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How to Season a Pan

How to Season a Pan

Seasoning a pan makes the surface non-stick, which helps you reduce the amount of butter, oil, or fat you use when cooking. A seasoned pan is also easy to clean and doesn't rust as quickly, which gives it a longer lifespan. This guide will explain which types of materials need to be seasoned, how to season each type of material, and how to care for your seasoned pans.

What Types of Pans Need to Be Seasoned?

Not every type of frying pan or skillet requires seasoning. Below is a list of the types of frying pans that need to be seasoned. Additionally, you can learn how to season each type of pan by clicking on it below.

How to Season a Pan for the First Time

While some frying pans and skillets come pre-seasoned, many do not, so your first step should be to season the pan. Here are the steps you need to follow to season a pan for the first time.

Chef washing a cast iron skillet in sink with soapy water and wash cloth

1. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Thoroughly wash your new pans in hot, soapy water. This helps remove the coating of wax or oil that manufacturers may apply to protect the pan during shipping.

Note: You may need to use a stainless steel scrubber to clean cast iron skillets and heavy-duty carbon steel pans, while tin-plate and hard-coat aluminum pans will only require a dish towel to clean.

3. Rinse your pan and dry it with a clean towel.

Chef placing a seasoned cast iron pan into a preheated oven

4. Place the pan in your preheated oven for a few minutes before continuing to make sure that it is completely dry

5. Once your pan or skillet has dried completely, you can begin seasoning it. You can learn how to season the different types of pans and skillets below to complete the first seasoning.

Additionally, there are multiple ways to season a pan. We will show you how to season a pan in the oven as well as seasoning pans on the stove, so you can use the method that best matches your needs and the type of pan you're using.

How to Season Cast Iron Skillets and Pans

Seasoning cast iron cookware is essential because it helps form a non-stick surface on the cookware and creates flavor that will build every time you season the pan or skillet. There are many reasons to love cast iron and taking the time to season your cast iron pans properly will ensure that they will continue to serve you well. Here are step-by-step instructions for seasoning cast iron pans in the oven.

Seasoning Cast Iron Pans Step by Step

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Apply a thin coat of vegetable shortening or lard to the interior and exterior of the cast iron pan. Coat all of the areas except the handle.
  3. Place a lined baking sheet on the bottom rack of your oven to catch any shortening or lard that drips down.
  4. Put your coated cast iron pan or skillet on the middle rack.
  5. Leave the pan in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour.
  6. Remove the pan, wipe it dry with a clean cloth, and let it cool completely.

Tip: Never put cold water in a hot or warm cast iron pan because it will cause the pan to warp or crack.

How to Season Carbon Steel Pans

Carbon steel pans are durable and prevent hot spots from forming, which makes them an excellent option for foodservice establishments. Additionally, seasoning carbon steel pans helps ensure a non-stick surface. Below is a step-by-step guide to seasoning carbon steel pans, but you can also use this process for seasoning carbon steel woks.

Note: Seasoning a carbon steel pan, paella pan, or wok can create smoke, so be sure that your kitchen is well ventilated before beginning.

Seasoning Carbon Steel Pans and Woks Step by Step

  1. Place your carbon steel pan on a range top burner over medium-high heat until hot.
  2. Wisps of smoke will start to rise from the pan, and it will change color to a brownish hue.
  3. Add a small amount of vegetable shortening or lard to the pan, wiping the shortening or lard all over the pan with a pair of tongs and a clean rag.
  4. Once the pan is thoroughly coated, place the pan back on the burner over high heat.
  5. Heat the pan until the fat begins to liquefy.
  6. Remove the carbon steel pan from the heat and wipe away any excess oil and let the pan cool.
  7. Once completely cool, wipe the pan or wok clean with a dry paper towel.
  8. Repeat these steps 2-3 more times for the best results.

Note: Carbon steel pans and woks are not dishwasher-safe, so be sure to always wash them by hand.

How to Season Hard-Coat Aluminum Pans

Hard-coat aluminum pans have been subjected to an electrolytic process, which makes these pans resistant to corrosion and very durable. To further protect your hard-coat aluminum pans, you can season them, which also makes their surface non-stick. Here is how to season hard-coat aluminum pans.

Seasoning Hard-Coat Aluminum Pans Step by Step

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Apply a thin coat of vegetable shortening or lard to the interior and exterior of your hard-coat aluminum pan.
  3. Place a lined baking sheet on the bottom rack of your oven.
  4. Put the hard-coat aluminum pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake between 15 and 20 minutes.
  5. Pull the pan out of the oven and wipe it dry with a clean cloth and let cool.
  6. Do not over-bake your hard-coat aluminum pans and do not wash off excess oil, simply wipe it off with a towel.
  7. You may need to season new pans 2-3 times until you reach the desired effect.

How to Season Tin Plate Pans

Tin-plate pans feature a thin sheet of stainless steel that is coated with tin. Tin plate's construction gives it excellent durability and corrosion resistance, which are key when working in a commercial kitchen. Seasoning tin plate pans helps ensure that they have a non-stick surface. Here is the process for seasoning tin-plate pans.

Seasoning Tin Plate Pans Step by Step

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Apply a thin coat of vegetable shortening or lard to the inside and outside of the pan. Coat all areas except the handle of the pan.
  3. Place a lined baking sheet on the bottom rack of your oven.
  4. Put the pan on the middle rack of the oven.
  5. Bake your tin plate pans for 15-20 minutes.
  6. Remove the pans from the oven, wipe them dry with a clean cloth, and let them cool completely.
  7. A seasoned tin plate pan should have a dark brown or black color.
  8. You may need to season your pans 2-3 times before reaching the desired seasoning.

Note: Tin pans will rust if they're refrigerated, soaked in water, or left unseasoned in damp environments. Be sure to season your pans regularly and store them properly to prevent damage.

How to Clean a Seasoned Pan

If your pans have been seasoned properly, clean up should be relatively simple. Here are some tips for cleaning a seasoned cast iron, carbon steel, aluminum, or tin frying pan.

  • Clean your pans while they're still warm to make the process easier.
  • All you need to clean a seasoned pan is hot water and a sponge, you should never use harsh chemicals.
  • Only use cloths or sponges to clean seasoned pans as abrasive scouring pads may scrub away some of the seasoning.
  • To deal with hard stuck-on stains, use a mild scouring pad only.
  • After cleaning a seasoned pan, re-apply a thin layer of vegetable oil to the pan.
  • Store your seasoned frying pans in a cool, dry place to prevent rust.

Reseasoning Your Pans

As you use your seasoned frying pans, the seasoning will start to wear down. So, you'll need to season your pans regularly to ensure they maintain their non-stick surface.

How Do You Know When to Reseason Pans?

There are several signs that your frying pans need to be reseasoned. Here are a few clear indicators.

  • When food starts to stick to the surface.
  • The surface of the pan starts to look gray.
  • Rust is starting to form on the surface.

Additionally, you can design a schedule to season your pans regularly to ensure that they never lose their non-stick surface.

Chef using tongs to hold a towel to season a steel pan on an oven burner

How to Reseason Frying Pans

The process of reseasoning pans is exactly the same as seasoning pans for the first time. Simply follow the instructions listed above for the specific type of pan you're reseasoning minus washing the pans in soapy water, which only needs to be completed on new pans.

These steps may be slightly different if your frying pans have started to rust. In this case, scrub the rust away with steel wool or a powerful abrasive and then clean any of the metal dust away. Once this is done, you can use the steps above to finish seasoning the pan.

Seasoning your pans is essential for extending their lifespan and to make their surfaces non-stick. Be sure to season your frying pans regularly to keep them properly maintained and protected.

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