Raise your hand if you have joined the cast iron skillet club, and you’re not looking back!
I am convinced the cast iron skillet is one of the best kitchen inventions for so many reasons. I’m also convinced everyone should own at least one.
The biggest challenge with having a cast iron skillet, which can be easily overcome, is learning how to take care of it. Unlike normal non-stick pans, a cast iron skillet must be maintained by a process called “seasoning.”
The skillet is porous and must have a layer of oil/fat added, to keep it in tip top condition and working well.
Many times people get overwhelmed by this new process of maintaining their cookware, and they don’t even give cast iron a chance!
My goal is you would read this article and then give cast iron a chance! I will cover the basics of seasoning your cast iron as well as chat about which oils are best and how to choose.
By the end you will not only know how to maintain your cast iron but will feel confident in choosing the type of oil you use to season it with.
Basics of Seasoning your cast iron
Once you know how to season your cast iron skillet, it becomes simple and will soon become routine. (Steps 1-3 will be the steps you do on a daily basis.)
- Clean your cast iron skillet. Remove any food remains with a hard bristle brush and water. Forgo using soap. It’s not necessary and can dry out your pan. If you can’t stand the thought of using soap, you can use a very mild dish soap. The reason you want to avoid using soap is it will strip the necessary oils from the skillet.
- Dry your skillet. Use a paper towel or dish towel, whatever you have on hand. Just make sure to get your skillet completely dry.
- Put a thin layer of oil all over the skillet. Use whatever oil you have on hand. (We will go over the how-to of choosing your oil later on.)
- Put your skillet in the oven upside down at 375°F for an hour. Make sure to place a pan or something underneath to catch any excess oil.
- Allow the pan to cool and store it until your next use. Mine stays on the oven because I use it everyday.
Seasoning with Cast Iron with Coconut Oil
Healthiest oil to season cast iron
You may have heard coconut oil touted as the healthiest oil. Whether this is true or not, I don’t know. I will leave that discussion to the professionals since even they can’t agree. If you look on the internet you will find some people who think coconut oil is the miracle oil while others believe it is not healthy for you. The important thing to know is you can season your cast iron skillet with coconut oil. Do you like the flavor of coconut oil? Then, use it. The most important part when choosing an oil to season your cast iron skillet with is referencing the smoke point, which I will explain shortly.
Refined vs unrefined coconut oil
What’s the difference between unrefined and refined coconut oil, and does it matter which one you use? Refined coconut oil has been refined more than unrefined coconut oil; pretty simple, right? Refined coconut oil has less of that “coconut” flavor and has a higher smoke point which could make it a better cooking option. On the other hand if you’re looking for a more natural oil and you love the coconut flavor go for the unrefined coconut oil. Right now, it’s not clear which is better, so if you’re baking and love coconut go for unrefined and stick with refined for your cast iron.
Oils and Smoke Point
When you’re deciding on what type of oil to use to season your cast iron skillet, an important thing to consider is the oil’s smoke point. All oil has a smoke point which is the temperature at which the oil begins to burn. This is a problem for a few reasons: first, your food will take on a burnt flavor, second the oil begins to break down and lose some of its nutrients, and third it can release harmful free radicals. Make sure to reference the smoke point of your oil before choosing the appropriate one for your type of cooking. I’ve linked some of my favorite brands below.
- Avocado oil – 520°F
- Safflower oil – 510°F
- Refined Olive oil – 465°F
- Refined Coconut oil – 450°F
- Vegetable oil – 400-450°F
- Grapeseed oil – 390°F
- Canola oil – 400°F
- Ghee or clarified butter – 450°F
- Extra Virgin Olive oil – 325-375°F
- Butter 302°F
The best thing you can do for your health, cast iron and recipes is choose an oil that will not burn when you’re using it. Whether this is coconut, avocado or butter, it doesn’t necessarily matter as long as you are not reaching the smoke point.
Choosing your oil
Now that we’ve covered the idea of smoke point, how do you choose which oil to use since there are so many choices? Avocado oil has one of the highest smoke points making it ideal. You can get your skillet extremely hot without worrying about your oil breaking down. If you do a variety of cooking, this would be my suggestion. It also doesn’t have an intense flavor, so it won’t alter the flavor of your food like coconut oil or even olive oil will.
If the majority of your cooking is done at a lower temperature, coconut oil or ghee are other great options. These both have a distinct flavor which can be used to add great flavor to your dishes! So when choosing your oil think about what flavor you want, what temperature you will be cooking at and what is most convenient for you and your family.
Healthiest metal to cook with
Have you ever heard cast iron is the best type of pan to cook on? Well, there is a reason! Teflon and nonstick pans while easy to use are not the best for you and your family due to the chemicals used to create that nonstick surface.
Some safer options for cookware include glass, ceramic and stainless steel. Here is the caveat for each. Glass cannot withstand extremely high temperatures, so is not great for the stovetop but is awesome for the oven. Ceramic is another great option as long as it is lead-free. Just make sure to not expose it to drastic temperature changes. Allow it to cool before putting it in cold water or putting it in the fridge. Stainless steel is the third type of cookware I’d suggest, other than cast iron, just make sure to get high quality so it’s less likely to leach chromium or nickel.
Of course, cast iron is a great option, and I believe should be a staple in every kitchen. Not only is it a non-toxic option but cast iron can actually leach a little iron into your food which is something we need and many people are lacking in.
Pros and Cons of Cast Iron
Just so you are fully convinced cast iron is the way to go with cookery in the kitchen let’s look at some of the pros and cons.
Learning CurveThere is a learning curve when using cast iron because it is maintained differently than nonstick, ceramic or stainless steel, but once you learn the basics maintenance becomes much easier.
Heavy and HotCast iron is heavier than your typical pan, and the entire pan will heat up including the handle. This means you need to make sure you have an oven mitt on hand when you move the skillet or touch the handle. You can always purchase a mitt made specifically for the handle to make moving your cast iron easier.
Doesn’t Evenly HeatCast iron does not warm-up evenly due to how heat is transferred throughout the skillet. This means you’ll want to give your cast iron skillet time to heat up completely before cooking your meal.
Last ForeverCast iron will last basically last forever. They are essentially indestructible. Families even have cast iron skillets that have been passed down through generations! While time and wear and tear does happen, they will typically last for years.
Holds HeatWhile cast iron is not great at heating evenly, it is great at maintaining and holding heat. You can use it to keep your meal warm while you round up the family!
Gets Better With TimeThe more a cast iron skillet is used and maintained, the better seasoned it gets and the easier it is to use.
Seasoning Cast Iron with Coconut Oil
If you aren’t convinced to try cast iron out by this time, I don’t know what else to do. Cast iron is a reliable and great option for the kitchen.
Coconut oil can work well but Avocado oil would be a better choice if you cook with high heat regularly. Whether you use coconut oil, avocado or butter on it, the choices are endless and the benefits are plentiful.
Just remember to reference smoke temperatures of your oils to make the absolute best decision when seasoning and cooking with your cast iron skillet.
Image Credit: Pikrepo