Cast iron will last a lifetime or, in many families, multiple generations if it’s cared for properly. Seasoning your cast iron before using it the first time and also throughout the months and years of usage is crucial.
Which leads us to the question, what is the best cast iron seasoning oil? The best oil for seasoning cast iron is one that has high levels of unsaturated fats, a high smoke point, low viscosity, and a neutral flavor. Examples of these oils would be canola oil and vegetable oil.
There are many reasons we recommend grapeseed oil for seasoning your cast iron but, in all truth, many options might serve your purposes and needs even better.
If you’re just looking for our recommendation of the best oil for seasoning cast iron, it would have to be La Tourangelle grapeseed oil that you can pick up on Amazon. Experts weighed in, and they all agreed this is as good as it gets.
In this article, we’ve rounded up the best 9 oils for seasoning cast iron and outlined exactly why you’d want to choose each one, or why you wouldn’t.
Seasoning Cast Iron – The Best Way
This is primarily an article about the oil used for seasoning cast iron and it’s probably best to refer to the manufacturer of your pan for their advice on how to season.
Some experts suggest seasoning up to 6 times at a low temperature before using whereas others suggest that seasoning only 3 times at a higher temperature will work best.
Regardless of how you season your cast iron for the first time, keep these tips in mind to ensure long-term results:
- For the first few uses, fry fatty meats or roast veggies in oil often
- Avoid cooking delicate items such as eggs or fish until your pan has been used at least 10 times
- Avoid highly acidic ingredients such as wine, tomatoes, vinegar or citrus
- Wash your pans with hot water only – don’t soak them EVER and use soap only when you’ve cooked something delicate or very aromatic
- Always dry cast iron thoroughly and quickly and consider buffing with a small amount of oil after every use
How to Reseason Cast Iron
After every use of your cast iron skillet, you want to make sure you clean and dry it well. Food does not stick to cast iron like it sticks to stainless steel, so it should be quite easy to simply use a cloth and some warm soapy water to remove any food residue.
Once it’s clean you want to be sure it’s completely dry. We like to warm up the clean pan on the stove to make sure all the water has evaporated before storing it. Water on a cast iron pan will cause rust.
As long as your pan is clean and dry before storage, you can choose to wipe a little more oil over the surface each time you use it, or simply warm up some oil in the pan before you use it the next time.
Either way, regular usage is the best way to keep your pan well-seasoned.
How To Choose The Right Cast Iron Seasoning Oil
Even though in the next section I’ll be ranking what I think are the very best oils for seasoning cast iron, that doesn’t mean my list will apply to you.
In fact, there are a number of things to take into consideration when choosing an oil for seasoning your cast iron.
This is the first thing you want to consider when choosing the right cooking oil to season your cast iron.
Smoke point is the temperature at which point an oil starts to break down and produce smoke.
Most of the time, you’ll want to choose an oil with a fairly high smoke point, this will help to prevent the oil from breaking down and producing harmful chemicals or compounds.
The next thing we want to consider when choosing our seasoning oil is the viscosity (or thickness) of the oil.
Thinner oils like vegetable oil tend to penetrate deeper into the porous surface of the cast iron, creating a more non-stick surface to cook your food.
Thicker oils such as flaxseed oil produce a bit thicker of a coating.
Different recipes will call for oils of different viscosity depending on what is being cooked.
However, I will say that thinner oils are almost always recommended.
The last thing we need to consider is the flavor of the oil.
Some oils, such as olive oil or peanut oil have stronger flavors and it could affect the taste of the dishes prepared in that cast iron.
Many other oils have a more neutral flavor, such as flaxseed, canola oil, corn oil, and safflower oil.
These are the primary things you want to consider when choosing the right oil for your cast iron pan.
Concentration of Unsaturated Fats
When considering what oil to choose to season your cast iron, one of the most important thing to consider is whether the oil is high in unsaturated fats like polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats.
It is ideal to use an oil with a high level of unsaturated fats. Oils like this have a lower melting point compared to oils with high levels of saturated fats which makes them easier to spread over the surface of your cast iron pan.
Perhaps more importantly, oils with unsaturated fats go through a process called polymerization which is what occurs when oil reacts with the cast iron at high temperatures, resulting in a smooth and durable surface for your skillet.
It’s typically best, and healthiest, to choose oils with high levels of unsaturated fats.
These oils include things like:
- olive oil
- canola oil
- avocado oil
- grapeseed oil.
What oil you choose depends on the food you are cooking and the flavor you’re going after.
However, I will say that most of the time you’ll want to use a thin, neutral-flavored oil with a high smoke point that contains high levels of unsaturated fats.
9 Best Oils for Seasoning Cast Iron – Reviewed
If you have a cast iron pan that you’ve been seasoning for weeks, months, years, or even generations and it is working for you, keep doing what you’re doing. If you don’t like how your food tastes or glides over the pan, it might be time to switch oils.
If you’ve got yourself a brand new (or new to you) pan and you’ve never seasoned one before, you have a lot of choices when it comes to what oil to use.
There are pros and cons to nearly all of them, but we’ve rounded up what we believe to be the 9 best oils for seasoning cast iron and listed the reasons you might want to choose each.
|Rank||Type of Oil||Smoke Point||Find on Amazon|
|1||Grapeseed Oil||420°F||La Tourangelle Grapeseed Oil|
|2||Flaxseed Oil||225°F||Barlean’s Fresh Organic Flax Oil|
|3||Avocado Oil||520°F||BetterBody Foods 100% Pure Avocado Oil|
|4||Canola Oil||400°F||Happy Belly Canola Oil|
|5||Olive Oil||375°F||Pompeian Robust Extra Virgin Olive Oil|
|6||Lard||370°F||Tenderflake Pure Bakers Lard|
|7||Coconut Oil||350°F||Nutiva Organic Cold-Pressed Virgin Coconut Oil|
|8||Peanut Oil||450°F||La Tourangelle Roasted Peanut Oil|
|9||Butter or Ghee||300-475°F||Original Grass-Fed Ghee by 4th & Heart|
1. Grapeseed Oil for Seasoning Cast Iron
Recommended: La Tourangelle Grapeseed Oil
Grapeseed oil is one of the most popular oils used to season cast iron by professional chefs and cast iron specialists.
It has a high smoke point, allowing you to use high temperatures to heat up the pan quickly and create the bond between oil and pan.
Grapeseed oil is almost entirely neutral in aroma and flavor, making it perfect for seasoning your pan so that every dish you cook up in it later will start fresh.
It’s also highly praised as a healthy choice for oil and it’s moderately priced, making it appealing for many reasons.
This makes grapeseed oil our top pick for the best oil for seasoning cast iron.
2. Flaxseed Oil for Seasoning Cast Iron
Recommended: Barlean’s Fresh Organic Flax Oil
Flaxseed oil became very popular for seasoning cast iron when a high profile blogger wrote about it a few years ago.
This oil has a very low smoke point, and to compensate for not being able to season it at high temperatures, it was advised to season for a minimum of 6 times for 1 hour at a time at a low temperature of 225F.
This does work well, but after many third-party tests, it has turned out to be not quite as revolutionary as originally suggested.
Unfortunately, flaxseed oil is not always easy to find and it’s also on the expensive end of the spectrum. It also has a rather strong smell that isn’t loved by all.
Flaxseed oil does bond to cast iron nicely, giving you a slick finish that your food will glide off of without sticking. If you use your pan regularly, flaxseed oil is a great choice for seasoning cast iron.
It also dries naturally, which is a big perk when it comes to cast iron which is very sensitive to any moisture.
This is a good oil to use for the first seasoning of your pan if you have the patience to go through multiple rounds of seasoning over several hours. Be very careful to buy 100% flaxseed oil because if it’s mixed with anything else it will skew the smoke point and it won’t season well.
You may want to choose to use a different type of oil for regular use and reseasoning though.
The flavor will be undetectable when used for seasoning but, because it’s a seed oil, it’s best used for pans that get regular use. If you only use your cast iron once a year, the oil can go rancid in a cupboard, giving off a smell like an oil painting.
Wash your pan well and re-season lightly when you want to use it again if this happens.
We’d like to take a short break from our list of the 9 best cast iron seasoning oils to give a shoutout to Cowboy Kent Rollins on YouTube who has a great video explaining why olive oil and flaxseed oil are his two favorite oils for seasoning cast iron. Enjoy!
3. Seasoning Cast Iron with Avocado Oil
Recommended: BetterBody Foods 100% Pure Avocado Oil
Avocado oil has an incredibly high smoke point at 520F. This, in itself, is both a pro and a con.
The downside is that in order to use it to season your pan, you have to heat the pan to a temperature of 520F before adding the oil. Handling a pan this hot is dangerous, under any circumstances. Putting oil in a pan that hot increases the danger levels.
On the other hand, if you’re able to season a pan with avocado oil, the chances of you cooking anything at a temperature high enough to break the bond once established is unlikely.
Avocado oil is also praised for its health benefits and it’s a neutral-flavored oil, though it is more expensive than some of the other options on this list.
If you cook professionally or have serious kitchen equipment and meticulous standards, avocado oil will season cast iron almost perfectly.
However, the risks involved are enough to dissuade many average cast iron pan owners from attempting this option.
4. Canola Oil for Seasoning Cast Iron
Recommended: Happy Belly Canola Oil
Canola oil and other vegetable oils including blends and soy-based oils are some of the most popular oils for seasoning cast iron for 2 primary reasons:
- They’re inexpensive and easily available everywhere
- They have high smoke points and can handle high temperatures
The reason they are so inexpensive and have such high smoke points is that they’re extremely refined.
It’s better to use canola oil, soy oil, or another vegetable oil for seasoning than it is for cooking with.
Especially when it comes to the outside of your pan, which rarely if ever comes into direct contact with your food and still needs to be seasoned and well protected.
For these reasons, canola oil or vegetable oil is another top pick as the best oil for seasoning cast iron.
5. Seasoning Cast Iron with Olive Oil
Recommended: Pompeian Robust Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil has a fantastic flavor, lovely aroma, and multiple health benefits.
Most people have olive oil in their cupboards, it’s easy to find at any supermarket and it’s not overly expensive. These are all benefits to using olive oil to season your cast iron.
It also has a low smoke point, however. If you choose olive oil to season your cast iron pan with, you simply have to do so at lower temperatures for longer intervals of time.
To make sure you’re not overheating your olive oil, using the oven is a good way to set the temperature so that it’s hot enough that the pan will accept the seasoning but not so hot as to burn your oil. 375F is perfect.
If you aren’t very careful in the initial seasoning of your pan, the oil will not bond with the cast iron, and any time you cook at a higher temperature than olive oil’s smoke point of 375F, it will begin to dissolve and crack off, which is not desirable.
6. Seasoning Cast Iron with Lard or Tallow
Recommended: Tenderflake Pure Bakers Lard
If you want to be traditional, season your cast iron with lard.
Over history, this was the most readily available source of fat to use that would keep cast iron from rusting and maintain the easy-off sheen.
It still works perfectly well, as long as you don’t have any dietary or ethical personal reasons for using animal fat.
Use lard or tallow to season your cast iron simply by melting a little bit in your hot pan and working it into the iron.
Where rendered animal fat won’t perform well is if you don’t use your pan regularly. Lard will go rancid over time, so if your pan spends too much time in your cupboard, it might develop and off smell.
If you store your pan upside down or covered with a lid, it will be even more likely to build up a bad smell that can be transferred to your food.
If you use lard or tallow for seasoning your cast iron, make sure you use your pan often and store it somewhere with adequate airflow.
7. Seasoning Cast Iron with Coconut Oil
Recommended: Nutiva Organic Cold-Pressed Virgin Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is the most searched for options for seasoning cast iron.
It’s become a very popular oil over the past decade thanks to its health benefits and you can now buy it in huge “club sized” vats at a very reasonable price.
If you like coconut, the smell and slight flavor are heavenly. If you don’t like coconut, you probably don’t have a gallon sitting in your cupboard.
But the question remains, can you use coconut oil to season cast iron?
Yes, you can use coconut oil for seasoning cast iron but it has a relatively low smoke point, so you need to be careful about the first seasoning.
Make sure you warm up your pan to about 350F before adding the coconut oil and buffing it in really well. The temperature needs to meet the smoke point of the oil you choose but not exceed it by much.
If seasoned well, the pan will be great. If the seasoning doesn’t take, whenever you cook food at a temperature higher than the smoke point of coconut oil, it will begin to break down the carbonized layer of oil.
If you don’t cook at high temperatures often, coconut oil is a good solution for seasoning cast iron, especially if you use it regularly and have some on hand.
If you cook with high heat often or you don’t pay too much attention to heat, you may want to season your pan with an oil that has a higher smoke point, such as grapeseed oil.
8. Peanut Oil for Seasoning Cast Iron
Recommended: La Tourangelle Roasted Peanut Oil
The biggest danger of using peanut oil to season your cast iron is that you’ll have to be very cautious about ever using it to cook food for someone with peanut allergies.
Even though it sinks into the very pores of the pan, it can transfer to the food you cook and may cause an allergic reaction.
If you don’t have an allergy and you’re not worried about cooking for anyone in the future, peanut oil is a fine oil to season your cast iron with.
You will want to double-check if your oil is refined or unrefined though because they have different smoke points and therefore should be seasoned at different temperatures.
In almost all respects, peanut oil is a middle-range oil for seasoning cast iron. It’s not overly expensive or hard to find, but it’s also not the least expensive.
It has a mid-to-high smoke point at 450F for refined oils, and it’s very commonly used in cooking for deep frying, so you may already have some on hand.
9. Seasoning Cast Iron with Butter or Ghee
Recommended: Original Grass-Fed Ghee by 4th & Heart
Similar to lard, seasoning cast iron with butter is a simple, tasty way to season your pan through regular usage, but you want to make sure that you’re using true butter that is salt-free.
Margarine or butter alternatives are not good options for seasoning cast iron. You always want to avoid using anything with salt in it to season your pan though you can, of course, cook with salt.
Using butter as a first seasoning isn’t likely to give you as even of a black patina as some of the oils on this list, but over time it will develop nicely. It’s not the best option, but if butter is what you have and you use it a lot in your cooking, it will work.
Ghee will season very similar to butter with one huge exception: it has a much higher smoke point. Where butter hits the high end of optimal cooking temperatures at around 300F, ghee can sustain heat up to 475F. It still won’t give a completely even season, however.
Depending on your priorities, you may rank them differently, but hopefully, this article has helped you decide what your priorities are for choosing the right oil to season your cast iron with, and the chart is a useful quick reference tool for you.
Seasoning Cast Iron Pans, Grills, Skillets, And Steel Pans
What is the best oil for cast iron cooking?
Cooking in cast iron is different from seasoning cast iron and it’s different still from cooking in stainless steel or even a non-stick pan.
What is the best oil for cooking in cast iron? Absolutely any oil that you like.
That is one of the greatest benefits of cast iron. The heat distributes nicely and food is not naturally inclined to stick to it.
It can handle high heat and even fierce cooking utensils. The only thing you’ll want to watch out for is putting oil in a pan that is red hot as it can cause quite a dangerous splatter.
How to season a cast iron grill?
The oils to use to season a cast iron grill are the same as you would use for seasoning a cast iron pan, but the process is a bit different.
It’s actually easier to employ the heat from your oven than it is to use the grill itself to heat and season your cast iron grates.
- Heat your oven to 200F and warm up the grates for 15 minutes
- Using oven mitts, remove the grates from the oven and increase the heat to 450F
- Using paper towel or a microfiber cloth, coat each grate with a thin layer of the oil of your choice (reference article above)
- Place the grates back in the oven for 1 hour at a high baking temperature to set the oil
- Allow your grates to cool for at least 1 hour and then repeat the entire process 3 – 5 more times
Yes, seasoning a cast iron grill is a time-consuming process, but it’s worth it to protect your grill and get the best quality food over time. Reseasoning periodically is much quicker and easier, as long as you maintain the cleanliness of your grill through regular use.
If the grills on your grates are rusty or sticky from previous use, follow these easy steps:
- If they’re rusted but not sticky, turn on the heat and cook the grates until the rust has turned to char, which is easier to scrape off
- If they’re sticky but not rusty, place them into a large washing bin filled with a vinegar/water solution (1 part vinegar to 4 parts water)
- After taking the appropriate step 1 or 2, make sure the grates are cool enough to handle and dry them off with a heavy-duty paper towel or microfiber cloth
- Coat the grills lightly with the oil of your choice for a quick re-season
How often to season cast skillet?
The first time you season your cast iron is the most critical and you want to be sure it is well seasoned before it is ever used – no questions or excuses. After that, reseason only when it’s necessary. Regular usage will keep it seasoned.
If you’re dealing with camping cookware or for some other reason only use your pan a few times a year, make sure it is well cleaned and completely dry before storing it. Reseason it only if you notice rust has developed.
Best oil for seasoning carbon steel?
Even if your carbon steel pan comes pre-seasoned, it’s always a good idea to season it just as you would with a cast iron pan.
Flaxseed oil has become the popular oil to talk about, and Canola oil is probably the most commonly used oil thanks to its high smoke point, but any of the oils discussed above will work for carbon steel just as well as cast iron.
How to season a rusty cast iron dutch oven?
Cast iron dutch ovens don’t typically get used as often as a cast iron pan, and they’re also more often used for outdoor cooking and subject to varying weather conditions. For these reasons, you may deal with rust issues more frequently.
First off, when you’re seasoning a cast iron dutch oven, choose an oil that will not go rancid. Seed oils or anything that needs to be kept in the fridge such as butter or lard might leave a bad taste or smell in your dutch oven if it’s not used frequently.
To finish off this article, here is one of my favorite videos on the best oils for seasoning cast iron:
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