Seasoning Cast Iron

3/5/2021

For Christmas, Will got me a 6.5-in cast iron skillet that I saw in a local shabby chic shop because I had mentioned it would be fun to refurbish it to usable condition. I think the pan cost $18.00. There are pre-seasoned 8-in skillets available on Amazon for $20.00, so this is one of those things where it's about the journey, not the destination.

Seasoning Procedure

I'm not going to make you scroll to the bottom of the page for the winning seasoning procedure, so here it is.

  1. If you need to remove old seasoning, put your cast iron into the oven and perform an oven cleaning cycle.
  2. Follow up, as necessary with wire wheels and then steel wool pads and soap. Use very hot water and dry completely to avoid flash rust. Pan should still be hot when you are done drying.
  3. Immediately put into a preheated 200°F for 10 minutes or so to get it hot enough to melt Crisco.
  4. Apply white Crisco. Then wipe off as much as you can with clean paper towels. You cannot wipe off too much.
  5. Raise oven to 300°F and heat for 15 minutes. Then wipe off again with clean paper towel.
  6. Raise oven to 400°F and heat for 2 hours.
  7. I'd recommend doing this a second time (from step 3) if you started with bare metal.

After your pan is seasoned, you can maintain it as follows:

To give credit where credit is due, this is the process presented by The Culinary Fanatic on YouTube.

Now here is the story of my skillet from the beginning.

Cleaning My Skillet

On Christmas morning, my skillet was so caked with material that the hole in the handle was almost closed. The caking was so hard and thick that I thought perhaps this particular skillet didn't have the usual hole in the handle. Out of curiosity I put it on the stove and it gave off a smell as if it had been painted.

So the first job was to strip it. At the time, I had not heard the trick to run the cast iron piece through an oven cleaning cycle, so I used an angle grinder fitted with wire wheels and abrasive flap wheels. The abrasive flap wheels won the day. It took about an hour to get it down to bare metal.

After cleaning, I guess we have an OK skillet. There are some small pits it in and the abrasives left some scratches. I can't do anything about the pits and if I were to fixate on the scratches, I might spend some time buffing and polishing them out, but I will leave that for another day.

Skillet cleaned to bare metal.

Seasoning: First Attempt

Before I found the process I outlined at the top of the page, I followed some other YouTube advice that involved vegetable oil and baking in an oven for some period of time. The results are shown below. Although it is not pretty, this seasoning cooked great.

First attempt at seasoning. Unsatisfactory.

There were a few problems with my first results:

Final Results... For Now

I took my First Attempt pan (shown above) and applied the procedure at the top of the page to it. I ran it through an oven cleaning cycle (steps 1 and 2) and then performed two seasoning cycles (steps 3 to 5, twice.) I am really happy with my skillet now. It's not the "cast iron black" that one hears so much about, but scrambled eggs slip off just like a Teflon-coated non-stick pan. It feels like glass to the touch.

Best of all, I don't have to fret about using the pan and wrecking the seasoning somehow. I can always renew it.

Second attempt at seasoning. We have a winner.

Ongoing Maintenance

After a couple of weeks of use and a few maintenance cycles the pan still looks and cooks great. It might be getting darker on the sides.

Compared to My First Attempt pan which developed spots where eggs would stick, the seasoning on this pan is still 100% and slick enough to flip an omelette. To be clear, I cook with butter and not with a dry pan. After cooking a couple eggs it can be wiped clean with a towel.

One thing I think I notice is that the seasoning seems to be getting thinner in places. This could be due to cooking or to maintenance. I think it is due to maintenance because during maintenance with the flame at med-low my stove-top heat is reaching levels that might be burning off the seasoning. Using an infrared thermometer I found that heat levels exceed 400°F, so this is something I will try to control better. Two things I've noticed:

In the photo below, the flame is set to the simmer range which produces intermittent on/off and you can see hot hot the pan is, upside down. This is the burner where I would cook the pan for 15 minutes on medium heat. That had to have been too hot.