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How to Season a Cast Iron Pan (+How to Strip a Pan)

Using a well-seasoned cast iron pan can be even better than a non-stick pan. If you have old rusty pans sitting around, then a good solid stripping of the pan may be necessary. Learn how to strip and how to season a cast iron pan in this guide to bring your pans back to their original glory.

Up close image of a hand seasoning a cast iron skillet.

So you’ve got a cast-iron pan, but maybe it’s not in tip-top shape. Don’t worry, it’s likely salvageable! If you watched my video on how to choose the best cast iron cookware (new or used), then stripping and reseasoning your cast iron will return it to its former glory.

And in order to use cast iron without wanting to rip your hair out, a properly seasoned cast iron pan is a must. It’s the only way to cook scrambled eggs in cast iron without having a stuck-on mess.

If you missed any of the other videos in our cast iron series, you can click below. Don’t miss my video on how to properly clean and maintain the seasoning on your cast iron. You don’t want to go to all this trouble to just need to do it again in a few months! If you’re not sure cast iron is for you, I highly recommend considering enameled cast iron as the care and maintenance are much easier.

How to Strip a Cast Iron Pan (2 ways)

Using a Firepit or Wood-Burning Stove to Strip Cast Iron

The first step in restoring a rusty, neglected cast iron pan is going to be to strip it down so all (or most) of the seasoning is gone. To do this, we’ve found a very simple solution that doesn’t stink up your entire house.

Build a nice campfire in an outside firepit (or use a wood-burning stove) and get some nice coals going. Once the coals burn down and you’re left with hot ash, you’re going to bury your cast iron pan, face down, in the ash and leave it overnight.

The following day, it’ll look like a mess (see picture below). Remove it from the ash and bring it inside to wash with hot, soapy water and, if needed, some steel wool to remove any remaining seasoning, rust or flakes.

Rusty cast iron pan sitting in a fire pit of hot coals and ash.

Using a Self-Cleaning Oven to Strip Cast Iron

If you don’t have access to a fire pit or wood-burning stove, then using a self-cleaning oven will work. Just be forewarned that this will stink up your house, so it’s nice if you can do it on a day you can open up all the windows.

To strip your cast iron pans in the oven, set them upside down on the middle rack, close the door and run the self-cleaning setting.

Allow your pans to cool in the oven, then remove and wash with hot soapy water and, if needed, some steel wool to remove any remaining seasoning, rust or flakes.

Cast iron pan on a stovetop.

Do I Need to Season a Pre-Seasoned Pan?

Yes. Most new cast iron pans come pre-seasoned these days. Unfortunately, the oils they use aren’t always my top choice of seasoning and could even leave a rancid layer on the cooking surface.

Even if I’ve just purchased a brand new piece of cast iron, I like to give it a good fresh layer of seasoning before using it.

The only time I’ve never reseasoned a brand new pan was when I got my Stargazer modern smooth cast iron pan. It’s cast iron that’s made in the USA, and it’s the first time I’ve gotten a new pan that I didn’t think needed an extra layer before using. Stargazer also sells unseasoned cast iron, if you prefer to do the seasoning yourself.

A woman seasoning a cast iron skillet with coconut oil.

How to Season a Cast Iron Pan

  1. Scrub skillet with hot soapy water and a scouring pad or steel wool to remove all rust and former seasoning.
  2. Dry thoroughly by placing it in a 200°F oven for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Spread a thin layer of extra virgin coconut oil or flaxseed oil on all sides of the skillet (including the handle and bottom side of the pan).
  4. Wipe off all excess oil with a paper towel.
  5. Put the pan upside down on a rack in a 375°F oven.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes, turn off the oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes (or until safe to handle).
  7. Repeat steps 3 through 6 two to four times.

And that’s it! Simple, right? OK, so maybe it is rather time-consuming, but it’s not a difficult task by any means.

coconut oil being scooped out of a jar.

What Oil Can I Use to Season Cast Iron?

* If you’re using canola or sunflower cooking oil, you’ll want to turn your oven up to 475°F during the seasoning steps. This is because you need the oil to get just above the smoking point to actually bake onto the cast iron and bond to the metal, making a protective layer. This makes cooking in cast iron MUCH easier.

Stargazer cast iron pan being rubbed with oil on a cloth.

Tips for Seasoning a Cast Iron Pan

  • Strip your cast iron outside in a fire pit to avoid stinking up your house.
  • Protect your counter with a sacrificial towel, the seasoning process can be messy.
  • Splurge for a roll of paper towels to use for the seasoning process, you’ll ruin quite a few towels otherwise.
  • When adding oil to your pan to season it, don’t use too much. It’s easy to think one thick layer is better and quicker than multiple thin layers. If you do this you’ll actually end up with a thick sticky coating that won’t be smooth or non-stick.
  • Season your cast iron pans on a day you can open up your windows as the seasoning process can be a bit smelly.
  • Continue the seasoning process until you can run a paper towel over the surface of the pan without getting any residue off the pan.
  • Seasoning cast iron works best if you can season your pan up to four times.
  • New pans may only require one additional coat of seasoning.
  • Older pans may require more than four applications. Let the residue on the paper towel be your guide.
Multiple enameled cast iron pans and pots on a counter.
A man and wife smiling.

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Josh and Carolyn bring you practical knowledge on how to Grow, Cook, Preserve and Thrive on your homestead, whether you are in a city apartment or on 40 acres in the country. If you want to increase your self-sufficiency and health be sure to subscribe for helpful videos on gardening, preserving, herbal medicine, traditional cooking and more.

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