A piece of cast iron cookware working to its highest potential needs to have its shiny non-stick surface – its “patina” in great shape all the time. To protect the iron from rust and also to be ready for cooking up a non-stick storm. But can you season cast iron with olive oil and if not why?
Olive oil can be used to season cast iron cookware. But olive oil’s smoking point is not high enough to chemically react or polymerize with cast iron to produce the non-stick surface that is required to successfully cook with cast iron. An oil with a higher smoking point like Flaxseed oil produces a better result.
After seasoning with the correct oil, you can go on to cook with olive oil. It will assist with maintaining a non-stick surface before the next thorough seasoning is required.
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What Is Cast Iron Cookware?
There are two types of cast-iron cookware available today.
Seasoned cast iron requires regular seasoning with oil to maintain its rust-free and non-stick surface. This cookware can be used on any heat source outdoor or indoor.
There is also an enameled cast iron that does not require seasoning but cannot be used on outdoor heat sources.
Cast iron cookware pieces are produced by pouring iron into a mold. Traditionally the piece was made in one piece, pot, and handle, for added strength.
Read more about the history of cast-iron cookware here
Types of Cast-Iron Cookware
Dutch ovens, skillets, saucepans, braisers, saucier, griddles, cake pans, wedge pans, woks, muffin pans, pizza pans, pancake pans, burger presses…
What Is Cast Iron Seasoning?
Seasoning is the layer on the outside finish of cast iron known as carbonized oil. Oil is used to protect cast iron and give the iron its smooth shiny black non-stick finish. Known as the “patina”.
Related read How Often Should Cast Iron Be Seasoned?
Oil is applied to the cast iron then baked with high heat and the process of polymerization takes place. In simple terms polymerization means that the iron and the oil react leaving a smooth non-stick finish.
After purchasing new seasoned cast iron cookware it is important to treat it as though it has no seasoning on it. The factory seasoning applied is minimal and only really protects the cast iron during storage and transit.
Related read Should I Buy Pre Seasoned Cast Iron?
Seasoning new cast iron before its first use gives the owner a head start in keeping the beautiful black shiny surface.
Related read How to Season a New Cast for the First Time
Is Olive Oil No Good for Seasoning Cast Iron – Why?
So let’s get two things straight before we deep dive into the subject of the best oil for seasoning cast iron.
Firstly, pure olive oil is healthy for cooking. You will also see great benefits of using olive oil on an ongoing basis when cooking. Because it will absolutely assist in maintaining the seasoning on your cast iron.
Secondly, olive oil is not a great choice for a thorough, or regular, seasoning of cast iron cookware that is required to keep the non-stick surface.
This is because of the smoking point of the oil itself. The oil and the cast iron cannot react and produce polymerization. So the seasoning process has not been carried out effectively.
Olive oils smoking average smoking point is around 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Smoke points are important because if the smoking point is not reached the cast iron will end up sticky and not non-stick.
You will have to recommence the seasoning process by removing the sticky mess and starting the seasoning process will have to start over.
Related read Cast Iron Sticky After Seasoning: Easy Fixes
What Is the Best Oil for Seasoning Cast Iron?
You are probably saying to yourself “what can I season my cast iron with?
To understand definitively what oil you should use for seasoning cast iron you need to understand:-
- An oils smoking point – the higher the better
- Not all oils are the same quality
Oils that appear healthy looking and have the words light, virgin, or unrefined on the label have been modified and their smoking point will be affected.
Oils with the words “virgin” and “light” appear gourmet and have had modifications and make these oils great for cooking and dressings etc.
Pure oils without additives are the best as they retain their smoking point – powers…
Pure oils also have their drawbacks even though they have high smoking points. The iron can become rancid, sticky – just to mention two…
Oils with the highest smoking point are:-
1. Refined Grapeseed Oil (which I am currently using) has a smoking point of up to 480 degrees Fahrenheit
2. Flaxseed Oil – a very popular choice with a smoking point of up to 225 degrees Fahrenheit
3. Soybean – refined and high oleic soybeans smoking point is 450 degrees Fahrenheit
Note the difference in the heat threshold
Soybean – cold-pressed “virgin” and “unrefined” smoking point is 320 degrees Fahrenheit
4. Purpose-made cast iron seasoning – a number of leaders in cast iron manufacturing make a go-to cast iron seasoning formula.
Industry leaders in the production of cast-iron cookware Lodge for decades recommended any oil that has a high smoke point.
Recommended Reading – My in-depth article that deep dives into seasoning cast iron. It includes in-depth explanations about various types of oils and where they should or should not be used for seasoning cast iron. Best Oil for Seasoning Cast Iron
Frequently Asked Questions
A few F.A.Q.’s answered for your quick reference.
Why is cast iron sticky after seasoning it?
This has happened because there was either too much oil applied to the surface of the cast iron. Or the oils smoking point was not reached during the seasoning process.
How can you remove this sticky oil? Invert your cookware in the oven on a top shelf and bake at 500 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour.
Make sure you place a tray or foil on a lower shelf under the cookware to catch the oil that will drip off the pot.
How do you keep food from sticking to cast iron?
- Keep the iron well seasoned
- Heat your cast iron up using low to medium heat before adding oil, heat for 30 – 60 seconds before adding your ingredients
CHECK OUT My list of the Best Cast Iron Skillet Cookbooks
To Finish – Can You Season Cast Iron With Olive Oil?
Cookware made from cast iron is amongst the most practical and sort after pieces of cookware in the world. Our ancestors have been using cast-iron cookware for hundreds of years.
The choice of oils for some seems to become more confusing as time goes on. Annoyingly, what oil is healthy and what oil is non-healthy has been thrown into the mix.
Basically, the outside layer of the cast iron needs to be protected from the elements of water, humidity, and heat.
Oil with a high smoke point should be used to protect it, in turn, you will have a non-stick surface to prepare a meal upon.
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