Whether you’ve brought a brand new skillet or picked up an old one, it’s important to break it in the right way.
Yes, that even applies to one that’s supplied “pre-seasoned”!
All manner of bumps and scrapes can occur between production, packing, shipping and delivery to your home. It’s much better to start things off fresh in your own kitchen.
It’s really important you make the effort to break your skillet in as well.
Without a protective seasoning layer, you’ll not only lose the benefits of non-stick cast iron cooking, you’ll also risk rust developing. I’ve got some tips for dealing with that further down the page.
So, how do you break in a cast iron skillet the right way? You just need to follow some very simple steps:
- Step 1: Pre-heat your oven to 350F / 177C
- Step 2: Make sure your oven-safe cast iron skillet is free of any surface dirt, rinse it, and then dry it thoroughly.
- Step 3: Grab a piece of paper kitchen towel and use it to spread a small amount of vegetable oil all over the cooking surface. The end result should be glossy, but not sticky to the touch.
- Step 4: Put your cast iron skillet in the oven, upside down, with a baking sheet underneath it to catch any dips!
- Step 5: Leave the skillet to bake at the preheated temperature for 45 minutes to an hour.
- Step 6: Switch the oven off, and wait for the pan to cool down completely before removing it.
Congratulations! You’ve now broken in your cast iron skillet, and you’re ready for your next cooking adventure!
Breaking in a new cast iron skillet is just the start, however. It’s important to maintain that seasoning surface over time as well.
Here are a few tips that are worth keeping in mind.
(If you want to explore more of my cookware content, take a look at the home cookware guide I have on the site.)
Keep A Natural Seasoning Layer
Let your love of cooking do the hard work of keeping your cast iron skillet in perfect working condition!
The best way to keep your cast iron skillet non-stick and rust-free is to simply cook fatty foods in it.
Got bacon to fry? Use your cast iron skillet rather than any other alternative you might have in your cookware collection.
Working with fatty foods will ensure that seasoning layer is maintained , just through the love you put into your cooking!
Avoid Soap For 12 Months
I recommend avoiding any kind of detergent on cast iron cookware for the first year of usage.
Just use hot water and a non-abrasive scrubber to clean up. This requires a little more elbow grease for the first year you use it, but the end result will be a much better, long-term seasoning effect.
Avoid Rust At All Costs
Rust is the real enemy of an otherwise well broken-in cast iron skillet.
After washing, make sure the skillet has been dried thoroughly – I mean bone dry!
It’s also worth having a dedicated cupboard for all of your cast iron cookware. Pick a spot that’s far away from the stovetop, and other sources of moisture or humidity. Make sure you keep that cupboard as dry as possible too.
Dealing With Rust
I’ve got a whole article about handling rusty cast iron cookware elsewhere on Viva Flavor.
The main thing to know is that this is the one occasion where it’s OK to use steel wool.
You have to get rid of the rust, after all, even if that means the end of the seasoning layer you’ve worked so hard to maintain.
Just scrub it until all traces of rust have been removed from the surface, then simply repeat the seasoning steps I’ve outlined at the start of this guide.
If you’re struggling to get all the rust off, use the vinegar soak method in the article I’ve linked above.
Even with the best efforts it’s not always possible to save a deeply rusted cast iron skillet. It’s always worth trying before throwing it away though.
That should be everything you need to know about breaking in cast iron cookware! The steps are pretty simple to follow, and it’s a necessary part of owning this sort of skillet.
Try to cook fatty food on it whenever possible, and don’t forget to keep it as dry as possible, and stored away from sources of moisture.
Mark’s a lifelong food fanatic and spent ten years working as an entertainment journalist. He now combines his love of food, drink and writing as the founder and editor of Viva Flavor. Read more