If you have a good cast iron pan, you can do almost anything in the kitchen. It is a multi-purpose, versatile piece of cookware that works on the stove as well as in an oven. You can use this versatile pan to prepare numerous recipes, from browning meat and roasting vegetables to frying eggs. However, the abilities of a cast iron skillet will depend on its natural non-sticking properties. This slick surface is called seasoning, and it is a big deal when it comes to cast iron skillets. So, do cast iron skillets need to be seasoned?
It depends. If you cook in a new cast iron skillet that’s not pre-seasoned, the food will stick to the base. Seasoning not only releases the food off the surface but also prevents rusting. Even if you don’t season a cast iron skillet, it will build a non-stick surface on its own with continuous use.
Let’s talk about this in greater detail now.
Why Do Cast Iron Skillets Need To Be Seasoned?
The simple answer to this question is to keep it in good working condition.
Cast iron is a very useful material for cooking. It is strong, sturdy, and durable. However, it is delicate too. The metal is porous and highly prone to rusting. Exposure to even small amounts of moisture can cause the surface to rust.
You can prevent rusting by seasoning it. It will protect the surface and keep it in perfect working condition.
Seasoning is the process of applying oil to the cooking surface and heating the pan until the oil adheres to the metal. It is not too difficult to do.
To season a pan, you can use any type of oil or fat. Apply a thick layer thoroughly and heat the skillet. When you heat it, the oil is absorbed into the uneven areas of the metal. Heating it for long enough causes the oil molecules to bond with the iron and form a slick coating.
Now, this coating is reinforced each time you heat the skillet. Over time it takes on a shiny black appearance.
You can also season a new cast iron pan with the help of an oven by following a similar process.
Seasoning is not a one-time process. You will have to re-season your cast iron skillet if rust appears on the surface or if it loses its smoothness. Using soap and water to scrub a cast iron skillet can strip some of the non-stick layers. Hence, it is a good idea to season it after drying it to restore its non-stick properties.
Recommended Further Reading:
- Can Cast Iron Skillets Be Used On Glass Cooktops? Yes, Here’s How
- Can Skillets Go In The Dishwasher? (Which Can And Which Cannot)
- Do Woks Rust? (Which Woks Rust And Which Don’t?)
Do All Cast Iron Skillets Need To Be Seasoned?
Traditional cast iron skillets weren’t seasoned when sold. However, most of the new brands are “pre-seasoned.” It means that you can take them out of the box and begin cooking. However, they need not be 100% non-sticky.
The more you use the skillet for cooking, the better the seasoning. So, a new pre-seasoned cast iron skillet will not be as efficient as an aged one with a good layer of seasoning. However, as you use it for cooking, the non-stick surface will improve over time.
Does A New Cast Iron Skillet Need To Be Seasoned?
New cast iron skillets usually come with a layer of factory seasoning. Hence, they are ready to use. If you are unsure, you can check on the box to confirm.
You can also inspect the skillet by touching its surface to decide if it is pre-seasoned. If it is seasoned, you will see a dark black, glossy surface.
Now, even if a new cast iron skillet is not pre-seasoned, you can use it. The food may stick to the base when you first start using it. However, the skillet will naturally develop a layer of seasoning with use.
Nonetheless, it is better to season it before use to improve its efficiency and to make cleaning easier. Simply apply a coating of oil to the surface and heat it on low heat till all the oil is completely absorbed. You can also bake it in an oven to achieve the same result.
Related Further Reading:
- Do Ceramic Pans Stick? (How To Make Them Non-Stick Again?)
- Do Anodized Pans Have Teflon? (Is Anodized Cookware Safe?)
- Do Stainless Steel Pans Discolor? (Is It Normal + How To Clean)
How Do You Know If Your Cast Iron Skillet Is Seasoned?
Visually inspecting the surface of a cast iron skillet will help you recognize if it has a layer of seasoning or not. A seasoned skillet will have a smooth glossy surface. It will not be greasy, and there will be no uneven patches.
To check for the presence of seasoning, you can fry an egg in the skillet. Use just a small amount of oil to fry the egg. If the egg slides off the surface easily, the pan is well-seasoned. However, if it sticks, you may have to season it.
How Do You Know If You Need To Season A Cast Iron Skillet?
The seasoning of a cast iron skillet is automatically reinforced each time you cook with it. Nonetheless, this smooth seasoning may not hold up forever for various reasons.
Say you wash the skillet. Exposure to soap, water, and abrasives can dislodge the seasoning. If you do not dry it properly, the surface can rust. Unused cast iron pans will also develop rust due to exposure to moisture.
If you notice any dull or dry patches, rust, or a layer of carbon on the skillet, you will have to re-season the skillet to restore it to perfect working condition.
The first step is to inspect the surface visually. Get rid of any built-up carbon or rust. Then, repeat the seasoning process with an oil that will readily oxidize and polymerize. Flaxseed oil and grapeseed oil are good choices.
Be careful with how you maintain the skillet, and the seasoning will stay for much longer. You can lightly season the skillet each time you clean it, and it will be as good as new.
Interesting Further Reading:
- Do Chefs Use Pressure Cookers? (3 Reason Why They Don’t)
- Why Use A Wok Instead Of A Frying Pan? (5 Reasons)
- What Pans Do Professional Chefs Use? (Including Michelin Chefs)
Do Lodge Cast Iron Skillets Need To Be Seasoned?
Lodge cast iron skillets are inexpensive when compared to other brands. By keeping things simple, like eliminating the packaging, the brand keeps the pricing low. However, they are of great value for money because of their high quality. Hence, it is one of the most popular cast iron skillets in the market.
Since 2002, Lodge has been seasoning their cast iron skillets. They do this by spraying soy-based vegetable oil on the surface and baking the cookware in a large oven. So, it is ready for use when sold.
Nonetheless, keep in mind that the seasoning on a Lodge cast iron skillet is just a basic layer of seasoning. The coating will not be as good as that on a well-seasoned cast iron pan, which has been in use for years.
Nonetheless, the existing layer of seasoning becomes stronger and more non-sticky when you continue to use it. Cook with oil and fats in the Lodge cast iron skillet, and it will get better over time.
You should care for a Lodge cast iron skillet just as you would for any other cast iron skillet. Clean it well after each use. You can use soapy water and a soft scrubber for this purpose. Then, dry it thoroughly. Re-enforce the layer of seasoning by applying a layer of oil and heating the skillet. Store it carefully, and it will serve you for a lifetime.