When it comes to cast-iron cookware, we often encounter the term “seasoning.” So, just what is it, and why is it so important? According to the folks at Lodge Manufacturing, “Seasoning is simply oil baked into the pores of the iron that prevents rust and provides a natural, easy-release finish.” In other words, it treats the metal and provides a natural nonstick surface. All metal is porous and water can get trapped in these pores, which causes rusting. That’s why most modern cookware is treated with Teflon or a similar substance.
The problem with coatings like Teflon is that they’re brittle and break down over time. They’re easily scratched and damaged, which means traces of the material(s) could mix with your food. Cast iron never wears out if properly cared for. Wash cast-iron cookware in warm water with a mild detergent, rinse and immediately dry with a lint-free cloth. It’s that easy. Even old cast iron can be restored. Lodge Manufacturing has complete guides on how to maintain cast-iron cookware on its website.
Lodge Manufacturing uses vegetable oil to treat its cast-iron cookware, and it recommends that you retreat the surface the same way after cleanup. In the old days, lard was used—and it still can be—but it has drawbacks. If you use cast iron daily, then bacon fat is perfect for re-seasoning pans. But, if you don’t cook with your cast iron often, the animal fat will become rancid. Seasoning pans with vegetable oil prevents spoilage.