Cast Iron Skillet Smoking? Here’s How To Fix It

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Cast iron skillets are great for so many different reasons, but one issue users often come across when using one is that every now and then, the cast iron skillet might begin to smoke. 

The smoke is not pleasant to deal with, and it definitely doesn’t add to your meal, so you would be looking for a way to prevent it.

Why do cast iron skillets smoke, and how can you stop a cast iron skillet from smoking?

Cast iron skillets typically smoke when they have been heated to too high of a temperature, or if the oil in the skillet reaches its smoke point or higher. The best way to prevent a cast iron skillet from smoking is to use it at the correct temperature, to ensure that the skillet is clean and the right oil is used.

You do not want to be put off using your cast iron skillet because it is smoking, as there are some really easy and effective ways to prevent this from happening. Read on to find out how!

Why Do Cast Iron Skillets Smoke?

In order to prevent something from happening, you need to know why it is happening to begin with. When it comes to cast iron skillets, there are a few reasons why they might smoke, and these are usually quite easy to prevent or fix.

Here are the most common reasons why a cast iron skillet might smoke during cooking:

The Skillet Is Dirty

One easy-to-fix problem is if the skillet is dirty.

As the pan heats up, any dust, food residue, or debris will begin to burn, and then smoke.

Not only is this frustrating to deal with, as your kitchen fills up with smoke, but the burnt bits of leftover food or dust can smell quite bad, and if you cook on it, then it could lead to your food taking on a bad flavor as well.

The Skillet Has Overheated 

An overheated skillet is probably the most common reason why they smoke, so it should be the first thing you look for if you notice any smoke.

Cast iron is not the best conductor of heat, and it takes quite a while to heat up.

However, once it does heat up, it retains the heat really effectively, and as it doesn’t lose heat quickly, the heat does build, and therefore the skillet remains at a more constant temperature.

So, if the skillet is set too high of a temperature, once the temperature builds, it takes quite a while to reduce this heat, so the skillet will smoke for quite some time before the temperature eventually drops.

The Skillet Wasn’t Seasoned Properly

Cast iron skillets need to be properly seasoned, to give them a smooth cooking layer that only adds to the food you are cooking.

If you have not seasoned the skillet properly, and if there is too much oil, or if you have used the wrong type of oil, then this could cause it to smoke, especially if there is oil left in small crevices that might reach a smoking point.

It is important to learn how to properly season cast iron pans and skillets, to ensure you can care for it as best as possible, and avoid any smoking.

The Wrong Oil Was Used

Different types of oils have different smoking points, and if you are planning to cook at a relatively high heat, then you do need to know the smoke point for the oil you are using.

If cooking oil is heated above its smoke point, then it will begin to burn and smoke, and this isn’t very pleasant to deal with in the kitchen.

Before deciding on the right oil to use, consider how high the temperature will be that you are cooking at, and how long you need to cook the food at this temperature with the oil in the skillet pan.

How To Prevent A Cast Iron Skillet From Smoking

There are some simple things you can do which will prevent your cast iron skillet from smoking, so you don’t have to deal with it smoking at all!

Here is what you can do to prevent your cast iron skillet from smoking:

Clean The Skillet Properly

One key thing to do is to make sure that you clean the cast iron skillet properly after cooking, and that you make sure that the cast iron skillet is clean before placing it on heat, especially if it has been sitting in the cupboard for some time.

This is a good routine for cleaning your cast iron skillet properly:

  1. Remove any crumbs, oil, or grease left over in the skillet after cooking. Using a kitchen towel can help with this.
  2. Rinse the cast iron skillet under running water, and gently scrub at it using a non-abrasive spine or brush.
  3. Place the cast iron skillet onto a stovetop burner at medium heat, or place it into the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 minutes, to make sure that any remaining moisture dries off.
  4. Allow the pan to cool after this, and then add a small amount of vegetable oil, canola oil, or grapeseed oil to the cooking surface of the pan, and work it into the surface with a paper towel, and remove any excess off the surface of the pan afterward.

Heat The Skillet Slowly

So many cases of smoking could have been avoided had the skillet been heated up slowly.

Cast iron cookware retains heat exceptionally well, but it can take quite a while to get to the correct temperature.

With some patience, you can heat the cast iron skillet up slowly, and once it reaches the right temperature, you can maintain it by turning down the heat source.

If it is left on the high heat source, it will surpass the intended temperature and begin to burn.

When preheating the cast iron skillet on the stovetop, do not use high heat. Set it to medium and wait for the pan to heat up.

The pan will reach a high temperature, and it will not land up smoking because it has been set on high, and heated up too high too fast.

Do your best to keep a check on the temperature of the skillet as you cook, so that you can lower the heat if needed to avoid smoking.

Using The Correct Oil

As mentioned above, different cooking oils have different smoke points, so you need to use the right oil for the temperature you are cooking at, to prevent the oil from overheating, reaching its smoking point, and then beginning to smoke and burn.

The best way to do this is to know the different smoke points for the common cooking oils and to make sure that you use an oil that can handle the temperature you will be cooking at, or to help you choose the right oil to use for your skillet.

Here are the most common cooking oils, and their smoking points (the point at which they will begin to smoke and burn)

Type Of OilSmoke Point
Olive Oil375-400 degrees Fahrenheit
Coconut Oil400 degrees Fahrenheit
Canola Oil400 degrees Fahrenheit
Butter275-300 degrees Fahrenheit
Grapeseed Oil420 degrees Fahrenheit
Vegetable Oil450 degrees Fahrenheit
Sunflower Oil450 degrees Fahrenheit
Avocado Oil520 degrees Fahrenheit
Ghee450 degrees Fahrenheit

As you can see from the table above, some oils, such as avocado oil or sunflower oil, have a higher smoke point than oils such as olive oil or butter and might be more suitable for what you are wanting to cook in the cast iron skillet.

Cooking The Wrong Ingredients

It might not be your cast iron skillet that is causing the smoke – it could be possible that you are attempting to fry or saute ingredients that cannot handle the temperature that they are being cooked at.

Consider what you are cooking, and whether or not the cast iron skillet might be too hot to cook these food items.

Cast iron skillets are ideal for cooking many ingredients, but they are not suited to cook all types of foods and ingredients in the kitchen.

What To Do If Your Cast Iron Skillet Starts Smoking

It can be scary if your cast iron skillet begins smoking while you are cooking with it, but there are a few steps you can take to stop it from smoking safely.

Here is the process to follow to safely stop your cast iron skillet from smoking:

  1. Turn off the source of the heat quickly if possible.
  2. Using heat-resistant gloves or a pot protector, remove the cast iron skillet from the heat source.
  3. Place the hot skillet onto a safe, heat-resistant surface where it will not be exposed to any more heat.
  4. If possible, switch on the kitchen fan or open a window to try and ventilate the kitchen area more, to get rid of some of the smoke.
  5. Leave the skillet to cool for a few minutes, until the smoking stops.
  6. You can switch the heat source, such as the stove, back on, but make sure to set it to a lower temperature, as the cast iron skillet will just start smoking again if you place it back onto the same heat source at the same temperature.

It is important to note that cast iron does tend to heat up slowly, but once it has heated up, it retains heat really well, so it can often continue heating while on a heat source and surpass the temperature it was supposed to be.

To counteract this, you might have to turn the heat source down every now and then to prevent the cast iron skillet from overheating too much.

Remember to not panic, or add anything else to the cast iron skillet if it begins to smoke, as this will just make the situation worse.

Make sure that you have a fire safety product in your kitchen, or nearby, such as a fire blanket or fire extinguisher, to make sure you can properly deal with dangerous situations in the kitchen with minimal damage or injury.

Why Is My Cast Iron Skillet Smoking During Seasoning?

Seasoning plays a huge role in the successful and proper maintenance of your cast iron skillet, and it is something you should definitely not skip.

However, you might be concerned if you have started seasoning your cast iron skillet, and it begins to smoke.

If you have placed the cast iron skillet in the oven during the seasoning process, and you notice a small amount of smoke, then it isn’t cause for concern.

It is normal for there to be some light smoke during the seasoning process, as the oil goes through polymerization, which helps to form the seasoning layer.

To deal with this, you can open a window or turn on the kitchen ventilation fan, to reduce the amount of smoke in the room and to stop the kitchen from smelling smoky.

Why Are Cast Iron Skillets So Popular?

Cast iron skillets are a favorite for so many people, and for good reason. They might be an initial investment at first, but they can last for many, many years if cared for properly, and they are wonderfully versatile too.

Most cast iron pots can go from the stovetop to the oven without any preparation or change needed, so you can get so much done with just one pot.

Cast iron pots also do a great job at retaining heat and can stay warm for quite some time after being removed from a heat source.

You can also cook just about anything in a cast iron pot, but it is also important to remember that how well your cast iron pot performs will depend on how well you care for it, and whether or not you follow the correct seasoning advice.

If you are looking for a single pan or skillet to perform many tasks in the kitchen, and last for a long time, then spending a little extra on a cast iron skillet is definitely worth it!

Cast Iron Skillet Smoking

A cast iron skillet smoking does not signify the end of the road for the pan – instead, there is likely some debris or dirt left on the skillet, or you have used the wrong oil or heated it up too high.

There are a few reasons why a cast iron skillet might smoke when exposed to heat, and most of the time, these are easy-fix problems that take a few minutes to solve.

Read through the above guide on why a cast iron skillet might smoke, and all the ways to prevent this from happening, and how to fix it if it does happen.

Proper care of your cast iron skillet goes a long way to prevent smoking, and allows your skillet to last for many, many years in the kitchen!

Related Questions

Which oils are best for high-heat cooking?

The best oils to choose for cooking at a high heat would be oils that have a high smoke point. These include canola oil, avocado oil, or even peanut oil.  As these have a high smoke point, they are less likely to smoke when used at high heat.

Why should you not use olive oil for a cast iron pot?

Olive oil is more likely to burn when used on a cast iron pot, as it has a fairly low smoke point, and the temperature that cast iron pots are used at generally can surpass the smoke point of olive oil.

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