What Is the Best Oil to Season Cast Iron and What Oils to Avoid?

Why Is It Necessary to Season Cast Iron Cookware?

Cast iron pans should be coated with a thin layer of cooking oil before use to make the metal moisture-proof and obtain non-stick properties. The layer of seasoning also makes cleaning easier and extends the life of your pan. Seasoning is done by applying a thin layer of oil to the pan and heating it at a high temperature either in the oven or on the stovetop.

What Oil to Use for Seasoning Cast Iron?

seasoned cast iron pan

There are many different oils for this purpose, but the results may vary depending on the specific oil you have used. There are three factors to consider when choosing the best oil for seasoning cast iron:

High smoke point: When the oil is heated a chemical reaction called polymerization takes place and the oil starts to smoke.  Polymerization creates the bond between oil and pan forming a protective coating on the metal. High smoke point is a key factor you should consider when choosing oil for seasoning cast iron. In such a case, you can use high heat for cooking without breaking the oil used for seasoning the pan. High-smoke point oils include avocado oil, canola oil, corn oil, and peanut oil.

Neutral flavor: Some oils have a pronounced flavor that can affect the flavor of the meals prepared in cast iron cookware. To avoid flavor mixing, choose oils that have a neutral taste. A cast iron pan coated with flavorless oil is more versatile and you will be able to prepare any food without imparting unwanted flavor that can affect your cooking. Neutral-tasting oils are safflower, grapeseed, and vegetable oil (a blend of different vegetable oils).

High concentration of unsaturated fats: Oils high in unsaturated fats like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are a good choice for seasoning.  These oils have a low melting point, so you can quickly spread them over the cooking surface. Unsaturated fats easily form bonds with other molecules and will readily bond to the metal. Oils with high levels of unsaturated fats include canola oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, and flaxseed oil.

5 Oils for Seasoning Cast Iron Pans

1. Grapeseed Oil for Seasoning Cast Iron

Grapeseed oil’s smoke point is about 420°F. This means that you can use a seasoned pan for cooking at high heat without breaking the layer of seasoning.

Another thing that makes this oil ideal for seasoning cast iron is its neutral taste. Furthermore, the high content of unsaturated fats helps to obtain a smooth and non-stick cooking surface.

Finally, you can easily find grapeseed oil in grocery stores.  

All these features make grapeseed oil an ideal choice for coating cast iron pans. This is also my favorite oil for seasoning.

2. Canola Oil

Canola oil has a smoke point of 450 degrees and is one of the favorite oils for seasoning cast iron. The reasons for its popularity are its high smoke point and neutral taste. It also contains a high concentration of unsaturated fats, which bond with the metal nicely, creating a smooth, non-stick surface. Finally, canola oil is affordable and easy to find in supermarkets and grocery stores.

3. Avocado Oil for Seasoning Cast Iron

Refined avocado oil has a smoke point above 500 degrees, while unrefined avocado oil has a smoke point of 482°F. High levels of polyunsaturated fats help achieve strong polymerization bonds to cast iron, so you can create a durable layer of seasoning that will withstand repeated cleaning. You can also cook at high temperatures without worrying that the oil may break up.

This light oil is subtly flavored. However, the layers of seasoning have almost no smell and won’t add flavor to the food you cook in the pan. You can easily find avocado oil online or in supermarket stores, but it is a bit pricey.

4. Safflower oil

Refined safflower oil is known for its high smoke point (over 500°), which makes this oil safe for cooking at high temperatures. This tolerance to high heat and the lack of odors and flavors makes safflower oil a great choice for seasoning cast iron cookware. Finally, safflower oil is a rich source of unsaturated fats and absorbs well into metal, building a durable seasoning layer.

5. Sunflower Oil

Sunflower oil’s smoke point is 450°F and it is a great option for seasoning cast iron cookware.  The oil has a high content of unsaturated fats which helps with polymerization and ensures a lasting non-stick layer. Sunflower oil is affordable and widely available. Make sure to use refined oil as cold-pressed oil is mildly flavored.

Oils You Shouldn’t Use to Season Cast Iron?

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is not recommended for seasoning cast iron due to its high content of saturated fats. This type of fat is not good for the polymerization process which is necessary for creating the proper layer of seasoning.

Cold-Pressed Olive Oil

Virgin olive oil has a low smoke point (320 degrees Fahrenheit) and is not recommended for seasoning cast iron. When you use it for cooking, virgin olive oil tends to leave a sticky residue that can be difficult to remove.

Animal Fats

Animal-derived fats have a high content of saturated fats, which is not good for the polymerization process, and you won’t get a durable layer of seasoning. Furthermore, if you don’t use the pan for a long time, animal fats can go rancid and add an unpleasant flavor to the food. Finally, such pans will be less versatile and unsuitable for vegetarians.

Is Flaxseed Oil Good for Seasoning Cast Iron

Flaxseed oil is often used to coat cast iron and there are opinions that this oil can get the job done if the process is done correctly. However, there are also several good reasons to choose a more reliable oil for this purpose.

Flaxseed oil has a low smoke point of 225°F so it can burn if you cook food at high temperatures.

This oil is quite expensive and can be difficult to find.

Flaxseed oil is not completely odorless which can affect the food you are cooking.

cooking oils for seasoning cast iron

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