How To Properly Season A Cast Iron Skillet

Seasons greetings! Did your favorite cookware, aka the cast iron skillet, do most of the heavy lifting over the holidays? Want to learn to season it properly? Maybe you don't have a cast iron and don't have a clue what we're talking about? Now is a great time to get one, and we're here to tell you everything you need to know about seasoning it, so (non)stick around!

First and foremost, Cook's Illustrated has a great, very scientific, explanation of seasoning (and no, we're not talking about salt and pepper): "When fat or cooking oil is heated to its smoke point in cast iron, its fatty acids oxidize and reorganize (or 'polymerize') into a new, plastic-like layer of molecules." In other words, oiling and heating your cast iron properly will give it a new, slick coat called seasoning. Your pan will become more and more nonstick over time, which is kind of what makes the cast iron skillet the Lebron James of your cookware cupboard.

Consistent care makes for easier seasoning

So how is it done? By taking good care of your cast iron each time you cook with it, the enamel will maintain its shiny coat and build seasoning on its own. But before you season or re-season, a few things to note: Don't ever plunge your hot pan into cold water, says BBC Good Food, as the temperature shock could warp or damage the iron. Do wash in warm water (some suggest doing this sans soap, but Cook's Illustrated says a little is okay), using a non-metal, non-abrasive brush or scrubber. Once your skillet is dry, rub a little oil all over the interior using paper towels until the surface looks dark and smooth, then allow it to dry completely.

Every now and again, your cast iron might need a little extra TLC. Kitchn recommends gathering your supplies, preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and giving your pan a good wash as above. After you've dried it, use vegetable oil or shortening to coat the skillet once again, this time covering the outside and bottom of the pan as well as the interior. Once you have a thin coat of oil on the entire piece, flip it upside down and stick it directly on the wire rack in your oven, taking care to put foil underneath the rack to catch any drips. Bake your cast iron for an hour, and you'll have a seasoned MVP back in your kitchen once again!