Seasoned Cast Iron Cookware

Here at FeLion, we take the finish work of our castings pretty seriously.  The finish we develop onto our castings is an optional choice on each customer's order, and it's called "seasoning" in cookware language.

A pile of raw, unseasoned skillets, with Rhode Island on top ( shown here seasoned! ).

A pile of raw, unseasoned skillets, with Rhode Island on top ( shown here seasoned! ).

Seasoning a skillet is no flash in the pan, and it also has nothing to do with adding salts or spices or flavoring your skillets. What we are actually doing is creating a naturally protective non-stick layer to the skillet's surface using organic flax seed oil and high heat, turning the once fluid oil into a baked-on coat of dry and smooth cooking surface.

This transition of oil turning into a thin non stick layer onto your skillet is called "polymerization", and it's a process that takes 8-12 hours to successfully achieve the end result of a coveted matte black finish, similar to that of a well used skillet. If you have a gunky old pan, or just want to brush up the seasoning layer on your relatively clean skillet, these are the steps to follow for getting a wonderfully coated and seasoned cast iron skillet :

Seasoning Your Skillet

Step 1: If you are starting this process right after using it to cook on, simply wipe and wash your pan with warm water and a wee bit of soap to start. If you have an extremely rusty or gunky older pan, you'll need to first clean it thoroughly with a metal scrubby, wire wheel, detergent or possibly the e-tank method if you want a completely perfect raw pan to start with, which is the goal.  Dry the clean pan thoroughly over a flame or in the oven at 200 degrees to make sure it’s bone dry. This also helps to open up the pores of the iron in preparation for accepting the oil and developing a good hard seasoning.

Step 2: Drizzle a little flax seed oil into the warm dry pan and use a brush or paper towel to spread it around everywhere on the pan, inside and out, don’t forget the handle too!  After you get oil into all the nooks and cranny’s, wipe it ALL OFF with a new towel or cotton cloth until it looks dry again. The micro layer of oil is all you need on each layer of oil. Too much oil will cause it to puddle or run, and will create a giant, hard to clean off blemish on the pan. Aim for even, micro thin coats of oil.

Step 3: Put your pan upside down into the oven, turn the oven up to its highest baking temperature ( 450-500 degrees F), and allow the cold pan to preheat with the oven.

Step 4: Set the timer for 1 hour and turn on your kitchen fan. While the pan starts to hit the critical temperature for polymerization (this temp. varies depending on the oil you are using), it will start to smoke and can fill your kitchen up fast if you don't provide some ventilation. This smoke *IS* the seasoning process, so stay calm and open some windows! 

Step 5: After the first hour, stop the oven and let the pan cool without opening the door (approximately 2 hours). If you peak into the oven, you'll probably notice right away that your pan is several shades darker, or sometimes it moves through a bronzy-red-brown color in it's first few coats, before it reaches the deep black that we're going after here.

Step 6: Repeat the processes from Step 2-4 again for a total of 6 times – yes, 6 TIMES !  This is the most ideal way to insure your pan will have the most even and hardest seasoning you’ve ever seen in an iron skillet!  Once you're done, you're ready to start cooking !! Keep your skillet up by following Step 2 after each meal, and just a little heat over a flame until it smokes a bit, will be an excellent maintenance routine to get into. 

A California skillet hangs happily on the wall, protected with a great seasoning to keep it safe in between special occasion use. 

A California skillet hangs happily on the wall, protected with a great seasoning to keep it safe in between special occasion use. 

This first seasoning is quite important for the future use and protection of any cast iron cookware, but it's also something that has the opportunity to get better over time with regular use and maintenance. When a new skillet is "born", it is actually grey in color, and highly susceptible to surface rust. We go through great lengths to finish grind, sand blast, clean, wash and season our castings before shipping them out to our customers, so that their long-term life span gets off to a great start. 

We had some friends from Lovely Ember Photography and Drift Journal come by the studio to document our process in action. Check it out here: 

Field Guide : Seasoning your Skillet the FeLion way

There are many different opinions and myths out there on how to properly season your cookware, but generally it's a pretty simple task that requires choosing your favorite oil, getting a heat source above 450 degrees, and a weekend of time to do the work.

After you successfully season your skillet, it's easy to maintain as long as you follow a quick ritual of cleaning, drying and re-oiling your skillet every now and again after the meal.  Whether you vow to never touch your cast iron under water, or you are a regular skillet washer that uses soap to clean it up, the best part of cast iron cookware is that you can always re-season and start over in case of a tragedy.  It's pretty hard to truly mess up your skillet, unless it breaks or warps from thermal shock. 

Whether you want us to season your skillet order, or you want to give it a try yourself, having cast iron cookware is a beautiful and healthy investment to make towards your culinary tastes. We hope to be part of your collection and heirlooms in the future!