- 1 What Is Seasoning on Cast Iron?
- 2 What Makes a Great Cast Iron Seasoning Oil?
- 3 What Cast Iron Seasoning Oil Do the Manufacturers Recommend?
- 4 What Oils Not To Use
- 5 Conclusion
Cast iron cookware is probably the only cookware that works as a kitchen handloom, passed down to families generations after generations due to their versatile use. Yes, Cast irons do last a lifetime, but that only happens when treated and cared for properly.
The best way to maintain the quality and durability of a cast iron is to season them properly. But, with the vast array of options available in the market, it becomes pretty challenging to determine which is the best oil to season cast iron. Fortunately, today we are here to find the answer to that question together.
Having said that, the best cast iron seasoning oil is grapeseed oil due to its availability, versatility, high smoke point, neutral flavor, and pocket-friendly cost. However, there are other equally good oils that you can try out, such as flaxseed, canola, avocado, and sunflower oils, depending on individual heat, flavor, and cost parameters.
But, before we further dive into the different types of cast iron seasoning oils, let us learn about the concept a bit first.
What Is Seasoning on Cast Iron?
Seasoning cast iron pans and skillet and seasoning your food are different concepts. When you are seasoning the cast iron skillet, you create a non-stick and protective coating on the skillet surface by applying oil. The oil also helps in making the cast iron rust-proof.
Proper seasoning makes your cast iron last a lifetime. The process of “seasoning” is developed by a method called polymerization. For this method to occur, people have to heat the right fat or oil at high temperature on their cast iron to form a black, hard surface on the pan. Some oils offer better polymerization compared to others. Hence, people must season their cast iron with the correct oil.
Why Does Cast Iron Cookware Need To Be Seasoned?
A new cast iron pan or skillet comes with a dark grey, full finish. But, in some cases, it also has a relatively rough surface that is not seasoned. So, when you try to cook something on the skillet without using oil to season cast iron first, the food would stick to it like glue. This happens because the surface irregularities and the tiny holes allow the food to sink in and stick to the pan base. And, that would require a lot of scrubbing to take the food off after cooking.
So, when you season your cast iron, here are some benefits that you will enjoy:
- Seasoning builds a robust, non-stick coating that prevents the food from sticking and allows it to move easily on the pan.
- When the base of the iron skillet is smooth, you require fewer cooking oils to cook, making the meals healthier.
- The absorbed seasoning makes the food taste better by imparting deliciously complex flavors to the food when cooking them in cast-iron cookware.
What Makes a Great Cast Iron Seasoning Oil?
You should keep in mind certain factors before determining what is the best oil to season a cast iron pan. This includes,
High Smoke Point
The oil’s smoking point is crucial to note as that’s the temperature at which the oil would start to break down and smoke. 400-500 degrees is the most effective temperature that is needed for seasoning the cast iron. Hence, you require an oil that has a high smoking point for withstanding these temperatures. This also allows you to cook your food at high temperatures.
The right way to choose the best oil to season cast iron is to buy oil with a higher smoke point than the cooking temperature you usually prefer. For example, if you cook your food at around 400 degrees Celsius, you should not season your skillet with olive oil with a 350 degrees smoke point.
Higher Concentration of Unsaturated Fat
Since seasoning is done through polymerization, you need to use an oil for cast iron with high content of unsaturated fats in their chemical makeup. This helps polymerization to occur quickly for developing the proper seasoning. Hence, you should avoid using oils with a higher content of saturated fats, such as palm and coconut oil.
The best oil to season a cast iron skillet is to use a neutral-flavoured oil that would not impart any taste of its own to the food after seasoning. Moreover, using neutral-flavoured oil also provides you with versatility. For example, the right neutral, multipurpose oil can also be used for sauteing vegetables, making salad dressings apart from seasoning the cast iron compared to an oil that you can only use for seasoning the iron skillet. Hence, you also get to save a lot of money from buying different types of oil.
Grapeseed is the cast iron seasoning oil and is mostly preferred by cast iron specialists and professional chefs. They have a neutral flavor and aroma, making it perfect to season the cookware without it interfering with the food taste.
Grapeseed oil contains:
- 10% Saturated Fats
- 70% Polyunsaturated Fats
- 16% Monounsaturated Fats
The smoke point of this oil is 420 degrees Fahrenheit or 216 degrees Celsius.
This is another great seasoning oil as it bonds with the material of cast iron easily, giving the cookware a nice non-stick finish. It even dries naturally and is not sensitive to moisture. Moreover, it offers superior quality seasoning compared to most oils found in the market.
Flaxseed oil contains:
- 9% Saturated Fats
- 68% Polyunsaturated Fats
- 18% Monounsaturated Fats
The smoke point of this oil is 225 degrees Fahrenheit or 107 degrees Celsius.
This oil is popular among many as the best oil for cast iron as they are soy-based oils containing different blends.
Avocado oil contains:
- 7% Saturated Fats
- 9% Polyunsaturated Fats
- 63% Monounsaturated Fats
The smoke point of this oil is 400 degrees Fahrenheit or 204 degrees Celsius.
Complemented with high smoke point and heart-healthy nutrients, you can use avocado oil for seasoning cast iron and for cooking. The oil forms a robust bond with cast iron, making it impossible for any cooking temperature to break that bond. Moreover, its neutral flavor further makes it good for seasoning.
Avocado oil contains:
- 16% Saturated Fats
- 14% Polyunsaturated Fats
- 70% Monounsaturated Fats
The smoke point of this oil is 520 degrees Fahrenheit or 271 degre es Celsius.
It is a mid-ranged oil both in terms of smoke point and expense. It is not usually preferred by professionals as it has a taste of its own. However, you have to check before buying peanut oil as the unrefined and refined version comes with different smoking points.
Peanut oil contains:
- 20% Saturated Fats
- 30% Polyunsaturated Fats
- 50% Monounsaturated Fats
The smoke point of refined peanut oil is 450 degrees Fahrenheit or 232 Celsius.
Vegetable oil is somewhat similar to canola oil. However, they are not so good at making your cast iron rust-proof and non-stick. Moreover, vegetable oils are found in different varieties, hence, you have to ensure that you are using vegetable oil from a good brand.
Vegetable oil contains:
- 6% Saturated Fats
- 28% Polyunsaturated Fats
- 54% Monounsaturated Fats
The smoke point of this oil is 400-450 degrees Fahrenheit or 204-254 degrees Celsius.
They are the most inexpensive cast iron seasoning oil. If you are thinking of cleaning cast iron grill pans, you can first use soap and then season the cast iron with sunflower oil. Most premium seasoning oils contain sunflower oils in their blend.
Sunflower oil contains:
- 11% Saturated Fats
- 69% Polyunsaturated Fats
- 20% Monounsaturated Fats
This oil has a smoke point of 450 degrees Fahrenheit or 232 degrees Celsius.
What Cast Iron Seasoning Oil Do the Manufacturers Recommend?
There are four top manufacturers of cast iron cookware. Their recommendations for the best oil to season cast iron are almost similar. Here is a list of oils that they mostly recommend:
|Cast Iron Manufacturer||Recommended Oil for Seasoning|
|Field Company||For oven seasoning, people can use grape seed oil|
|Lodge Cast Iron||Considering the high smoke point, effectiveness, affordability, and availability, people can use canola oil, melted shortening, and vegetable oil.|
|Smithey Ironware||They recommend the use of grape seed oil for skillet seasoning. However, alternative seasoning oil include any off-the-shelf shortening or vegetable oil.|
|Stargazer Cast Iron||They recommend using high smoke point oils such as sunflower, grape seed, or canola oil.|
According to general consensus, the best oil to season a cast iron skillet is grape seed oil. Keeping that in mind, make sure that you are considering the fat type and the smoke point of a seasoning oil when you are making a purchase.
What Oils Not To Use
- Extra virgin olive oil: If you are wondering what oil to season cast iron and think extra virgin olive oil is a good seasoning oil like it is good for cooking, you are wrong. This oil has a low smoke point of 109-162 degrees celsius. Moreover, unlike an ideal seasoning oil, they come with flavor which would impart their taste to the food that you are cooking, and you surely do not want that. It is only good for preparing salad dressing and dipping bread.
- Coconut oil: Coconut oil is popular due to the health benefits that it offers, but it is definitely not the oil you should use for seasoning your cast iron griddle. This is because coconut oil contains a higher amount of saturated fats. This prevents the smooth processing of the polymerization technique. Moreover, people who use coconut oil for seasoning their cast iron later find that their seasoning is not as durable compared to seasoning done with other oils.
Hence, it would be better if you use coconut oil as a skin moisturizer rather than for cast iron seasoning.
Your cast iron skillet would last forever when you take proper care of it. Moreover, your cast iron only gets better with time as you keep on seasoning it.
Even though cast irons are made with durable and versatile material, they can rust easily without proper seasoning. Fortunately, you can cater to a rusty, mistreated pan and make it look, work like a new one. And according to the customer’s review and manufacturer’s recommendations, the best oil to season cast iron is grape seed oil.
Having said that, taking care of the cast iron cookware might look hard for many people, but it is not as hard as they think. Just make sure that you are keeping your cast iron in good condition when you use it. The seasons become stronger when you continue cooking on the cast iron.
Lastly, once you learn the basics of cast iron seasoning, you can use various types of oil anytime to season your cast iron cookware.