The Best Thing I Ever Did for My Cast Iron Pan

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

When I make pie, I use my grandmother’s pastry blender and rolling pin, but one thing she did not pass down was her cast iron skillet slick with a history of family feasts. Instead, I received my cast iron pan five years ago — a new Lodge pan, fresh with the factory seasoning.

Even with a factory fresh seasoning, the surface never felt smooth; it always had a pebbly texture. I’ve worked with enough cast iron pans that I knew the pan was supposed to be slick enough to fry an egg.

Fry Baby, Fry!

I have spent the past half-decade nursing my skillet’s seasoning. I followed all the tips and tricks, from oiling and baking at a low temperature in the oven upside down to scrubbing with oil and salt. I massaged the pan with different fats and kept the soap at a safe distance. But no matter what I did, the seasoning rarely improved. Recently after what little seasoning I had nurtured began to flake away, I relegated it to the back of the cabinet in frustration.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

I only pulled the cast iron skillet out when it was time to try out five latke recipes before developing Kitchn’s own method. Over the course of a day, latkes sizzled in a shallow pan-fry. That pan saw a greater volume of oil than I use in my daily cooking. After rinsing my skillet after the last batch, I saw beads of water skating across the surface. I ran my fingers across the bottom of the pan and it felt slicker than ever!

In retrospect, the error of my ways was twofold: inconsistent use of the pan and not using enough oil to develop the seasoning. I aim to maintain this newfound nonstick coating by frying up potato pancakes and doughnuts and basting seared steak in melted butter with regularity. I was always envious of cooks who made their Saturday morning biscuits with a skillet handed down through the generations, but instead of inheriting an heirloom, I’m making one!