Just like with politics and religion, everyone has their own opinion on what oil is best to use on cast iron. Whether it is a sentiment handed down through the generations of cooks in their family or simply a well-researched opinion, there are many routes to ensuring that your skillet is ready to get to work.
In this article, we are going to give you a few of the best options for what oil to use, but first, you may be wondering, what the heck is “seasoning”?
Seasoning: What is it?
Seasoning is the process by which oil is baked into the iron to protect it from rusting and to give the skillet a non-stick capability that will enhance your skillet’s performance. It is also the term used when talking about the maintenance of this finish.
Best Oils for Seasoning
Most cast iron skillets you purchase today come pre-seasoned, but despite this fact, we still recommend you do a seasoning of your own. After all, it can’t hurt! All oils can be used for seasoning but there are some that are better suited and herald a better result. Traditionally, back in the old days, the go-to seasoning for your cast iron was lard. This is still a viable option but with a more intense focus on health and diet, many have turned away from it in favor of more healthy options. The one sure thing is that no matter what oil you use, the upkeep of the seasoning on your cast iron skillet is an important kitchen task that should never be overlooked.
Here are some of the best oils to use on your cast iron:
Grapeseed oil is one of the best choices for seasoning your cast iron skillet for two main reasons. First, it has a high smoke point which means it can take excessive levels of heat before burning. Secondly, it has low saturated fat levels. Both reasons mean that it is one of the sturdiest and leaves a nice smooth coating.
There is a reason why these were the traditional methods of seasoning. Sure, they were easier to get your hands on, but they also did the job well. When you use these fats as your seasoning, you are not stuck running out for special oils as most of us have these in our fridge or pantry right now. Plus, you will not have to season repeatedly to build up a good layer of seasoning. Now with this method, there is a risk of uneven coating but since you cook with these fats more than others you will be able to get there eventually.
Much like the above option, if you do not want to have to buy a special oil just for your cast iron, you can use vegetable oil. This is something most households have readily available and since it has a low smoke point why not use what you have.
This is maybe one of the most expensive options but is one of the best choices. With a low smoke point, you would think that this would be a bad choice, but it has other things working for it. It is one of the few oils that dries out on its own which can be a great benefit when seasoning your cast iron skillet. You will just have to heat the oven to the lowest possible setting for successful seasoning (about 325-degrees). Also be warned this oil does not smell fantastic!
So, there are some of the best oil options for you to season your cast iron skillet. But are there no-no oils?
Yes, there are a few oils that many experts highly suggest not to use. Here are a few that you should steer clear of:
It may be the most popular oil to cook with, but olive oil is a horrible choice to season your cast iron. It has a low smoke point and that means the hotter it gets the more of a chance that any seasoning that you may obtain will begin to disintegrate as the pan gets to the correct heat for proper seasoning.
Though this oil is really a great choice because of its high smoke point, many experts still suggest finding an alternate option. Why? This oil is an unsustainable harvest and has been discovered to have a major impact on the environment and people surrounding the crops.
The best oil to use on cast iron pans and skillets really does come down to your personal preference. We have just given you some of the best, now it’s up to you to decide which one fits your needs. So what will it be — steak or eggs?