Last Updated on January 5, 2023 by Claire
With dozens of good quality cooking oils to choose from, choosing the best oil to season cast iron skillets can be a tough decision.
Worry no more, in this article, you’d learn about the best oil option to season your cast iron skillets, the pros and cons of each oil type, the best option, and answers to a few other frequently asked questions about seasoning your cast iron cookware.
What is seasoning?
Cast iron seasoning is the application of a thin layer of cooking oil to the surface of your cast iron pot, pan, or skillet to fill the tiny pores that are naturally a part of any cast-iron cookware. This is done in order to make it easy to clean and get food off its surface while also promoting its longevity and durability.
Unlike non-stick coated, ceramic, and steel pans, most cast iron cookwares need to be seasoned before use, or else they wouldn’t last long. While some cast iron cookware comes pre-seasoned, although optional, you can season them again to increase their durability and lifespan.
Best oils for seasoning cast iron skillets
Grapeseed oil is the best oil for seasoning cast iron, this is due to its versatility and high smoke point. Some alternatives include vegetable oil and peanut oil; however, whatever oil you decide on will depend on which flavors you prefer as well as the heat you intend on using.
Don’t just take my word for it, because honestly other options might serve your purposes and needs even better.
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.
Although any of them would do a good job, the fact is each oil has its pros and cons, but there are reasons you might want to choose each.
Let’s delve right in…
|Type of Oil
|La Tourangelle, Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 25.4 Fl Oz & Grapeseed Oil 25.4 Fl Oz, All-Natural, Artisanal, Great for Cooking, Sauteing, Marinating, and Dressing
|Barlean’s Fresh Flaxseed Oil from Cold Pressed Flax Seeds – 7,640mg ALA Omega 3 Fatty Acids for Improving Heart Health – Vegan, USDA Organic, Non-GMO, Gluten Free – 12-Ounce
|Chosen Foods 100% Pure Avocado Oil Spray, Keto, and Paleo Diet Friendly, Kosher Cooking Spray for Baking, High-Heat Cooking and Frying (13.5 oz, 2 Pack)
|Amazon Brand – Happy Belly Canola Oil, 1 Gallon (128 Fl Oz) & Happy Belly Raw Wildflower Honey, 32 oz (Previously Solimo)
|Colavita Roasted Garlic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Low FODMAP, 32 Fl Oz (Pack of 1)
|Bacon fat and Lard
|Spectrum Naturals Organic All Vegetable Shortening, 24 Ounce (Pack of 4)
|Organic Coconut Oil, Cold-Pressed – Natural Hair Oil, Skin Oil and Cooking Oil with Fresh Flavor, Non-GMO Unrefined Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (Aceite de Coco), USDA Organic, 16 oz
|Hollywood Enriched Gold Peanut Oil, 24 Oz
|Butter or Ghee
|300°F – 475°F
|Original Grass-Fed Ghee by 4th & Heart, 16 Ounce, Keto, Pasture Raised, Non-GMO, Lactose Free, Certified Paleo & Himalayan Pink Salt Grass-Fed Ghee Butter by 4th & Heart, 9 Ounce, Keto, Pasture Raised
While grapeseed oil might not get the same hype as flaxseed oil, it is our ‘number 1’ when it comes to choosing your very best oil for cast-iron seasoning. It has an almost neutral aroma and flavor while boasting a much higher smoke point that allows you to use high temperatures to heat up the pan quickly and create a bond between oil and pan.
Add this to the fact that it’s affordable and a healthy choice, then you’ll see why it’s highly praised by professional chefs and cast iron specialists.
Recommendation: La Tourangelle, Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 25.4 Fl Oz & Grapeseed Oil 25.4 Fl Oz, All-Natural, Artisanal, Great for Cooking, Sauteing, Marinating, and Dressing
- It has a smoke point of 420°F which ensures it won’t burn during the seasoning process
- Neutral flavors go well with almost any dish you cook
You have to be careful with cold-pressed and virgin varieties. These varieties have a much lower smoke point and aren’t suitable for use as cast-iron seasoning oil.
From a scientific point of view, flaxseed oil is one of the best oils for seasoning cast iron skillets.
It has a very low smoke point of 225°F, dries off naturally, bonds to cast iron nicely, and gives your meals a slick finish. But its demerits such as a strong odor that isn’t to everyone’s liking, higher price, and unsuitability to season at high temperatures. Also, add this to the fact that you have to season for a minimum of 6 times for 1 hour at a time at a low temperature of 225°F even when seasoning your pan for the first time all contribute to bringing it to the number two spot just below grapeseed oil.
Recommendation: Barlean’s Fresh Flaxseed Oil from Cold Pressed Flax Seeds – 7,640mg ALA Omega 3 Fatty Acids for Improving Heart Health – Vegan, USDA Organic, Non-GMO, Gluten Free – 12-Ounce
- Better than vegetable oils
- Leaves your cast-iron surfaces harder, smoother, and more even
- A low smoke point of 225°F
- Doesn’t withstand the seasoning process’s high heat well
- A strong odor that isn’t to everyone’s liking
- Repeated application is needed to get the best results
If you’re a professional cook or chef, the fact that avocado oil has an incredibly high smoke point of 520°F (MasterClass) is both a pro and a con.
The upside is avocado oil has a neutral flavor, numerous health benefits, seasons cast iron almost perfectly, and can withstand high temperatures without breaking the bond between oil and pan or skillet.
The downside is that in order to season your pan with avocado oil, you have to heat the pan to a temperature of 520°F before adding the oil. Not only is handling iron cookware at this temperature very dangerous, but adding oil to them will increase the danger levels.
Recommendation: Chosen Foods 100% Pure Avocado Oil Spray, Keto, and Paleo Diet Friendly, Kosher Cooking Spray for Baking, High-Heat Cooking, and Frying (13.5 oz, 2 Pack)
- Long shelf-life and doesn’t go rancid quickly.
- High smoke point of 520°F
- It contains high levels of unsaturated fats which polymerize and oxidize, resulting in a very tough coat of seasoning on your cast-iron cookware
- Relatively pricey when compared to other cooking oil options
- Its high smoke point of 520°F means you need to be extremely careful when using it to avoid burns or injuries
Canola oil and other vegetable oils including blends and soy-based oils are dirt-cheap to buy, easily available, and handy in a lot of recipes, so it’s quite likely you already have a bottle in your kitchen.
While canola oil has a high smoke point and is very refined for the seasoning duty, its results aren’t as good as that of other oils when it comes to seasoning cast iron. You can just overlook this due to the fact that it’s extremely cheap.
You must also note that canola oil, soy oil, or another vegetable oil is better for seasoning than cooking.
Recommendation: Amazon Brand – Happy Belly Canola Oil, 1 Gallon (128 Fl Oz) & Happy Belly Raw Wildflower Honey, 32 oz (Previously Solimo)
- Dirt cheap and easily available
- Neutral flavor that’s great for cooking
- High smoke point of 400°F is more than enough to take on the high heat of seasoning
- The first seasoning might produce a weak, mottled, bumpy surface
- The seasoning may break down more quickly than other types of oils
Olive oil has multiple health benefits when enjoyed uncooked or in low-heat cooking, has a fantastic flavor, and lovely aroma, and is easily available and affordable.
It also has a low smoke point, which means seasoning your iron pan requires you to do so at lower temperatures for longer periods of time. This is labor intensive and produces less predictable results. You also have to make sure you don’t try to use olive oil to season cast iron the traditional way, or else you will end up burning carcinogens floating into the air.
Using the oven is a great way to set the temperature (375°F) to make sure you’re not overheating your olive oil, this will make sure it’s hot enough that the pan will accept the seasoning but not too hot to burn your oil.
You must be very careful when seasoning with olive oil for the first time; else the oil will not bond with the cast iron and will dissolve and crack anytime you cook at a temperature higher than the olive oil’s smoke point of 375°F.
Recommendation: Colavita Roasted Garlic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Low FODMAP, 32 Fl Oz (Pack of 1)
- Easily available and very affordable
- It has a soft and delicious flavor that won’t compete with most foods.
- It has a lower smoke point at 375°F which means that seasoning your iron pan requires you to do so at lower temperatures for longer periods of time.
- Its lower smoke point also means that it can release harmful chemicals as it burns
Bacon fat and Lard
This is a traditional way to season your cast iron cookware. It still works perfectly well, simply melt some lard or bacon fat in your hot pan and ease them into the iron.
A downside to using bacon fat or lard for seasoning is that you must make sure you use your pans or cookware regularly. This is because lard will go rancid over time and build up a bad odor that can be transferred to your food if: your cookware spends too much time in the cupboard, is covered with a lid, turned upside down, or stored in a way that there is no adequate airflow getting to it.
Recommendation: Spectrum Naturals Organic All Vegetable Shortening, 24 Ounce (Pack of 4)
- Fits traditional methods and recipes
- Pleasant natural aroma for foods
You must use your cookware regularly or store them when there is proper airflow to avoid unpleasant odors from being built up and transferred from lard onto your cookware
Coconut oil is delicious, has numerous health benefits, is reasonably priced, and has a pleasant scent.
Although you can use coconut oil for seasoning cast iron, it’s not a great option to season cast iron because of its saturated fat content and its relatively low smoke point.
To season your pan with coconut oil, you need to make sure you warm up your pan to temperatures of about 350°F before adding the coconut oil and buffing it in really well.
Now there’s a caveat; you must make sure the temperature meets the smoke point of the oil but doesn’t exceed it by much.
Regular application of coconut oil is an effective seasoning method if you don’t cook at high temperatures often. But if you cook food at a temperature higher than the smoke point of coconut oil or you cook with high heat often, the carbonized layer of oil will begin to break down leaving you better off using oil that has a higher smoke point like grapeseed oil.
Recommendation: Organic Coconut Oil, Cold-Pressed – Natural Hair Oil, Skin Oil, and Cooking Oil with Fresh Flavor, Non-GMO Unrefined Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (Aceite de Coco), USDA Organic, 16 oz
- Delicious taste with a distinctive coconut flavor
- It has a very high smoke point of 450°F
- High saturated fat content lowers the polymerization required in the seasoning process, thus affecting the durability of the seasoning
- Strong coconut taste or aroma might not be to everyone’s liking
Peanut oil is great for some recipes and very good for seasoning cast iron, but it’s not to everyone’s liking as it has a powerful peanut flavor that doesn’t always blend well with every meal and add this to the fact that you’ll have to be very cautious about ever using it to cook as some people have an allergic reaction to peanut.
Peanut oil is moderately priced, and there are two types: refined or unrefined.
Both have different smoke points and therefore should be seasoned at different temperatures, so you need to be sure which one your peanut oil is.
Recommendation: Hollywood Enriched Gold Peanut Oil, 24 Oz
- Relatively inexpensive and easily available
- It has a mid-to-high smoke point at 450°F for refined oils
- You must be cautious when using it as some people have allergic reactions to peanuts
- Strong peanut flavor can negatively impact the taste of some dishes
Butter or Ghee
Using butter to season cast iron is a simple and tasty way to season your cookware, but you must make sure you apply it regularly and that you’re using ‘salt-free’ butter.
You want to avoid using butter that contains salt to season your pan and also note that ghee produces similar seasoning results to butter with one difference.
Unlike butter that can only sustain temperatures of around 300°F, ghee has a much higher smoke point and is capable of sustaining cooking temperatures of up to 475°F.
Recommendation: Original Grass-Fed Ghee by 4th & Heart, 16 Ounce, Keto, Pasture Raised, Non-GMO, Lactose Free, Certified Paleo & Himalayan Pink Salt Grass-Fed Ghee Butter by 4th & Heart, 9 Ounce, Keto, Pasture Raised
- Both are a simple and tasty way to season cast iron cookwares
- Both produce very good seasoning results
- Ghee has a much higher smoke point and is capable of sustaining cooking temperatures of up to 475°F without breaking down
- You must make sure the butter you use is free of salt to avoid fast corrosion of your pan’s surface
- Not as effective as other oils for seasoning
Why do you need to season your cast-iron cookware?
- Seasoning helps to build a strong, non-stick slick coating that helps to get food off the surface of your pan easily
- The smooth iron surface allows you to use less cooking fats and oils, reducing calories and making your meals healthier
- Seasoning absorbs and imparts some delicious flavors and aromas from the oils you use in your cast-iron cookware to make your food taste better.
What are the benefits of cast-iron cooking?
- Cast iron cookware are durable, tough and has a very long lifespan
- They can get to very high temperatures and retain heat well
- Relatively affordable and easily available
- Health benefits: a tiny bit of iron absorbs into the foods we cook in cast-iron cookware helps boost daily intake levels of this essential micronutrient in our bodies.
So, what is the best oil for cast iron cooking? The best oil for cast iron cooking is absolutely any oil that you like.
Cooking in cast iron is different from seasoning cast iron and cooking in stainless steel or even a non-stick pan. Cast iron can handle high temperatures, retain heat well, and has multiple numerous benefits.
You just need to be careful when handling iron cookware at high temperatures, adding oil into them will further increase the danger levels.
How often do I need to season cast iron?
The first seasoning is absolutely important and you want to be sure it is well seasoned before it is ever used as that would determine its longevity and durability. After this, you can reseason it only when necessary, although regular use will keep it seasoned.
If you only use your cast iron cookware sparingly then you must make sure it is well-cleaned and completely dry before storing it.
You should reseason it only when you see any signs of corrosion.
How to season a cast iron grill?
Seasoning a cast iron grill is similar to seasoning a cast iron pan or pot, there’s only a minute difference between both processes.
Seasoning is a time-consuming process, but it’s worth the stress because it protects your cookware and gives food a great aroma and flavor.
Here’s how to season a cast iron grill:
- Heat your oven to 200°F and warm up the grates for about 15-18 minutes
- Using insulated oven gloves, remove the grates from the oven and increase the temperature to 450°F
- Use either a paper towel or a microfiber cloth to coat each grate with a thin layer of any oil you choose
- Place the grates back in the oven for 45 to 60 minutes at a high baking temperature so the oil can bond with it
- Allow your grates to cool for at least 1 hour and then repeat the entire process 3 to 5 times more
Reseasoning periodically is easier and faster, so far your grill is well maintained and cleaned through regular use.
What temperature do I use to season my cast-iron skillet?
Your oil needs to hit high heat in order to bond to your pan and provide a smooth, non-stick coating.
Place your oiled cast-iron pan into an oven and heat to 450°F, then leave it there for 45-60 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave your pan in the oven to cool down to achieve a better season and avoid touching the burning hot cast iron.
So, What can damage a cast iron skillet? The following factors can damage a cast iron skillet:
- Soaking it or leaving it in the dishwasher for extended periods of time
- Overheating your cast iron skillet
- Dropping it on hard surfaces
- Improper cleaning
- Storage in areas with no airflow
- Improper seasoning
Why is my cast iron black when I wipe?
They are most likely carbon deposits which occur due to overheating of fats and oils.
Using oil with a low smoke point will carbonize at high temperatures and cause residue from the pores of your pan to rub off onto your food.
So, should you oil cast iron after every use? Yes, oil casting iron after each use will ensure the seasoning remains for quality cooking and keeps your cast iron cookware in good condition.
You can also season your cast iron cookware in the oven. This method adds a more thorough layer of seasoning onto the entire pan, strengthening the bond to the iron.
What cannot be cooked in a cast iron skillet?
Foods you should never cook in a cast iron skillet
- Highly acidic foods
- Sticky Desserts (Unless your pan is properly seasoned)
- Delicate Fish
Can you leave water in a cast iron pan?
You can soak the pan for a little time, but don’t let the cast iron sit in water too long or it will start to rust. Always make sure you dry your cast iron pan quickly if you wash it in water to prevent it from rusting.
Why is cast iron not good for cooking?
Cast iron pans can leach a sizable amount of iron into your food which can exceed dietary intake and be unsafe for your health. Note that highly-acidic foods will contribute to much more leaching while an old, heavily-seasoned pan will reduce leaching to the barest minimum compared to a newer one.
Does vinegar damage cast iron?
A little amount for sauce or deglazing is alright, but emptying a significant amount of wine or vinegar undiluted straight into the pan will damage your cookware and your health.
In conclusion- Which oil is best to season your cast iron skillet?
Oil and cast iron cookware are virtually inseparable. Choosing the right oil is such an important part of the cast iron seasoning process, so you need to do your research beforehand.
These are the best cast-iron seasoning options. You can’t go wrong with any option.
While science tells us to look for oils with higher concentrations of unsaturated fats and high smoke points, professional chefs often have a different opinion.
What works for me might not really suit you or be to your liking, so the choice is yours.
All oils have their pros and cons, just be sure to apply very thin layers of whichever oil you choose, and heat your pan past the oil’s smoke point.