chris

  130. Mike:

    I followed the instructions for a griswold skillet I got from eBay – cleaned with lye, got the rust off with vinegar, 1 hour soak to build the black rust, then 6 very thin coats of flaxseed. It sure looked nice when I was done, but then I used it :-(

    A steak cooked up ok, then when it was cooled down I used some hot water and a soft bristled nylon brush to clean it because there was a little residue left on the pan. Most of the seasoning came off as if it was just baked on black ash and not the polymer coating you mentioned. Has anyone else seen this happen when they cleaned their seasoned skillet?

  131. ega278:

    Hi Sheryl, I’m back and this time I got a 12″ lodge skillet stripped and seasoned strictly by the procedure for 13 coats!

    Frying an egg is THE test for checking for a good non-stick surface so I cracked one into my precious skillet. The egg adhered itself to the entire bottom of the pan and I ended up getting barely any egg back for my plate. So me and Paul are in the same boat, almost. Fortunately none of the seasoning came off of mine.

    It’s undeniable that you’ve had success, and there was a few good testimonials of success as well. So why is it that we’ve had such drastically different outcomes? I couldn’t describe the surface of my skillet as “smooth as glass”, but it is pretty darn smooth. I would kind of expect at least some slight glimmer of non-stick quality, but this is extremely NOT non-stick.

    I’m still on board here, I still have faith, I just need direction. What’s the next step? Re-strip and start over? Any ideas where I may have done something wrong?

  132. Sheryl Canter:

    I hope you used oil when frying the egg. You did, didn’t you? It’s not non-stick in the sense that Teflon is non-stick. You still have to use oil.

    Also, the initial seasoning is a starting surface. Over time, as you cook in the pan (WITH OIL), the seasoning coating builds up and becomes increasingly slick.

  133. Charlotte:

    Hi Sheryl,

    I was really pleased to find this very interesting article as I just bought for my parents and myself cast iron pans. The thing is that I am French and here in France, we can only find cast iron pans with a wooden handle that cannot be removed to be put in the oven. How can I season it as I just have stove top burners?
    Many thanks

    Charlotte

  134. Sheryl Canter:

    Charlotte, it’s only antique cast iron that needs seasoning. New cast iron cookware is preseasoned. If you look at the instructions that came with your cookware, I’m sure it will say it’s preseasoned.

  135. Joey:

    Sheryl,

    I just followed all of the steps except the strip seasoning as mine didnt have stuck particles, only old seasoning like the picture on the left up top.

    Great results!

    Thanks!

  136. Allen Field:

    Hi Sheryl: I have many Griswold skillets. Instead of burning off the existing finish (I prefer putting them in a hot fire than using oven cleaner) what do you think about this lazy, quick method for seasoning: just wiping on several coatings of Flax oil after the skillet has dried over a low flame on the stove after being cleaned; I let the skillet smoke for a few minutes between coatings? It seems to have made my pans more non-stick, and now I use flax oil instead of canola oil for the usual oil wipe down after cooking and cleanup.
    Allen

  137. Sheryl Canter:

    > now I use flax oil instead of canola oil for the usual oil wipe down after cooking and cleanup.

    I would not do that, and in fact I think it’s dangerous. That would mean you are cooking with flax oil, which is not meant for cooking. It’s carcinogenic when heated. It’s only safe when fully polymerized. I use olive oil to wipe down after cleanup because it doesn’t go rancid.

    If you read my article, you’ll see the crucial point that the process of rancidity and polymerization are essentially the same. You don’t want that happening in your food.

  138. Bob:

    Thanks SO much for this site!! As you talked about, you can find a website that says ANY oil is the best and only oil to season with then five more minutes of looking you can find another site condemning that same oil. Thanks again!!!!

  139. jeffegg2:

    I am curious now, wondering if the “seasoned” polymer of flax seed oil could have any carcinogenic properties? This is why I have eliminated the Teflon pans in the first place…

  140. Sheryl Canter:

    Seasoned cast iron is completely different from Teflon. Google Teflon.

  141. jeffegg2:

    I see…

    I’m on my 7th coat of flax seed oil on my Lodge 12″ that I stripped using Oven self clean mode. I also sanded the bottom inside with wet/dry 220 grit before. Just enough to knock off the tops of the annoying orange peel surface. Read much on those that sanded the heck out of it and caused it to crack, so just looking for an improvement there. Oven at 450degrees, baking for 1 hour 30 min between coats, not letting cool, but coating while still hot and wiping as much as possible with paper towel. This should take some time off the process, but still takes quite a time investment. My thoughts are that allowing it to cool to room temp between coats may allow moisture between the layers and that my process may help adhesion. So far so good.

    Thanks for all the information!!!!

    Jeff.

  142. Proud Geek:

    The Black Iron Dude (http://blackirondude.blogspot.com/) recommended heating the pan to 550 degrees for 30 min and then wiping it with a low smoke point oil, like olive oil, while still flaming hot to get the initial seasoning in place. I’ve now done that with most of my cookware with tremendous success.

    Is flaxseed oil truly that much better than olive oil? If so, can you explain why it’s better? Would it be beneficial to add a layer or two of flaxseed oil on top of the olive oil seasoning?

  143. Sheryl Canter:

    > Is flaxseed oil truly that much better than olive oil? If so, can you explain why it’s better?

    You may have noticed that all these comments are actually in response to an article. Read the article. It’s all about that.

  144. Ed Watson:

    Par excellence achieved in this post. As a physiologist, I spend time chasing down leads and making connections among variable sets of phenomena – a key to more complete understanding. You have done your homework and I admire it; learning to string certain key words and concepts together results from an absurd amount of reading indeed. It’s amazing to see learn how polymerization of PUFA’s effect health and cell membranes – something I’ve been chasing down in a series of investigation. At any rate – all who are interested in the science of this post will certainly be intrigued by reading about biofuels (derived from vegetable oils). Here’s a more complete list of iodine values: http://journeytoforever.org/biodiesel_yield.html#highiodine

    I’d like to see seasoning experiments with cottonseed oil and especially sardine oil. The table you see from the above link has another link to ‘more iodine values’ just below the table you get from the above link.

  145. Allen:

    Hi Again: Concerning my post from January 2 (”use flax oil instead of canola oil for the usual oil wipe down after cooking and cleanup”), I should clarify that what I do is, after cleaning my pan, I rub a slight film of flaxseed oil onto the pan over a flame and let the oil smoke off while my fan vent is going. After a few minutes and the film is dried up, I wipe on another thin film and let it cook off. I don’t leave a wet film on the oil on the pan, it’s always cooked off. I just figured I could heat the pan on the stovetop instead of in the oven to polymerize the oil.

  146. Proud Geek:

    Hmmmm…. Was it something I said?

    I really did read your entire article (with great interest, I might add) before posting my questions. I was really most interested in an answer to my question about adding a flaxseed layer down over the olive oil seasoning. In my early years with cast iron I found that Canola oil (high smoke point) tends to flake off if it’s laid down on top of anything else, including earlier Canola seasoning.

    I’d rather not re-season all my cookware if I can avoid it. Can I get the benefit you describe by laying it down over the olive oil or is it going to flake off too?

  147. Ben:

    I’ve been using cottonseed oil and have managed to get results that rival teflon but have had trouble keeping it going. Partly, I think that is due to personal laziness in maintaining the pan properly. Also, there were a number of other things I did wrong according to the suggestions on this site (temp right but cook time too short, also too much oil left on for each coat). So, I would say its worth a try. It certainly appears cheap and easily available. its sold at my neighborhood store in large amounts as “Cajun Injector” brand “Frying Oil”

  148. Ben:

    I see you mentioned the use of soap which was a question in my mind. The Lodge care guide says to never use soap. Their logic as they explain it is as follows:
    1) Soap is used to remove oil.
    2) Seasoning is made from oil.
    3) Therefore, soap will remove seasoning.

    I’ve always been suspicious of this and it makes even less sense after reading this article. The oil basically plasticizes and that seems like it would be in direct conflict with the mechanism by which detergent suspends oil in water.

  149. jim:

    I have a lodge skillet which is about 3 years old and I have had terrible luck with it. I want to like cast iron, but its hard to get a good seasoning. Anyway, after reading this, I decided to start over. I sanded and cleaned the pan. I have been through this process about 10 times, but it still doesn’t look black and semi gloss like yours. I just ran through another cycle and its in the oven now. I don’t know why this doesn’t seem to be working. Any advice is much appreciated

  150. Ben:

    I did both my Dutch oven and skillet again last night using cottonseed oil. I modified my procedure slightly based on the suggestions on this page. The main deviation is that I still used a succession of more quickly timed coats. For each coat I rubbed oil on with one paper towel and then rubbed it back off with another. I did about 5 or 6 coats and all but the last one were “quick” coats where I left the pans in the oven just long enough to get some good smoke off of them (probably more like 15 or 20m). Then, for the last coat, I left the pan in for the full hour and then shut off the oven and left it in for another hour.

    The skillet was already shiny and black so that was just going along for the ride. The dutch oven, however, was a recovery job and so had been scoured with metal and washed. In the end, it looked like it had been sprayed with polyurethane so I was really happy about that. I fried some potatoes and peppers in it and it seemed to work well, too. I’ll try some eggs this morning for a real challenge.

  151. Ben:

    Update: I was able to get the eggs to separate from both my pans but with some difficulty and I used a fair amount of oil to start with. Not a concern for the dutch oven really as I typically de-glaze anyway. I did a test run comparison against a new T-fal Signature pan and realized I was nowhere close. With the T-fal I was able to cook an egg BONE DRY and get it to separate and slide in the pan with almost no prodding after a mere 30s of cooking. (BTW, I’m not a teflon hater I just enjoy the technical challenges of cast iron). Anyway, at this point I was kind if dismayed but then I watched a video by Paul Wheaton that was most impressive (http://www.richsoil.com/cast-iron.jsp. So I decided I needed MORE plasticized oil for a more uniform finish. I actually did this second seasoning pass on the stove top by putting the pan over medium heat and maintaining a temperature on the surface of the pan that varied between 500d and 550d. I actually verified this with an infra-red (no touch) thermometer but you can probably get similar results just raising the heat slowly until you get good smoke. So, I simply wiped it with a light coat of cottonseed oil and let it smoke. Each time the pan started to look like it was drying up I’d simply wipe it again right there on the heat. After about 15 to 20 passes I simply let the pan go until it quit smoking altogether. I then removed it from the heat and let it cool down to around 200d before wiping it with a light coat of oil.

    To test my new seasoning technique I heated the pan to around 325d and cracked an egg into it. There was no added oil, salt, or pepper. I went simply with the light coat I had wiped on with a paper towel at the end of the seasoning. I was indeed able to get the egg to seperate from the pan with a small amount of spatula prodding and, once free, it slid easily in the pan. Given that the test was even more challenging than that in the video I am really thrilled. I’m curious to see how it holds up over use but that will take time of course. Hope this helps.

  152. Steve:

    I read about you in Cooks Illustrated. Just baking my fry pans for the final time. They are looking good. I will be trying one out tomorrow when I will be frying some AAA striploin. In the past I have tried lard or what ever the old books would tell me. etc Looking forward to the test.

  153. Gary:

    If you own a Lodge pan, don’t chuck it for new smooth bottom pan. I didn’t like the ruff surface in mine so I got out my drill and a sanding disk then spent about an half hour sanding the inside smooth. Seasoned with mixed results until I finally found a method that worked. Because of the stuff I cook in the pan, it required re-seasoning occasionally. Next time will be by your method. Thanks for the great site and instructions.

  154. Joseph:

    Interesting page, the first time I read about this style of seasoning was on chowhound thread:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/433869#2875040

    Quite similar to your method actually with some different elements. Both of you recommend high heat (so the oil shoots past the tar stage into the polymerized and plasticized surface). I love the science presented here. You advocate the high heat for one hour and two hours of cooling for approximately six stages. She advocates cooking it all the way through, but that’s a lot of heat and a lot of gas.

    Finally, she does recommend after it is all said and done to go ahead and cook it for another 3-4 hours I guess to really bake in the seasoning.

    I think I’m going to combine the elements I like most from both and give it a shot.

  155. eleanor:

    What a cool experiment! After having found your technique in Cook’s Illustrated (they should comp you a subscr!), I’m halfway through the process with 3 lodge pans with seasoning removed.

    Neither you nor ATK make clear if the repeating cycles include heating to 200 for 10 min each time prior to oiling (one comment response from you suggests yes). I’ve been doing so, but it means considerable delay for oven cool down. Now you probably (and surely ATK) have double ovens, but a single oven raises the question directly.

    I understand the initial heating opens the pores, however, in later coats, the pores should already be sealed, right? So my inclination going forward is to skip this for the later coats. What process exactly did you follow? Could you update the post to be more explicit as to what needs to be repeated?

    Secondly, if preheat is necessary, how important is the cold oven? Do you use a cold oven to control ‘total time spent in oven’, as in it takes about x min to heat to max from cold + 1 hr + 2 hrs baking in slow-cooling oven? Or does this stand in for ‘let the pans become cold before placing in cold oven’?

    Thanks for your patience with questions & comments. I bet that while you’re stoked by the interest, the handholding can get lame. Great post!

  156. eleanor:

    Ah, 1 more q: do you think heating the pans stovetop at med low for 10 or so minutes could replace the oven heating? Since the point is just to get them hot to touch, perhaps this (step 1 from almost every classic seasoning approach I’ve seen) could help streamline for us with just 1 oven?

  157. dane:

    Well I finally bought a bottle of filtered flax oil and seasoned on top of my Crisco seasoned cast iron.

    All I can say is wow! What a superior finish! I have only made one new coat of it and it really makes a difference. It is not as glassy looking as oil or Crisco. More of a dull matte gloss (better looking). I fried up some bacon and beef and there was no stick.

    While it is seasonong, there is less stink and smoke too. I also found out how wonderful the tast of flax oil is also. I would season with flax oil even if the price tripled!

    If in the event I have any problems of initial seasoning flaking off, I will just strip and redo with the flax.

    Thanks Sheryl for the great information!

  158. Judy:

    I too would like clarification of whether to repeat the heating to 200 degrees each time. Do you reheat to 200 to apply each subsequent layer or just skip that apply the oil and back into 500 degrees?

  159. Justin:

    Thanks for the info and the time you took to figure this out! I stripped down a lodge skillet and I used GNC Natural Brand Flax Seed Oil. I was under the impression that this was pure Flax seed oil but now, after my fourth coat with it, I actually read the bottle and its not. Below are the ingredients; should I start over with a different more pure brand? Certified organic flax seed oil, organic rosemary extract, mixed tocopherols ( vitamin e), ascorbyl palmitate ( vitamin c), citric acid to protect freshness.. The last one is what Im most worried about.. oh, it also says contains soybeans but they are not listed in the ingredients..Any advice would be greatly appriciated!

  160. Mike Sapak:

    Thanks so much for taking the time to document all this information. It’s been a huge help. Like you mentioned, the internet is full of conflicting information on cast iron, but your page stands out as a thoughtful and detailed write-up.

    My fiancée’s mother gave me a few cast iron skillets this year. I’ve used your advice, and I’m halfway through seasoning the brand-new ones. I used a drill with a sanding disc to knock down some of the rough spots. They’re still not as smooth as vintage cast iron, but I think they’ll be quite nice when finished.

    She also gave me a beautiful old Griswold skillet, which I’m in the process of stripping with oven cleaner.

    Thanks again for the info. Can’t wait to try out this new cookware!

    ~MS

  161. Rob Lewis:

    So glad to have found this through the mention in Cook’s Illustrated!

    As for using lye to clean cookware: not to worry. It is highly soluble in water (especially hot water) and will rinse right off. Even if you ingest a teensy bit, it’s only sodium and hydrogen and oxygen (though it will no doubt taste pretty bad). Don’t put it on aluminum, though. Drano is actually lye mixed with pellets of aluminum. When you get it wet, the chemical reaction generates lots of heat that helps to melt and break down the gunk in your drain.

  162. lsb:

    Sheryl: On May 27, 2010 you wrote “You can’t safely use sunflower oil in cooking.” Can you justify this statement? Refined sunflower oil has a smoke point of 246°C, higher than Peanut, Corn, Canola/Rapeseed, Soy, Olive, etc, and is very commonly marketed for as a healthy polyunsaturated oil for general purpose cooking use (including frying). In the UK, for example, it is one of the most common cooking oils. Since I moved to the USA I’ve been surprised at how hard it is to find, and generally disappointed with the flavour of the alternatives (none of them as “clean” a taste, in my opinion), where Safflower seems to come the closest.

  163. Van:

    Sheryl: on the post for cleaning the cast iron you mention washing soda – what is this? Also, do I still use the avocado oil or just start right in with the flaxseed oil? I am getting ready to start the process of stripping but want to clean the pans correctly after the vinegar/water solution.

  164. Stephanie Walker:

    Sheryl, I have a couple of pieces I have inherited. I am fixing to strip the griddle just a test run before I do my skillet so not to mess everything up. My question is..when I strip any of the pieces I have should it get rid of the corrosion on the bottom of the pan ? The griddle just looks porous..but the skillet looks bad to me. The bottom is thick in some places and smooth in others. It is so bad the skillet does not sit even on my ceramic stove top. But as I read I wonder if it hasn’t been warped?My husband keeps telling me to “put it in a fire” I know not to do that..but even if you could …why would some start a fire for a pan? Anyway…how should the bottom of any cast iron piece look? And why is it that the Griswold brand is known to be so much better? I am just learning and I don’t see a name on the bottom my pieces..there is a “G” on the back side of the handle of the griddle but not the skillet

    Thank You, Stephanie

  165. Karen:

    Sheryl, you are beyond genius! Thanks so much for your indepth instructions … excellent resource! I appreciate the time you took to post about cast iron. I look forward to trying your recipes, too! ;-)

    I have used & loved cast iron for years. I have a couple of questions for you:

    (1) I thought I could store a few pieces in my garage when I moved & they rusted. Argh! What is the best way to clean them … do I just use diluted vinegar to get rid of the rust & re-season or start all over (strip each piece down to iron & follow your 6-7 phase process)?
    (2) I read that rust can be cleaned from cast iron with a raw potato & baking soda. Have you tried this before? What are your thoughts?
    (3) I know your first choice for seasoning is flaxseed oil. Is coconut oil okay to use, too?
    (4) I have a reversible stove top griddle/grill (Lodge pre-seasoned). I think I remember you saying you have a stovetop grill. I know it’s best to clean it right after using it while it’s still warm so items don’t bake on. But, the grill side is still a bear to clean. Last time I got frustrated & used a grill brush (you know the one with the brass/metal bristles) with kosher salt to get into the grooves. Any suggestions or advice?

    Thanks in advance for any answers you may have!

  166. Peter:

    I just tried this and the results are good, but I must not have wiped all the opaper towel off the pan and now have little ‘threads’ baked into the pan’s surface. Any way to remove these? Next time I will do with a linen cloth. Thanks!

  167. sayworth:

    I hope this isn’t a dumb question but…

    When seasoning, should we be rubbing the oil on all surfaces of the skillet (i.e. sides, handle, and underneath – as opposed to just the cooking surface required for non-stick)?

    I would think the whole pan needs to be done in order to prevent rusting.

    Now, if we do season the bottom side, what happens to this surface when direct cooking flame is applied?

    Thanks

  168. sayworth:

    2nd question:

    In a previous posting where you used (I think it was) avocado oil instead of flaxseed, you finished up with lard for a couple cycles at the end. Would you still do this with the flax oil coating?

    Thanks

  169. Peter:

    Thank you for a great post and thank you all for the great comments. Sheryl, I followed your directions to a tee — stripped some old griswolds with oven cleaner, sanded the remaining tough patches, and then went through the lengthy process of seasoning. All looked good until I washed them the first time with water and a scrubby sponge. Most of the seasoning came off, leaving the original iron exposed again. Also, although I seasoned the bottoms as well, when I wipe those down iron dust comes off. Weird, huh. Do you have any ideas? I’m at a loss.

  170. Lakshmi:

    Hello Sheryl

    Thank you for the post. Interesting. I want to know if I can use sunflower oil or refined oil for this seasoning or if there is any other commercial name or substitute for flax oil.

    Thanks

  171. Joseph Bonn:

    One tip to those of use with lower quality cast iron (the ones that start out quite bumpy and coarse from poor casting) is to hand polish the iron with silcon oxid paper (200 grit to 400 grit to 800 grit) and then season the pan as per Sheryl’s method. Make sure to clean the pan well after polishing to remove metal shavings. This takes a little work but is worth it if you want a smooth finish.

  172. Philip:

    Just wanted to say Thanks for your help Sheryl. I search for a few hours before finding your site,I used the electrolosis method from your link to clean five skillets a muffin pan and two dutch ovens we have then curred them using your method seven times on each one at 525 for one hour(an oven full each time).What a great method of curing castiron fantastic results truly nonstick Thanks again for sharing your knowledge Philip.

  173. Chrisy:

    Hi, i have used the technique before but i’m just worried about the fumes coming out of my oven. Aren’t they carcenogenic also? It fills my whole room after baking the pan, i cant breathe in there.

  174. M.Ashori:

    Hi
    Can you tel me about the production technolugy of cast Iron pot and pans?
    Regards Ashori
    Telefax?0098 21 44083292

  175. M.Ashori:

    Hi
    Can you please let me know the cast Iron pot is prouce in sand mould or die cast?
    Best Regards
    M.Ashori
    Telefax:0098 21 44083292

  176. J. Stanton:

    “I should add: there is now some safflower oil in the market that’s been modified to not dry.”

    That would be high-oleic safflower oil. Any oil named “high-oleic” will be high in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat, and is not what you want for this purpose.

    Safflower oil (non-high oleic) has roughly the same PUFA content (75%) as flaxseed oil (72%), and is substantially cheaper. I’m not sure the n-3 vs. n-6 content matters much when you’re polymerizing them anyway.

    Evening primrose oil and hempseed oil are slightly higher in PUFA, but are likely to be just as expensive as flaxseed oil. If you’re stuck in the boonies and can’t find safflower oil, corn and soybean oil are almost as high in PUFA (57-59%).

    Thanks for the great information, Sheryl! I never knew what ’seasoning’ actually meant chemistry-wise.

    J. Stanton
    http://www.gnolls.org

  177. Shari:

    Is there any oil you would recommend cooking with (over others) after the pan has been seasoned?

  178. sudz:

    thank you cheryl

    after reading your post, i did some research of my own on polymerization. It appears that a lot of lab experiments saw significantly increased polymerization as measured by viscosity when kept at >450F for 3 or more hours and drying times for linseed oil of around 7 hours (i assume meaning fully polymerized). Have you tried longer bakes? I will try this method on carbon steel as it appears that no one has posted about it.

    sudz

  179. veronica:

    Found you through Cook’s Illustrated :)

    I have a question. I recently purchased a Lodge Skillet (new so it is pre-seasoned). Would it behoove me to strip it and go the flaxseed way or just stick with the pre-seasoning? I also have a Lodge griddle (or comal as we in Texas call it)that is about 15 years old and needs a re-seasoning but has no crud on it. Should I just go for the vinegar/water bath and skip the oven cleaner portion before seasoning with flaxseed oil? Any advice would be most appreciated.

  180. J. Stanton:

    Shari:

    I like refined, cold-pressed coconut oil because it’s neutral, extremely heat-stable, and nearly impossible to burn. The unrefined stuff makes everything taste like coconuts…but I still get cold-pressed, because the cheapo RBD industrial oil is sometimes hydrogenated.

    Beef tallow is delicious for things that want a bit of beefy flavor. It’s why McDonald’s french fries used to taste so much better than they do now.

    I don’t like to use anything that’s liquid at room temperature for frying because the polyunsaturates get all oxidized and glycated. Varnish is for furniture and cast-iron pans, not your arteries.

    JS
    http://www.gnolls.org

  181. Denise:

    Sheryl, when we first got our new ‘pre-seasoned’ huge cast iron skillet, I got at it with our orbital sander and spent about 2-3 hours sanding it with progressively finer
    sandpaper. Amazing results – especially now that I have re-seasoned them using your flaxseed method. Thanks.

  182. Alex:

    OK I have seasoned an old #12 Griswold and an old #6 Wagner with flax oil and the results were absolutely supendous. I’m super impressed. But two questions have popped up along the way. First, flax oil is not cheap and since it goes rancid at the drop of the hat and even in the fridge has an extremely limited shelf life I was wondering what the “next best”, and cheaper oil would be? I ask because as a hobby I snatch up old skillets in need of care, clean them with electrolysis, and give them to friends and relatives. If there is an oil that is *almost* as good as flax oil I’d like to know what it is.

    Second, what is the benefit of leaving the pans in the oven with the door closed to cool down for two hours? Needless to say that dramatically extends the time it takes to do do 6+ coats. What is the harm in either leaving the door open or pulling the pan and leaving it on top of the stove to cool? Isn’t the polymerization fully completed after an hour of baking?

    Thanks in advance.

  183. Gabriel:

    Hello from Jerusalem,

    Wow, Sheryl! What a fantastic post, and a great help to semi-science junkies who are obsessed with getting things done right. I’ll be utilizing your method within a few days on some of my cast-iron cookware. It’s contributions like this that make the internet a great place. As far as aesthetics go, your pan looks terrific.

    Big thanks and shalom aleyhem,

    Gabriel

  184. uwe:

    I had the same issue as Mike. When I used the seasoned pan – seasoned following your protocol – during cleanup the paper towels all turned super black.

  185. Jane:

    Do the six coats need to happen consecutively, all in one day?
    OR
    Can I do the six coats over the course of six days/nights?

  186. dwan muller:

    On researching flaxseed oils & linseed oils I discovered the reason you do not want to use commercial linseed oils such as ones sold in paint and hardware stores. If they are labbeled ‘boiled’ they have solvents and other substances added that will not only make you sick but might even kill you! Great comments…I learned a lot…thanks

  187. octane69:

    i used organic linseed oil and followed your instructions applying a super thin layer, but instead of putting it in the oven, i heated it over the stove instead. It was smoking badly for the first 2 rounds very badly and left the kitchen towel black when it cleaned it off(after letting it cool till it was warm enough to handle of course!) and then followed your instructions about applying n heating and cleaning off etc… from the 3rd coat onwards, it smoked a little only and it leaves a beautiful dark brownish patina. I heated the pan from the base then left it on the stove in four other positions too. The pan has a beautiful hard smooth coating now (after 8coats) and i cant wait to test it out later cooking dinner!

  188. Dan Alexandru Nicolescu:

    I just purchased a new Griswold cast iron small square egg skillet. As it has never been used since its fabrication I don’t know whether new Griswold cast iron needs to be seasoned or is it preseasoned: This is the link to it

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&_trksid=p4340.l2557&rt=nc&nma=true&_rdc=1&item=300529126521&ru=http://shop.ebay.com:80/%3F_from%3DR40%26_trksid%3Dp5197.m570.l1313%26_nkw%3D300529126521%26_sacat%3DSee-All-Categories%26_fvi%3D1&si=I2ph9hiD%252FwTraSwYU2QLJUfWEBc%253D&viewitem=#ht_500wt_1156

    Please, let me know whether the fact that it is gray in nature tells that it is unseasoned

  189. Kevin E:

    Thank you so much, Sheryl. This information is invaluable. I’ve never been happier with my cast iron.

    Uwe:
    I’m pretty sure the black that comes off on the paper towel when coating the pan with oil after cleaning it is carbon, which is exactly what you want. My bet is the more the pan is seasoned, the less the carbon comes off.

  190. Sherry W:

    I have used the oven cleaner (about 5 applications) on a cast iron skillet and there still is a small amount of black on the bottom of the skillet. Around the sides the black rust still remains but there are some places where the oven cleaner cut through the black rust. My question is: Should I try to get all of the black rust off of the sides or can I just season over it. The bottom of the skillet was where the problem was with rust where people had used scouring pads and even put it in the dishwasher. This pan was at our beach house. Thanks.

  191. Shifra B.:

    I also have a question. You mention that you should oil and bake the pan 6 times before it is finally ready for use. Do you have to do this in one complete session or can there be days or even weeks between oiling/baking sessions? As a working mother I don’t always have a lot of time to spend on seasoning a cast iron pot using the method you descibed here.

  192. Jon J.:

    It was with great trepidation that I sprayed oven cleaner on my favorite pan. However, after the third flax application it became clear that this process was the real deal. Five treatments and now I don’t think I could get anything to stick if I tried. Now I’m lining up the rest of my collection to repeat the process.

  193. Philip:

    Sheryl,

    Thank you for sharing your research! I’ll be re-seasoning my wife’s skillets soon.
    A question: I have a new kamodo style grill, & was wondering if you think your seasoning recipe would be beneficial on my grill’s cast iron grate? There will be times when the .grill/grate temps will be in 700 degree range,(steak searing). So my question is will the flaxseed seasoning withstand those temps, or would I be better off using the (good-ole-boy) method of slathering the grate with Crisco?

    Thanks again for your article!

    Philip

  194. Matt:

    Not looking for an answer. Just sharing my experience. I followed the instructions per cooksillustrated which was essentially a summary of this website. After 7 applications, I tried to fry an egg, I used plenty of oil, and it stuck to the pan and when I washed the pan, with a nylon brush, no soap, the season came off. Will try again and see if I have better results.

  195. Mary Yamashita:

    Grape-seed oil, with an Iodine value of 135 and 64-76% linoleic acide composition, would seem to be a good candidate for cast iron cookware seasoning using Cheryl’s method. Does anyone have any experience using it for seasoning cast iron cookware?

  196. Mike:

    Matt & uwe, Mike back here. A followup from my post from 12/27/10. I’ve now been able to season a pan and clean it without removing the seasoning!

    I tried several methods to clean, and none of them did the three things I wanted: 1) cleaned the pan 2) left the seasoning intact 3) didn’t take an inordinate amount of time. The Alton Brown method of rubbing coarse salt in a bit of warm oil works eventually but takes a LOT of time on darker burned areas, and makes a salty mess. Simmering water and rubbing with a paper towel burned my fingers and removed some seasoning. Water and a soft bristled brush removed the seasoning (I’m guessing the bristles are more abrasive at the tip than we realize).

    Finally I hit upon a method that leaves the pan looking better after each use! I’m modestly calling it Mike’s Cast iron Cleaning (MCC). The only equipment required is a plastic scrubbie, which is made of nylon that is twisted all over itself into a disk or ball. Be sure it doesn’t have any built-in soap or metal; you want a simple bunch of balled-up nylon.

    In the MCC method you start with a skillet nicely seasoned by carefully following the instructions Sheryl gives. Now use it for cooking, being sure to put enough oil in the skillet (enough to coat plus about 1 teaspoon). After you’re done cooking, put oil in the hot pan if it is dry and then enjoy your meal. After dinner, conversation, and hopefully a glass or two of wine, the pan is cool enough to clean.

    Turn the sink water to the hottest position (mine comes out at about 135F); I put on kitchen gloves so I don’t burn myself. Put the skillet at an angle under the water and you can see the most of the fat melt from the hot water and come right out of the pan. When the running water has cleaned all its going to clean comes the magic part of the MCC method. Leave about 1/4″ of water in the skillet and put it up on your counter. Now simply rub the scrubbie in large circles inside the skillet. All the crud comes up, and it actually seems to smooth the pan surface. You can actually see the waterproof seasoning emerge under the water as you swirl the scrubbie!

    To finish up, as after any cleaning method you rinse, dry lightly with a towel, place on a burner or in your warm stove to make sure all water is gone, then rub maybe 1/4 teaspoon of oil over the skillet for extra protection.

  197. jordan:

    hey Sheryl, great article very in depth. i have a question… i have two de Buyer mineral iron frying pans. i have been trying to season them for months with limited success. when i seem to get a good seasoning built up it eventually just sort of cracks in an area and flakes away. after reading your article i am convinced that it is largely due to the low quality vegetable oil that i’ve been seasoning with. do you think you’re technique would work on my pans as they are not cast iron. they are 99% pure iron. here is the link NOT to promote just for reference.
    http://www.debuyer.com/product.php?id=711&cat=60&background=bleu1&lang=ENG

    thanks for your time,
    jordan

  198. Greg:

    Hi Cheryl,
    Thanks so much for this post. I followed your instructions and now have two beautifully seasoned cast iron pieces. I realize that one of them (5qt dutch oven) is of somewhat crappy quality (very rough along the inside walls) which likely led to it’s previously crappy seasoning. The flax seed oil finish is a significant improvement. The other piece (10″ skillet) is beautiful. So I now have my other pieces in the oven ‘cleaning’ to get the old finish off.

    Again…many thanks for the detailed information.
    Greg

  199. Kate:

    Hi Sheryl,

    I just read the Cook’s Illustrated article about seasoning using your method and came right to your site. I have an old Wagner frying pan that I picked up at the Salvation Army today. The black coating is coming off the outside of the pan, and there is some rust in and outside it. After I remove the rust, I intend to strip the interior and exterior and then season both with your flaxseed oil process. Is it Okay to do the interior AND the exterior? I thought if this works out well, I will strip my new Lodge frying pan and get the same super slick surface that amazed Cooks test kitchen.

    Also, after this seasoning is in place, can I use safflower oil to cook with and continue maintaining the seasoning?

    Thanks in advance for your time and trouble.

    Kate

  200. Bobbie:

    Hi Sheryl,

    Cook’s Illustrated talked about your method, and it made sense. Thank you for demystifying this topic, I have been pulling out my hair over this. My dutch oven and three pans have been stripped and reseasoned three times without results (after doing internet searches all over the place), and the one time I ventured to use my dutch oven (with brickets) I had a rusty mess. What a cleanup job that was! By the way, you can strip cast iron in a self-cleaning oven, but have some extra elements on hand, I had to replace the element in my oven. Burned it out. I’d like to try the electrolytic method and see how that goes. Then I’ll try seasoning them one more time!

    Thanks,
    Bobbie

  201. Henry:

    Sheryl,

    I’ve been following your instructions for a while now, with very good results. I did have one minor suggestion that folks might find useful. I now use a microfiber hand towel for applying the flax seed oil. The benefits are fewer fibers left behind (than cotton or paper towel), a consistently even coating, and the thinest coating I’ve been able to get. This has resulted in a very glassy surface, looking more like enamel than the cast iron seasoning I’m used to.

    Also, on pans with years of seasoning which I do not want to strip, I sand (200 grt) down the existing seasoning in the pan to a smooth surface before washing, heating, and starting the flax seasoning treatment. I don’t sand down to metal, but I like to get rid of bumps before getting that glassy flax surface going.

    Thanks for keeping your blog up; I point all friends with cast iron your way. The shine these pans have is a bit of a conversation starter!

    -Henry

  202. Sheryl Canter:

    Using a microfiber cloth is a good idea. Thanks, Henry.

  203. Brent Rose:

    Hi Sheryl,

    Thank you so much for this. I spent countless hours online looking for something like this. I seasoned the heck out of a new Lodge skillet using your technique, and eggs slide right out of it with just a little bit of oil.

    One question which I would love your thoughts on. I just got a new carbon steel wok and I tried to season it using a different technique, which didn’t work that well. Do you think your technique would work just as well on a carbon steel wok? Any reason not to try it?

    Again, thank you so much for this.

    Cheers,

    Brent

  204. Richard:

    Hi Sheryl,
    I’ve been cooking with and acquiring cast iron for years. I’ve always used Crisco shortening for seasoning with good results. After reading your article I took a Lodge preseasoned combo cooker that the coating had started to chip away(not sure why that happens sometimes) and wire wheeled the cooking surface down to bare metel. I followed your instructions with flaxseed oil and it came out awesome. I’ve seasoned it 6 times so far, and am going to do it 6-10 more times.

    Thanks for putting this info on the internet. Flaxseed oil is the way to go.

    Richard

  205. Chris Crawford:

    Thank you so much for all of this information. I’ve been searching the web for two days trying to find out the truth. There are so many conflicting reports, but once I read your site I knew this was going to work. I’ve been trying to season my grill plates for my outside grill. So I stripped them with a self cleaning oven, and I followed your process exactly. They look great, and they are really smooth. Will be great grilling on these. The only bad thing about this process is the smell in your home. Cleaning cast iron with a self cleaning oven cycle takes forever and smokes out the whole house. Seasoning it is also bad, but not as bad as stripping. I’m glad it’s over, and thank you once again for explaining this so well.

  206. Brian:

    Thanks for a great article. I found it really interesting and can’t wait to try your method. I have typically used the bbq to heat the cast iron so I don’t stink up my house. Did the flax stink above the smoke point?

  207. Jenna:

    Is there any way to do this at a lower temperature for longer? Although I really want these results, my family cannot stand the fumes produced and my husband insists that they are toxic to breath – which could be the case. Any comments in this regards?

    Jenna

  208. Lynn:

    I am totally going to try this method, once I find the suitable oil, but I have a question: can I also use it to season a cast-iron pan (a wok, in this case) that has a coloured enamel exterior?

  209. bill langell:

    Hi
    I bought a new Lodge skillet that comes slightly dimpuled and with a black coating over the cast iron.
    Is there a better pan to start with—if not–do I need to get rid of the coating?
    Thank you for your help.

  210. bill langell:

    I am old and did not know I was at the end of a long string of information.
    I went back to the top and read all the way down.
    My questions were already addressed—-so thank you to everyone.

  211. Kate:

    Hi there,

    I have three pieces on their second round in the oven after oiling them with flax-seed oil. I took the suggestion here and used a microfiber cloth to apply and to wipe. Things so far seem to be going well. I am heating at 500 – my place totally stinks but there has not been any visible smoke or setting off the smoke alarms as I have heard others have experienced. Perhaps the exceptionally thin coat accomplished by the microfiber cloth is the answer to not being smoked out. The heat is passed the smoke point – but alas no visible smoke – just stink. I assume that as long as I have heated the pans with flax-seed as far past the smoke point as my oven will allow, all will be well – smoke or not.

    Regards,

    Kate

  212. Seth:

    Thanks for really nailing down the science.

    I’ve been using sesame oil for seasoning cast iron for several years. My stovetop method has never produced the results you have gotten, but I think (based on trial and error) that sesame oil has some of the same qualities as flaxseed oil. (I.e., lotsa warnings about it going rancid, a low smoke point, and it seems to leave a dry hard coat on my pans (although you would surely tell me I’m applying it too thick).

    Whaddya think?

    Also, a question. If the lard of our ancestors worked well because of the pigs’ natural diet, then wouldn’t rendered fat from wild animals (my business partner is a hunter) work well too? I’m slowly making my way through a tub of duck fat (I recommend it for pilaf, btw), and may try it out for seasoning the pan.

    Best.

  213. Ben:

    FYI, the linseed oil usually sold at the hardware store is “boiled linseed oil” and has other (toxic) additives included to make it more shelf-stable, as well as to make it more useful as a paint aditive and standalone finish.

  214. Dave W:

    Thanks for a great article! We’ve done 2 coats so far with the 3rd on in the oven as I type this, and so far, it’s looking great! I can’t wait to see what it looks like when we’re done!

  215. SA:

    Thanks for this post. I have a newer cast iron pan which I didn’t know how to work with when I first got it, and I burned on some material that never fully came off so I always had a sticky pan. I was always afraid to try re-seasoning it myself. I just used oven cleaner for a few rounds, and then 5 rounds of flaxseed oil as you describe. I haven’t tried the coating yet, I’m a little worried it might be a tiny bit sticky, but it seems so much better than it used to be. I’m looking forward to trying it.

  216. walker:

    Great article. I can’t wait to try it on a pan I just inherited. However, in hopes to clear up confusion from other posters, I would like to share the fastest and best way to season a NEW pan: take it out of the box and cook with it. DON’T automatically get out the drill, sandpaper, and Easy-off. I know it’s impossible to believe, but the rougher texture of new pans does NOT make it less non-stick. Really. It’s all about the seasoning, which is an ongoing process, not a one-time thing. If you’re obsessed with having a “glassy” smooth finish, use the pan! It will happen in time just like your grandmother’s. I’ve got a Lodge skillet that I’ve used for only 4-5 years, and it’s perfectly smooth just from daily use and care. I’ve never seasoned it. They did that for me at the factory. I just keep it up and it gets better and better. I guess some people are more concerned about the nostalgia of their skillets, but I cook in mine, so it seems a little silly to spend 12 hours on a skillet that’s already ready to go. Also, if you’re expecting to cook eggs with zero oil/butter, get a teflon or learn to poach.

  217. Mike H:

    I left my Lodge simmering on the burner too long, the liquid evaporated and I burned off a good bit of the seasoning. Great article and some great nuggets of info in the comments too!!

    I had great results with the following procedure:

    1) stripped the residual seasoning in my self-cleaning oven.

    2) the lodge pan was bumpy because they use coarse foundry sand, so I sanded it a bit. I didn’t go too crazy, but it’s much smoother than when I bought it.

    3) rinsed it very well and then filled it with water and boiled for a half hour. Rinsed again with hot water and boiled water for half an hour again. I got some nice black rust on it.

    4) I rinsed it well and dried it in the oven per Sheryl’s original instructions. Then followed her procedure for 6 layers with organic Flaxseed oil.

    The pan is awesomesauce!! ;) Thank you Sheryl!

    By the way, I was considering using Sardine oil which has a higher iodine value and also has a low smoke point. I found some next to the Flaxseed oil at Whole Foods, but unfortunately it wasn’t pure and had citrus flavoring and vitamin E. I did some searching for food grade pure Sardine oil but could only find pet grade oil (Icelandic Pure).

    How regulated is the pet food market? If we could be certain the product was pure it might make a good alternative for seasoning cast iron. I would accept the risk of rancidity since it’s going to be polymerized anyway.

    http://journeytoforever.org/biodiesel_yield.html

    http://www.cookingforengineers.com/article/50/Smoke-Points-of-Various-Fats

  218. will:

    what about hemp oil? Like flax oil it has a low smoke point and lots of omega 3, 6, and 9s. Would it work just as well as the flaxseed oil?

  219. Julia M:

    Hi,

    According to a website affiliated with the Oxford University chemistry department, the flash point for linseed/flaxseed oil is 222 degrees Celsius – about 432 degrees Fahrenheit:

    http://msds.chem.ox.ac.uk/LI/linseed_oil.html

    (I’ve seen the same numbers given on other sites, as well.)

    The flash point for an oil is the point at which it can vaporize to form an ignitable mixture in air.

    So this might be a reason to keep the oven temp at 400F when seasoning pans. The point at which linseed/flaxseed oil will burn seems to be a lot lower than the temperature of a standard oven cleaning cycle (which I assume is designed to burn of fat that has higher smoke-/flashpoints than linseed/flaxseed oil does.

    (According to the same site, spontaneous ignition of linseed oil occurs at 343C/650F, so definitely stay well below that!)

    Thanks very much for these terrific instructions, Sheryl! I’m about to give them a try, but I’ll keep my oven temp to 400F after rubbing on the oil.

  220. Elizabeth Z.:

    Hey, I like your article! I’ve been struggling here, and having some understandable science on my side is a great help. I’ve done a few Internet searches, and you’re right – no one really says the same things.

    I’ve accumulated a couple cast iron skillets – two of which I got at a garage sale – along with a new Dutch oven. To put it bluntly, I barely know how to use them. I tried to reseason two of them, but the surface came out sticky in places and bone-dry in others. I used Crisco, and I suspect I put it on too thick. (Is that what happened?) I preheated it in the oven for a few minutes, then put the Crisco on, and stuck it back in the oven to let it bake for two hours, like one set of directions said. *shrugs* I did almost the exact same thing when I first got them, and it came out all right then. I really have no idea why this time was different.

    I also suspect that I managed to get rust on one or two. Maybe? Or maybe there already was rust on the old ones? Maybe that’s not an issue at all. I don’t know. I’ve tried a couple different cleaning methods for after each use, too, but again, no one ever gives the same directions. One said something about just using coarse salt, but that didn’t get it really clean. A few said it’s all right to just use water with no soap. (Definitely, definitely no soap. So I haven’t done that, at least.) *throws hands up* A few sources told me it’s good to reseason every once in awhile. Well, how often is that? About how long should a good seasoning last before another would be a good idea?

    As you can see, I need some help. Could you give a poor college student some extra tips? Or perhaps direct me to a good site or book or something?

    Thanks.

  221. Helene Miller:

    I wiped canola pan on my cast iron pan last night, put it in an 250 oven for 2 hours. Let it cool in the oven overnight. Wiped out excess oil this morning. Put it in the cabinet. If I don’t use the pan often, will the oil become rancid? How will I know if it does? What should I do if it does?

  222. Kelli:

    Thank you so much for the information… I grew up with cast iron and lament to the loss of so many of my grandmother and mother’s old Wagner and Griswold pans and skillets over the years. I am now trying to build up my own collection of beautifully seasoned cast iron… which may cost me a fortune :)

    My question is… after getting that beautiful coating, how do you care for it so you don’t have to re-season often???

    Thanks!!!!!!

  223. Ryan:

    Great article, thanks! You should become an Amazon affiliate and post links to good Flaxseed oils on here. Because that’s exactly what I did, went to Amazon and bought some. Links on your post would simplify that process and make you money at the same time. Just my 2 cents.

  224. Sheryl Canter:

    Great suggestion, Ryan. I’m already an Amazon affiliate. Maybe I’ll add some links, thanks.

  225. Russell:

    Hi, has anyone used this method for seasoning and then cooked eggs?
    I did and my eggs permanently bonded to the skillet more than the flax oil
    and yes I used oil when cooking them on medium heat
    Well, back to the way I seasoned before where the objective is not to make the skillet black and shiny, but to make it NON STICK!!!
    I have another pan that I seasoned myself from scratch and I cook scrambled eggs on it without ANY sticking
    Don’t use Cheryls method if you want your pan non stick
    her method is for hanging your pan on the wall and looking pretty

  226. Gabe:

    Hi Sheryl, this post is awesome. I’ve been looking for some real advice on seasoning and this is the first time anyone has really talked about the science behind it all. Anyway, I have somewhat of a unique situation. I own a small crepery and we use cast iron crepe griddles imported from europe. I can’t put the whole griddle into the oven so I have to season it by heating up the griddle itself. They go up to 300 degrees celsius (about 570 fahrenheit). In the past I’ve tried canola oil, vegetable oil, lard, etc. but they all start to flake off after a month or so. Keep in mind that the griddles are in use for 12 hours a day, six days a week. So, I’m looking for a seasoning method that will last longer. Do you think this will work the same by using the heating mechanism of the griddles themselves as opposed to heating in the oven?

  227. natalie:

    hi sheryl,
    thanks for this. i just wondered if you know of an alternative method not using the oven? my pan has a wooden handle!

  228. Mike:

    So I went through the entire process, did it about 8 times. I had ruined the seasoning on my pan by leaving on the burner too long drying it, a few too many times. It started sticking really bad so I looked up reseasoning and found this page. Its a 12″ Lodge pan. I stripped it with oven cleaner, took 2x 24 hour soaks and lots of elbow grease with a stainless scrubber but I got it all the way down to bare metal. Then followed these directions, and have been using it for a while now. It works amazingly well. My old seasoning was great but took a long time to build up and get really non stick. This method, the first thing I cooked was frying some bacon wrapped dates. Even with oil in the pan, they all stuck immediately. However, after getting nice and crispy, they all released and that was the last thing to stick to my frying pan.

    I fried eggs and hash browns in it the following morning and it was perfect. Eggs slipped around with absolutely no sticking at all. Over easy eggs came out perfect. Hash browns didn’t stick at all, usually I would have them stick for the first few minutes until they started getting crispy, but not with this new seasoning.

    Ever since I’ve fried and cooked all sorts of things in it and it works great.

    My suggestion to those who failed, is to make SURE you follow the procedure very closely. I think the key things are VERY VERY thin layer of flax oil. Wipe it off each time until the paper towel is literally dry and wont pick any more up. Plus use high heat for long periods of time. I actually extended the baking time to about 90 minutes or so at 550. Repeated this 8 times and started using it. Before using it I did one last long bake with no oil on it, 2-3 hours at 500+ to really bake that stuff on there. Perfect, smooth, slippery seasoning. Rock hard, in fact it feels and reacts to a stainless spatula as if its just bare iron. Its great, and returned my favorite frying pan back to full functionality. Now I just have to not mess it up like I did before.

    Always have some oil in the pan when cooking something, and clean it up afterwords and it’ll just get better and better. I think it will work great long term as its only building up more and more at this point. The base that this article describes is a fine start and worked well for me. Thanks for the information!

  229. Therron Brown:

    Do I coat the entire pan with flaxseed oil? The bottom, outer sides etc, or just the cooking surfaces?
    Soory if this has been covered.
    Thanks

    -Therron

  230. Russ:

    I learned that I can easily clean the grills on a gas stove top by placing them in a plastic bag, adding about 1/2 cup of amonia, tying the bag and letting it sit for an hour or two. Must be careful when adding the amonia and again when the bag is opened because amonia fumes are choking. After a good rinse in tap water, I can simply wipe off most of the burned on gunk. Light use of steel wool finishes the job. Only a little amonia does the trick because the fumes do the work. Do you know whether or not this would work for cleaning gunk off old cast iron pans? Thanks, Russ

  231. Wyatt:

    IRON PAN SEASONING FOR THE CHEAP AND LAZY???
    credit..organic lawncare for the cheap and lazy
    http://www.richsoil.com/lawn-care.jsp
    by Paul Wheaton who also has a cast iron article online:
    http://www.richsoil.com/cast-iron.jsp
    I am cheap lazy and seem on top of that seem have a shorter and shorter attention span.
    Just wanted to laud your perfectionism Sheryl! That popover job was more of a full restoration.
    Anyways I curse the guy who mentioned linseed/flaxseed oil the other night at dinner….CURSES! My house smells like some beatnik artist studio sans beatniks and minus art. Clearly with my ADD i did not read either the above article nor yours near attentively enough, just enough for inspiration to make a dangerous mess. I’ve been pretty good with my own pans , but not so anal as to not let others do the dishes, ya know. So here are some of my modified lazy man results. I worked with 4 pans, a huge skillet, with many scars because pizzas and other items have been cut in it over the years. a normal sized skillet, and a tiny newish one (saucepan) that came with a kinda rough finish. Only one did I “strip” this I call my “comal” (Spanish) it has nearly no rim, my favorite for fried eggs.
    A yi yi my ADD is kicking as well as the coffee, I’ll try and keep going here. I took shortcuts with all these, though was not so cheap and bought the fricking 20 dollar organic flaxssed oil, thats like 2 six packs of delicious hoppy beer…..wait thats not cheap either! Wah! Can I season pans with beer.
    I kept the existing base seasoning on 3 of them, I cleaned them first with salt and hot water (may have even boiled water to rinse) and a plastic scrubby ball thing (the brass ones are better) I heated them and did several coats in and on my 40’s O’keefe and Meritt. If any one scratches the chrome on this baby, I’ll hit them with the big skillet! I did my coats for much shorter time periods. I did a pretty good job of keeping the coats quite thin. Yes i got some “bumpys” but the long and the short of it worked good-enough. certainly the linseed-flax-seed adhered well to the year old bacon olive grape steak whatever I’d cooked on it seasoning, I found the minor “bumpys” come off on use or salt cleaning. Since the flax oil smelled like a stinky fresh mona lisa canvas, I used the veritable old BBQ seasoning trick, sliced an onion and cleaned it up while on the burner at high. a better seasoned seasoning, no?
    Two questions come to my lazy mind:
    Why not just season your pan by frying onions? Onion oil anyone?
    Why not just season your pan as you cook
    Is cooking with flaxseed oil as gross as I imagine? Is it a laxative? Yikes!
    guess thats 4 questions.
    Anyways I’m satisfied with my shortcut results for now. Time will tell. Anyhow if they allow you to pack your pans for the flight, please bring them on your next trip to California for comparison. I may just use the flaxseed for cleanups. PS I fried up some meat with the pan that I cleaned up with onion first and got no oile paint taste like I was afraid I would.
    MY BEST SHORTCUT: I only seasoned reseasoned the fry-pan’s cooking surfaces, I dont cook on the sides or bottom, these are not display items. Also, der, I did all my pans pretty much at once to save energy, etc.
    By the way the pitted huge one came out aok, yeah sure you can see the scars, but its non stick never the less. the one that was newer and has some texture to the bottom is stillsomewhat textured….I was thinking i might end up with a mirror like coating atop it, but is good enough.
    Now for the debacle of the “comal”
    I decided to go more by the book on this my favorite flat skillet. Looking back I’d go with electrolysis or just shelled out for a new one. This treasure of mine had lots of hard “gook” first started with mild abrasives like salt, didnt have my metal potscrubber, then used beer line cleaner: PBW…great stuff(should have let it sit overnight, (what me patient?). i tried to burn it off though i got no 900 degree self cleaning oven.I used steel wool(only had “0″ too fine) Then being a dude, I had to use my powertools, you know. got my Dewalt lithium ion battery pact impact driver (yeah i know wish it was Makita) and a bit with a brass brush on it, THIS WORKED VERY WELL AND DID NOT SCAR/SCORE THE IRON. I sure as heck made a bug mess, I even used the stinky linseed oil on the pal while spinning the brass brush. Now this was not a vintage special heirloom pan. I will probably for here on out keep power tools by the sink. What a mess! black gunky spray everywhere, looks like some guy tried to change his crankcase oil over one of those spin-art toys! Good thing I’m a bachelor.
    I then followed your directions on this one but at shorter intervals as with the other pans, Still some irremovable charred chunks. This was not lazy of my, some might even say industrious! NOT WORTH IT,the ones with the existing base coat are as good if not better thus far.
    Shoot this junk-man has like four car batteries in his yard, I sure haven’t used electrolysis in some time, for that matter no laser hair removal or Brazilian waxing lately.I have just finished these 4 pans, havent cooked so much on them, will update.
    May fry some eggs up in thinner now. Always looking for the shortcut. Laziness is the mother of invention. I really appreciate your post, your methodical, scientific ways. Speaking of lazy, I will be shipping you my popover pans, whats the going rate for the works?
    In all seriousness, this seasoning could be a nice little side line for someone, like knife sharpening. I’m going to suggest it to the guys at our Santa Cruz farmers markets.
    Peace.

  232. Paula:

    Wyatt, that was hilarious, as much as I could follow it!!

    Cheryl, I just have to thank you for all your work and willingness to spend the time to share with others. Have tried other methods of seasoning that haven’t worked so well. I’m anxious to try this and will update when I do which may be sometime from now.

  233. MILLIE:

    My cast iron cookware has wooden handles; can these be safely seasoned in the oven?

    Thanks for your research; it is very helpful!

  234. Frank:

    Kudos to you Sheryl for the informative article.

    My question is this: I have a cast iron kettle that I want to sit on our wood fired stove, to act as a humidifier.

    I want to be able to season the interior so it does not rust.

    Would your method work for that application, do you think?

    Many thanks.

  235. Bob Merrill:

    Thanks for the information on seasoning cast iron.
    I wanted tp comment on the bumpy surface of some of the skillets sold today. I also got a Lodge skillet and wanted the surface smooth. I sanded it with an angle grinder with abrasive paper attachment. Perfectly smooth now! I know a lot of cooks don’t own one of these, but maybe they know someone who works with metal, or does auto body work – never hurts to ask.

  236. Modemac:

    Sheryl, we’ve put your flaxseed oil seasoning treatment through some tests, over at the Cast Iron Cooking group on Facebook. We’ve made sure to include a lot of photos to back up our findings. You may want to take a look: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.271718659505838.76462.217078104969894&type=1

  237. Aluminum Grating:

    I have been pulling out my hair over this. My dutch oven and three pans have been stripped and reseasoned three times without results (after doing internet searches all over the place), and the one time I ventured to use my dutch oven (with brickets) I had a rusty mess. What a cleanup job that was! By the way, you can strip cast iron in a self-cleaning oven

  238. Hugo:

    Is Lodge Cast Iron Skillet pre seasoned from the factory done with something that is safe to cook in? Or should I strip it and re-do with flaxseed oil?

    Thanks,
    Hugo.

  239. Aluminum Grating:

    Thanks for the links. I wish canola oil was in the table with the iodine values. I’m pretty sure that’s higher than soy oil. I found a link with another table at one point, but I can’t find it again to save my life.

  240. Modemac:

    Hugo, I’m not sure if Sheryl emailed you a reply. Personally, I’ll say you can go ahead and cook with the Lodge pan — the seasoning is okay, not great. Be sure to use oil when you cook, in order to reduce the likelihood of sticking. The more you cook with it, the better the seasoning will get. I’ve had a couple of Lodge pans that I stripped and re-seasoned, and the results were good; likewise, I’ve gone ahead and cooked with other Lodge pre-seasoned, and have also been satisfied with the results.

  241. Kari:

    Thank you for helping me fix my cast iron pans, they look fantastic now!! I am wondering though, since the reason I started using cast iron pans was because I was anemic and I had heard using them would help me get more iron, but now that my cast irons do not stick and are glossy and coated with the flax oil, will I still be getting any amount of iron from the pan into my food?

  242. mkelly:

    Hi Sheryl, I just read your research on the flax seed oil coatings. It is very good information and I just seasoned a cast iron casserole pot with olive oil. My question is; since I just seasoned it with olive oil can I just go over it with a coat of flax seed or will this ruin it. Will it become toxic if I do this. You mentioned above you did six coats. Is two coats enough?

  243. Riana:

    Hi Sheryl,

    Thanks for your great posting on cast iron pan seasoning. I work in the nutrition kitchen at my university and we season with coconut oil. Do you think this is a good choice? I initially seasoned my pans at home with flax oil which created a thick very smooth coating like you described. Do I need to use the same oil each time to maintain the initial seasoning – meaning once I season with flax, always use flax? I tried using coconut oil when I ran out of flax at home, and it doesn’t seem to adhere to the thick dark layer that the flax seasoning created. Obviously we’re going to be cooking all sorts of fats in our pans and those will adhere and polymerize little by little, but when we clean the pan and apply a layer of fat, should that always be the same type of oil, or does it matter?

  244. Lina:

    What about Camelina Oil? I can actually find that, and it’s supposed to be very similar to flaxseed oil, but with a longer shelf life.

  245. Gabriela:

    Hi, I loved your article. I just bought a cast iron pan from Ikea. I would love to season it as you described but it has a wooden handle. So putting it in the oven is a no no. Do you know how I should go about seasoning it on the stovetop?

  246. Wrought Iron Pittsburgh:

    This sounds so artistically scientific! I was amazed about the whole thing, you’ve given a good touch of polishing. Great!

  247. Kevin:

    One minor thing. Heating the pan will not open the pores. That’s not going to happen. As the iron heats, it will expand slightly. That will close the pores, if it does anything. I’m not convinced that the iron will expand enough to matter, but it’s a certainty that the openings won’t expand.

  248. Jerry:

    Cheryl,
    I just finished re-seasoning a cast iron pan using the Flax Oil method. I followed the instructions to a tee. I was very proud how the pan looked but
    just finished cooking two eggs and they both stuck to the pan, it’s a mess.
    I used an Organic Flax Oil from Spectrum. Please let me know what may have went wrong.

    Jerry

  249. trent:

    Hello, I’ve read your article and am very interested in trying this method to season my cast iron! I Do have a few questions though and hope this is still being checked. If using flax to make a solid coating, how do we make sure that those carcinogens that are produced when the oil is heated so high do not leach into food that is made later as in the same way they do with normal non-stick pans? thanks!

  250. Raybob:

    I followed your instructions to the absolute letter on three cast iron pans – it took many, many hours to do this, $$$ for the expensive oil (not to mention the electricity used) plus the awful stink of the burning oil that got all over the house for 6 rounds of this. My pans stick WORSE than they ever have in the past. I think this might be a complete hoax.

  251. Stu:

    I don’t think it is a hoax if Cooks Illustrated featured this method.

    From comment above:

    “This method is featured on the new 2011 January/February issue of Cooks Illustrated (only available on the website at the moment AFAIK) and credits this article!
    November 21, 2010, 10:40 pm”

  252. Dorothy:

    I have tried this method with no success. Followed the instructions exactly, and the skillet looked great when done – shiny and black. But as soon as I cooked with it the seasoning came completely off. Tried it again, same thing happened. Has anyone else experienced this? I have to think I’m doing something wrong since Cook’s Illustrated recommended this method, but can’t imagine what it is. Any comments would be appreciated!

  253. Beth Kollé:

    I just reseasoned two cast iron skillets, a round griddle and an æbelskiver pan using Sheryl’s method. I am SO thrilled! Just now I made æbelskiver, which are Danish ‘donuts’ that look like New Orleans beignets or Dutch poffertjes, and they turned out perfectly. My picky Dutch husband just kept popping them in his mouth. Thank you, Sheryl, for all your hard work coming up with this system!

    Recipe for Æbelskiver: Heat pan on medium flame. 2/3 cup sourdough starter, 1 egg, 2 T sugar, 1/4 tsp each soda, baking powder and salt, 1/2 tsp cardamom (or more), several grinds of nutmeg, 1 T vegetable oil. Whisk all together, drop about 1/4 tsp butter into each depression on the pan, and then fill each almost to brim with dough. Add a couple berries or apple bits in the middle of each if you’d like. When the edges start to look cooked, use a long wooden skewer to pull the cooked bottom part up and over the uncooked part. Let the bottom brown and then turn each a bit more to even out the cooking. Place the æbelskiver on a warm plate and cover with cloth while the rest are cooking. Before serving, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar. Nothing else is needed to serve, well, besides lots of good, strong coffee.

  254. Beth Kollé:

    Could it be there is some kind of cast iron that doesn’t season in this manner? Mine all did fine, but it’s odd that several people have had the same problem although they have followed the instructions to the letter.

  255. Chris M.:

    I have a problem! I just spent a week following these directions on my Griswold #6 and, for some reason, it all came off the first time a cooked on it. I stripped my Griswold skillet with oven cleaner for three days, then I scrubbed and scrubbed it to get it nice and clean, then I dried it and put it in the oven for a while to dry completely and blacken. Then, I began the seasoning.

    I followed the directions above, using flax seed oil; I would warm the skillet, apply the oil, completely wipe it down with paper towels, bake it for 1 to 1&1/2 hours @ 500 degrees, then leaving it to cool in the oven for at least 2 hours, before repeating the process again (I actually did 10 frikkin coats). At the end, the skillet looked gorgeous, but here comes the problem.

    After cooking on it for the first time (using only silicone tongs), I went to scrub it lightly with water and a natural fiber brush, and ALL 10 layers of seasoning came off on the bottom of the skillet. Most of the bottom was stripped all the way to the bare metal. I was SO bummed.

    I know I followed the directions, so I don’t know what could have gone wrong. If anyone has any ideas as to why this would have happened and what I need to do differently, they would be much appreciated. Otherwise, I guess I will be going to the store for some Crisco tomorrow and doing this the old-fashioned way. Thanks.

  256. Lindsey:

    Yeah, I too followed these instructions to the letter and after six rounds my pans are good and black but there is no slick surface and water just soaks in. I haven’t tried washing them.

  257. John:

    I’ll provide some more data points. One of my more-use small cast-iron pans was in need of seasoning. Previously, I could fry an egg in a bit of oil and the egg would not stick. Now the egg sticks, so I figure I’d have a look on the internet to see if I could improve my seasoning technique. I had been using the method as described on Lodge’s website- a thin coating of oil, one hour in an oven 350-400 degrees, cooldown with the oven off. This time, I used the method described, only with canola oil. After three coats and most of an afternoon shot, the pans are basically what I would describe as “unseasoned.” The egg sticks. Sure, maybe with the linseed oil. And maybe if I’d wasted TWO afternoons and gone for six coats. Life is too short. I’m going back to the old way. It gets bonus points for:
    1- taking less time
    2- using readily available materials
    3- using less energy
    and
    4- providing a more non-stick surface!

  258. Jim:

    I just bought a very old cast iron skillet which appears to be coated with nickel or a similar substance. Would that skillet be a candidate for your seasoning method? Jim

  259. daniel aaron sprague:

    Out of curiosity, to everyone that this didn’t work at all for… did you use food grade flax-seed oil? The kind that needs to be refrigerated? Also, I hear a lot of people saying that they are boiling water to get black rust, and I am pretty sure Sheryl does not do that. I think she is putting the bare cast iron pan straight into the oven at 450-500 for an hour to blacken it. Maybe the boiling water thing is throwing everything else off?

    Would be cool if we could figure out why its not working for some people.

  260. Page:

    Cheryl, I like the way you think (: I just got my grandma’s old cast iron pans from Canada. I have stripped, cleaned and seasoned them one time with animal fat. Can I continue to season them with flaxseed oil? Or do I have to start all over again. Thanks for all your posts!

  261. Ems:

    I’ve just started the seasoning process, and am following it verbatim :) I have one niggling question, though: the ‘fumes’ coming from the oven- are they bad for you at all? It’s not smoke, just that hot oil smell. It’s very strong and I’ve had to open all the windows.

    Many thanks!

  262. David:

    Hi Sheryl,

    I had a cast iron pan that just would not season correctly. Tried this technique and it worked great. Last week I cooked some meat and did not clean the pan afterward. There was only grease in the bottom of the pan and I didn’t see any issue with leaving it for a day. Well, that turned into two days. When I did clean the pan I noticed that much of my seasoning came off. The pan was blotchy and appear to have bare cast iron in a few spots.

    Is this a known issue? Was my seasoning possibly not done correctly? And I need to strip it down with over cleaner again or can I just add a few more coats of baked on flaxseed oil?

  263. Kian:

    Thanks for that. You say that Flax/linseed oil is the only food grade drying oil, but I think hemp seed, poppy seed and walnut oils fall into the same category – this from http://www.fullchisel.com/blog/?p=1157

    Kian.

  264. Peter:

    I seasoned a cast iron pan using your approach…I probably put on 8-10 very thin coats, warmed the pan before, 500deg etc…and the seasoning just seems to be gradually coming off. It’s like there’s dark dusty seasoning coming off each time I clean the pan with a paper towel. Not sure why that would happen, but it sure doesn’t seem to be a durable, hard coating.

  265. Leah:

    Followed the directions exactly. As stated above, the first time I used the pan, the seasoning came off. Epic failure. Will strip it again and this time I will use crisco and hopefully will end up with a seasoned pan that didn’t take a week to fix up and who knows how much electricity running my oven at 500 degrees. I highly recommend NOT to use this method.

  266. Andy:

    Hi, I wonder if anyone here has experience with a very smooth cast iron pan, and stovetop seasoning. I bought this pan (http://www.amazon.de/PROFI-Lyoneser-Eisenpfanne-schwer-Rohrstiel/dp/B001M0XQZ8) here in Germany. The instructions said to just clean of the wax coating and then fry potato wedges in it for an hour. Eventually, the pan was getting too much gunk on it, and cleaning that (paper towel and salt) eventually wore off whatever seasoning (if you can call it that) there was.
    I then found this method, and using organic, food grade linseed oil, applied about 5 coats. Note, the first coat turned the pan bluish around the edges and I could not wash that off. I continued in any case, with more coats, each time noticing that rubbing with a paper towel afterward, a bit of orange film would come off — this looked like extra oil, and not rust, since i noticed that just leaving it out for a few days would not lead to more of the orange film. But like some others here, the seasoning wore off after a few uses. I have to admit, I did the seasoning on an electric stovetop — the pan does not fit in my oven — at the maximum setting. I am trying now to scrub the pan down but cannot get it back to the original silver sheen all around, as in the photo linked above. Any suggestions?
    Thanks

  267. Tom:

    Thanks for the article. As I write this, my favourite cast-iron frypan is getting its third layer of flaxseed-oil seasoning, and so far it looks and feels better than ever.

    I noticed a few people having trouble with eggs sticking badly to freshly-seasoned pans, and I’ve also experienced this. Somehow I found a solution to this frustrating problem, which is to let the eggs reach room temperature before frying them. (For me, that means either taking the eggs out the night before, or running warm water over them while the pan heats up.)

    Somehow, and I wish I knew why, this trick seems to reduce the likelihood of sticking by quite a bit.

  268. Leila:

    I’m happy to have found your site. I’m not sure what I’ve done wrong, but food still sticks the surface of my 4 cast iron pans. I’m not sure what I’ve done wrong in the past. I never wash with soap. One think I neglected to do is to oil the pan after cleaning it. I’d always wait to oil the next time I used the pan.

    Here is what happened so far.

    There does not appear to be any rust on them so I did not do any stripping.

    Round 1 >> Sunday, I started to re-season them. I accidentally left the pans in the oven at 500 for about 3 hours. They came out dark gray.

    My husband used 2 pans that day to fry some potatoes. They stuck badly.

    Round 2 >> 1) made sure they were clean and dry; 2) heated on stovetop to insure dryness;
    3) coat with flax seed oil, and wipe dry; 4) put in oven, turn to 500, leave for an hour, then cool in the oven

    Round 3 >> Today when I put more flax oil in and was rubbing it around for this 3rd “round” of seasoning, one of my pans was getting a LOT of black residue on the paper towel. Is this the black rust you speak of?

    One thing I’ve never been sure of is what I should do between seasoning steps. After the pans have cooled and come out of the oven, should I just put on the next coat of oil? If my paper towel gets black, should I just rub it around and get a new towel if needed, but basically ignore the black dust? Thanks so much for your help.

  269. Kevin:

    Hi Sheryl,
    I would like to add my thanks to all the others here for your clear and methodical explanation of the science behind the seasoning process. I noted others have asked my question but I have not found an answer from the posts listed so far: can your seasoning for cast iron be used on a carbon steel wok? Are there any modifications that one must make from a technique appropriate to cast iron because of the carbon steel?

    Thanks.

  270. cast iron cooker:

    Loved reading this! My mother in law gave me my skillet 30 years ago as a wedding gift. i still use good ole Lard to season. Do you think that is okay? Where do you find flaxseed oil? Thanks so much for all the research and information. Good to know. I’ve had people say they threw their skillet away cause it was rusty! AHHHHH…… I about died. Wish everyone knew about seasoning these wonderful pieces of cookware!!

  271. Erik Jacobs:

    So I attempted your re-seasoning method on a Lodge cast-iron skillet twice, and I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong.

    The first time I didn’t oven clean/lye/etc. really clean it. I attempted the 6 cycles of cooking it with Flax oil, as suggested. The oil basically didn’t stick.

    I tried again, putting the pan in a garbage bag in the sun and overnight (~18 hours) soaking with oven cleaner. I then scrubbed the crap out of it. I did 5-6 cycles in the oven. I used it this morning with a little bit of bacon grease in it to cook some bacon. The bacon stuck a little bit, but nothing terrible. I figured I’d use a little scrub with a soft nylon brush while the pan was still hot to get the bits out.

    And the coating came off.

    The oven is getting to well over 400 degrees, I made sure to heat the pan for 10 minutes at the lowest temp to make sure it was dry before applying the first coat. I made sure to wipe off as much oil as reasonably possible with paper towels before throwing the pan in for another cycle.

    I basically gave up and am just going to buy another one for $20. I spent more in labor and personal time trying to “fix” it than it would’ve cost to buy a new one. I’m not sure if it’s the factory seasoning that’s somehow interfering, or something in the Lodge iron itself. I’m glad this method has been working for others… I unfortunately didn’t have luck, but I don’t think it’s the method that’s the problem.

  272. justin:

    i wonder if it has to do with the material Lodge uses, or the coating they put on, because i have a similar story to what i’ve read a few times in the comments here. brand new lodge skillet, used oven cleaner to strip it, applied 6 coats of organic cold pressed flax oil, and food stuck worse than the skillet i seasoned with bacon drippings.
    any thoughts?

  273. butch:

    Thanks.

    Traditional method of cleaning off old cast iron: put it through a wood fire. The crud turns to ash. The science: the carbon burns off leaving just the other elements (silicon?).

    If you try the above, you might want to ease your skillet into the fire. Cast iron will break, for example when thermally stressed. Cast iron is brittle: not resistant to impacts.

    Cast iron CAN be welded or brazed. To do so, you must preheat the cast iron so the welding arc doesn’t thermally stress the cast iron and break it. Welding cast iron is difficult and will not restore it completely, because the weld itself is usually different from the iron, for example mild steel or bronze. You would not want to weld cast iron cookware unless it is very special, that is, you would rather have it repaired and functioning.

    Carbon nanotubes are sometimes grown using iron molecules as catalysts. The tubes or whiskers grow and lift the iron molecules off the substrate.

    If iron is catalyzing the flaxseed oil reaction, how does it still work as a catalyst on the second coats, if the first coat covers the iron?

    Are you sure that linseed oil is refined and flaxseed oil not? What comes out during the refining? Does refining mean distilling or centrifuging in this case? If it is like olive oil, people would prefer to eat “virgin” flaxseed oil: from the first pressing, pressed without heat, because it has more flavor. If the heat used to season cast iron also refines the oil (drives off nasty components) why not use linseed oil?

    What do you oil your knife handles and wooden spoons with?

    You took the lid off Pandora’s dutch oven.

  274. Erik Jacobs:

    Justin,
    I’m not sure. Just took a brand new Lodge and seemed to have the same issue. I wonder if it’s just my electric stove that’s the problem (glass top range).

    Heated up the cast iron slowly on med-low. Put a ton of bacon grease into it. Put some bacon in it. Tried to even keep it moving, but the bacon still stuck a little bit. Ended up having to scrub a little bit and it seems like there are spots now that are either burnt on bacon grease or scrubbed off Lodge seasoning.

    For cookware that is supposed to be so idiot proof, durable and non-stick, I am somehow having nothing but bad luck. If using cast iron means that you have to practically deep fry your food to keep it from sticking, I’m not sure what the non-stick value is :)

  275. Leila:

    I’m still frustrated with my pans. They look great after I pull them out of the oven… but I just can’t figure out why they still stick. I’ve done at least 8 coats. Any ideas?

  276. Al Carmichael:

    I had two cast iron skillets that were actually working pretty well. Thought I could improve them with this seasoning process. It did not work. After using, I got tons of black crap that I have not been able to completely remove. I am afraid the skillets are ruined now. I even scrubbed the pans with SOS pads to try and get all the black residue off of them. They are better, but now unseasoned and basically back to square one. I’ gonna re-season them like grandma did–by cooking bacon…

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  278. TM:

    Okay, I have to say, I read this and was very impressed by all the chemistry and science-based approach, but I have to say, this did not work at all for me. Maybe I am doing something wrong. Here were my issues:

    1. first off, my oven goes up to 500 degrees. 500 degrees for one hour times six times?? Really?? I am sorry, I like cooking and food, but this is a hell of an investment in time and energy costs.

    2. did anyone else have issues where their house becomes inhabitable during this process?? My smoke alarm went off both times I tried this. And, my house filled with a mustard-gas-like vapor. Not impressed by this.

    I think my crappy skillet will likely be used as an anchor for my canoe. God bless teflon. Thanks for nuthin.

  279. Wayne:

    Just in the middle of seasoning my cast, and after having read a few articles regarding less than satisfactory results was really hoping that I did not have the same issues. When people experience problems with bonding and having ‘it all come off’, just thought that maybe the problem was with the initial prep that did not allow whatever type of oil you may be using to become one with your pan. In my opinion it matters not what you are applying and are wont to have it bond to the application surface, it is the attention to details that will save the day. By this I mean that you must not skip any steps in the prep stage because if the first seasoning step does not bond, then it does not matter how many coats you apply. Please take the time and effort to pay attention to the itty bitty details when you start out and I would hope that your results would prove worth the effort.

  280. Igor:

    Sheryl or anyone knowledgeable,

    I am very new to cast iron and I could use a lot of advice. I purchased a small Le Cruset enameled cast iron skillet and filled it up with lots of corn oil and put it in the oven at 450 degrees for about 3 hours. When I opened the oven, I noticed the grease had splattered all over the beautiful enamel and on the inside sides of the pan and the only way to get it off was to use oven cleaner. I tried this again but I used a lot less corn oil and put it in the oven and got great results maybe 1 or 2 times when I cooked afterwards. But around the 3rd time, the potatoes stuck and basically coated the bottom surface of the pan, and did not get fried. I read your article and will now do the 6 coats with flaxseed oil because I really want to get this seasoning business nailed down correctly. But my question is how long is this seasoning supposed to last? Will it last the lifetime of the pan (forever), or will I need to season it again sometime in the future? If so, is there a way to tell if there is not enough seasoning in the pan before I start cooking so I don’t waste ingredients and get terrible results?

    Thank you,
    Igor

  281. Modemac:

    Igor, the seasoning methods described here, both flaxseed and others, are for use with “bare” cast iron — iron pots without enamel, such as the kind you get from Lodge, Heuck, Old Mountain, or others. You don’t have to season an enameled iron pan; in fact, as you saw, the seasoning method doesn’t work well with it. It will be necessary to use cooking oil every time you cook with an enameled cast iron pan, because it is meant to be used without seasoning.

  282. Bryan:

    I recently picked up a Second Series “ERIE” 9 Griswold griddle for $10 off craigslist :) It was rusted pretty bad, after using some hardcore sand paper and a fine sandpaper with palm sander I got a smooth surface. I bought some of the Flora brand Flax oil, it says it is High lignan. After putting on many coats using the articles process I can see tiny little speck on the surface. I have decided that these specks are actually tiny bits of flax seed which are present in the oil, much like High pulp Orange Juice. I am going to have to strip the pans again and buy some “filtered” flax oil. I believe that this will make a perfect surface. Or is there any way to filter it myself? Coffee filter?

    Thanks

  283. Hans:

    First read about this in Cooks I., then found this online. Sheryl, thank you for the well-reasoned article.

    I’m currently 4 coats in on a small dutch oven, a small Wagner #3, and some other frying pan. The technique works very well. I’m mostly adding to the seasoning in the fry pans but doing a brand new seasoning on the dutch oven. It appears to be great for both uses (new seasoning and adding to old).

    Some comments on various bits above.
    - Couldn’t find flaxseed oil in Whole Foods, but it was on Amazon.
    - Dang. This takes a while. I’ve got my fan blowing full bore during the process. My tiny apartment doesn’t stink too bad, which was a fear of mine. *knock on wood* no fire alarms have gone off yet.
    - Chaining the seasoning together (waiting 2 hours for the cooldown, then applying new oil, and starting to heat back to 500) shaves off precious time. Important since this is a 20+ hour process to get on six coats.
    - Cast iron is far from foolproof to cook in. But, once you learn how, it is a joy. (I hope most people reading this would agree).

    I can’t wait to see how the pans actually come out after another two coats.

  284. Andy:

    I recently came into possession of two old Griswold skillets. I stripped one using the oven cleaner method, and it came out nice and gray, no rust. Scrubbed it well and dried it in the oven.

    Over the next two days I did six coats of flax oil. After the sixth coat, it came out of the oven dark, though not black and not glassy. Attempting to fry an egg in it resulted in some mild sticking. What really ruined it was when I tried to wash it out using some hot water, just like several others here, all the seasoning came off, leaving the gray iron behind.

    One thing I noticed is that during the 500F baking cycles, there was absolutely no smoke coming from the pan. Oven temperature did get to about 500F according to the oven thermometer I used. I can’t help but think that perhaps this is the reason that it’s not working for some of us. Maybe a problem with the type oil used, or the oven (mine’s electric). I might try this again using the broiler to see if I can get the pan to smoke as I bake it.

  285. Rietha:

    How do one rectify the grey color of leg of lamb after it was cooked with red wine in a cast iron pot? Thank you.

  286. Jen:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to do this! I pinned your article. I am calling it, “Everything you wanted to know about seasoning cast iron but didn’t know who to ask.”

  287. Jason:

    Hi Sheryl,

    Thanks for all the great info. I went out and bought a brand new pre-seasoned Lodge cast iron skillet. After reading your entire post several times I scrubbed off the thin lay of pre-seasoning they put on at the factory and went out and bought some organic flax seed oil from Trader Joes.

    I seasoned the cast iron 8 times exactly as in your instructions. It looked great, but then after the first use and washing, I noticed much of the seasoning came off in little black flakes. Not sure why? Do you have any advice on how to fix this?

    Warm Regards!

  288. Larry Voit:

    Sheryl,
    Been usin cast iron for years and tried everything on the inet.Thanks for the detail.You have answered every ? I have ever had.Can’t wait to get started.

    I have a rust removal process that utilizes a battery charger and washing soda.When the rust is removed a black coating is left on the iron/steel part.I have researched this and it appears to be black iron/magnetite.
    My question is will it be safe to do this prior to apply your seasoning procedure?
    Larry

  289. Doug:

    Last night I did the self-cleaning oven cycle twice, and this morning I heated the pan at 200 deg. F before applying oil, but I get lint in the oil coating just as I did when I used paper towels to apply iol.

    May I ask what type of cloth you and otters successfully use to apply oil?

    Thanks!

    Doug

  290. Hans:

    Update: I’ve done 5 coats on my pans and dutch oven. I’ve used the pans about a half dozen times since.

    I’ve found this method to be quite excellent (even though I skimped…). The seasoning is now being built on perfectly from the fats and oils rendered from each dish cooked.

    Thanks again for the great technique!

  291. Christina Perri:

    I had never heard of using flaxseed oil. I just received a new cast iron skillet for Christmas this year and have been searching for some information on how to properly care for it. Thank you for sharing this information!

  292. BJ:

    Sheryl, thanks so much for this. The pragmatist in me says 6 cycles * 3 hours = a lost weekend. The amateur chef in me says it might just be worth it. (But not more than once.)

  293. BJ:

    @ Doug, perhaps the surface of your pan is just too rough. I sanded mine down with a palm sander (!) as it was a very basic “pre-seasoned” pan made by Red Stone (available form Tractor Supply Company, if that is any hint).
    I’m now going down the agonizing seasoning path laid down in this article and expect great results. I hope the silica doesn’t plug the pores too much as it would with racing brake rotors… but I digress.

  294. Doug:

    @BJ: Thanks!
    Does the fact that I now end up with what, fir lack of a better term, appear on the surface like spires, maybe half millimeter tall?

    Like you have suggested, this is ONE LONG PROCESS, so likely I won’t be doing anything more until I am certain what direction to head.

    Thanks for your interest, BJ, and your suggestion!

    P.S. – Instead of “wasting” a day, you can do a coat in the morning, and a coat at bedtime, or any other timing that might be more convenient for you.

  295. Doug:

    fir = for in the above post

  296. Mario:

    Hi Sheryl,
    I know this article has been debated and discussed ad nauseum, but after having tried this science-based process, I didn’t get a very good result. The theory seems very sound though, so I wanted to find out what I did wrong.

    The short answer: Too much heat! Your how-to suggests 500 degrees or as high as the over will go. As it so happens, mine goes to 550. Anything over about 460 will actually INHIBIT the cross-linking process that we’re relying on!

    I dug through a lot of the comments on this thread as well as the “black rust” thread and it seems other people were having my same problem.

    As it turns out, the cross-linking and polymerization of linseed(flaxseed) oil starts at about 392 Degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius) according to a scientific article I found that I will link to at the end of this post. HOWEVER! At around 464 Degrees Fahrenheit (240 degrees Celsius), “heat bodying” begins to take the place of the cross-linking, producing a softer, flakier polymer. So as it turns out, the fact your oven only goes to 450 was a blessing in disguise, as that would be a wonderfully ideal temperature; right on the high side of cross-linking temp but below heat-bodying temp.

    I’m loving the science here and have enjoyed your articles immensely!

    Here’s the link to that study. It’s EXTREMELY technical, but the “Bottom Line” can be found on page 4 of the .pdf. Our case would be conclusion (iii). The “metallic catalyst” in our case is the very iron we’re trying to season and since we’re not purging our ovens with nitrogen or anything, we are using a “dry-air purge.”

    http://ddr.nal.usda.gov/bitstream/10113/24870/1/IND22049813.pdf

  297. Ernest:

    I am getting ready to bring my mother’s cast iron “back online”.
    It appears to already be extremely well seasoned.
    Do i really need to reseason it, or just mild wash and really good dry??
    (and then oil for between uses)

    By the way, they are Wagner.

  298. Joe Marfice:

    OK, readers seem to be having problems parsing the steps you took, so I will lay out step-by-step how I resurfaced my 12″ black iron stockpot, following your guide as closely as I could. My local grocery sold 12 oz of flaxseed oil for about $9; I used about a third of a cup on this extremely large piece of cookware.

    It began unevenly coated, with a lot of rust areas underneath the coating I had.

    1. Sent the pot through the oven’s cleaning cycle for 90 minutes (the minimum time it would program for), burning off the existing coating and rusting the outside thoroughly. At this point, it was covered fairly evenly in red rust.

    2. Scrubbed as much off as possible, using warm soapy water and a plastic scrubbie & brush. The pot still retained a red coating at this point.

    3. Conversion of red rust to “black rust”: Submerged the pot in a larger pot, covered completely in water. Boiled it vigorously for 30 minutes. At the end of this conversion, the pot was much darker: a vaguely reddish brown, instead of rust-colored. The top 3/4″ or so of the pot, both inside & out, were lighter colored, so I suspect that too much oxygen penetrated to this depth. If I had to do it over, I’d try to make sure there was 1-2″ of water covering the top of the pot (but that would require a bigger “bath” pot than I had).

    4. Immediately dumped all the water, so that the pot self-dried, and set it in a 350-F oven for 15 minutes to force off all residual water. Rubbed it with flaxseed oil immediately, to prevent re-rusting. As with all oil rubs, I made sure to get it into the crevices around the handles, in the holes for the handle bales, into the maker’s marks on the bottom, etc.

    5. Here’s where I deviated slightly from your method. Instead of scrubbing excess oil off with loads of paper towels, I rinsed under hot water (with a sprayer, on full pressure) while srubbing with a soap-free plastic brush. I reasoned that this would carry away excess oils, while leaving a thin coating. Seems to have worked well, except for some buildup at the bottom inside edges, so if I do this again, I’ll try to scrub harder there.

    6. Baked on this coating at 500-F for 60 minutes, followed by 1-2 hr cooldown (with the oven door kept closed). The first two times this produced a must-open-doors level of acrid, eye-burning smoke. In later reps the outgassing became much less.

    7. Repeat Steps 5 & 6 for a total of 5 heating cycles… Might have actually been 6 cycles, as some days I did two cycles, and I lost count.

    End result: an even, VERY dark almost-black coating. Further use is deepening the black. The inside of my pot, which has undergone at least three separate reseasonings in its life, is still vaguely nubbly, but the inside bottom is pretty smooth, and the edges (with the thicker buildup) are downright glossy-smooth. Clearly, more seasoning (from gentle use) will improve on this.

    The second through fourth coatings took noticeably more oil, probably because the polymerized coating had lots of tiny pores to fill. The last coating seemed less “thirsty”; perhaps the coating was smoothing out by then.

    Frankly, I think it might even be counter-productive to polish the casting marks off the pot. I suspect the surface roughness of the iron helps to hold the coating in place. Two to three reps of burning it down to bare iron (rust) have admittedly probably smoothed the surface somewhat, since very small bumps are attacked on all sides by rust. Red rust causing pitting, of course, so this isn’t a way to get a polish on the iron.

    End result: A very nice blackening. Thank you!

  299. Bruce Torrey:

    Hi Sheryl. Unfortunately, I found your article after I had already cleaned my Griswold pan with the self cleaning oven method and then wiped out the remaining rust with Canola oil. I would like to try your method, but am not sure how to proceed.

    1. Should I start from scratch and do the self cleaning oven method again?

    2. Or, should I clean the pan with soapy water to remove the canola oil and then dry it over a medium heat to get out the moisture? If so, should I use steel wool (Brillo?) or something less abrasive? Then start your flax seed oil process?

    3. Or, should I just leave the coat of canola oil on and apply the flax seed oil?

    I think I am inclined to use my second idea. I was wondering if you had any thoughts on this?

    Thanks.

  300. adrian:

    Why not rub emery paper and get rid of crud and everything and get to the naked iron?

  301. Maureen:

    Thanks for sharing! Do you think the same process would work on cast iron Wolf gas cooktop grates? I’ve first got to find a way to get the acidic tomato sauce off the cast iron. Thanks!

  302. Jim:

    Sheryl, Okay… awesome site. Now you need to find a way of locating us before we do it wrong! I missed but think I was on the right track when I select the Publix store-brand peanut oil. Edible, high smoke point, etc. Close but not quite. So, I scrubbed my neglected double-sided cast iron pancake skillet / grilling pan. It had been living in our carport since 2009, exposed to Key Largo’s salty, humid air. So, I put it in a tray lined with a heavy plastic bag, and covered the skillet with white vinegar for 15 minutes. Then I got called away for a few minutes…

    A week later, I opened the bag and a head of brown foam stood an inch above the vinegar. I flipped it and both sides looked about the same. Using a stainless grill brush I scrubbed at the rust until 99% was gone, though there were still some tough to reach gutter corners.

    I dried it with paper towels, and then wiped on peanut oil immediately as a rust-inhibitor, and put it in the oven at 200 degrees… until my wife came home and hour later and asked “what is that stench?” Did I mention having no sense of smell?

    So, now what? I can find flaxseed oil, but do I need to start over?

  303. Michelle:

    Great! Awesome! I have a cast iron 12 inch I just love, but didn’t know what to re-season it with since as you know nothing really worked right. I am ready to find some flax seed oil today! Thanks!!!

  304. Tim:

    Amazing. Thank you for doing this homework and posting it to the benefit of all. I’ve been told that canola oil is the best, and now that I (superficially) know the science behind why a few people think that’s true, I’m sure flaxseed oil will work ever better.

  305. Bill:

    For Mario – Appreciate the post and the link to the PDF. I’m confused where you mention “The “metallic catalyst” in our case is the very iron we’re trying to season” and yet when I look at “(iii)” of the PDF you reference as the significant conclusion relating to the cast iron we’re dealing with it says, “W I T H O U T the addition of Metallic catalysts”… what am I misinterpreting? Thanks.

    To All: I used Sheryl’s method (with the flaxseed and 500 degrees for an hour + the cool down/per coat) for 5 pans and a griddle and it seems to have worked well. Whether a cheaper oil would have worked as well as some have suggested I don’t know. I just know that after all the work I was pleased with the results. Seems to me that the thin and multiple layers were the key. I did 12 coats for 2 pans and 6 coats for the rest and I can’t tell any difference between them in the results. RESULTS: Sometimes a little sticking with eggs (always using a little oil or butter) but seems to be much better when laying down a little salt and pepper before the eggs. But any sticking in anything I’ve tried in any of the pans is usually easily cleaned with a small pass over with a Teflon (or I suppose metal which I have not used) spatula. In tougher cases water cleanup with or without soap and a light rub with cloth or scotch brite if needed is no issue as there is absolutely no metal exposed.

    Thanks Sheryl.

  306. min:

    I was wondering if anyone had any comments about the free radicals released into the air the seasoning process, and also, if there was any information about consuming the seasoning layer with regards to ingesting carcinogens. We are avoiding the nonstick pans because of the chemicals, but on the other hand, burned food (some even say seared food) is supposedly carcinogenic.

    It’s not that I’m scraping the seasoning layer off for snacks, but it does seem to chip off during the cooking process sometimes.

  307. Natasha:

    Hi Sheryl,

    I tried this seasoning process and it seemed to work until I cooked with, and then washed my pans. The season washed right out. I’m not sure what happened. I just washed with hot water and scrubbed with a plastic scrub brush. When I dried it, the towel turned black and the season was no longer in the pan except a few little spots.

  308. Bionic:

    This process worked beautifully for me. It has been about two weeks since I re-seasoned my cast iron pan. Since then I’ve cooked all kinds of things in it: fried eggs and omelettes, fried rice, corn bread, and a nicely seared steak. There has been absolutely no sticking, and the black coating has remained intact and unchanged.

    I don’t know why it worked for me but failed for others. I’ll provide some details of what I did. I first cleaned the pan using the electrolysis method which is referenced in Sheryl’s article. I changed the electrolyte twice during the process. After the first round of electrolysis (pan on top), the bottom of the pan was clean but the top/inside was still fairly black, so I stacked the anode on top of the pan for the subsequent two rounds. I then washed the pan with dish soap and hot water, rinsed it thoroughly, dried it quickly and applied the oil immediately.

    I followed Sheryl’s method exactly, more or less. I used organic flax-seed oil, and really wiped off as much as I could – the pan was barely oily to the touch – before baking it on. I did six layers over 3 days; I just didn’t have time to do all six layers non-stop. To my thinking, that shouldn’t be a problem; extra time means more oxidation and cross-linking. I baked to 450F, sometimes 500F.

    The only other change I made to the process was the following. I was thinking about the seasoning flaking off, and about avalanches. In order to prevent flaking, I reasoned, you want the bottom layers to be harder than the layers above. Seasoning a pan the traditional way, on a stove-top, would achieve this automatically, but baking the pan face-down might not. So, after the first few layers were baked on, I baked the pan a bit longer in an upright position (bottom element on) after each layer.

    The result is the best “non-stick” pan I’ve ever had. If you’re trying this (again), I encourage you to follow Sheryl’s advice: get the pan absolutely clean down to the bare metal before starting; wipe off as much oil as you can before baking. And think about giving it some extra time in the oven, heating from the bottom. It might help.

    Good luck all,
    -Bionic

  309. Bionic:

    PS: And THANK-YOU Sheryl for sharing your research! Fascinating and very helpful. -B

  310. randyc:

    i have a somewhat rare griswold skillet lid,i have it cleaned to the bare metal,the end result,im looking for is a nice black color,,,,will your method of using flaxseed give me the results i desire and how many coats do u feel i will need?

  311. fang2415:

    @Mario:

    Sounds like you may be on to something here, that paper is a great find. But @Bill is correct when he says that the line you cite mentions oil without the catalyst, which conflicts with your assertion that the cast iron would act as a catalyst in our case.

    The good news is, I think you’re wrong about the catalyst part and right about everything else! ;) The catalysts they use in the paper are calcium, cobalt, and zirconium and are added to the oil before applying the oil to a steel plate. I believe these metals are like the drying agents that would be added to hardware-grade linseed oil. So their conclusion about the oil without catalysts is the one that applies to us after all.

    I still need to better understand parts of the paper (it mentions that although thermal polymerization of linseed oil begins at 200C, hard-bodying begins around 240C and cross-linking doesn’t start until 270C. I thought cross-linking was good!? And the paper doesn’t explain hard-bodying at all. So if anybody can explain or has links to further reading it’d be much appreciated!). But as I say it looks like you may really be on to something, so thanks for posting!

  312. fang2415:

    Hah, I meant “heat-bodying”, not “hard-bodying”. Freud would no doubt be amused.

  313. Berkana:

    Hello Sheryl,

    I love this article. I did the same sort of things you mentioned, confusing oils that are good for cooking with oils that are good for seasoning, and gave up on one of my old cast iron dutch ovens. I will have to try your method.

    I do have one potential enhancement to your method though. You used unrefined flax seed oil that had to be shaken because it has the lowest smoke point of any edible oil; I would contend that for seasoning, one would want to use highly filtered and non-chemically refined flax seed oil for the following reason: the coating that forms the seasoning is polymerized oil—only the oil polymerizes. Anything that settles in the bottle that needs to be re-suspended by shaking consists of non-oil components such as lignin, fiber, and other debris. These almost certainly lower the smoke point (just as most unrefined oils have lower smoke points), but they don’t contribute beneficially to seasoning; rather than polymerizing, they just char.

    My hypothesis is that if you use a refined flax seed oil, or just pour the oil off the top to avoid sediment, or filter all the non-oil suspended debris out, you’ll get to the fine sheen in fewer coats. I suspect the tiny particles of non-oil components give the seasoning a matte finish since char particles have a matte texture, whereas polymerized oil is strictly glossy, as is seen from the use of refined linseed oil for varnish.

    I won’t have the opportunity to test this hypothesis for a while. If you have a chance to test it, I would love to see whether this turns out to be true.

  314. Iron man:

    Hi Sheryl,

    Love your blog. I have always loved cast iron cooking but never had success in seasoning it to a Non-stick. I was eager to try flax seed and your procedure. The only flax seed oil i was able to find was sold on the shelf with olive oils and clearly states “no refrigeration required”. The stuff said pure flax seed oil, and the only ingredient is “flaxseed oil”

    why is my flaxseed oil different? Should I be using this?

  315. Stephen:

    Hi Sheryl,
    Just finished seasoning my cast and carbon steel pans with your method. The results are outstanding.
    This is the best method I ever used and a bottle of flaxseed oil will last a long time.

    thank
    you

  316. Donald J. Roush Sr.:

    Hi Sheryl
    Chemistry of Cast Iron Seasoning is great. Just finished removing old and reseasoned two #12 Dutch Ovens, a #10, and a #10 Grisoald frying pan that I just picked up at a flea market for a song. The whole process took me a week. Followed all instructions to a T. All turned out great. After checking quite a few healthfood stores for Flaxseed oil. I stumbled across it in Walmart 7oz for about 5 bucks.
    Thanks for a great article.

  317. emily:

    Hi Sheryl,

    I just bought an Oster Cast Iron Casserole (http://www.target.com/p/Oster-Cast-Iron-5-Qt-Casserole-Dish/-/A-13624171?ref=tgt_adv_XSG10001&AFID=Froogle_df&LNM=%7C13624171&CPNG=kitchen&ci_src=14110944&ci_sku=13624171) The instructions for seasoning suggested using vegetable oil. Without doing proper research, I used vegetable oil and put the casserole dish in the oven at 350 for an hour. When it came out it was a sticky mess. I searched and found that possibly it wasn’t in the oven long enough. I put it in for about 45 minutes and it came out worse. Did I ruin it? If not, how do I remove the sticky residue?

    Thanks!

  318. Mary:

    Sheryl,

    I have several Lodge pieces. They don’t need stripping, just re-seasoning. Can I use your method without stripping completely down to bare metal? If so, should I prep the pans?

    Thanks for the interesting information.

    Mary

  319. Keith:

    Hi Sheryl,
    Thanks for the great reading,I’ve learned a lot. My question is==== what do you think about media blasting ( sand,iron oxide,glass bead ) to strip the cast iron?

  320. Martin:

    Hello, I have a few questions and hopefully I can get some help
    First time cast iron user, bought Lodge and I’m in the middle of your tutorial.

    -when heating pan in oven and then placing on the electric glass top to make a steak, do you have to put it on a pre-heated burner ? I’m afraid the glass top might crack from putting heated pan onto unheated top.
    -after every warm water wash, do you oil only inside of the pan, or do you oi the whole pan ?
    -seasoned pan has oil on the bottom aswell, so when you put it on the burner does the oil burn, like putting oil between a burner and pot/pan ?

  321. Eleanor Hoh:

    You’ve helped me understand a lot of things even though I’ve been ’seasoning’ cast iron woks for years as a business! I’m not a scientist or culinary expert, so finding your ’scientific’ explanations very informative. I’m definitely going to try using flaxseed oil to see if it works on a lightweight, thin walled cast iron wok from China. The woks come with some grey dust powder to prevent rusting during shipping. If you don’t clean it out properly initially and then ’season’ it, it makes people very sick because you’ve in essence burned it into the wok! My husband and I were so anxious to make sure these woks were truly cast iron that we sent it off to Lodge for a material test and their President called to say how amazed he was that it could be so thin and cast iron! I’ve read so many articles/forums/posts about this topic it makes my head spin. But yours makes sense and you’ve got proof it works, so thanks for the info.

  322. Casey:

    Ok, so I stripped my irons down, put on the oil and popped them into the 500 degree oven. Smoke poured out from the top burners within 10 minutes! Not sure what I did wrong but could really use some advise. Thanks so much!

  323. Nancy Graham:

    Hi Sheryl,
    I appreciated your advice about seasoning pans with oil because you care about safety and health.
    I just wanted to add that we now understand that omega 3 is beneficial for us, however the oils that are recommended for cooking and eating with omega 3 also have large quantities of omega 6 –example, canola oil. It is dangerous to have an overbalance of omega 6 in our diet. Most oils, again canola, sunflower, corn for sure!, are processed, that is heated, which begins the chemical breakdown of these oils and rancidity all before they hit the store shelves — even though they don’t have a strong rancid flavor the process has begun! This is also dangerous to ingest. Best sources of fat to use in cooking (low or no omega 6, contain omega 3s, and are not processed with heat) are olive oil, butter, avocado and coconut oil.

  324. Tom:

    I use walnut oil-based paints because they clean-up with oil instead of solvents. I know walnut oil is a drying oil because the canvases dry in a day or two and walnut oil is edible (usually used as a salad oil). Any comments?

  325. April:

    Wow, I love this article. It kills me that it took me so long to find it – I’ve spent hours researching how to season my cast iron and find so much anecdotal evidence – but this is the first true scientific explanation, which absolutely fascinates me and satisfies my curiosity. I’ve already had one unsuccessful round of seasoning (could have been any number of mistakes on my part – but it ended up rusting). It was discouraging, but I’ll definitely try again after this.

    Thank you so much.

    No one in my family uses cast iron, so I had a few pointers to begin with.

    Casey – it sounds as though you must have had too much oil on your pan. Or possible an already dirty oven, with the smoke coming from food spills? (no judgements here, just curious). Also, I believe Sheryl noted (somewhere?) that the smoke point of flaxseed oil is around 225 degrees – and the author says she used 450, so you might want to try 450 next time. But to quote the original article: “the higher the temperature the more it will smoke, and that’s good for seasoning,” so 500 is probably your best bet.

  326. April:

    Casey – also – the author does specify to put the pan in a cold oven and let the pan preheat with the oven. Sounds as though you started with a hot oven.

  327. Ross:

    I completed this process putting 6 coats on, but my pan was a bust. I fried an egg using lots of olive oil as I suspected that it needed it. The egg stuck and left a real mess. Had to scrape and scrape and boil water in the pan to try and get it off. Still there is a slight residue. I suspect my problem is that I literally followed Sheryl’s advice. I removed All of the Flax Oil before baking in the oven at each step as she suggested. All along the way and at the end of the process, I had no shine at all in my pan. You suggested that there should be no shine after the oil was removed, but you implied that at the end there would be a bit of a shine. I had none, maybe because I followed your advice and removed ALL of the oil each time. I’ve read through these comments all of them on your site and its apparant that this has not worked for a lot a people. Any ideas?

  328. Brad:

    I have an interesting chunk of cast iron that I got from a foundry tour. It looks a bit like some strange, giant fish fossil, and for years I’ve been enjoying it as a sculpture. It has been rusty for several years, and, on a lark, I decided to “season” it.

    I didn’t do anything fancy and use avocado oil or flax oil, but instead used some olive oil I had in the cupboard. Since I’m not going to cook with it, I wasn’t worried about getting a perfect seasoning. However, the color is more of a metallic dark brown, and not a black. Is this due to the oil I used, or because the casting is about 2 inches thick in places, so it needs to be baked at a much higher temp than my oven can produce?

    I’m sure it’s a combination of all the above, but I’d like to try to get it blacker. Would it be possible to add a coat of flax seed oil on top of what I’ve done, or should I try to strip the oil off it first?

    Thanks!!

  329. Amanda L:

    Hello! Thanks so much for this article! I am looking to buy my first cast iron pan and I am wary of buy “pre-seasoned” pans, and somehow came across this when I was trying to figure out how they actually “pre-season” them.

    Anyway, I have two questions: (hopefully they weren’t already asked and answered, there are a lot of comments and I haven’t had a chance to read through them all)

    1. Do you know of any health effects from the polymerized fats? I’m concerned that it may not be safe. I paint as a hobby and the idea of eating off a surface that has essentially a layer of glaze on it does creep me out a bit (even if created from food grade flax oil). Do you know of any research on the subject? But with that in mind, I’m sure it’s probably much safer then teflon!

    2. Is the layer still porous? As in does some of the iron leech out into your food? One of the benefits of cast iron is the added iron in your diet.

  330. Ross:

    Brad, I used Flax oil on a normal pan and mine also came out with a metallic like dark brown color.

  331. Ross:

    Amanda, I had some of the same concerns. We are being taken back to cast iron because we are concerned about the teflon surfaces, and the question is why should we be any less concerned about creating our own teflon-like surface on cast iron. Specifically when I bought my bottle of Flax Oil to start this process, the first thing I read on the bottle is “Do Not Heat this Product”.

    I think a layman’s blog is maybe not the definitive answer as to the health risks if any of this, and also homemade research into the best oil to use may leave something to be desired as well.

  332. Beom:

    Hi Sheryl

    I was fascinated by the post, so i gave it a try

    I had 3 Lodge Cast Iron Pans, 8″ 10″ 12″.

    Cleaned all with the oven cleaner, preheated, put flax seed oil, wiped it clean with cotton cloth, baked it at 500F for an hour, left it for 2 hours, and reapeated that 6 times.

    however, I tried to cook an egg, It sticks like crazy.

    No idea where it went wrong.

    Any idea?

  333. Kevin MacDonald:

    I also tried following the instructions here quite closely. I photographically documented my efforts here. http://www.flickr.com/photos/81836545@N00/sets/72157629098549078/show/

    It seems that the seasoned surface is not adhering. I mechanically polished the surface down to shiny bare metal and then did 6 rounds in the oven at 500deg. But when I started cooking on my griddle the seasoning seems to be coming up, leaving the surface bare and causing food to stick greatly. The only thing I can think of that I might have done wrong is to forget to shake the bottle of flax oil before applying.

    I am wondering if truly polishing down to bare iron is what people are doing. Short of grinding wheels I’m doubting you’re really getting down beneath all old seasoning and oxide layers to absolutely bare metal. As such I’m wondering if I’ve just damaged my griddle.

  334. Gerry:

    I am in the middle of using this process with my new Lodge Signature pan and I wanted to give a warning. I’ve done one cycle at 500 degrees and my stainless steel handles have discolored. So I’m doing the rest at 400 degrees. Be warned! This technique may discolor stainless steel! Not a huge deal functionally, but one of the reasons I bought the signature is because is looks nice. or at least looked nice :(

  335. Modemac:

    Beom, one thing that seems to happen to folks is they put the oil into the pan right away and heat it up along with the pan. This causes sticking in most pans, including cast iron. One tip to consider is the Chinese cooking proverb: “Hot wok, cold oil, food won’t stick.” That means to heat your dry (but seasoned) pan before you add the oil, then put your oil onto the hot pan and let it heat for about one minute. The surface of the oil will ripple and just barely begin to smoke, and that’s when you add your egg.

  336. RW:

    You’ve researched and focused a lot on how to get an even, long-lasting seasoning on iron cookware, but haven’t addressed why, if at all, flaxseed oil is the best culinary choice from a results & flavor perspective, which is half of the point of seasoning one’s cookware. See: Wok hei effect http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wok#Wok_hei

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to season your pans with the best tasting oil, even if it meant having to reseason more often?

  337. Chef Lombie:

    I had the same problem as Kevin MacDonald.

    Followed the instructions to a T and had the most gorgeous, slick looking de Buyer carbon steel pans one could ever hope to see.

    After the first cooking session, half the finish came right off. I lost the rest of it with the next cooking.

    Lots of time and effort wasted on a beautiful seasoned finish that didn’t hold to the pan.

    Crisco here I come!

  338. Sheryl Canter:

    You’ve researched and focused a lot on how to get an even, long-lasting seasoning on iron cookware, but haven’t addressed why, if at all, flaxseed oil is the best culinary choice from a results & flavor perspective, which is half of the point of seasoning one’s cookware. See: Wok hei effect http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wok#Wok_hei

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to season your pans with the best tasting oil, even if it meant having to reseason more often?

    Seasoning is polymerized fat. It imparts no flavor. Read that link you posted again. It’s the caramelization and Maillard reactions that give the flavor – the stuff that’s being cooked in the seasoned pan, not the seasoning itself.

  339. Sheryl Canter:

    To all the people who say that seasoning with flaxseed oil does not adhere to the pan… Did you read this part of the article? It’s the first sentence:

    The post after this one on “black rust” describes why you should heat the pan before applying oil for seasoning. This helps the seasoning to adhere and makes the pan pleasantly black.

    http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/02/black-rust-and-cast-iron-seasoning/

  340. Wes:

    I’ve always seasoned my cast iron with bacon grease, but was doing some Googling this time to see what others say. I stumbled here and I’m glad I did. Thank you for this. Mmmmmmmm, science!

  341. Brad:

    Thank you Sheryl!!
    Great stuff…I was told by an experienced woodman that ‘boiled linseed oil’ from the hardware store contains hardening chemicals that include heavy metals! It is for this reason that boiled linseed is not recommended for children’s furniture. The linseed available at art supply stores is more pure and expensive product, but I am unsure as to its suitability for food. (perhaps this is all covered in other posts)

  342. Sheryl Canter:

    I do not want to make a habit of repeating what I said in my original blog post and I’m not going to keep doing it. I am only responding to the last couple of comments because they make dangerous suggestions.

    Do NOT use Ajax or Comet on your cast iron cookware. That is NOT what is meant by “washing soda”. See the original article for what washing soda is. It can be found in the cleaning section of the grocery store.

    ONLY use food grade flaxseed only, found in GROCERY STORES, as it says in the original article. DO NOT use linseed oil from hardware stores or art supply stores. Those may have toxic additives and are dangerous to use on cookware.

    The very first line of the blog post talks about the issue of adherence, which many people have commented about:

    The post after this one on “black rust” describes why you should heat the pan before applying oil for seasoning. This helps the seasoning to adhere and makes the pan pleasantly black.

    http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/02/black-rust-and-cast-iron-seasoning/

    This is all the repeating I want to do. I don’t want to close comments. I like keeping the discussion open so people can share ideas, but I don’t want people to make suggestions that will endanger others’ health or destroy their cast iron cookware. I ask that you READ the original article before posting suggestions.

    Thank you.

  343. Lora:

    I am in the process of restoring and seasoning 11 pieces. I have appreciated this information so much. I didn’t see any posts about concerns in breathing the air as the cast iron is heating in the oven. The house is somewhat smokey and the air is strong, a little like when it is in self-cleaning mode. Are there any health concerns for my family breathing this during processing, whether windows are open or closed?

    Thanks anyone!

  344. Tom:

    Lora,

    These people are all nuts! Don’t smoke up your house! No way! Get out now!

  345. Michelle:

    After pissing around with a Lodge griddle for a year (off and on) and never getting it quite “right”, and reading too many sites and instructions on seasoning, please people, following these directions!!! I have FINALLY ACHIEVED SUCCESS WITH THIS METHOD!!!

    I had tried lard, Crisco, and vegetable oil and made too many mistakes. Spend the money, get the Flaxseed oil, use thin coatings and follow the directions …..IT WORKS!!! Be patient and do it over several days, over and over, coat after coat, and you WILL GET THE SMOOTH BLACK COATING!

    Thank you Sheryl!

  346. Clint:

    I am now using a self cleaning oven to clean up my Griswold cast iron. Before I used lye to clean iron and then washed good with soap and water before seasoning. Does anyone know if a piece that comes out of the oven after cleaning needs to be washed before the seasoning is applied???

  347. Esteban:

    Clint,
    Yes wash it and dry it very carefully.
    good luck.

  348. Tor:

    I am so excited to use your method and purchased flaxseed oil at Wal-mart yesterday but I am slightly concerned.

    I bought Spring Valley Organic Flax Oil and it only cost about $5.00 for 8 ounces. after what you said about cost in the original article, about $1 an ounce do I have the wrong thing?

    They call it flax oil but the only ingredient listed is Organic Flaxseed Oil.

  349. Matt:

    Sheryl, I have a question. I have been trying your method of seasoning and haven’t had much success. I followed your instructions but when I use the pan to make eggs they always stick. My question is , could my baking temp be too high when I bake the pan for an hour , the thermometer reads 550-600 F degrees. or could I be cooking with too high a temp ? I am using ” Finest Natural ” Flax oil from Walgreens

  350. James Hearne:

    @Matt :
    I doubt you temps are too high.

    I’m currently in process of stripping and resealing a pan of mine. The cast iron is a Lodge (10in) skillet and has the rough-textured bottom.

    I stripped it to the metal using the self cleaning oven method. Lacking power tools, I used a stainless steel scouring pad to remove any surface debris (ie carbon). I wiped it out with a plain paper towel then applied oil rubbing it around and applying more until the towel came out clean. Then, I wiped out excess oil and began the seasoning process.

    I’ve just finished my 8th coating. I am using the Organic Flaxseed Oil from Whole Foods. I’ve been carefully applying a thin layer followed by wiping as much as I could out of it. I bake mine as 550°F (oven high) and start timing it after its come up to heat. I started with a flour towel and thought I saw some fibers coming loose, so I switched to a microfiber rag. It appears to work great with no visible fibers coming loose. I have one more coat to go and then I’ll try it out on some eggs. The coating is a dark black and appears to be slick.

    I will update on well it works.

    BTW thank you sooo much Sheryl. You information was extremely helpful and appears to be working great.

    James Hearne

  351. Kim:

    This table has all the iodine values of the oils. Canola is lower than soybean. Flax and linseed (170-200) are among the highest for cooking oils. Sunflower/Safflower are fairly high range (120-145)

    http://thesoapdish.com/oil-properties-chart.htm

  352. Eleanor Hoh:

    Sheryl, thank you so much for the tip of using food grade flax seed oil, made a HUGE difference. My last batch of cast iron woks look like museum quality! Just reread your alert to heat pan first so it will adhere. Thanks again.

  353. Pascale LS:

    Hi Shery,

    thanks for the great advice! I was wondering if the same process could be used on iron pans (I have a DeBuyer brand) also called black pans.

    Thanks

  354. Rob:

    Hi,
    I stripped my cast iron pans until they had no black left in them, and tried to season them many times the way you suggest. But they stick and my wife thinks they now have hot spot.
    Thanks
    Rob

  355. Brady:

    I patiently followed all of Sheryl’s seasoning steps and indeed the pans looked as nice as ever. Now that I started using them the seasoning is coming off. I have doubts about this method along with many other people.

  356. Elizabeth:

    Hi Sheryl,

    Thanks so much for all your time, effort and informative posts. I have a Lodge skillet that I stripped several times (it was badly seasoned and sticky) as per your recommendation. I put it in the oven at 200 for 10 minutes to get it bone dry but then saw your post on black rust. I plan to put it back in the oven on 450 to get the black rust to form before applying the flax oil but was wondering if you’ve tried or if you recommend boiling the pan first before heating it? Thanks!

  357. ash:

    what is created when seasoning is a layer of carbon on the pan which prevents predominantly rust and creates a less porous surface, some things like egg will stick to anything.
    Some things are going to be unavoidable, like smoke, and the need to re-season when the finish starts to wear down.
    But to re-season do not strip the old seasoning, only scrub off anything loose with soap, hot water and scouring pad, and otherwise never use soap to clean.

  358. Frank Truth:

    I have a preseasoned Lodge wok I never used. I set a bag of onions inside the wok, and forgot they were there. The onions disolved, and rusted the wok. I cleaned the wok. I used sand paper to remove some of the rust. Then I tried seasoning the wok with peanut oil, since peanut oil has the highest smoke point. I contact Lodge to see if they can help me. At this point I think I am better off just buying a new pre-seasoned wok if Lodge does not help me out. What do you suggest? Michael

  359. Michelle:

    I just tried this method to re-season a lodge pan that had some of the pre-seasoning chipping off. I used the oven cleaning method to strip the pan, and then started from scratch with the flaxseed oil. After 6 coats the pan looked good and i decided to test by cooking an egg on it. No good. Completely stuck. Maybe it just needs additional layers of seasoning. Or, similar to Frank’s question above, maybe because it was a pre-seasoned lodge pan I just need to buy a new pan? Any tips or ideas would be appreciated.

  360. Sheryl Canter:

    It may be that the seasoning temperature is too high and 400 degrees would work better.

  361. Rob:

    Sheryl where did you get your information from that makes you want to type this?
    Lodge has been making cast iron since 1896. United States has the best quality iron ore in the world. With the technology of today Lodge is able to maintain consistent quality control on it’s cast iron. The casting process is excellent at Lodge. As far as machining the interior of the pan, that is debatable. Lodge used to machine the interior of pans until the 1990’s. I have just as much, if not better, luck getting the seasoning to adhere to the non-machined surface. After a few proper seasonings they turn out slick and smooth anyways. I see no need to machine them.
    Go to the Wal-mart and for 18 bucks you can get a 12 inch Lodge skillet that you will find is heavier than the old Griswold collectables. Even though the new ones come pre-seasoned, I still scour them and re-season them “my way” with leaf lard rendered from free ranging heritage breed pigs. They create fat that is mostly monounsaturated and high in omega 3 fatty acids and provide the hardest of seasoning for cast iron.

  362. Rob:

    Sheryl I was referring to your comment that the new Lodge cast iron is not as good as the old pre 1950 cast iron. :)

  363. Rob:

    oops…wrong video. Try this one for the Lodge foundry tour
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=B4S3kYJyUfM

  364. Duba:

    Sheryl: Thank you for the above, oil types, temp, polymerization. See, turns out we can actually use those chemistry classes in real life:-). The only thing I have to add is that, in getting down to the thinnest coat of oil, I find it helpful to put the oil on a hot pan, not all 500 degrees hot but hot enough to get the oil to spread. Then I go over it with a dry paper towel a couple times to get rid of any free oil. Finally, after about 10 minutes in the hot oven, when little “dots” of oil may show up (esp. on the machined cook surfaces of high quality pre-1950 castings), as it is no doubt beginning to polymerize, I wipe one more time with a dry paper towel (being careful not to burn my fingers). You are so correct, many small coatings is the only way to go.

    Regarding the “never use soap” adage, I am more worried about letting my pans sit in water or the use of an abrasive scrubber. My pans go through a soapy wash with a soft cloth; there is particular way the water sheets off the cook surface of a well seasoned pan that tells me everything is good to go for next time. A quick go round with a hand towel to eliminate any dampness and my pans have not suffered going right back into the cupboard (dry Colorado maybe helps?). Easier to take care of than non-stick pans.

    Now I need to find some flax seed oil, best to you and your readers. Duba

  365. Danielle:

    Hi Sheryl. Thanks for the tutorial – I am on my 3rd pan with your techniques. I have noticed though that after the first round of baking (when I get that great matte black finish) that my pans start to take on a reddish cast with subsequent oiling/baking rounds. Any experience with this? I am wondering if it’s normal or if I’ve taken a misstep somewhere.

  366. Andy:

    Hello Sheryl! Thanks for the tip–I just bought a new 12″ pre-seasoned Lodge skillet and immediately scoured off the factory seasoning before using the method you shared. Now, my skillet looks great after the six rounds of seasoning (I’m pretty sure it was six rounds)–the bottom and sides are noticeably smoother than when I bought it with it’s rather ridiculously rough surface. First cooking: bacon. Mostly, I avoid bacon despite loving it; but this bacon was fried with an explicit purpose. I then used some of the bacon in my second experiment: skillet cornbread. That “loaf” slid out of the pan so fast it almost ended up on the floor! Tomorrow, I buy the 10″ so I’m a little more versatile… Thanks again!

  367. Larry:

    I just finished seasoning a cast iron skillet with flax seed oil, and it came out great. Unfortunately, I then left the skillet on a burner and it has discolored the finish. Is it possible to start over again by putting the skillet in an oven and running the self-cleaning cycle to remove the baked on flax seed oil?

  368. Peet:

    Wok Seasoning Instructions

    These instructions came with a plain iron hand-hammered wok. I didn’t write this and am simply forwarding for informational purposes. (FYI, I took the wooden handle off.)

    BEGIN QUOTE

    Coat lightly, interior and exterior with cooking oil. Bake in hot
    oven, 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Place upside down in oven.. Cover
    the wooden handle with a damp cloth and cover cloth with alum foil.
    This will protect the wooden handle.

    Remove from oven, let cool to touch and scour wok with an abrasive
    pad. Scour the “seasoning” or patina away…like you want the wok
    back to its original finish.

    Wash, dry, coat and bake again – same process. Do this 2 times.

    After the last baking, you will not be able to scour the seasoning
    away and that is the result you want. The wok is seasoned.

    The more you use the wok, the better and blacker it gets., You
    cannot ruin the wok. If you neglect it and it should get rusty,
    not to worry, Just scour away the rust and season again. A wok
    should last almost a lifetime. A wok also gets better with age…the
    older the better.

    If you use a gas stove, you can try seasoning the salt method; just
    wash wok thoroughly and dry. (does not work efficiently or quickly
    on an electric stove). Pour l cup of table salt into wok and with
    a high flame, stir salt constantly 20 minutes to 1 hour. Wipe wok
    clean and oil lightly with cooking oil. Voila! a seasoned wok
    with no muss no fuss.

    You can use your wok to not only stir fry, but deep fat fry, steam,
    braise, stew, boil, saute, smoke and pop popcorn. A wok just gets
    better and blacker with use. Your wok will develop a nice patina
    and will get to a point where it will be almost non-stick.

    After the wok has been seasoned, it would be a good idea to preheat
    the wok, add a little bit of cooking oil (1 tsp) and pre heat the
    oil; then add some pungent veggies. e. g.sliced onions, green onions,
    ginger, garlic and stir fry in the wok until burned – then toss out
    the veggies. Your seasoned wok will be ready and the wok will be
    so nice!.

    Happy Wokking!

    Thank you. Ms. Tane Chan

    END QUOTE

  369. Steve Stephens:

    Hi Sheryl,
    You have some very interesting information on seasoning here. Too much work for me so I just start using a pan and let it season naturally.

    What I wanted to comment on is about the “pores” in cast iron. To my knowledge there are no pores although one can read all about the pores on the internet in many places. Is this possibly just a myth that keeps getting passed around? Any voids (pores) in cast iron, from what I have gathered, are filled with graphite crystals which makes the iron a solid substance without voids. If cast iron is in the “as cast” state the surface would not have pores. When the iron surface is ground or polished that opens up the interior of the casting but will only expose the graphite crystals filling the pores or voids in the cast iron. I have tried to find more definite information about the existence of pores in iron including photos from electron scanning microscopes but without too much success. Have you confirmed from a reliable source that there ARE pores in cast iron?

    Steve

  370. amanda:

    Sheryl,

    Someone turned me onto your seasoning instructions today, and I’m excited to try your method ASAP. Here’s a question you might be able to help with:

    I have a cast iron griddle with a flat griddle on one side and raised ridges (grill) on the other side. I most commonly cook on the griddle side, and I find that my gas stove tends to ruin the seasoning on the grill side when cooking on the griddle side. Any recommendations on how to preserve the seasoning on the grill side when faced with an open flame?

    Thanks!

  371. Darryl:

    I have just seasoned my cast iron skillet to these instructions. The pan came out beautifully after the process was complete, and my first cooking attempt was great. However during clean up, I turned the cook top on high heat (as is my normal cleaning method) and rubbed it down with a damp rag. To my dismay, a good deal of the seasoning was removed. If this oil can not support high heat, how am I to sear meats properly?

  372. MadManStan:

    Wonderful Blod Sheryl, I’ve been cooking with cast iron for years and years and found most of your information very validating. I have always used an flax oil for when i reseason a pan from the ground up and I usually do it every few months and now I know why I had to.
    I also finish off with a softer oil after washing every week or so like lard or bean grease from refried beans. I put on the softer seasoning to protect my harder seasoning.

    Now I havent reseasoned a pan in a long time save the softer seasoning of lard every week or so which is fast and easy compared to several coats os flax oil.

    The reason why was what I believe to be a trifecta of seasoning and iron destroying foods.

    1) you cant do marinara sauce big no acids from tomatoes.

    2) Never boil water, that includes hamburger helper, it destroys seasoning and leaves bare spots in the bottom and sides of the pan.

    3)Bacon…. I know it sounds wierd but there is something in store bought bacon that ruins the seasoning and I figure this because when I smoke my own bacon from fresh jowl meat, I can cook that in my cast iron, but bacon from the store is a big no no so I never cook prepackaged bacon in my cast iron. I figure it has something to do with the nitrates or preservatives.

    So there is my exerimental years of experience. I havent re-seasoned my pan in over 4 years and am just now stripping it to reseason. I have always left it in the oven with a light coat of rust after stripping, the rust turns a bluish charcoal grey and is no longer rust after sitting in the oven at 500 for an hour to dry. It comes out hot and I rub my first layer of flax seed oil on there and it smokes as I rub it in all over with a thinly oiled rag. I immediately return the pan to the oven for an hour and then let it cool after that for at least two hours in the oven and repeat very similarly to your method. The only thing I do different now is what I mentioned above I wont boil water cook acidic foods or fry sub par bacon in my pan. those foods get to go into the stainless steel pan. Thanks again for the blog just thought I should add some food for thought.

  373. Mike Hahn:

    It appears as though you are trying to make home-made teflon! Cast iron should ONLY be seasoned with animal fat products, e.g., bacon fat or NON-HYDROGENATED lard. Also, NEVER scrub!

  374. Hark:

    This guy must be a Yankee. Back to home to loosen the ‘crud’ we use good ole Parsons Ammonia. Put the cast iron thing in a plastic kitchen garbage bag with ammonia. Tomorra it takes a little scratchin and the skillet’s clean. No lie – no lye. It don’t matter what oil you use to season it. Just oil it up, turn it upside down on the stove and let er burn. Smokes a lot. Do it a few more times and you’re ready for for some good down south cooking. Pass them grits and gravy.

  375. Becky:

    Sheryl I just tried your seasoning method and it didn’t work. I assume I’ve done something wrong. The Flax seed oil I used was organic but it did not require refridgeration. That is the only thing that was different. Let me know what you think. Thanks, Becky Mayers

  376. Sheryl Canter:

    Flax seed oil that doesn’t require refrigeration has other ingredients in it. Read the label.

  377. Vickey Newman:

    I purchased three old crusty cast iron skillets at a garage sale. They were disgusting-rough surface with years of cooked-on crud, and very rusty. I used the techniques described in your popover post(mainly oven cleaner). Next, I purchased organic flax oil, refrigerated, in-date, and followed your instructions. U N B E L I E V A B L E !!!!!!!!!!! These skillets look like they just came from a high-end gourmet cooking store and that was just one round of seasoning. Thank you so much for doing all the background work on this!

  378. Emanuel Holder:

    Hi Sheryl – first, thank you for taking the time to post this information. I also have a question about the type of flax seed oil. I bought a bottle of organic flax seed oil from GNC, and while it does require refrigeration after opening, I noticed that there are other ingredients in there: Organic Rosemary Extract, Mixed Tocopherols (Vit. E), Ascorbyl Palmitate (Vit. C), and Citric acid to protect freshness. It also contains soybeans.

    Is this ok to use? Thanks.

  379. Sheryl Canter:

    I think those added ingredients would do exactly the opposite of what you want seasoning-wise, and I suspect the ubiquity of added ingredients in so-called “flax oil” solves the mystery of why some people have had such good results seasoning with flax oil, while some have not.

    Flax oil works because it goes bad so fast. That “going bad”-ness is defined by the release of free radicals, and is what enables the polymerization. (I explain this in the article.) The ingredients that preserve freshness for eating (especially if the preservation is so extreme as to prevent the need for refrigeration), reduce the release of free radicals and thus reduce the oil’s ability to polymerize.

    You want pure flax oil for this – the kind that goes bad quickly.

  380. cyclingfan:

    Iron isn’t porous. That’s just misinformation that keeps passing around the ‘net.

    Best way to season cast iron: make a roux in it.

  381. amanda:

    Sheryl,

    I have a cast iron griddle with a flat griddle on one side and raised ridges (grill) on the other side. I most commonly cook on the griddle side, and I find that my gas stove tends to ruin the seasoning on the grill side when cooking on the griddle side. Is there any way to preserve the seasoning on the grill side when faced with an open flame?

  382. Bill:

    I know that the cleaning chemicals you used are very aggressive on aluminum and I will handle them accordingly. My question do you feel that this use of high quality flax seed oil will work on other metals such as aluminum?

    I have a downdraft Genair stove with a cast aluminum griddle and 2 cast aluminum grill grates which I would like to re-season. I also was wondering why not re-season over the current surface since I have all my cast iron and aluminum cooking units seasoned the old fashioned way. My grand mother and mother along with their relatives used cooking with all forms of fat and even putting the iron ware directly in wood coals which created the non-stick seasoning. I will not be touching my old Cast iron because the seasoning is unblemished and I use the Crisco seasoning method for them each New Years day.

    Will the Flax seed oil work on aluminum directly or to save time should I seal the current seasoning in a Flax seed Hard Polymer?

    Thanks Bill Hunt

  383. DM Jacobs:

    Sheryl,

    Good info. Thanks. One question, where can I purchase cast iron pans that are not pre-seasoned?

  384. Wijnand:

    Hello Sheryl,

    I did ‘the whole tour’ with my Iittala cast iron pan. It worked out fine! Many thanx for your helpfull article with possitive advise.

    I have a final question. Is it possible to create a black matt finish?

  385. Tom:

    If you have a self cleaning oven more eco-friendly way than oven cleaner to clean cast iron is to stick it in and run the cleaning cycle for about 2 hours. After it’s cooled the remaining white ash can be removed with a rag. To remove any remaining rust fill the pan with distilled vinegar and bring it to a boil on your stovetop, then let it set for 24 hours or so. Any remaining loose rust can be removed with a scrubby. This method has a side benefit of removing kitchen odors and pouring the used vinegar down the toilet helts clean the pipes.

  386. Sheila:

    Please Help! I just purchased 3 Lodge Cast Iron pieces and already seasoned two of them. I washed the pans with soap and very hot water, dried them and re-seasoned them with bacon fat in the oven for quite a while. They actually look very nice, even got darker, but I really, really want the finish and care you gave to your cast iron. Can you tell me where to start? I sure wish I had found you before I worked on my cast iron, but at least I have not done my 8 Quart Camp Oven yet!!!
    PS, Now I understand that I never even really got the first factory coat of seasoning off of them from the scrubbing I did! Can this be fixed? Help!

  387. Jason:

    I have a different situation that needs attention. I am sitting in a new restaurant kitchen and am staring at a 48″ flatop griddle. The griddle has been constructed of cast iron instead of the usual polished steel. What should be my method of “seasoning” a griddle of this size that obiviously cannot be put into a hot oven. It has 3 mega btu burners underneth, and the gas control knobs all go to 450. Also, the cast iron surface was not smoothed. It is in it’s rough state complete with grooves, faultlines and rough sandpaper feel.
    Any thoughts on how my methods of seasoning might change from those who are using pans and other smaller items?
    I am on my 6th application of Flax oil and have the feeling that I may have left too much oil on after applying it. It appears like it is “caking” in some spots and if I scrap it with my fingernail, it comes off. Not sure if it goes down to the first layer or not.
    I did scrub it with a green nylon pad and soap/water. Didn’t seem to remove what has hardened so far.

  388. Gordon:

    I just did a first layer on seasoning on a new de buyer carbon steel fry pan I purchased (their carbone plus line), and after a first bake the entire pan turned a very bright blue, except for the spots where it’s starting to develop the darker patina. I’m really curious about this. Does anyone have any insight on how that happened and what it means? I’ve never had that happen before with any of the iron pans I’ve had… Is that normal with carbon steel? Is the pan still safe to cook in?

    Thanks for any insight

  389. Jeff:

    Sheryl – thank you for the interesting read.

    I am concerned about the free radicals, however. You say that they will be gone by the time the seasoning process is done, but can you elaborate on this? I’m concerned that this process leaves dangerous free radicals and carcinogens in the coating that can leach into the food I cook. However I have no scientific basis on which to say why this is or isn’t true.

    I too am trying the avocado oil because of its high smoke point but clearly you state that this is the exact opposite!

    Safety is #1 though.

  390. C. Jack:

    Been reading this page and all the comments and have only come to one conclusion: this is way too complicated for a cooking device that can put up with more abuse than any other. Seasoning it with something like Crisco or bacon grease will not end your life or anyone else’s. It works just fine. If it worked for our ancestors it will work for us. And just cook a ton of bacon in it to *really* season it. We basically did this with our Lodge and we’ve only re-seasoned it once in about the 6 years since we started using it. Even then we didn’t strip it down, just a re-season.

    It’s pretty much non-stick at this point and is an absolute, indestructible workhorse. Have used metal utensils on it, including spatulas, and we haven’t lost any of the seasoning. It’s cast IRON, not a Fabergé egg.

  391. Ernie:

    Hi Sheryl,
    What a disaster! 500 degrees indeed! It wasn’t long before my kitchen filled with smoke! I guess I put too much oil on but it didn’t seem so at the time. My wife thinks you and I are both crazy! I solved this problem by moving the cast iron grills to the barbeque where they should have been from the start. I don’t know how you avoided this problem but I suspect you’re going to tell me that I used too much oil. Comments?

  392. Larry:

    Yup, Sheryl has it correct. THIN flaxseed oil at 450+ (on the BBQ so as not to stink-up the house – cooking surface down). Follow her recommendations. I’ve tried a number of other methods prior to her’s – bacon grease, olive oil, lard… They end up spotty and/or sticky and don’t have the ’slick’, coal-black seasoning that you want. Do at least four sessions.

    As she mentions, seasoning is NOT the same as cooking. I use olive oil for cooking. The final thing I do for skillets after seasoning is to cook some ‘throw away’ eggs in olive oil. Scrape them around the entire bottom of the skillet with a good stainless steel spatula. I use a Dexters (which are collectables in their own right and made in the USA!). The eggs will stick at first. Scour the skillet with kosher salt and oil. Repeat two or three more times. After that you’ll find the eggs slide around like teflon. Fantastic!

  393. Joe:

    Hi Sheryl,

    I followed your instructions on a Griswold Cast Iron Skillet. However, when the skillet was resting on a table, my son spilled milk on the bottom side of the pan. It took awhile before my wife noticed it and the milk has left this annoying stain on the bottom of the pan. I tried cleaning it with flax seed oil, but no luck. My friend thinks the milk has reacted with the seasoning and I might have to start all over again. Any ideas on what I should do? I would hate to start all over again. Is there any hope for me and should I disown my son (just a joke)?

    Joe

  394. Julie:

    I purchased a 10 inch cast iron dutch oven at a flea market. We plan on using it over an open fire. I have followed all of your instuctions for stripping and prepping to start the seasoning process. My question is, do I need to season the outside and bottom of the pot since we are going to use it over fire.

  395. Ernie:

    I tried this again with a LOT less oil and it went off without a hitch! I guess less is more when it comes to seasoning a cast iron skillet.

  396. David:

    I am curious if there a reason the skillet must cool off over such a lengthy period of time? After an hour of seasoning, why not just open the door and let it cool twice as quickly?

    Thank you tremendously for this site.

  397. David:

    Sheryl, I’ve been working on this pan for 2 weeks with miserable results, I’ve followed several different methods, none seemed to work well. My skillet just came out of the oven for the first round and it came out superb! Flaxseed oil works great. As a side note to anyone that is reading this, if you get small black dots, start over, completely dry the pan as mentioned and when putting the oil before baking, make sure to wipe it down until it appears to be dry. I now have a smooth, evenly seasoned skillet!

  398. Xiaxun Ding:

    Thanks for this article Sheryl. I’m just wondering if this applies to stainless steel as well? Thank you.

  399. Wayne:

    As I was finishing unpacking all of my precious cast iron vessels from long term storage I decided to give them all a new “seasoning” before using them in my new home. I followed several steps that I had used in the past:
    1) Completely removing all rust from the pieces, especially lids that had become very rusty, using naval jelly compound. Some had to be wirebrushed several times to get back to raw metal.
    2) Rinsing well and drying in 200ºF oven
    3) Then while warm coating with thin layer of olive oil
    4) “Firing” in 480º oven
    While waiting I decided to read this blog, and discovered that I had used an oil not recommended, and that flaxseed oil would be best. So now I’m in the cooling stage….so will see how well the olive oil and lard works.
    Thanks for the great comments. It is great to have all the good information that all of you have forwarded.

  400. Janet:

    Whew, what an odor!–I would describe it as sardine plus fruity olive oil. Others have made similar comments, and I notice that we all bought our oil from Whole Foods. Perhaps it is just the Whole Foods brand that has this distinctive, um, aroma.

    By the way, you won’t find flaxseed oil with the other cooking oils at Whole Foods. Refrigerated dietary supplements are in the section with grooming products, cosmetics, etc.

  401. Janet:

    Why does the cooking side need to face down while being heated in the oven?

  402. Sheryl Canter:

    > Why does the cooking side need to face down while being heated in the oven?

    So the oil doesn’t pool.

  403. Janet:

    > Why does the cooking side need to face down while being heated in the oven?

    > So the oil doesn’t pool.

    Uh-oh–there has not been nearly enough oil to pool up. I wonder if I have been overly diligent in wiping away the oil: After six coats, the pan still seems open-pored. It practically soaked up a few drops of water. I wiped it dry with a towel, but found a new layer of rust less than an hour later.

    Should a properly seasoned pan be able to repel water?

  404. Sheryl Canter:

    You’re right to wipe it away so it looks like there’s nothing on there. But if you don’t turn it over, then weirdly it will pool. If you don’t believe me, try it.

  405. jacki:

    This may be a silly question, but I would like to know if I am supposed to season both sides of the pan or just the inside cooking surface.

  406. Joe:

    I did not see this question answered above, but I did the process about ten times on a Lodge dutch oven, and it looked great. First thing I tried cooking was a roux (flour and oil) and it came out fine. However, after cleaning and a light coat of olive oil, when I wipe it paper towel comes out black. What is the black? Is it the seasoning coming off? It obviously didn’t come out when cooking the roux because it would have been obvious. I’m reluctant to use it now as every time I wipe it, the towel is black. Thoughts?

  407. Janet:

    As a test, I baked one pan rightside-up, and there was no puddling, which told me I was using even less oil than recommended. But it is still progressing; the cookware will simply need more than six layers of seasoning.

    For those of you who are having trouble finding flaxseed oil: Trader Joe’s carries it, on an unrefrigerated shelf along with coconut and other oils.

    I am using unfiltered flax oil from Whole Foods. In the beginning I would shake the bottle before use. Then I realized that the oil itself is homogeneous, and the other layer contains solids and other residue from the pressing. It may have some dietary value, but I am only using it for seasoning pans, so I started using just the oil layer. It seems to work as well, and with less of the fishy/fruity odor.

  408. David:

    Is it common to get what appears to be a rust color on the pan after the first seasoning but have no rust color on the paper when wiping the subsequent coats? Should I re-strip the pan and start over?

  409. Sheryl Canter:

    > For those of you who are having trouble finding flaxseed oil: Trader Joe’s carries it, on an unrefrigerated shelf along with coconut and other oils.

    Be careful about flaxseed oil that you find in an unrefrigerated section. Look at the ingredients. It surely contains ingredients besides flaxseed oil. I think this is why people are obtaining such widely different results from my instructions. Pure flaxseed oil is what works – the kind that goes rancid (needs refrigeration).

    Buy it online if you need to. Someone asked me to post a link a while back, and I should. I will soon.

  410. DJ:

    Thanks to a link posted earlier in the comments (either on this page, or a related page), I came across the suggestion that grape seed oil (GSO) would work well for seasoning cast iron. Since I happened to have a bottle of grape seed oil in my cupboard, I took a look at the label and noticed that it stated the smoke point was 485 degrees — although it should be noted that some grape seed oils have a much lower smoke point, if they are “virgin” or “cold pressed”, and some others not labeled as such may have a smoke point of just 420 or so — I used San Giuliano Alghero.

    The reason I came across this page in the first place is because my cousin recently returned from a camping trip where someone had left behind a cast iron griddle pan, and she couldn’t keep it because she was returning home on a plane.

    The pan was extremely dirty & rusty, but not very well seasoned. I cleaned it up with oven cleaner, plus steel wool & copper pads with comet. Then when I figured it was as clean as I was going to get it, I did a final wash with dish soap and rinsed very well in hot water, then put it in the oven at about 450 for a few hours.

    Once it had cooled down enough to handle, I slathered it in the GSO, wiped it off with a paper towel until it looked pretty dry, then back in the oven, kicking it up to 450.

    I ended up doing this 6 or 7 more times, with a few amendments to the procedure: after “cooking” it for an hour at 450, I then turned the oven up to 550 and continued for another hour, thinking that it couldn’t hurt as far as “curing” that layer; also, for the last couple of runs, I decided to leave on a bit more of the GSO, since it seemed to be a bit slower going than I’d anticipated — thus, I left just enough oil on the pan so that it was a little shiny, no more.

    I’m left now with a nice black and smooth finish on the pan. The only minor flaws are a few spots on the surface (under the layers of black, it looks like) that are a little lighter-colored, almost like water spots — it could be due to me not cleaning it well enough initially, although I can’t think of anything more I could have done in that initial process — but as I said, that’s a minor issue, and really not even noticeable unless you’re looking at it the right way under the light.

    Overall, it went so well, I’ve dug out an old cast iron kettle that I had stowed away, unused, and have started the cleaning process on that. This piece will take a lot longer to prepare, since the seasoning is hard and flaky, with much of it falling away on the inside of the kettle. But I’m looking forward to doing the same process on it, using my GSO again. (And I just have to remember not to try to cook tomato sauce in the kettle once it’s finished.)

    Just passing along another option that worked well for me, for those people who may want to try it. Following your techniques as closely as possible yielded great results.

  411. DJ:

    By the way, Sheryl, I kept getting my previous post rejected with the note: “Hmmm… your comment seems a bit spammy. We’re not real big on spam around here.” After trying a half-dozen different things, I did a web search on that phrase, and somebody mentioned that (on apparently the same brand of spam filter) if you mentioned the word “sex” too often, you got that error message. So I thought, well, I used “oil” a lot in my post… thus I changed the repeat uses to “GSO”, and voila — the post went through! Maybe, just maybe, that spam filter is set a little high? ;-)

  412. Sheryl Canter:

    DJ – thanks for sharing your experience with the grape seed oil, and your method. The problem I’ve had when I’ve put the oil on too thick is that it comes off with cooking. When I use very thin layers, that doesn’t happen. Patience was the key for me – that and very pure flaxseed oil, the kind that goes rancid, in the refrigerator section, without the additives that prevent rancidity.

    >By the way, Sheryl, I kept getting my previous post rejected with the note: “Hmmm… your comment seems a bit spammy. We’re not real big on spam around here.” After trying a half-dozen different things, I did a web search on that phrase, and somebody mentioned that (on apparently the same brand of spam filter) if you mentioned the word “sex” too often, you got that error message. So I thought, well, I used “oil” a lot in my post… thus I changed the repeat uses to “GSO”, and voila — the post went through! Maybe, just maybe, that spam filter is set a little high? ;-)

    Oh no! Very sorry for the inconvenience, and thank you for your research. Sadly, I don’t have the first clue how to fix this. There are actually two spam filters on the blog, and I don’t even know which this is coming from, let alone if I can adjust the settings and if I can, how to do it. There is a bunch of maintenance I need to do on this blog and I haven’t been able to find the time. I want to add a link to the right kind of flax oil and add a “Share” button (people have requested both). These changes require a bunch of other upgrades. I’ll see if I can put aside time this weekend to do it all. You didn’t happen to make a note of which spam filter it was, did you?

  413. Sheryl Canter:

    David wrote:
    > Is it common to get what appears to be a rust color on the pan after the first seasoning but have no rust color on the paper when wiping the subsequent coats? Should I re-strip the pan and start over?

    It sounds like your stripped pan may have been slightly rusty, like the stripped popover pan in this post:

    http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/01/perfect-popovers-and-how-to-clean-reseason-cast-iron/

    I describe how to clean off rust in the popover post, but follow the instructions in this post you’re commenting on and the one that came after about black rust for the seasoning. The popover post is an earlier post, so the seasoning instructions aren’t the latest and greatest – it’s before I discovered flaxseed oil.

    You aren’t seeing rust after subsequent coats of seasoning because you locked it into the seasoning. The first coat is still permeable.

  414. Sheryl Canter:

    > This may be a silly question, but I would like to know if I am supposed to season both sides of the pan or just the inside cooking surface.

    Yes. You don’t want the outside of the pan to rust.

  415. ChrisB:

    Sheryl,
    Wanted to thank you for clearing up my issues with my cast iron. I have used the pop-up links pointing to electrolysis cleaning of the cast iron and have started the process of re-seasoning all my cast iron now that I know what I did wrong (too thick on the oil and not using flaxseed in the first place).

    My first attempt was with my Lodge reversible griddle. It looks better than it did the day I bought it!

    It took me more time at Home Depot finding what I needed to set up the electrolysis bath than it did to actually get it all together and start the process.

    Really appreciate the detailed look at how to do it right!
    Happy Campfire Cooking
    ChrisB

  416. DJ:

    > thanks for sharing your experience with the grape seed oil, and your method.
    > The problem I’ve had when I’ve put the oil on too thick is that it comes off
    > with cooking. When I use very thin layers, that doesn’t happen.

    Hi again, Sheryl — yeah, that part of the process seemed to make sense to me, since from my days in construction, I know how important it is when painting or applying varnish to use several thin coats rather than trying to do it all in one thick one. Therefore, I only started leaving just a bit more oil on the pan after I’d already laid down several layers on it with the method you proscribe — it was a calculated risk which I took only because I felt the process was happening more slowly than I’d thought it would, and wanted to see if a layer with a bit more oil would still come out smooth, hard, and not sticky at all. And since it worked the first time that I added more GSO, I continued doing that for the rest of the layers. Granted, though, it was definitely not enough GSO to pool, nor would it likely even get your hands very greasy when touching it — just a hint of shininess on the pan was all I was going for.

    Now, it could be that the difference here is due to the qualities of Grapeseed Oil. GSO is said to be the kind of oil that will get gunky after leaving it out for a while, so it shares that property with Flaxseed Oil (FSO)… but I’ve cooked with FSO in the past and once, when I didn’t wash the pan right away, I noticed that it hardened on the bottom of the pot, almost like I’d left shellac in there — it was a beast to scrub away — and when I looked at that, I thought that I didn’t want that same kind of hardening to happen inside my body, so I stopped cooking with it. ;-) But GSO doesn’t seem to be nearly as “sticky” as FSO, so maybe it doesn’t grab on to the cast iron as well, thus causing my process with the GSO to go a lot slower. I don’t know. It’s only a theory.

    Right now I’m having a heckuva time cleaning my other cast iron piece in preparation for this process. The oven cleaner I have didn’t get rid of much (it’s one of those no-fumes cleaners), so I may have to try a different brand and see if it’s more “aggressive” with the flaky gunk on this kettle. Right now I’m boiling water with vinegar in it, to see what that does. Hopefully I don’t have to resort to the power tools. :-)

    > You didn’t happen to make a note of which spam filter it was, did you?

    No, sorry — there wasn’t much info at all on it, other than several people commenting on other blogs who had gotten that message. If you Google that phrase, you will probably find the same references I did to it.

  417. Daerk:

    Hi Sheryl,

    Excellent Article! Concerning use of vinegar, I prefer to just use plain yellow mustard. The vinegar percentage plus the “grit” of the mustard is perfect for removing heavy rust. There are numerous methods of use… from preheating pan and adding mustard while stirring it around (messy, smelly, possibly dangerous if inhaled, etc) to application of mustard, then placing in oven or charcoal fire, and even a method of adding hot coals on top of the mustard. I’ve found that they all work, to varying degrees, and with varying degrees of effort required. I prefer the apply mustard and bake method.

    When it comes out, I use COPPER wool and scrub it. Steel wool is too prone to scratch and damage the actual iron. Copper is softer and less prone to scratching, only removing the rust and leaving the iron.

  418. norm:

    Regarding your recommendation of flax seed oil seasoning, will I get the same results as yours if I seasoned my iron skillet with flax seed oil OVER my (smooth)accumulated seasoning (canola, bacon fat) of 5 uses,or do you recommend flax seed from the get go? Thanks.

  419. Rachel:

    Hi Sheryl
    Thanks for this much needed and detailed explanation of the process of seasoning. I’m not sure if you’ve answered this question, I know one one previous poster asked a similar question – can this process be used for seasoning a steel wok? Is flaxseed oil still the best oil in this case?
    Thanks :)

  420. Wes:

    Hi Sheryl,
    Thank you for the great explanation, I’m using walnut oil to season my cast iron skillet, but that’s not my question: do I have to season all at once, or can I split, like do the process once a day until I get my 6+ layers?

  421. Adam:

    Hi Sheryl,
    Great article, I just purchased an Emeril by All-Clad E6019764 Cast-Iron 2-Burner Reversible Grill/Griddle http://www.amazon.com/Emeril-All-Clad-E6019764-Cast-Iron-Reversible/dp/B000JZYOHQ and it says that it’s enameled. Does your seasoning method apply to enameled cookware? some sites say yes and some no, I’m confused but your blog seems the most detailed and I’ve found the link to it on multiple other sites…..So please help!!!

    Adam

  422. Adrian:

    Hi Sheryl,
    I seasoned my cast iron frying pan using your method and was really happy with the results. However, I roasted a chicken in the pan – the chicken was stuffed with lemon and basil – and a lot of the baked on flaxseed oil came away from the pan’s surface. Is this due to the acids in the lemons do you think? Or perhaps the seasoning layer doesn’t stand up to roasting? What are your thoughts?
    Best wishes,
    Adrian

  423. Sheryl Canter:

    Any acidic food will remove the seasoning from a cast iron pan. That’s why you’re not supposed to use cast iron to cook tomato sauces, etc.

  424. Kevin N:

    As person who loves using cast iron, your article is interesting.
    As a chemistry specialist, I find a lot of what you said to be inaccurate, and I can back this up with reliable sources.
    If you are going to claim “they are all wrong”, please site some credible sources, from scientific journals (JACS). To give such a bold statement and back it up with Google, anecdotes or simply “something I read” is hearsay. I could take any oil/fat and write a convincing article on how it should be the best for seasoning.
    Needless to say, the scientist inside me experimented, along with many of my friends. I must say right off the bat after seasoning a bare cast iron pan, it gives an extremely photogenic glossy pan, which I expected since it is a drying oil used for paint. However its non-stick capability are similar to other oils/fats. One common problem that came up, no matter what method of seasoning was used, is that this seasoning has a tendency to chip especially at higher temps. My speculation as to why this chipping occurs is as follows….
    although linseed/flaxseed oil is a drying oil and can dry hard, you have to remember that these applications are not often subjected to the same temperatures, and fluctuations as a cast iron pan. Since it forms such a hard polymer the expansion of the metal and the hard polymer layer will expand and contract at different rates. Since it dries so hard, the probability of chipping is much higher. In contrast a polymer that does not form as hard is more “flexible” so to speak, so it is less likely to chip.
    Think of an object that has been painted outdoors, after years of heating and cooling it will start to chip. It is the same concept.

    Also I would like everyone to keep in mind that although many oils and fats are different, the mechanism that provides this non-stick surface is similar for ALL oils. However each oil will increase the “non-stick” capability in different proportions due to the chemical structures of the oil as well as its contents. This proportion maybe observed as the amount of times needed for seasoning in order to get a non stick surface. This is why it is generally agreed that the longer you use cast iron the more non-stick it becomes. I do not believe that there will be much of a difference between most oils. This speculation comes purely from the fact that there is really no consensus on what the best oil/fat for seasoning cast iron is. It depends on your method of seasoning, some oils may work better for certain methods, other might not.

    I would love to see the outcome of different oils, using different seasoning processes and temps, before anyone can claim that a certain oil “gives the best results”.

    sorry for the wall of text

  425. Sheryl Canter:

    Kevin,

    Your theory doesn’t make logical sense to me, and also doesn’t match my experience:

    (1) Cast iron is very rigid and brittle. The proof is how easily it breaks – like glass. When you buy cast iron on eBay, you have to make sure the seller packs it really well. If you buy a skillet that is not packed well, it could easily arrive with the handle cracked off. Cast iron is not flexible like plastic so that a rigid coating would flake off it.

    (2) In my experience, the only time seasoning has flaked off cast iron is when it was put on too thickly, and that goes for any kind of oil – my own early attempts with flaxseed oil, and a small skillet I bought on eBay that was seasoned with Crisco. On the pans that I heated first (see this post for why) and then applied the flaxseed oil very thinly, I have not had any flaking.

    - Sheryl

  426. Kevin N:

    just because it doesnt match your experience doesnt mean its wrong, flax seed oil hasnt worked for a lot of people. If you carefully read what i wrote again you will realize what im actually trying to say.
    firtly, that flax seed oil is the “be all end all” oil for cast iron seasoning. There isnt really a best oil, Its the oil and the corresponding method and conditions of seasoning that matter.
    Secondly i was just speculating as to why flax seed oil has a tendency to chip off. Even if you apply it very very thinly, after the coats start to build up it always seems to flake. This is based of the idea that linseed/flaxseed oil is a drying oil and it dries really hard

    also i dont understand your first point and how it relates to what i said. I was trying to say that Cast iron and the patina layer doesnt expand and contract at the same rate, like a layer of paint on any object. This is what speeds up the flaking process, as compared to other oils/fats that dont form as hard a layer as flaxseed does. it has really nothing to do with cast iron being brittle or rigid. If you also noticed i said flaking was a “common problem” meaning some of my friends have had this work quite well for them and have yet to experience flaking. You shouldn’t make judgements based solely on your own observations.

    Regardless if you agree with my speculation or not, your chemical explanations are still wrong. If you would like to disprove me about the chemical natures of heating oils, please add some links to scholarly articles that agree with the chemistry you speak of because it really doesn’t make sense.

    i hope this clears up a few things

  427. Kevin N:

    sorry i meant to say
    “firtly, that flax seed oil ISN’T the “be all end all” oil for cast iron seasoning.”

  428. Sheryl Canter:

    It’s incorrect that flaxseed oil seasonings have a tendency to chip off more than seasonings with other oils. Your premise is wrong. The reports here of flaxseed oil seasonings coming off have to do with various mistakes people have made:

    * Using flaxseed oil that has other ingredients in it to slow rancidity (which defeats the whole purpose of using flaxseed oil).

    * Putting the oil on too thickly (which will cause any seasoning to come off, regardless of the oil).

    * Cooking with acidic ingredients such as lemon, tomato, vinegar (which will cause any seasoning to come off, regardless of the oil).

    I have many cast iron pans seasoned properly with flaxseed oil where the seasoning did not come off. That empirical experience is highly relevant. The burden of proof is on you to show that flaxseed oil seasonings come off properly seasoned cast iron pans. I know they do not. I’ll bet you haven’t tried it.

  429. Kevin N:

    …ok, im tired of this…
    you are just saying im wrong, no explanations, or theories or speculations as to why. Im not talking about thing like “you’re doing it wrong” because im not, seasoning cast iron isnt brain surgery i have many well seasoned pans.
    I love hearing reasons to why i am wrong so i can further explore these types of topics. I love to do research and study different sides of the coin and explore, but you’re literally giving me nothing.
    You are saying im wrong because you said so or im doing something wrong.

    one person’s observations even a handful of peoples is still hearsay
    -i use high quality flax oil from the health food store sealed and refrigerated, its 100% food grade
    -You MUST always put on oil in thin layers when seasoning, i put it on as thin as possible, and so did my parents and grand parents. I usually rub a thin layer on and wipe down with paper towel
    in my test, after striping the initial patina layer i applied 6 layers first, and got flaking after a period of 1.5 months use (mostly cooking eggs, bacon, grilled cheese). then i did 11 layers and still flaking. each time i did another experiment i noted the duration of time before flaking the extent of flaking on a scale of 1-10, i also striped the patina before each trial. I tried different methods for seasoning too doing about 6-11 layers, this has been a long experiment but those are my results. I always had flaking.
    -I never cook with acidic ingredients in cast iron, low pH values react with iron.

    There are many people who have tried this method and did not get good results. Im merely trying to explain why their results may not be working. People like me who have owned cast iron pans their whole life, and know how to season, tried this method, but not with the glowing results that you claim. Im sure it works great for some people, but how do you explain experiences with flaxseed oil that doesn’t work?

    basically i’m saying flaxseed oil isn’t the best and isn’t for everyone. It works for you and that’s great, it works for some people and it doesn’t work for others. This is how it is for all oils/fats that people use on their cast iron, there isn’t one oil to rule them all. I feel like im arguing about religion, i tried to start a more scientific factual debate but that didn’t work. There isn’t one best religion, just different religions, which generally have the same overall teachings. This is how i feel about different types of oils/fats and methods for seasoning.

    regardless your ramblings on the chemical aspects of fats/oils and heating them are incorrect. please fix it so people aren’t mislead. I’ll assume you know how to find these types of scholarly articles and journals, to get the proper info. good luck. Shoot me an email if you want me to review the chemistry section.

    im starting a new experiment today, which involves mixing oils/fats to produce the most efficient and effective way to season.
    my first mixture will be 1 part lard, 1 part canola and 1/2 part flaxseed oil.
    I have striped and applied it to my Dutch oven today. Wish me luck :)

  430. Sheryl Canter:

    If you want to post where you think I got the chemistry wrong in my article, go ahead. I’m interested to hear objective facts. Please include links to references.

    It just didn’t seem relevant to me when you were approaching it as an explanation of a premise that I see as invalid (I do not think it’s true that flaxseed oil seasonings flake more than seasonings with other oils). So are you correcting my science or making a religious argument yourself? ;)

  431. Kevin N:

    All your mistakes are outlined multiple times in many of these articles, have fun.

    Article 1: “The determination of combined carbon in cast iron by means of the spekker photo-electric absorptiometer”Journal of the Society of Chemical Industry
    Volume 68, Issue 2, pages 49–52, February 1949

    Article 2: The Growth of Thin Lubricating Films of Plant Oils
    Tribology Letters (February 2011), 41 (2), pg. 451-462

    article 3:CORROSION PROTECTION OF METALS
    Willis G. Routson (patent 2 411 593)

    artivle 4:Impact of high-temperature food processing on fats and oils
    Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
    Volume 459, 1999, Pages 67-77

    Article 5: JAOCS, Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society
    Volume 80, Issue 2, February 2003, Pages 163-166
    JAOCS, Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society
    Volume 80, Issue 2, February 2003, Pages 163-166

    I dont know if flaxseed oil flakes more than other oils, i havent tried them all. All i can say is that it does flake. I have used lard, canola/crisco, and safflower oil, they do not flake the way that flax does, but this is just my experience, so take it with a grain of salt.

    Anyways you still shouldn’t say things like “they are all wrong”, when you have so little to back up your theories and most of it is backed up by incorrect explanations. I hope you have learned this valuable life lesson.

    Thanks for your creative article, it made me think a little. My quest for finding the most efficient and effective oil/fat/combination for seasoning continues…

  432. Sheryl Canter:

    Kevin, that doesn’t tell me anything. First, I don’t have access to those articles, so I don’t know what they say. More important, you have not told me what is in MY article that is contradicted in those journal articles. What did I say that is incorrect (besides the hyperbole of writing style “they are all wrong”)?

    If you have anything substantive to say ABOUT THE SCIENCE, I’m interested. But so far, all you’ve done is complain that you didn’t have a good result on your pan (n=1) and you didn’t like my writing style (that sentence “they are all wrong” irked you).

  433. Missy:

    Hi Sheryl,
    I want to add my thanks to the others who have benefited from the information you’ve shared about seasoning cast iron. There still isn’t too much on the web about it, even 2 1/2 years after you first wrote this post!
    I’m new to using cast iron in the house, and while I’ve had a bbq plate for ages I haven’t really cared for it. So I have a newby question that I’d be so grateful if you, or someone else can answer.

    Recently I bought a cheap cast iron pan that is coated on the outside with enamel and on the inside with a black finish. The inside of the pan is quite poor (aka cheap) and I’d like to “fix it up” the best I can to use while I bide by time and wait for something old and beautiful to come my way.

    Should I strip the manufacturers finish off and start again? I’m also concerned about damaging the enamel finish by heating it long and hot in the oven. The instructions for the pan provide a “minimal” seasoning suggestion (on the stove for a few minutes) and warn against heating the pan with nothing in it and at too high a temp.

    I don’t know anything about enamel, and would really value an opinion on this if you have time.

    Thanks again, Missy.

  434. Demi Antz:

    Hi, I am just about to try this but I was wondering if I can use this method to better season an already seasoned pan. I have used olive oil and it is seasoned but admittedly it is not the best. I can use it but it sticks sometimes. I was hoping that I could use this method to “top it up” and make it a better season. Can I do this and has anyone tried this?

    Thanks.

  435. Sheryl Canter:

    Demi – As you use the pan, more and more seasoning will build up slowly over time and it will get better and better. Flaxseed oil is not something you should ever cook with, so if you wanted to add a layer of seasoning from flaxseed oil on top of what you already have, you’d do it in the oven as described.

    Missy – I only know about seasoning antique cast iron. I can’t advise you on your pan.

  436. Joe Marfice:

    Hi, Sheryl, and Sheryl’s readers! Above I posted my stepwise redaction of Sheryl’s method, with one little change: I strip the excess oil under running hot water, instead of wiping with paper towels. I found you really, really need to scrub the inside bottom edges very well, as oil loves to puddle there (in hindsight, baking them upside-down will probably help, too).

    Anyway, I’m back to report that my safflower-coated pots are holding up beautifully, after 6 months of (sloppy, careless) use.

    I think that, aside from stripping all the red rust off the iron (and/or converting it to brown rust, per your instructions on the other page), NOT making sure the first 1-2 layers of blackening start with extremely thin oil layers is probably the failure point for most people. If the surface is oily feeling, people, it’s too oily!

    Thanks, and tah-tah, Sheryl!
    Thanks again!

  437. Demi Antz:

    Hi Sheryl,

    Thanks for your reply. I did just are you said and then tried to fry an egg this morning with a TON of oil just incase. I heated up the pan well enough but it still stuck like crazy! What am I doing wrong? The cast iron that I have is a newer one so it has tons of “hills and valleys” and is not smooth. I know this doesn’t mean that things should stick if it is seasoned so I have no idea what to do now. Thanks.

  438. Demi Antz:

    oh, and what can I cook in my cast iron right now (ie when it is not yet nonstick and won’t stick too badly)?

  439. Dale Creekmur:

    May have been asked before, but… With a brand-new Lodge ( 8-inch ) frypan, should I remove the pre-seasoning before beginning the flax seasoning? And a comment — I read somewhere that using a stainless steel spatula helps to smooth out the seasoning. I’ve been using one (wooden handle, blade about 2” wide) and I do believe it helps to smooth out the hills and valleys in the bottom of the pan.

  440. Sheryl Canter:

    Why bother? A brand new Lodge pan is pre-seasoned and ready to use. This blog post is about seasoning antique cast iron, which is smooth bare metal and not pre-seasoned.

  441. Galina L.:

    I have to re-season from time to time all my cast iron EXCEPT one Grishwold#8 big logo skillet which was completely rusted when I bought it on e-bay. It looked like no one cooked in it, and it was rusting for the last 80 years. After cleaning and removing rust I was not surprised but disappointed to find that metal was not glass-smooth, looking slightly like the texture of modern Lodge, but dimples were much smaller, like very tiny dimples without spikes. It absorbed a surprising amount of oil during seasoning and absolutely nothing sticks to it afterwords, seasoning stays like it is unseparatable fixture of the skillet, no matter what I put on it. I know that the roughness of the surface is not the reason because Lodge and a skillet with milling marks also need periodical re-seasoning. It looks for me that the rusting made the surface more absorbing. I plan to experiment in a future with my two less valuable skillets(lodge and Taiwanese one with milling marks) by stripping it first, then keeping them for some time in diluted vinegar and let it stay dry for one day before re-seasoning. I think it is possible to make a surface to be more absorbing without looking like an orange peel. My skillets cook great, but I sort of got tired of the seasoning on all but one being so fragile. Any food that releases juices damages the delicate layers to some degree. It shouldn’t be these way.

  442. David M.:

    Hi Sheryl. Thank you to the 100th power for the Wonderful blog.

    Do you know, or have an opinion, on whether the seasoning technique you developed can also be used on carbon steel? For example, DeBuyer frypans, carbon steel woks, and steel griddles?

  443. Bernie L:

    Sheryl –thanks for all the great additional info-

    I’m using oven cleaner this week so I can start over—Had great results last year with flaxseed oil but seasoning started to flake because I used thick coats (didn’t find your blog until now) – Would there be any reason I couldn’t use my gas grill instead of oven?—I could adjust grill to maintain 450-550 temps

    Kids don’t like the smell and with the Indiana weather I would like to keep all the heat outside

  444. Rob S.:

    Thank you so much for this blog! I purchased a Lodge 12″ pan less than a year ago and managed to jack up the finish real good. My attempts at re-seasoning ended up with a sticky uneven pan. I had been using corn oil and lathering it on thick and just about every other no-no you listed. I stripped it down to the bare metal (self-cleaning oven method, no warping!) and started over following your instructions to the letter. My pan now has a darker, more non-stick finish than when I bought it pre-seasoned! Awesome awesome info!

  445. Rob S.:

    P.S. I noticed no weird smell from the flaxseed oil while seasoning, and no strange taste after cooking with it.

  446. tomtom:

    Worked well for me. Fortunately I have an oven that goes to 550º, which I knew from prior experience with lesser oils gives best results. I put on the oil a little thicker than described and the reason I think that worked was the higher temperature.

    New Lodge pans have a very rough as-cast finish, so I sand them smoother and need to re-season. Do others also feel that Lodge pans are to rough to ever get the satin smooth feeling of a really well-seasoned pan?

  447. Kate:

    Man does that oil smoke, it smells soooo bad! I hope this works, is it ok if the pan has a bit of rust before putting the layer of flax oil on it?

  448. Sheryl Canter:

    You should not season over rust. Here’s how to remove rust:

    http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/01/perfect-popovers-and-how-to-clean-reseason-cast-iron/

    The popover post was written before the current post, so the seasoning advice is older. Use this seasoning advice instead. I only mention the popover post because it talks about how to remove rust.

  449. Seth Newsome:

    I just wanted to thank you like many others. I followed you your directions precisely to strip off the rust and then re-season four of my parents old Griswold cast iron pans. They look almost like-new and I can’t even believe how well they work – I use them for nearly everything now. Thank you!

  450. Mitch:

    Sheryl, Thank you for all the info and research. You’ve definately done your research. I’m in the process of “doing it your way” right now. sounds like a two day job so I hope it comes out as fine as I expect. One question…. Does using stainless steel utinsels harm the “non-stick” effect?

  451. kevin:

    Sheryl -
    I followed your directions to the letter using flak-seed oil and several coats done in the oven and yesterday when attempting to cook eggs, they stuck terribly. Please advise. Thanks,

    Kevin

  452. Michael:

    I just undertook the flaxoil process on a large Lodge cast iron skillet and a Mr Bar-B-Q cast iron wok. Both are not shining examples of the best of the cast iron world I know however these were what I was working with. Both pans were sprayed with EasyOff and allowed to rest for two days in a plastic bag in the sun. An metal abrasive pad was used to ensure I was down to bare metal and the pans were rinsed and dried on the stove. By now the pans rusted a bit and the cleaning was followed a 50/50 vinegar and water bath for a few hours until all rust was loosened enough to remove easily. This was followed with another cleaning with washing soda to counteract the vinegar. After a thorough rinsing, I boiled water in them while scrubbing the insides with a scouring pad to ensure all cleaning agents were rinsed out of every pore. I followed the seasoning instructions closely and applied very thin coats of Spectrum brand filtered flaxoil. The process took several days and if the pans cooled I was sure to preheat them in a 200 degree oven for approximately 45 min to an hour before applying another coat of oil. My oven can bake up to 550 degrees and the pans baked at that temperature for an hour and remained in the oven to cool. I repeated this process the required six times.

    I have to say I am pleased with the results. I did not achieve a jet black finish– mine was more very dark brown almost like a very burnt amber but dry and slick not sticky. However, the finish is tough as nails and easily held up to high heat. I finished the seasoning process by adding some oil and heating the pan until the oil began smoking. I then fried chopped green onions until they charred and discarded (Chinese style). I used a stainless steel spatula and was quite aggressive stir frying the onions and scraping the pans and the finish remained perfectly intact although it may have darkened slightly. My next act was to make a garlic chicken stir fry in the wok and again I applied high heat and some peanut oil. The initial crushed cloves of garlic stuck to the pan but the later added chicken pieces did not. The chicken browned nicely and the rest of the vegetables were added and they also were trouble free. I decided that since I had some stuck bits that I would not serve straight from the wok so put the contents into a bowl and poured boiling water from a kettle into the still hot wok. The boiling water and steam very easily loosened the stuck bits and a plastic scouring pad held with tongs cleaned the rest of the pan while the water continued to boil. A quick rinse with hot water in the sink and the wok was once again clean. I applied a thin coat of peanut oil since it was handy to the wok surface and let the pan sit to cool.

    The meal was better than any takeout and the wok performed well. Like I said the flaxoil finish is tough although I am not convinced it is as nonstick on cheap iron as it would be on better produced pans. It is too bad current manufacturers do not offer polished skillets. I am sure the longer the pans are in service the better the non-stick abilities will become. I would not attempt eggs at this point with such a rough surface as the seasoning will not give the pans super powers all of the sudden. However the seasoning does result in an even colored protective finish that should stand up to even the toughest cooks. I have tried vegetable oil seasoning following the manufacturer’s instructions in the past and was extremely disappointed. Of course the manufacturers don’t say to apply six coats and perhaps that is equally important. There may be other equally fine methods to season cast iron and I am not suggesting this way is superior. But, if you have the time and would like to have a great finish you will not be disappointed following the flaxoil process.

  453. Elaine:

    My pan is clean but I used bacon drippings and would like to reseason with the flax. Is there an easy way to just remove the oil?

  454. Ambiac:

    Thank you so much for all your research on this. I purchased a Wagner chicken pot with a “drip drop baster” lid. The lid has a zig-zag circular pattern on the inside, which has been quite a pain to oil and get clean! The pan and lid have been in the oven on temp 4 times now (I’m getting ready to do my 5th). However, I used the lid on another pan while cooking on my stovetop and when I took it off the inside was covered in rust! I was disappointed to say the least. I have done the oven cleaner, black bag method and soaked it in water and vinegar til I thought the rust had lifted off. Do you have any suggestions on what I may have done wrong or what I need to do to fix it? Do I have to start completely over. Also, my pan is very smooth, but the finish does not look smooth! It is very splotchy. I have been using flaxseed oil. Is this normal? Thank you so much for whatever help you can give me.

  455. Andrea S.:

    Okay, I must have done something wrong somewhere along the line. I had two old cast iron pans picked up at a yard sale. Rusty and gross looking. I stripped my pans using oven cleaner down to the bare metal. I made sure they were bone dry. I applied thin coats of organic flaxseed oil — 8 coats, to be exact. I resisted the urge to apply thick layers and painstakingly made sure that the layers were thin, even and perfect. No drips or glops. Followed the baking instructions and times to a “T”. Pans looked great when they came out of the oven.

    Then ….

    I used one of the pans for the first time. I made sausage and eggs. After the pan had cooled, I cleaned it with just water and a plastic scouring pad. The seasoning came off. And came off. And came off. It flaked off in tiny micro-flakes. It some areas, it’s back down to bare metal. Was a plastic scouring pad too much? Wasn’t the flaxseed oil supposed to polymerize — like indestructible? I’m not sure what happened, but given this is my first experience with using cast iron, I’m tempted to stick the pans with the camping gear and go back to using my nonstick pans. Anybody have any advice on what I did wrong?

  456. Sheryl Canter:

    A few people have reported flaking. It didn’t happen to me with any of the many pans I seasoned, and it didn’t happen to many others as reported here. My best guess is that it happens when people use flaxseed oil that has other ingredients in it to slow rancidity. This defeats the whole purpose of using flaxseed oil, and I discovered from the posts here that many oils sold as flaxseed oil actually contain other ingredients. Read the label. Is it 100% flaxseed oil, or are there other ingredients as well?? It should be 100% flaxseed oil. If it doesn’t require refrigeration, it definitely contains other ingredients.

    Other possible reasons for the seasoning to come off are putting the oil on too thickly (which will cause any seasoning to come off, regardless of the oil), not inverting the pan (which causes pooling and too thick a coating, with any oil), or cooking with acidic ingredients such as lemon, tomato, vinegar (which also will cause any seasoning to come off, regardless of the oil).

    The other point I’ll mention here, though you don’t mention it, is that some people expect a glassy surface in a newly seasoned pan. It doesn’t work that way. This is a “starter” seasoning. The pan gets more non-stick as you use it. This is true no matter what oil you use.

  457. Don Schwass:

    Hello, thanks for the advice. I just did this process with three new pans. I want to confirm why they came out poorly. They have a hard, shiny service with cracks in the coating. I used too much flaxseed oil, didn’t I? Start over, correct? Don

  458. Derek Desroches:

    I just wanted to thank Sheryl for these tips. And to say that even though I’ve been using my pans for years with out this info, I wish I’d seen it years ago when I got my them. That said, I’d like to link to a very relevant product that I couldn’t find mentioned here: http://www.amazon.com/World-Cuisine-Heavy-Carbon-Frying/dp/B000RWJ5CU/ref=pd_sim_hg_5. These are virtually identical to what I used as a line cook and what I currently use at home. Not only is this seasoning method perfect for these pans, but if you buy these you’ll be able to use a cast iron for everything because of the rounded style of the pan.

    A regular (if there is such a thing) cast iron pan is very similar to sautoir. Or straight sided saute pan. It’s great for searing and braising or using as a shallow baking vessel. But the pans I linked to are a sauteuse, a round sided pan for tossing food while using a little fat and high heat or pan searing/oven roasting.

    I hope you enjoy.

  459. Zack:

    Isn’t polymerized fat bad for you? (One of the reason why deep frying oil at restaurant is so bad… they let it heat at high temperature for days…) I can just imagine this polymerized layer chip off the cast iron skillet in a year or two, if not sooner? Can you clarify on that?

  460. nicole:

    I found a bottle of flax oil, but it was with lignans and had rosemary etract and tocopherols in it with (non-hexane extracted natural vitamin e) in it…can this virsion be used to season my cast iron?

  461. Don Schwass:

    Hi Sheryl, not sure if you received my last comment. I have four cast iron skillets. ONe is Lodge Logic, the other three are an off brand. Firstly, the off brand is much rougher in service texture. I followed the advice on using the self cleaning oven,and that worked awesome. I have also used pure flaxseed oil now six times. The Lodge Logic is working really well with a couple of sticky spots. The other three look beautifully dark brown, but they are still sticking when doing scrambled eggs. Would you go over the cleaning instructions advice for AFTER the initial seasoning is completed, and you start to use the pan a few times. Thanks. Don

  462. Martin Wohlgemuth:

    Dear Sheryl :

    I am in process of cleaning/seasoning my first piece of cast iron ever; a No. 12 Wagner Skillet approx. 110 years old that looked in very fine condition when I got it but decided to use your method so that I can learn about this process.

    The conditioning went fine for the first 4 coats, but then for some reason on the 5th parts of the inside bottom went considerably darker than the other parts so it looks like uneven stains covering about 1/2 the surface.

    I tried to even out by putting the oil only on the much lighter parts but it still came out the same way after.

    Wiped dry each time; started pan in cold oven preheated to 500 then left in for 1 hour.

    The surface still feels very very smooth because I did leave only a microfilm each time, there will be no flaking but would just like to know if you can identify the reason for the uneven coating. Is this maybe the composition of the iron ? Why were the first 4 coats relatively even.

    Thanks Sheryl !

  463. Patrick M:

    Excellent, useful information based on fact and science rather than just opinion.
    Thank you.

  464. Julie:

    I just wanted to thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to research this. I love my skillet very much but have had problems with flaking and sticking in the past. Using the instructions listed above has yielded a pan that performs just as well as a teflon pan – amazing! I have never been happier and am so pleased all it took was a little flaxseed oil and patience.

  465. Dexter:

    Good Morning Sheryl,

    I have a few questions regarding Lodge preseason skillets:

    1. should I strip the factory seasoning off it and start over using your 6 layer guidelines? ( I want to keep these pans in the family, and start a new hand down tradition to my kids)

    2. Is olive oil a good oil to wipe the pans down with after cleaning them?

    3. What temperature should I set me oven to for the procedure? ( my oven goes up to 500 F but I have read mix reviews on form)

    4.What is the max amount of layers you should Apply?

    Thanks in advance,

    Dex

  466. Joe:

    Thank you Sheryl for a fascinating discussion. I saw one commenter ask about using metal utensils on seasoned cast iron, but I don’t believe you addressed his point. Based on your understanding of the polymerized fat, are metal utensils going to damage the surface or not? I’m reseasoning a griddle and would much prefer to use my metal spatula on it.

    Thanks,

    Joe

  467. Angela shelley:

    Hi. Is there a need to “strip the pan” first, if the pan is brand new?
    thank you!

  468. Andrea S.:

    Hi, Sheryl

    I posted the comment on 8/15/12, trying to troubleshoot what I did wrong. I made sure the oil was very, very thinly and evenly applied and I did invert the pans to avoid pooling or puddling. I didn’t cook anything acidic. That just leaves the possibility of the flax oil itself being the culprit. I checked the ingredients and this is what I used: cold pressed, organic, high lignan flax oil. It does require refrigeration. The ingredient list reads “Unrefined and unfiltered 100% organic flaxseed oil and organic flaxseed particulate.”

    Could it be the particulate in the oil that caused the problem? Should I have used filtered oil?

    Thank you,

    Andrea

  469. Jim C.:

    Thank you for the wonderful article.

    I’ve tried cast iron cooking in the past and was always so disappointed with the results. Everything stuck! I came across a Griswold #6 heavily rusted, but no cracks and no warping. For cleaning to bare metal, I used electrolysis. In 2 hours, I had a perfect bare metal pan to begin seasoning. I was unable to find flax seed oil locally, so I did some research on “drying oils”. I settled on the highest Iodine Value oil I could find locally… Walnut Oil. It has an Iodine Value of approx. 150. The results were spectacular. As a test, I lightly oiled skillet, heated to medium heat, and fried some potatoes and onions. Then transferred to a plate. Using same skillet, adding no extra oil other than what was left after potatoes, I scrambled 3 eggs. Nothing stuck to the pan!!! Wiped skillet with paper towel and it was clean.

    This method of seasoning is a perfect “starter seasoning”. Skillet keeps getting better after each use. Cornbread slipped right out of skillet last night!!!

  470. Robert:

    Thank You!!! I knew there Had to a reason WHY but all I was finding was the How until I came across this article. Now it makes sense and I can understand why even my new ceramic coated OrGreenic pans say to season them.

  471. Chris:

    Question. Do I need to strip a brand new skillet to the iron (Self Cleaning Oven) before I start seasoning?

  472. Frank:

    I have read quite a bit of the posts and for those of you asking if you need to re-season a new pan, Sheryl has stated, the answer is NO.

    Only season season a pan when nessassary.

    I personally use Crisco with great success and heat my pan in my BBQ, no smoke in the house and have very good control of the heat when seasoning.

  473. thom:

    As an FYI- I have found that the best way to strip a pan of an old finish for reseasoning is to put it in a self cleaning oven and set it to clean for ~3 hours. The pans come out stripped of anything besides the raw metal.

  474. Joe:

    I have a Debuyer Carbon B pan I am in the process of trying this with. I started with a dirty pan that has been in use a couple of years. I used muiriatic acid to clean it on the inside. It came very shiney clean. Now on the 5th coat of Flax Oil.Not black but a very dark bronze color. Not real smooth and shiney a bit rough. The next couple coats I will wipe on with a micro fiber cloth in the hope of eliminating paper towel lint. I am using temps of 450 degrees and baking more than an hour befor shuting off the heat.

    I have another bebuyer pan that I seasoned just with usuage. I only cook eggs in it and with butter or any other oil and the use of a silicone spatula, I can get the eggs to slide around the pan like it was teflon. I can flip them over with a flip of the wrist. Iron pans can get pretty no stick. Not quite like teflon but slick never the less.

  475. Jennifer:

    Hi, just out of curiosity, I wonder if we could see what that very impressively stripped then seasoned pan looks like now after a year or so of use… ?

    I wonder if it looks at -all- like it did in its pre-reconditioned state, or if it still looks like the “after” photo?

    That would be very exciting to see, thanks!! :)

  476. Joe:

    just looked at my bottle of NOW oil. It is not 100% Flax oil It has ascobic acid and rosemary extract and a fe other non flax oil items. I will order up some different oil and contine the process when it arrives.

  477. Betty Buck:

    I have a (what looks to be) heavy cast aluminum griddle that I use on my outdoor grill. Can the same seasoning technique be used on it that you describe for cast iron?

  478. Jaime:

    Would grapeseed oil be effective with this method as well or only food grade flaxseed?

  479. Patty:

    I have always fired my cast iron skillets the way my ancestors did. You can use lard (Crisco in the can), but I prefer canola oil. Grandma always built a fire outside and threw the skillets right into the fire and let them sit in the fire for hours at a time. The skillets always came out black inside and out and had a nice smooth surface. Whenever we build a fire to burn limbs and debree from trees, I set the skillets in the fire and allow them to season for a while. Works well for me.

  480. Bridget:

    Sheryl, I have a small cast iron grill skillet. You say to put it into the oven at 450 to 500 degrees, but the pan has a wood handle, and the handle is coated, but I still have concern for it being in an oven at that heat. I think it wasn’t meant to go into the oven, but to be used on stove top only. Is there a way to season by stove top? Thanks, great advice here, am bookmarking your site! =)

  481. Dan:

    I see a lot of you are having problems stripping your cast iron. I know many will not be able to have access to this method but sand blasting is the method I use. It won’t rust. Give it a good wiping with some lint free rags and wipe on a thin coat of what ever you are using to season it with. Preheating to 200 degrees first would be great if you can do it. But you must get oil applied immediately after sand blasting.

    After all this is what the foundry uses after they pull the casting from the mold. Hope this helps. If you look you can probably find a small fab shop or that type of business that can sand blast it for you.

  482. Joe:

    I used Muiriatic Acid to strip the inside of my pans. Easily found at hot tub and pool supply houses. Gets down to bare metal fast. Use in a well ventilated place.

  483. Mike M:

    Sheryl,

    Do I wish I found this site years ago. I’ve had a Lodge dutch over for four now. On one trip someone used it for a tomato based soup and I have been fighting with seasoning it ever since. I have striped it down to bare metal a total of 4 times now. I have used vegitable, canola, crisco, bacon grease, lard and olive oil, nothing worked. Heat to 300 for three hours, no 350 for four hours, let the oil dry naturally for two days then bake it. None of it work.

    It wasn’t until reading this and getting the flax seed oil did I start seeing positive results. What a beautiful finish my dutch oven has.

    One tip to Lodge owners, after stipping to bare metal, get a sanding disc for your drill and polish the inside of the oven. I almost had a mirror finish on mine. Super smooth on the inside now.

    Get the Flax Seed oil and follow the directions, it works!

    Thank you

  484. Carol:

    Hi Sheryl

    I followed your instructions for my 3 cast iron, them made a grilled cheese sandwich, putting a weight on top. The cast iron pan stuck fast to the bread! I got the sandwich out OK but there was residue on the pan. Repeated soaking and boiling didn’t get it all off, I finally had to scrub, hard, and the coating came off. It was as if the coating bonded to the sandwich. So what did I do wrong? The only thing I can think of is the skillet was just, and I mean just, warm still after the 6th coat when I used it, instead of completely cooled in the oven. I need to season all over and I want to do it right this time. Thank you.

  485. Sheryl Canter:

    It sounds like you used no grease at all when making your sandwich. You still have to grease the pan. It’s a preliminary seasoning that improves over time. It’s not a teflon coating.

  486. Joe:

    Stripped my pan, threw out my NOW oil and used Barleans for 9 coats on a DeBuyer iron pan. After acid stripping I sanded with 400 grit wet dry paper. The pan is super smooth and looks great. I will try frying with it tonight. I had done this a few times with NOW oil and the coating always flacked off. It was also never smooth and hard, it always seems a bit sticky. The right oil makes a difference. I fry eggs most mornings in a Debuyer that just got seasoned on it own with no real system. I only fry eggs or onions in it and with a bit a butter the eggs will slide around and can easily be flipedd with the wrist flip.I am hoping for even better with this pan. Omelets with no sticking are my hope. Regardless of how good the seasoning ends up oil or butter is still needed. It is not an oil based teflon we are putting on.

  487. Blane:

    I’d like to share a tip I read about a long time ago, remembered it and haven’t heard of it since.
    A method to de-gunk a piece of cast iron cookware. I know it works because I’ve used it. My pan, a nice curved lip fry pan, no name, junk shop find for 20.00 and with heavy gunk. Find a heavy plastic trash bag to form a “tent”, some pieces of wood or twigs to set the piece on. (no sharps on the twigs to puncture the tent), a bottle of Ammonia. Fluff the bag up, place the piece inside, pour in the ammonia and cinch the bag shut. Leave it (on the patio for me) for at least 7 days, I want to say 14, I don’t remember that part. The grease peeled off like you put paint remover on it and all else was gray iron. Nice. I live in Houston and did this in the summer. Not sure if temperature would affect the process or what it would do on rust. I’ll be trying the flaxseed process here directly.

  488. TMK:

    Finally! I feel as if I have been looking for this information for years.

  489. Joe:

    fried hasbrowns in my newly seasoned Debuyer. Had a bit of sticking which I expected and hoped for as I like them really crispy browned. Used a steel spatula to scrape the pan, the potatos released easily and the pan cleaned up with some hot water and a brush. No flaking of the 9 coats of Barleans. Still smooth and dark. Still feels slick. I think the right oil is so super critical. don’t bother without the perfect oil Barleans seems to be that for me.

  490. Sheryl Canter:

    Good job on the Barleans, Joe. Thanks for posting. Barleans is 100% flax oil with nothing else in it. That’s why it works so well. The reason some people have been having problems is they are using oils that have other ingredients to prevent oxidation. That is exactly what you DON’T want.

    Here’s a link to buy it:

    Barlean’s Flax Oil (from Amazon)
    When you first click on this it goes to the large 32oz size, but it also comes in a 16oz size.


    Edit: I am closing this post for further comments. Everything has been asked and answered many times now. If you have a question (or comment), please read the original article and the comments already posted. It’s most likely been asked and answered already. You also can refer to my other article, “Black Rust” and Cast Iron Seasoning.

    One other note… I suspect that many of the people who’ve been posting about sticking problems expect that an initial seasoning will result in a non-stick surface like teflon where oil during cooking is not needed. That’s not how it works. This article and the other one describe how to do an INITIAL SEASONING; it improves over time. That’s the nature of cast iron seasoning. You still need grease when cooking.

    Happy seasoning.

    P.S. Please do not email me with seasoning questions.