The Secret to a Well-Seasoned Cast-Iron Skillet

August 8, 2012 | By | Comments (23)
Cast-Iron Skillet

Photo by Ralph Anderson

Cast-iron cookware has been the touchstone of Southern food and hospitality for generations, creating perfectly fried chicken and cornbread so crisp you can hear it crackle when cut. No kitchen south of the Mason-Dixon Line would be complete without it. “Seasoning” is the process of oiling and heating cast iron to protect its porous surface from moisture. The oil is absorbed, creating a rustproof nonstick surface, which means your food will cook evenly and your skillet will have a beautiful sheen. Here’s how to season yours:

1. Rinse with hot water and dry thoroughly. (Never use dish soap or harsh detergents on cast-iron)

2. Spread a thin layer of solid shortening or vegetable oil over both the interior and exterior surfaces of the cookware, including the handle and the underside of any lids.

3. Place the cookware upside down on a rack in an aluminum foil-lined broiler pan. Bake at 350° for 1 hour. Turn off the oven, leaving the door closed, and allow the cookware to cool completely before removing.

4. You will need to repeat the procedure several times to darken the color of the cookware from brown to black, but it’s ready to use after this first seasoning. Once seasoned, never use harsh detergents to clean it or put it in the dishwasher. Wash with a stiff brush under hot running water; dry immediately, and rub with a thin coating of vegetable oil. Store in a cool, dry place with a folded paper towel between the lid and the cookware to allow the air to circulate and prevent rust.

Click the video below to see how simple it is to season a cast-iron skillet:

Sour Cream Cornbread

Photo by Beth Dreiling Hontzas

Once you’ve successfully seasoned your cast-iron skillet, here are a few of our favorite ways to put that regional icon to work: Recipes for your Cast-Iron Skillet


  1. Georgia Bloom

    I read that by using salt (kosher or sea salt) and making a paste with a small amount of water. Then coating the cast iron with it and baking it in the oven until fried it will absorb the foods and fats left in your pan and you can use a stiff brush to clean it. Then you can season your pan.

    April 12, 2017 at 11:27 am
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  11. Sheila Ray

    ohhhh thank you sooo much Judy Whitfield….thats just what i wanted to hear lol….yayyyy

    April 29, 2013 at 12:13 pm

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  13. Judy Whitford

    Scrub your skillet to get rid of the sticky mess, rinse well and dry with paper towels (inside and out). Once you have completed this step you can re-season following the directions in this article. Once I use my cast iron and clean it, I always place it on a stove burner at medium heat to dry it throughly before I store it in the cupboard. Hope this helps.

    March 21, 2013 at 7:46 am
  14. Sheila Ray

    my sister tried to season her new skillet and was given the WRONG directions…it left really bad sticky spots on it…will re-seasoning it the CORRECT WAY fix it ?….any help will be greatly appreciated.

    March 20, 2013 at 6:17 pm
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  16. JUDI

    How do I remove rust from my skilets? I am desperet PLEASE HELP!!!

    January 14, 2013 at 9:30 am
  17. Louann

    The best buy you’ll ever make is to buy a cast iron skillet at a Goodwill Store. They are already seasoned and cheap!

    October 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm
  18. Judy Whitford

    To remoe gravy or other foods that cling to your pan, you can add some baking soda and hot water to the pan. Bring it to a boil and simmer while using a wooden spoon to gently push at the stuck on food. Rinse well and dry immedately..

    October 6, 2012 at 1:02 pm
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    August 11, 2012 at 1:30 pm
  22. Sara Claro

    You’re right, cast iron is considered a reactive metal, so it doesn’t work well with acidic ingredients, such as lemon juice, tomatoes, and vinegar. It’ll leave your food discolored and with a metallic taste. For “a heavy pot,” we’d recommend a stainless steel one with a thick bottom, like the ones from All-Clad.

    August 8, 2012 at 2:33 pm
  23. Margaret Lisi

    Note that cast iron skillets are NOT good for high-acid foods. I made a recipe for strawberry pie that called for cooking the filling in “a heavy pot”–what’s heavier than cast iron? It made my filling BLACK! Dumb mistake.

    August 8, 2012 at 1:06 pm

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