What Is the Best Oil to Season Cast Iron? 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-resistant and maintain non-stick properties. The seasoning layer 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 high temperatures either in the oven or on the stove.

What Oil to Use for Seasoning Cast Iron?

seasoned cast iron pan

Various oils are available for this purpose, but results may vary depending on the oil 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 occurs and the oil begins to smoke. Polymerization creates a bond between the oil and the pan and forms a protective layer on the metal. A high smoke point is a key factor when choosing oil for seasoning cast iron. In such a case, you can cook at high heat without breaking the oil used to season the pan. Oils with high smoke points include avocado oil, canola oil, corn oil, and peanut oil.

Neutral flavor: Some oils have a distinct flavor that can affect the taste of meals cooked in cast iron cookware. To avoid mixing flavors, choose neutral-flavored oils. A cast iron pan coated with flavorless oil is more versatile and allows you to cook any food without introducing unwanted flavors that could affect your cooking. Neutral-flavored oils include safflower, grapeseed, and vegetable oil (a mixture of different vegetable oils).

High concentration of unsaturated fats: Oils high in unsaturated fats such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are good for seasoning. These oils have a low melting point, so you can quickly spread them on the cooking surface. Unsaturated fats easily form bonds with other molecules and bind easily to the metal. Oils high in unsaturated fats include canola, grapeseed, peanut, and linseed oil.

5 Oils for Seasoning Cast Iron Pans

1. Grapeseed Oil for Seasoning Cast Iron

The smoke point of grapeseed oil is around 420°F. This means you can use a seasoned pan for high-heat cooking without destroying the seasoning layer.

Another reason this oil is ideal for seasoning cast iron is its neutral flavor. In addition, the high unsaturated fat content ensures a smooth and non-stick cooking surface.

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

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

2. Canola Oil

CCanola oil has a smoke point of 450 degrees and is one of the most popular 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 that bond well with the metal and create 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. A high level of polyunsaturated fats helps achieve strong polymerization bonds with cast iron, allowing you to form a durable seasoning layer that can withstand repeated cleaning. You can also cook at high temperatures without worrying about the oil breaking.

This light oil is subtly flavored. However, the layers of seasoning have almost no smell and add no flavor to the food you cook in the pan. Avocado oil can be easily found online or in supermarkets, but it is a bit expensive.

4. Safflower oil

Refined safflower oil is known for its high smoke point (over 500°C), making this oil safe for cooking at high temperatures. This high heat tolerance and lack of odors and flavors make safflower oil an excellent choice for seasoning cast iron cookware. Finally, safflower oil is a rich source of unsaturated fats and absorbs well into metal, creating a lasting layer of seasoning.

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 supports polymerization and ensures a long-lasting non-stick layer. Sunflower oil is affordable and widely available. Be sure to use refined oil as cold-pressed oil is flavored.

Oils You Shouldn’t Use to Season Cast Iron?

Coconut Oil

Due to its high saturated fat content, coconut oil is not recommended for seasoning cast iron. This type of fat is not good for the polymerization process needed to form the proper seasoning layer.

Cold-Pressed Olive Oil

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

Animal Fats

Animal fats have a high saturated fat content, which does not have a positive effect on the polymerization process and you do not get a lasting layer of flavor. In addition, animal fats can go rancid and give food an unpleasant taste if you don’t use the pan for a long time. Finally, such pans are 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 is an opinion that if done correctly this oil can do the job. However, there are also several good reasons to choose a more reliable oil for this purpose.

  1. Flaxseed oil has a low smoke point of 225°F, so it can burn at high temperatures when cooking food.
  2. This oil is quite expensive and can be difficult to find.
  3. Flaxseed oil is not completely odorless which can affect the food you prepare.
cooking oils for seasoning cast iron

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