Ultimate Cast Iron Seasoning

6 Oct

I love my cast iron pans but dislike the continual need to re-season them.  In fact, I find myself not using them unless I really need to because of the upkeep afterward.  Sure enough, someone figured out a solution for me…

This method, developed by blogger Sheryl Canter, is a one time treatment that promises a slick surface so indestructible that touch ups are almost never necessary. It uses flax seed oil, which because of it’s high omega-3 fatty acid content (six times of what’s in vegetable oil, the usual seasoning oil of choice) along with it’s low smoke point is able to bond to the pan in a way that’s extremely strong, long lasting and non-stick.  The process is lengthy, though mostly hands-off, involving multiple hour-long stints in the oven followed by two hours of cooling with each coat.  Once done, your pan is seasoned for good and ready for long term use .

A pan that’s heavy, durable and protected long term against rusting.  From a preparedness point of view, this is exactly what I want to have to go along with my preps!

Supplies Needed:

6 TBS organic flax seed oil (*see note)

tongs

paper towels

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Instructions:

  1. Warm an unseasoned pan either new or stripped of seasoning (*see notes) for 15 minutes in a 200 degree oven to open it’s pores.
  2. Remove the pan from the oven.  Place 1 TBS flax seed oil in the pan and, using tongs, rub the oil into the surface with paper towels.  With fresh paper towels, thoroughly wipe out the pan to remove any excess oil.  It’s important the pan is not shiny with oil, wipe it out completely.
  3. Place the oiled pan upside down in a cold oven, then set the oven to it’s maximum baking temperature.  Once the oven reaches it’s maximum temperature, heat the pan for one hour.  Turn off the oven and cool the pan in the oven (without opening the oven door) for at least two hours.
  4. Repeat the process five more times (for a total of six coats) until the pan develops a dark semi-matte surface.

****

Begin by warming your pan in a 200 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Using 1 TBS flaxseed oil, use tongs to rub the oil into the pan.  With a separate paper towel, remove the excess oil before heating in the oven.

Six coats (and many hours) later…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Notes:

  • I first heard of this process when Cooks Illustrated published it in their January 2011 magazine.  After years of seasoning their own cookware the traditional way using vegetable oil, they were amazed at the results when pans treated this way were compared with pans seasoned with vegetable oil.  To quote the article:

“The flaxseed oil so effectively bonded to the skillets, forming a sheer, stick resistant veneer, that even a run through our commercial dish washer with a squirt of degreaser left them totally unscathed.  But the vegetable oil-treated skillets showed rusty spots and patchiness when they emerged from the dishwasher, requiring reseasoning before use.”

  • Buy the flax seed oil at your health food store’s refrigerator section, I found mine on the shelves (in a shelf stable form) in the health food section of my local grocery store and discovered that I apparently used the wrong flax oil.  It has to be the type that’s found refrigerated and be pure flax seed oil without any other ingredients added for the seasoning to adhere to the pan as described.

Preparing your pan:  Stripping a pan of it’s old seasoning

It’s rare to find cast iron cookware these days that isn’t already seasoned.  For that reason, whether you’re treating a new pre-seasoned pan because you prefer to DIY or one you’ve seasoned yourself over the years, you’ll need to know how to remove the previous seasoning.  To do this, spray the pan with oven cleaner, wait for 30 minutes, wash with soapy water and thoroughly wipe with paper towels.

****

Spray the pan with oven cleaner.  I chose to do this outside, away from little hands.

after waiting 30 minutes, wash with soapy water (using a disposable paper towel) and dry well with a paper towel.

4 Responses to “Ultimate Cast Iron Seasoning”

  1. plicketycat October 6, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

    Hmmm… I’ll have to try the flaxseed oil since I cook primarily with cast iron. I don’t have any rust problems since I rarely wash my CI with soap, just a gentle scrub brush in hot water… but every now and then I still get a few spots were something sticks. If the flaxseed oil truly makes these non-stick I’ll be in heaven. Wonder if I can use this process in a firepit or on the woodstove, otherwise I’m going to burn through my 40# propane cylinder mighty quick using the cook-oven!

    • myfoodstoragecookbook October 6, 2012 at 7:19 pm #

      I’m anxious to find out as well! I’d say that anyone who plans on trying it should read the original post (linked in the intro) for extra information/confidence that it’s something that you trust going to all the trouble for. This is definitely the “Cliff Notes” version. For all the detail she goes into there, she might have the answer already on whether it would work in a fire pit. From what I remember the purpose of the extremely high heat is to cause the free radicals to release from the oil (heating it past it’s smoke point), which allows it to polymerize to the pan. So any heat source would work it sounds like.

      • myfoodstoragecookbook October 6, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

        Second thought on the fire pit idea… what about the inevitable smoke “flavoring” from using the fire pit. Would the food taste smokey from then on, embedded in the pan? I’d probably go with the wood stove idea you had instead with the pan turned upside down (maybe placed on a rack?).

  2. myfoodstoragecookbook October 7, 2012 at 1:48 am #

    Okay, so you’ve gotta love it. Tonight I decided to plug through the second half of the almost 500 some odd comments from the original blog post — I’d only gotten to 200 something before writing. Apparently, according to the author near the end of the comments, I used the wrong flax seed oil by going with the shelf stable stuff. (I feel betrayed by the CI test kitchen for not making it clear.) Anyway, I just thought I’d let you all know. If you follow this process be sure to get the refrigerated flax seed oil ONLY (w/o any other ingredients), apparently the seasoning does not adhere in the same way with other ingredients added in.

    I’ve updated the text and will be updating the picture of my finished pan once I have the chance to do it over again with the right oil. Live and learn :)

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