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The Best Oil to Season a Cast Iron Skillet | What Size Cast Iron Skillet for Steaks?

The Best Oil to Season a Cast Iron Skillet | What Size Cast Iron Skillet for Steaks?

Gone are the days of non-stick or Teflon pans to cook your food! Cast iron is the way to go for a quality, non-toxic cooking method. Not only are they long-lasting, but they prepare your food without allowing potentially cancerous chemicals to seep into your fresh foods. Just one thing, you need to know the best oil to season cast iron with and exactly what size skillet to use when cooking foods like steaks.

While cooking with cast iron makes for delicious food that is nutritious and flavorful, it’s important to know what is the best oil to season a cast iron skillet with to ensure your skillet improves with age and is long-lasting!

Some cast iron skillets will come pre-seasoned, but if not, dig into this article to get all the tips on the best oil to season cast iron! 

But before we talk about what is the best oil to season a cast iron skillet, let’s discuss why you need to season a cast iron skillet in the first place, what size cast iron skillet for steaks, and answer the question, “Can you use a cast iron skillet on a campfire?:”

Alright, let’s get into it! 

Why do you Need to Season a Cast Iron Skillet?

So what does it even mean to season the cast iron skillet? 

Seasoning refers to the process of adding a layer of baked-on, carbonized oil to the surface of the pan that acts as a hard coating. This process is needed to protect your skillet. 

“Seasoning” with oil helps form a natural, easy-release cooking surface that basically acts as a nonstick pan (without all the junk!) even for super sticky foods, like eggs.

I think we can all agree there is nothing worse than breaking a sweat while scraping dried egg off your pan after each use…

Yes, the worst!

When you properly season your skillet, cast irons can be used for many cooking methods without spending hours scrubbing afterward.🤯 Oh, and they last A LONG TIME and are SUPER AFFORDABLE! (You may even pass it down to your great-grandchildren!🙂)

Not only does seasoning the pan help with the ease of cookng, but it also prevents the pan from rusting! This is something that can easily occur if cast iron is not seasoned properly. 

Here’s the best part about the cast iron after you season it… The more you use it, the better and more “seasoned” the pan gets, which continues to extend the pan’s life and improve the quality of your cooking! 

Have we convinced you to pitch your nonstick pans yet? Hopefully, but if you’re still feeling intimidated, keep reading. We will break it down easily for you. 

Prepping a skillet and using best oil to season cast iron

What is the Best Way to Season a Cast Iron Skillet?

Seasoning your cast iron skillet can seem time-consuming, but it’s really fairly simple. It doesn’t have to do with using herbs or other spices, but as mentioned, involves heating oil to the point where it forms to the pan through a process called polymerization

Here is the best way to season a cast iron skillet:

Step 1: Wash and Dry Your Pan

Just like when you bring a new pair of clothes home from the store, you want to start from scratch by thoroughly washing and drying. Washing and drying your cast iron before starting the seasoning process helps ensure the oil hardens properly. 

We can’t emphasize enough that the pan’s surface should be completely dry. 

Step 2: Rub It All Over With a Thin Layer of Oil

Once your skillet is dry, rub a thin layer of oil all over the inside and outside of the pan, including the handle. 

Don’t worry we are about to answer your burning question, “what is the best oil to season a cast iron skillet.”

So keep readin’!

Step 3: Buff the Skillet

Once you’ve rubbed the oil all over the pan, you want to buff it out so the pan doesn’t look greasy. Use a paper towel to pan down the excess oil. The oil should just coat the metal to the point that the pan basically looks dry. It should not be dripping!

Too much oil can cause it to pool and harden during the cooking process. Sometimes it can even become sticky, so more oil is not better in this situation.

Step 4: Bake the Skillet in the Oven

Heat the oiled pan at 350°F for 45-60 minutes. Be sure to keep the oven fan on to prevent excess smoke! We recommend baking it upside down and lining the below rack with foil to catch oil drippings. 

Once you complete this, turn off the oven and allow the pan to cool in the oven completely. 

Experts recommend repeating this process several more times for optimal seasoning. 

What is the Best Oil to Season a Cast Iron Skillet

Okay, the question of the hour. What is the best oil to season a cast iron skillet?

There are differing opinions out there across the board on the best and worst oils to use for seasoning a cast iron skillet. However, based on the smoke point and health benefits of the oil you use, many oils are much better than others and will make for a better cooking experience with your skillet post-seasoning.

As functional dietitians, we always want to recommend the healthiest options for consuming and, in this case, seasoning your cast iron.  

Similar to oils you cook with or drizzle on your salad, you want to be concerned about the ability of the polyunsaturated oil to create reactive oxygen species when heated. Reactive oxygen species are a type of unstable molecule that contains oxygen and that easily reacts with other molecules to damage cells. 

Oxidative stress such as this that, which is associated with damaged cells, is often implicated in various disease states such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer, neurodegeneration, and aging.[1] 

Here is the Best Oil to Season Cast Iron:

1. Nutiva Organic Steam-Refined Avocado Oil

Avocado oil is the best oil to season cast iron for many reasons! It has a smoke point of over 500 degrees, especially refined avocado oil. 

We love cold-pressed oils because they have higher nutritional value compared to refined oils, but they don’t tend to tolerate heat as well. So, when choosing the best oil to season cast iron, choose a refined avocado oil such as Nutiva Organic Steam-Refined Avocado OIl.

Here are a few reasons to pick avocado oil for seasoning your skillet:

  1. Multi-purpose omega 3 rich fat: We are all about convenience and being resourceful over here! Using avocado oil for seasoning is great, but it also makes for a fantastic omega 3-rich fat that can be used for sauteeing veggies, baking desserts, or as an oil for homemade salad dressings. Avocado oil contains oleic acid, which has been linked to risk reduction for cardiovascular diseases and lowered LDL levels.[2] 

Versatility is everything, and if you can use healthy fats that actually support fat loss, you should go for it!

Overall, avocado oil, whether you’re consuming it through the cooking process or in your food, is a fantastic food source to reduce inflammation!

  1. High smoke point: As mentioned, avocado oil, especially when refined, has a very high smoke point. This can prevent oil oxidation into reactive oxygen species (aka cell-damaging particles!). A high smoke point is what we want for seasoning a skillet or for cooking, and to have such a favorable fatty acid profile that supports health makes it our number 1 choice! 

There are a lot of great avocado oils on the market, but when it comes to seasoning and cooking, we recommend using a certified organic and properly refined version such as the Nutiva Organics Steam-Refined Avocado Oil.

We particularly like the avocado oil from Nutiva because in addition to being organic, it is “Avo-Conscious Oil” meaning it is sourced from traceable organic farms in Ethiopia where fair, transparent pricing is provided to farmers.

2. Dr. Bronner’s – Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is the next best oil to season cast iron next to avocado oil. Coconut oil is also multipurpose and versatile! We do recommend, however, to be sure to use a thin layer of coconut oil when you start out. Since it’s saturated fat, it will struggle to polymerize properly with too much oil. 

Coconut oil also has unique health properties that make it a desirable oil to season your cast iron with. 

  1. Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs): MCTs are a great source of fat to work into the diet! While coconut oil is technically a saturated fat, which gets a bad rep, coconut oil contains MCTs, a type of fat that is metabolized quickly for energy! We love MCT oil in our smoothies and shakes as well! Most health benefits are found in omega 3-rich fats, such as avocado oil, but MCTs can have a place in a healthy diet when consumed in low to moderate amounts. 
  1. High smoke point: You’ve probably noticed a theme here, high smoke point! Refined coconut oil also has a high smoke point, which can prevent the production of reactive oxygen species that can make their way into your food. 

When it comes to coconut oil, we’re big fans of Dr. Bronner’s – Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, which is sourced from Sri Lanka because it is Regenerative Organic Farming Certified, meaning a holistic approach to agriculture was used with fairness to farmers and workers, proper animal welfare is used, and both soil health and land management are prioritized. Regenerative Organic Certified is a step up from traditional organic certifications.

What Oil Should NOT Be Used on Cast Iron?

We answered the question, what is the best oil to season a cast iron skillet with, but what about what oil should NOT be used on cast iron? 

Now, many may argue this, but for the reasons listed below, here are a few oils we would discourage from using to season your skillet:

Canola Oil

We are first and foremost concerned about the health implications of using certain oils for seasoning. While many blogs and websites will recommend using canola oil as the best oil to season a cast iron skillet, we caution against that from a health standpoint. 

Canola oil is usually heated and processed with chemical solvents such as hexane at very high temperatures, and in the process, it gives off reactive oxygen species that have been linked to increases in inflammation and chronic health conditions.[3] 

But isn’t canola oil marketed as a safe and “heart-healthy oil”?

First of all, canola oil is very cheap to grow and harvest with the process of genetic modification aka it makes food much more profitable. So maybe you can see why this oil is promoted more often, even from health organizations. Money money money!

And yes, canola oil contains omega 3 fatty acids, but again, because of the deodorization process, those omega-2 fatty acids become rancid easily during the processing, removing many of these beneficial oils and can even turn the healthier oils into trans fat! [4] 

So while canola oil may work well for seasoning your cast iron, we would not consider it the most health-conscious option as it’s a more inflammatory food. Since there are other oils available that do just as good of a job, it’s why we rank them over canola oil. 

Flaxseed Oil

Another common oil used to season cast iron is flaxseed oil. It’s popular for its ability to dry and polymerize well, but similar to canola oil, it can generate reactive oxygen species when heated, which has been linked to cellular damage and other diseases. [5] 

So if we can avoid exposure, that’s ideal!

Many people also report the flaxseed oil flaking off of the cast iron after several uses, requiring you to repeat the seasoning process more often than you should need to.

Bacon Grease or Lard

We would also recommend avoiding bacon grease or lard to season your cast iron if you’re not cooking with the cast iron multiple times per day. This likely applies to the majority of people nowadays because we aren’t spending all day in the kitche..

You might be thinking, “my grandmother always recommended bacon grease as the best oil to season cast iron!” 

And yes, your grandparents may have claimed to use nothing but bacon grease or lard to as the best oil to season a cast iron, but they were also spending a large portion of their day in the kitchen preparing breakfast, lunch, and dinner! 

The reality is that most of us aren’t using cast iron skillets that often, at least the majority of people. Therefore, unless you are using your cast iron 3 times per day and never storing it away in a cool cabinet, that lard or grease may go rancid on you. Yuck!

What Size Cast Iron Skillet for Steaks is Best? 

Steak lovers, put your hands in the air!

We all love a good steak, and making it restaurant worthy at home becomes possible when you cook them in your cast iron skillet! Now that you’ve properly seasoned your cast iron skillet, it’s time to put it to use. 

Using a cast iron skillet for steak is great because the cast iron will cook at an even temperature throughout the pan, which is crucial for cooking a quality filet! 

Now, what size cast iron skillet for steaks is best?

Most sources will recommend 10-in. or 12-in. skillets. If you’re looking to make one steak that’s 8-10 oz, a 10-in. skillet would work, whereas a 12-in skillet would comfortably fit two steaks. 

Here are our recommendations if you’re wondering what size cast iron skillet for steaks:

The Victoria 10-inch cast iron skillet- the best for those wondering what size cast iron skillet for steaks

1.Victoria 10-Inch Cast-Iron Skillet, Pre-Seasoned

  • Top-rated by many cooking experts
  • Deeper pour spouts than other brands reduces spilling & makes pouring sauces easier
  • Pre-seasoned with non-GMO oil

When wondering what size cast iron skillet for steaks, what could be better than buying from a legendary company that has been making them since 1939, with a pan with over 11,000 reviews on Amazon, averaging 4.7/5 stars?

Well, how about a pan that comes pre-seasoned with non-GMO, kosher-certified flaxseed oil and is both PTFE and PFOA-free (AKA the harmful coatings often used in non-stick cookware).

Adding to the ease of use with the Victoria 10-Inch Cast-Iron Skillet in addition to being pre-seasoned, is the fact that it also has dip-free sprouts for pouring sauces from the pan when needed.

FYI this skillet is really popular and may be out of stock. If so, the 12″ Pre-Seasoned Cast-Iron Skillet by Victoria is more often in stock.

2. Lodge 10 1/4-Inch Pre-Seasoned Skillet

Lodge 101/4" cast iron skillet, the perfect size cast iron skillet for steaks
  • Made by a company in business making skillets since 1900
  • Lodge was the first company to offer pre-seasoned skillets

You might think that having over 11,000 positive reviews on Amazon is impressive until you come across a brand with over 62,000!

Lodge was the first company to offer pre-seasoned skillets and is the real OG when it comes to making cast iron skillets.

We don’t love that they pre-season their skillets with vegetable oil, but if that doesn’t matter to you, this is a great pick.

Soi, when you want to know what size cast iron skillet for steaks, consider the Lodge 10 1/4″ Pre-Seasoned Skillet or, for a little more room and 👉if you want to season it yourself, consider the Lodge 12″ Skillet with Red Silicone Hot Handle Holder.👈

3. Lodge 12-inch Cast-Iron (NOT Pre-Seasoned 👍)

Lodge Skillet- a great skillet if you're wondering can you use a cast iron skillet on a campfire
  • NOT pre-seasoned, so you can season it with an organic, healthier oil such as Nutiva Organic Steam-Refined Avocado OIl.
  • Great size allows for easy use for various cooking from the oven to the stove or over a campfire!

We LOVE doing things ourselves. Why? Because often if you really want things done well, you have to do it yourself.

Seasoning your skillet is no different. If you want to season your skillet with the healthiest of oils and make sure that its not only seasoned with an oil that is non-GMO, but also one that is organic and full of healthy fats, then you have to season it yourself. Luckily for you, we covered the exact process of how to do that and its super simple!

When you choose to season your skillet yourself, not only will it be seasoned in the most healthy way, but you can also take pride inb doing it yourself, and the satisfaction this brings is highly valuable!

“Can You Use a Cast Iron Skillet on a Campfire?

Where are the campers at?!

If you’re asking the question, “Can you use a cast iron skillet on a campfire?” the answer is YES! Its time to ditch your favorite protein bars and cook over an open flame in the glory of nature!

Cast iron is arguably the strongest and most durable sturdiest metal, making it virtually indestructible.

It is a phenomenal option for food prep on your camping trip. It can be used over an open campfire, regardless of the consistency of the flame or hot coals, and the skillet retains heat and spreads it evenly across the pan. Having a pan that is sturdy and spreads heat evenly is exactly what you need when camping in the wilderness. So, fear not if you’re worrying if you can use a cast iron skillet on a campfire, not only can you use it, but it is perfect for this type of cooking!

The Last Word on Seasoning A Cast Iron Skillet 

We hope you feel confident to take on the task of seasoning your first cast iron skillet! We’ve worked hard to answer the questions, “What is the best oil to season a cast iron skillet? and “what size cast iron skillet for steaks”, but if you have any further questions, feel free to leave a comment below or email us, and we’ll be sure to answer your question.

Once your cast iron skillet is seasoned, be sure to focus on preparing delicious anti-inflammatory recipes and cooking with the top anti-inflammatory foods whenever possible.

Lastly, if you’re looking to learn more about how to optimize your health in addition to properly seasoning your skillet, be sure to download our free 3-day anti-inflammatory meal plan.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3454471/
  2. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/JAHA.121.024014
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12442909/
  4. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11746-008-1328-5
  5. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2012/936486/

About The Author

Abby Grimm

Abby is a functionally trained Registered Dietitian. She received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Dayton and completed her Master of Science in Nutrition from Case Western Reserve University, where she is an adjunct instructor. Abby has been an athlete her entire life, but never truly discovered her potential until she dialed in her nutrition from a whole-foods approach. As a high school athlete and into her college career often experienced fatigue, discomfort, and nagging injuries that held her back from excelling despite trying to eat properly. Throughout her functional nutrition education and competitive involvement in the sport of Crossfit, Abby began a more holistic lifestyle, which has significantly improved her performance and overall well-being. Abby enjoys sharing her knowledge of functional sports nutrition to help improve the lives of active individuals.

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