Q. “What does it mean to ‘season’ your cast iron skillet? Does it happen naturally, or do I have to do something to the pan?” —Jason, Little Chute
A. Seasoning a cast iron skillet is sealing the pores of the cast iron to make a frictionless, nonstick surface for cooking. When seasoned effectively and cared for appropriately, the surface should be good for life. Proper seasoning of cast iron is a relatively uncomplicated process of rubbing the inside surface of the cast iron with a neutral-flavored high-smoke point oil such as canola, grapeseed or sunflower. Only the pores of the cast iron need oil, so wipe away any excess oil as it could make the cast iron sticky. Place the cast iron upside down on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil into an oven that has been pre-heated to its highest temperature, presumably 500° F for most home ovens. Allow it to season for one hour. During this time, a little smoke from the oil is normal. To care for your cast iron, wash the pan only using hot water. If you encounter food residue that you cannot remove, try using a little salt as an abrasive. Always dry your cast iron completely before storing to help avoid any corrosion.