All well-maintained cast-iron pans will become more nonstick with time. While you might think this will take years, we found a significant difference in our pans after just a few weeks of regular use in the test kitchen. However, as we noted in our equipment testing, even new preseasoned skillets are not always 100% nonstick when you first cook with them, and a well-seasoned skillet will still become less nonstick without proper maintenance, so it’s important to treat your cast-iron skillet with care. Properly maintaining the seasoning on your skillet begins with properly cleaning it. Here are a few guidelines for keeping your pan in optimal shape (these guidelines are for traditional cast-iron skillets; enameled skillets can be treated more like other pots and pans).
How to Season Cast Iron
- While the skillet is still warm, wipe it clean with paper towels to remove excess food bits and oil.
- Rinse the skillet under hot running water, scrubbing with a brush or nonabrasive scrub pad to remove traces of food. Use a small amount of soap if you like, but make sure to rinse it all off.
- Dry the skillet thoroughly (do not let it drip-dry) and put it back on the burner over medium-low heat until all traces of moisture disappear (this keeps rusting at bay). Never put a wet cast-iron skillet away or stack anything on top of a skillet that hasn’t been properly dried.
- Add 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable oil to the warm, dry skillet and wipe the interior with a wad of paper towels until it is lightly covered with oil.
- Continue to rub oil into the skillet, replacing the paper towels as needed, until the skillet looks dark and shiny and does not have any remaining oil residue.
- Turn off the heat and allow the skillet to cool completely before putting it away.
How Can I Tell If My Skillet is Well Seasoned?
A well-seasoned skillet should have a smooth, dark black, semiglossy finish. It should not be sticky or greasy to the touch. It will not have any rusty, dull, or dry patches. One of the easiest ways we’ve found for testing the seasoning in your skillet is to cook a fried egg. If your skillet is well seasoned, you should not experience any major sticking.
Minor Seasoning Repairs
You can perform a simple touch-up on a pan with small areas of damaged seasoning by heating up the skillet over medium-high heat and repeatedly wiping it with a wad of paper towels dipped in vegetable oil (hold the towels with tongs to protect yourself) until the surface looks dark black and semiglossy but isn’t sticky or greasy to the touch.