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The Ultimate Way to Season Cast Iron - Flaxseed oil

Discussion in 'General Dutch Oven Information' started by dward51, Mar 9, 2013.

  1. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Since there has been several threads where the use of flaxseed oil was described as the best way to season cast iron, I thought I would pass on this confirmation I ran across on the web today.

    In 2011 Cook's Illustrated did one of their lab tests to see if flaxseed oil was in fact the way to go.  The answer, yes!  Hands down it was the clear winner.

    Note:  Use "food grade" flaxseed oil which can be obtained from a health food store. DO NOT use linseed oil which although made from a flaxseed oil base is not the same and is not food safe.

    The Ultimate Way to Season Cast Iron


    Published January 1, 2011. From Cook's Illustrated.

    We'd seasoned our cast iron the same way for years. But when we heard about a new method that creates a slick surface so indestructible that touch-ups are almost never necessary, we were intrigued.

    For years we’ve seasoned cast-iron cookware in the test kitchen by placing it over medium heat and wiping out the pan with coats of vegetable oil until its surface turns dark and shiny. When a pan starts to look patchy, we simply repeat the process. But when we heard about a new method that creates a slick surface so indestructible that touch-ups are almost never necessary, we were intrigued. Developed by blogger Sheryl Canter, the approach calls for treating the pan with multiple coats of flaxseed oil between hour-long stints in the oven.

    We carried out Canter’s approach on new, unseasoned cast-iron skillets and compared them with pans treated with vegetable oil—and the results amazed us. The flaxseed oil so effectively bonded to the skillets, forming a sheer, stick-resistant veneer, that even a run through our commercial dishwasher with a squirt of degreaser left them totally unscathed. But the vegetable oil-treated skillets showed rusty spots and patchiness when they emerged from the dishwasher, requiring reseasoning before use.

    Why did the new treatment work so well? Flaxseed oil is the food-grade equivalent of linseed oil, used by artists to give their paintings a hard, polished finish, and it boasts six times the amount of omega-3 fatty acids as vegetable oil. Over prolonged exposure to high heat, these fatty acids combine to form a strong, solid matrix that polymerizes to the pan’s surface.

    Although lengthy, seasoning with flaxseed oil is a mainly hands-off undertaking. We highly recommend the treatment:

    1. Warm an unseasoned pan (either new or stripped of seasoning*) for 15 minutes in a 200-degree oven to open its pores.

    2. Remove the pan from the oven. Place 1 tablespoon flaxseed oil in the pan and, using tongs, rub the oil into the surface with paper towels. With fresh paper towels, thoroughly wipe out the pan to remove excess oil.

    3. Place the oiled pan upside down in a cold oven, then set the oven to its maximum baking temperature. Once the oven reaches its maximum temperature, heat the pan for one hour. Turn off the oven; cool the pan in the oven for at least two hours.

    4. Repeat the process five more times, or until the pan develops a dark, semi-matte surface.

    *To strip a cast-iron pan of seasoning, spray it with oven cleaner, wait 30 minutes, wash with soapy water, and thoroughly wipe with paper towels.

    Even after a run in the dishwasher, the pan seasoned with flaxseed oil held on to its perfect seasoning. The pan seasoned with vegetable oil did not.

    Here are the photos

    Above - Photo of flaxseed oil seasoned pan after a run in the dishwasher - still seasoned

    Above - Photo of vegetable oil seasoned pan after a run in the dishwasher - no longer seasoned
    hooked on smoke and jaybone like this.
  2. kathrynn

    kathrynn Legendary Pitmaster OTBS Member

    thanks for the information and the link. I have some painted pans and such that I am going to work on the Spring and Summer.

  3. bkleinsmid

    bkleinsmid Smoking Fanatic

    Thank you.......I have two pans that are in need.

  4. How would I go about stripping the seasoning on my old cast iron?

    EDIT: I stopped reading one line too soon. [​IMG]
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2013
  5. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Dishwasher, hand scrub with Dawn, etc.....  I know they said "oven cleaner" in the Cooks Illustrated version, but I would try the easy route first before declaring chemical warfare on the pan.

    I just picked up a large bottle of Organic Flax oil at my local Vitamin Shoppe for about $12. It's in their refrigerated items area.  I'm going to strip the veggie oil seasoning off my pans and redo with flax oil.

    It's an almost flavorless oil and can be used to supplement your food with what's left over as it's good for your cholesterol levels & heart.

  6. humdinger

    humdinger Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Good info. I am not a cast iron pan owner,....yet, but I have one question.

    Do you apply oil to the entire pan (bottom, outer sides, & handle?) or just to the part that the food touches?
  7. athabaskar

    athabaskar Smoking Fanatic

    Oil everything inside and out that is cast iron. The dutch ovens often have a shiny steel bail, or handle. It isn't necessary to oil that, but it's ok if you do.

    Thanks to dward51 for the flax oil tip. My wife collects cast cookery and we are always looking for better ways to season them.
  8. seenred

    seenred Legendary Pitmaster Group Lead OTBS Member

    Good info, Dave.  Thanks for the link.
  9. Thanks,  I'll give this a try after I get my hands on some flaxseed oil.
  10. berninga87

    berninga87 Smoking Fanatic

    I can vouch for this type of seasoning process. Mine is a little different but mostly the same and there are about a million different opinions out there on this topic so you just have to pick one and go with it. I chose this one and couldn't be happier. All of my cast pans are newer Lodge pans and have had this seasoning applied, it is super hard and resistant. I can use metal utensils without a care and its non-stick ability rivals any "non-stick" pan I've owned. One caveat to be aware of is that if your Lodge pan is pre-seasoned, and you try to apply this seasoning over it, it may chip. It's best to take the pan to bare metal and start fresh. That has been my experience. Although the lodge pre-seasoning definitely isn't bad, this is a small upgrade.
  11. How do you take the pan to bare metal?
  12. woodcutter

    woodcutter Master of the Pit OTBS Member

  13. We have a Raichlen Cast Iron Tuscan Grill that we like to use in our wood fire oven.  We easily get the temp to around 1000 degrees, put the grill over the hot coals to heat up, then cook the steaks.  It only takes about 3 minutes a side for a 2 1/2 inch steak to get to medium rare with fantastic grill marks.

    After each use, however, there is rust.  After learning we damaged the seasoning in a dutch oven by putting it in the hot oven, it occurs to me that we may be "burning off" the seasoning each time we use it.  Will seasoning it with the flax seed oil make it less susceptible to the seasoning burning off?

  14. woodcutter

    woodcutter Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    1000 degrees will turn the flax oil seasoning to carbon. Time definitely makes a difference. I don't know if it could stand 6 minutes of 1000 degrees or not. Sounds like if your getting the carbon rust it does not hold up.
  15. It spends about 15 minutes heating up before cooking, then stays in the oven after the steaks are done as it's difficult to remove when it is that hot.  Before we bought it we read several reviews that it could be used in wood fire grills up to 1000 but they must reseason every time, which I want to avoid.  Sure does make a fantastic tasting steak, however.  We might have to find another piece of equipment on which to cook the steaks.
  16. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    It's too late for me, i used linseed oil to do my drum the other day. I picked up the linseed oil from Lowes....I HAVEN'T DIED YET!

    It did put on a indestructable layer of protection though. 
  17. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I think with a drum you are talking about a different issue.  With cast iron you are eating food that is in direct contact with the treated surface where with the drum you are not. 

    Same thing would hold true for high temp paint.  You could spray the inside of a drum or stick burner with that if you wanted and once it was broken in (all the volatile compounds cured out of the paint), it would probably be fine.  But I would not want to eat anything off a pan sprayed with the same paint.
  18. daveomak

    daveomak Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I think the oil on the drum will be fine..... after seasoning, all the volatiles are gone....  
    Last edited: May 6, 2013
  19. old school

    old school Fire Starter

    THANKS DWARD51-!  Followed the directions to the letter.  Did the first run and the girlfriend jumped right in and did the other 4!  Now thats a keeper;) 
  20. kathrynn

    kathrynn Legendary Pitmaster OTBS Member

    Looks nice and shiny!