The Absolute Best Type Of Oil For Seasoning Cast Iron

If you love cooking, there's a good chance you've got at least one cast iron pan in your cookware lineup. A favorite piece of equipment of chefs and home cooks alike, cast iron pans are praised for their ability to distribute and retain heat, their durability and their versatility. They also transfer from the stove to the oven with ease. 

They even excel at a wide variety of kitchen tasks, from searing meat to toasting spices to frying eggs, and a well-made cast iron pan will easily last for several generations — as long as you take care to season, and then maintain, your skillet. But what exactly is seasoning? All this term means is baking (or otherwise heating) oil onto the cast iron, a process which bonds the fat to the metal through polymerization (via Lodge). 

Raw cast iron, which is gray in color, will take on a shiny black coating after being properly seasoned, and that coating will render the pan nonstick — more and more so over time as the pan is seasoned each time you cook with it (via Taste of Home). Although many reputable cast iron pans, such as those from American manufacturer Lodge, come pre-seasoned, it's as simple as pie to season a raw cast iron pan at home. All you need is the right kind of oil.

Choose an oil with a high smoke point for seasoning cast iron

Seasoning cast iron, according to cookware manufacturer Lodge, entails bonding fat to the metal's surface using high heat. Typically, this process is achieved using the oven. According to Taste of Home, a raw cast iron skillet can be scrubbed clean, dried, brushed with vegetable oil, and then heated in a 350 F oven for an hour, after which it will be seasoned and ready to use. Alternatively, according to MasterClass, you can rub the pan with oil and heat it on the stovetop to season it.

As both of these seasoning methods involve quite a bit of heat, you're going to want to choose a high smoke point oil — and one that also has a neutral taste that won't flavor what you're cooking — when you're seasoning cast iron. According to Lodge, some of the best oil choices include safflower, rice bran, soybean, peanut, corn, sunflower and canola oil. As Lodge also notes, lard — rendered pig fat — was traditionally used to season cast iron cookware, and that's also a good choice as long as you use the pan frequently. Otherwise, if the pan is stored too long without use, the fat can go rancid and add off flavors to your food.