The fear around using and cooking in cast iron is very real for those who do not use it. But those who do use it will share with anyone who will listen about the wonderful food they prepare in their cast iron pots, pans, skills, grills, and of course the mighty Dutch oven.
The truth is that cast iron can withstand extremely high temperatures so it is great for searing meat and giving us those rustic full-bodied flavors we all love. Not to mention the crusty exterior of a very juicy piece of meat – right? So should you buy pre-seasoned cast iron?
All pieces of cast iron leave the manufacturer with light seasoning to stop them from rusting before it reaches you. You will find it very difficult to find a piece of cast-iron cookware that does not have some kind of seasoning on it. So you will be purchasing pre-seasoned iron.
Cleaning and re-seasoning the iron is a best practice before use as you do not know what that pre-seasoned coating is made of.
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What Is the Difference Between Seasoned and Unseasoned Cast Iron?
Seasoned cast iron is when the iron has a shiny black patina that has built up over time by using the iron regularly. The oils on the surface of the cast iron harden and protect the surface and form the patina and this is what gives cast iron its natural non-stick properties.
Pre-seasoned or unseasoned is how the cast-iron is presented when unboxed. The manufacturer protects the cast iron with a light protective coating – not necessarily oil.
It depends upon where in the world the cast iron has been manufactured as well as the quality of the materials used in the manufacturing process.
Is Pre Seasoned Cast Iron Ready to Use?
Yes, the manufacturers say that your cast iron is “ready to use”. But the truth is that most pieces have only been lightly seasoned.
Also, you do not know what they have been seasoned with. Some say the protective coating is water-soluble shellac.
We know what shellac is and I for one wash everything before use.
Not only cookware but clothing and bedlinen – pretty much anything that goes in my mouth or near my skin.
So while you can use it as is the seasoning is so light your food will probably adhere to its surface and not taste great – unless you use gallons of oil.
The next test will be when you clean the new cast iron you will notice how dry and dull the iron is when it dries.
Fluff from drying cloth or paper towel will probably be left all over the surface as well.
This is a true indication that there is not much of a barrier protecting the iron against rust.
How Can You Tell If Cast Iron Is Seasoned?
You will see its shiny black patina. (Natural non-stick surface)
What Is the Black Patina on Cast-Iron?
The black patina is known as the seasoning that builds up upon cast iron through regular use. Making it non-stick.
How Do You Know When to Re-Season Cast Iron?
When food starts sticking to the bottom of your iron even if you use a generous amount of oil while cooking. When drying your cast iron will look dull, and dry and the patina will not be shiny.
How Many Times Should I Season a Cast Iron Skillet?
When you get new cast iron then again when you notice the iron looking dull or your food starts sticking to your cast iron. Extreme cases if you start to see rust growing on your iron.
What Oil Is Best for Seasoning Cast Iron (Skillets, Grills, Dutch Ovens)?
I have used any number of oils to season my cast iron cookware. What you need to remember is that the seasoning builds upon cast iron naturally the more you use it. That oil comes from many different types of food.
The best oil for seasoning is an oil that can withstand high temperatures as well as one that will not go rancid on the iron while it is not in use. The oils need to be pure and cold-pressed. Some of my favorites include grapeseed oil and flaxseed oil.
I have an article here that goes in-depth on the topic of oils. It allows you to choose the best oil for you.
How to Season a Pre Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet
Seasoning a new piece of cast iron for the first time takes one to two hours.
Following these quick easy steps and you are done;
- Preheat your oven or grill to around 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 200 degrees Celsius
- Clean the cast iron and dry it thoroughly
- Rub oil all over the piece – including the handle and the underside
- Bake it in an oven or grill for 45 minutes then let it cool for 30 minutes
- Repeat as necessary – at least twice – if not three times
See my in-depth article here. It will give you all the information you need about seasoning new cast iron for the first time.
Why Is My Cast Iron Pan Sticky After Seasoning?
You have used too much oil or you have not heated the pan to the smoking point then wiped off excess oil.
Easy to remove by setting your oven up to 400- 500 degrees Fahrenheit and inverting the pan (on a tray or aluminum foil) on the self and burning the oil off – could take about an hour.
Check the surface when the iron is cooled – you can repeat if the surface is still sticky.
Why Does My Cast Iron Get Sticky?
Cast-iron will become sticky if you have used too much oil when cooking. The oil needs heat to effectively build up a natural barrier.
This sticky residue is usually noticeable as the cast iron becomes cold.
As above follow this process to remove sticky residue from iron;
Set your oven to 400-500 degrees Fahrenheit and invert the pan (on a tray or aluminum foil) on the self and burn the oil off – about an hour.
Check the surface when the iron is cooled – you can repeat if the surface is still sticky or tacky.
What Temperature Do I Season My Cast Iron?
350 degrees Fahrenheit or 200 degrees Celcius
Do You Need to Season a Pre Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet?
The answer is no you do not need to pre-season cast-iron. But in the interest of protecting yourself and your iron, it is advisable.
Do You Need to Season New Lodge Cast Iron?
Even though Lodge is a premier brand I would give it a good first clean and a light season.
I did not with my new double Dutch oven and the grill you see in the image at the top of the page! I have not looked back.
Cast-iron manufacturers Lodge has a piece of further information about their products here which clearly gives you an idea of the professional’s advice.
Pre Seasoned Cast Iron Good or Bad
Pre-seasoned cast iron is neither good nor bad it is pretty much essential. Cast iron can be manufactured anywhere and when complete the iron needs to be protected.
So when you make your purchase the iron is in a reasonable condition for example not rusty.
Unfortunately, we cannot know what the iron has been protected with – oil or water-soluble shellac? This is why carrying out your own first seasoning is always beneficial.
Best Cast-Iron Skillet
This is my favorite cast-iron skillet. It is a Lodge – size 12 inches.
Almost 34,500 ratings on Amazon are what helped me make the decision to buy this cast-iron skillet.
Related read Lodge Dutch Oven Sizes
Final Thoughts – Should I Buy Pre Seasoned Cast Iron
My answer is an absolute YES. Do not listen to all reports, cast iron is a difficult material to prepare food on and care for. Fortunately, this is not true and those who love preparing food in cast iron will continue to sing its praises.
Start with a small piece of cast iron cookware – try it out I am certain you will love it and realize this age-old piece of cookware is a great asset to any kitchen or campsite.
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