The cast iron skillet is a workhorse in many kitchens, thanks to the fact that it is pretty much indestructible, has a seamless design, and conducts heat efficiently. And, when you season it properly, it will have a non-stick surface that any food will slide right off of. There's not much a cast iron skillet can't do, but chances are you are making one big mistake when seasoning it.

Why Season Your Skillet?

Seasoning a cast iron skillet means you are baking a layer of polymerized oil onto the surface, so it will release food quickly, be easier to clean, and stay rust-free. Even if your skillet comes pre-seasoned, you should season it yourself before you use it.

If your skillet isn't seasoned, it will have a matte gray finish, but it will become shiny and almost black in color when you season it.

One Critical Mistake

new cast iron skillet

Most people season their cast iron skillets in the oven, and this is a slow process that isn't nearly as effective as using the stove top.

"In my opinion, when you're seasoning in the oven, you're just protecting the skillet from rust and the elements. Other than cooking in it over and over again, what we call stovetop seasoning is the better method of seasoning," says Isaac Morton, founder and President of Smithey Ironware told Gear Patrol.

The Right Way To Season A Cast-Iron Skillet

seasoned vs unseasoned cast iron skillet

Instead of putting your cast iron skillet in the oven, try Morton's method. It can get a little smokey, but it's totally worth it.

1. Prep Your Kitchen

Before getting started, you need to open your windows and turn on some fans. You probably want to cover your smoke detector, too.

2. Apply Oil

Put an extremely light coat of oil on your skillet, both inside and outside as well as on the handle. The best way to do this is to dab a clean rag in your choice of seasoning oil and then wipe it on the skillet. Then, crank up your stove and wait for about ten minutes for the skillet to fully come to temperature. And, be sure to pay attention to when it starts to smoke because that is when it is doing what is supposed to do.

quick bread in a cast iron skillet

3. Wipe The Pan Again

When your skillet starts to look dry, quickly wipe it again with another thin layer of oil (you will probably have to do this more than once). The longer the pan is smoking, the better the seasoning result. After it has smoked for about ten minutes, the oil will start to turn from dark chocolate to black, and that is when you are done.

4. Let It Cool

After turning off your stove, the skillet will stay hot for about a half an hour. Either let it sit on the stovetop or place the skillet in the oven so it can cool down. At this point, it should have a deeper color, and it will release food more easily.

Every time you use your cast iron skillet you are wearing down some of the seasoning. So, be sure to season it again when you see dull spots, and the skillet will last a lifetime.

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