How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet

My cast iron skillet is one of my most heavily used pieces of cookware (and one of my very favorites). You can’t beat this heavy duty pan. It holds up through all kinds of cooking, baking and biscuit making. You can use a skillet for the traditional searing and braising, or you can use it to make cakes, brownies, one-pot meals and amazing grilled cheese sandwiches. Every now and then, though, that ultra-resistant, non-stick surface starts to look a little worse for the wear. When food starts sticking, it's time to clean and re-season.
I make a lemon chicken dish that is wildly popular in my house. Unfortunately, as you can see from the photo, I left it on the stove just a little bit too long and ended up with a cast iron skillet that looks like this.
Nightmare skillet.
Since conventional wisdom tells you never to wash a cast iron skillet with soap and water, cleaning and seasoning your skillet can be one of those tasks that causes worry (and debate!). Let’s break down exactly how to clean a cast iron skillet.

get the app.

Watch on your iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Android, Roku, or Fire TV.

Learn More

1 add a scrubbing agent

I started by scrubbing the stuck-on gunk and grime out of the pan. Kosher salt works wonders! The amount you use will vary depending on the size of your skillet (and the amount of scrubbing you have ahead of you). I have a large skillet and clearly it is a big mess. I used about 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt and sprinkled it around my dry pan.


2 add water

Add enough water to help things move around in the pan. I use cold water because it doesn’t immediately dissolve the salt.

3 Scrub

Use a brush to loosen the debris from the pan. I like plastic bristles because they are stiff without gouging. Scrub, scrub, scrub to loosen all that baked and burned on gunk.

For seriously baked on grime, you can put your skillet with kosher salt and water on the burner after your initial scrub. Let the water come to a simmer for just about a minute. Pour out the dirty water and wipe out the pan. Repeat steps 1, 2, and 3 if necessary.

4 dry & oil

Dry your skillet and rub it all over with oil. (Vegetable oil or melted vegetable shortening are recommended by most manufacturers.) You are just applying an even thin layer - if your skillet is very dry it will immediately soak it up and you may want to run over those spots again. Oil the inside AND the outside of your skillet -- you are forming a protective barrier that prevents rust and corrosion, as well as offering a non-stick surface.


5 bake

Place your oiled skillet face down on the center rack in an oven preheated to 325°F. I like to lay foil across the rack underneath to catch any drips. Bake for 1 hour and then turn the oven off, leaving the skillet inside to return to room temperature.

That’s it! Enjoy this classic cookware and re-season as necessary.

About Heather T.

Heather, who runs, has been making messes in the kitchen since she was a little kid when her mom handed her a cook book and told her, “If you can read, you can cook.” Today she serves up fresh, healthy eats, easy weeknight meals and decadent sweet treats.