How to Season Cookware: Materials, Guide and Aftercare

Posted by on July 18, 2016 .

Not all cookware emerges straight from the box with a non-stick surface – many of you may question why you would possibly buy such an item. Well, as with most things in life, a bit of hard work usually pays off and that is the case here; the end result is a quality item with a naturally non-stick pan. Pots and pans that are not manufactured with non-stick coatings can be made so with the process of ‘seasoning’, this involves treating the surface of the pan with oil and a high heat source to result in a rust-proof, non-stick surface. This cookware seasoning guide will help you determine if your pots and pans need to be seasoned, how to do it, and how to care for them after they’ve been seasoned.

Materials that may need seasoning

Cast iron pans are a certainty, bare metal is porous so therefore food will stick easily and you risk damaging the pan. As is the case with Carbon Steel, Tinplate and Anodised Aluminium. However, do check the manufacturers care information beforehand to guarantee that seasoning is a required process; for example, Alan Silverwood anodised bakeware is made from Alsil, which they claim does not need to be seasoned before its first use, whereas Mermaid anodised ovenware does require seasoning beforehand.

Pros of these materials

  • Seasoning creates a natural non-stick coating, this ensures that in the long run you use less oils and fats, resulting in healthier cooking. It also means that you can be confident there are no synthetic materials (like there are with many manufactured non-stick items) coating your pan.
  • Materials like Cast Iron retains heat really well, which is great if you like to serve up your food in the skillet at the table, as it will keep its contents warm through the course of the meal.
  • Seasoned cookware is extremely long lasting. They are investment pieces that, rather than lose their non-stick over time, become better the more you cook with them.
  • Hard Anodised cookware won’t warp, twist or buckle. It is also scratch resistant which means you can use metal utensils without fear.
  • The iron in Cast Iron pans can leach into your food and help to increase your iron intake.
  • Because they do not have a synthetic non-stick coating, the pans will not peel or blister.

Cons of these materials

  • Seasoning a pan is obviously more work than not and requires maintenance such as re-seasoning to keep it in its best condition. Not a problem for professional chef’s or serious foodies though, who tend to favour these investment pieces that stand the test of time.
  • Hard Anodised bakeware is often more expensive than its counterparts, however this is to be expected of a quality item.
  • Cast Iron cookware is dense and heavy. It is much harder to haul about and you do need to be extra careful that you don’t cause any damage to your hob or sink… or yourself!
  • Most materials that are seasoned are not dishwasher safe as the harsh detergents and extremely hot water can cause the non-stick build up to deteriorate.

How to season

The process of seasoning is pretty straightforward, if a little time consuming. If your pan or tray is oven safe, then it is recommended that you use the oven as your heat source because it will reduce smells and smoke in your kitchen, however the hob works too for items such as Carbon Steel pans.

  • Preheat your oven to 200 degrees centigrade and place a lined baking sheet on the bottom rack (to catch any potential drips of oil later on).
  • Firstly, wash your pan in warm soapy water to remove any wax or oil that may be on for shipping protection. Rinse and dry with a clean towel, then pop in the warm oven for a few minutes or leave on the side for a while to make sure its bone dry.
  • Using inexpensive cooking oil such as a vegetable oil, apply a small amount all over the inside of the pan including the sides and over the top lip. The easiest way to do this is using kitchen paper and rub evenly across the surface.
  • Place the pan upside down on the middle rack in the oven – for cast iron leave for 45 minutes to an hour but for other materials 10-20 minutes should do the trick.
  • If you are using the hob, then set the temperature to a medium to high heat until the oil cooks off. The important part is that the oil begins to smoke, so bear in mind to keep your kitchen well ventilated. This is scientifically known as ‘polymerising’ as the oils oxidize and create the protective surface.
  • Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven or hob and allow to cool (do NOT apply cold water as this can crack or warp the pans). Leave until they are only just still warm and then wash in warm soapy water, rinse and dry off with a clean towel.

Care & Re-seasoning

Hand wash your seasoned pans, avoiding harsh chemicals and rough scouring pads. For stubborn stains, soak in hot soapy water and use a nylon scourer to gently remove the residue. Store in a cool, dry place; to be extra cautious, you can choose to coat your pans lightly with oil beforehand.

If food eventually begins to stick to the surface when using the pan, re-season using the same method and repeat if the issue continues. The more the pan is used and seasoned the more non-stick it will become. Do not be concerned with a darkening colouration to seasoned pans; this ‘patina’ is the colour of the seasoned coating that will develop and deepen with use, and is perfectly normal.

As with all of our products, we would love to hear how you get on with seasoning your new pans. Do you have any tricks or tips that make the process faster or easier? Get in touch with us via social media by clicking the links at the bottom of the page or leave us a review of your recently purchased products on our website! Don't forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest for up to date insight on new items, competitions and reviews.