Just the Flax: Flaxseed Oil for Cast Iron

Flax and cast iron blog image_KC

As cooking vessels go, it’s pretty tough to beat a cast iron pan. Cooking trends come and go, but cast iron never goes out of style. The benefits of cast iron pans are as well-known as they are well-loved: unparalleled heat retention, easy transfer from stovetop to oven, minimal cost investment, easy to clean, and a cared-for cast iron pan will last forever or perhaps even longer. It’s common for cast iron cookware to be passed from generation to generation, an ever-durable sign of a familial bond.

Truly, there is only one thing about cast iron that is a tiny bit tricky: seasoning.

Seasoning: Not Just for Food

When we talk about seasoning cast iron, we’re not referring to adding a sprinkle of salt and a dash of pepper. Seasoning is the process that combines oil with heat to create a rust-free and virtually nonstick surface on your cast iron cookware. It’s necessary to the longevity of your cast iron, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a low-effort, high-payoff way to maintain your cast iron pieces indefinitely. 

Seasoning Cast Iron with Flaxseed Oil

Cast iron is pretty forgiving in that you can season your pieces with any number of food-grade oils, from fancy proprietary blends right on down to Crisco. However, not all oils are created equal. If it’s a superior season you’re after, seasoning cast iron with flaxseed oil is the way to go.

The best oil for seasoning cast iron is a source of debate in culinary circles, but there’s no doubt that flax oil and cast iron are a winning pair. The reason for this is pure science. Unlike most oils that create a finish that’s either “soft” or “sticky,” flaxseed oil undergoes a process called “polymerization” when heated that causes it to dry down to a hard, long-lasting, nonstick finish. Whereas a cast iron pan that’s seasoned with softer oils still retains a bit of a shiny, rough texture, seasoning cast iron with flaxseed oil creates a smooth, matte surface.

How to Season Cast Iron with Flax Oil

If you want to do it properly, seasoning cast iron with flaxseed oil is not the shortest kitchen task you can undertake. However, it is a simple and fairly hands-off process that is well worth the flax-oil cast iron payoff.

Step one: Start with a clean cast iron skillet or pan. Whether you strip your cast iron completely is up to you, but it’s never a bad idea to begin at the beginning.

Step two: Choose the right flax oil. This is arguably the most important step of the process. Your flax oil must be made from 100 percent flaxseed, be organic, and need to be refrigerated. Barlean’s Organic Lignan Flax Oil is the perfect flaxseed oil for cast iron.

Step three: Season your pan. If you’ve ever seasoned cast iron before, this process will be familiar. Pour a little flax oil in your pan, rub it in, and wipe away the excess to create a very thin layer. Place the pan upside down in a cold oven and turn your oven on to its highest temperature and let it preheat with your flaxseed-oil cast iron pan inside. After preheating, “bake” your oiled pan for an hour (you’ll want to open some windows for ventilation), turn off the oven and let the pan cool. When it is cool to the touch, oil it up again and repeat the steps. Experts say six layers are optimal, but we say some layers are better than none, so do as many as your time and patience allow!

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