Cast iron -- the heavy, black pots and skillets used for centuries -- is the original non-stick cookware. When properly prepared, or "seasoned," cast-iron skillets are as reliably non-stick as the best of modern pans, with the added virtue that their surface improves over time rather than deteriorating. The seasoning process is simple and requires no special tools. Note: If you have a cast iron skillet that's past its prime, we'll show you how to clean and restore it to mint condition.
Things You'll Need
- Hot, soapy water (first time only)
- Paper towel
- Oil or melted solid fat
- Sheet pan
Scrub new cast iron skillets thoroughly with hot, soapy water. Most manufacturers apply a protective coat of wax or shellac to prevent their pans from rusting, and this must be removed before you proceed. Scour used skillets to remove any rust or cooked-on food. Dry your pans thoroughly before you move on to the next step.
Preheat your oven to a temperature of 350 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Rub the entire surface of your skillet, inside and out, with a clean paper towel moistened with cooking oil or a melted solid fat such as lard or shortening.
Wipe the surface of your skillet once again with a clean towel, to remove any surplus fat. A thin, nearly invisible film of oil will remain on the porous surface of the cast iron.
Slide a sheet pan onto the bottom rack of your oven to catch any drips and place your cast iron skillet upside down on the rack above it. Bake the pan for one hour at this temperature, then turn off the oven and let it cool gently to room temperature.
Re-oil your pan and repeat the heating and cooling cycle another 2 to 3 times, or up to 6 times, for an improved non-stick surface. This is optional, but because it creates a better "base" of seasoning, you won't need to exercise as much care when later using your skillet.