Seasoning cast iron with bacon grease is a natural way to preserve the finish and prepare your pan for cooking.
We think a cast iron skillet is the best pan for frying bacon, and bacon fat happens to be one of the best best seasoning agents for cast iron. Chances are your granny may have used it to season her pans, too!
The first time you cook with a new pan, you’ll need to season it so that it develops a patina and finish. Cast Iron pans also need to reseasoned from time to time.
You’ll find directions for seasoning, proper washing techniques, and the right way to maintain the finish of your pans in this post. Best of all, as a bacon lover you can use something you probably already have on hand — bacon grease!
Seasoning cast iron is just one of the many marvelous ways to use bacon fat. We strain and save all of ours and store it in a glass jar in the refrigerator for cooking things like Bacon Grease Gravy, Bacon Fat Ginger Cookies and Mini Quesadillas.
The Benefits of Seasoned Cast Iron
A well seasoned cast iron pan develops a natural nonstick surface. As a result, you’ll need less oil for cooking and sautéing.
Cast iron retains heat very well. A seasoned pan can be taken from the stovetop and placed directly in the oven.
Cast iron griddles and pans can be used over a campfire, or to make foods like delicious BACON cooked on a grill.
With proper care, you’ll find that over time as you use your pan, the more nonstick, shiny, and black the cooking surface will become.
If you maintain your cast iron pans and keep them in good condition, they could last a lifetime and even be passed on to your heirs!
What You Need to Season Cast Iron Cookware
Unless it’s pre-seasoned, the surface of a new cast-iron skillet will need to be prepared before cooking.
If a pot is worn down to bare iron or scratched, seasoning cast iron with bacon grease will help restore its finish.
First you’ll need about 1 tablespoon of rendered bacon grease, which you can obtain right now by frying up a couple slices of tasty bacon.
You’ll also need a pastry brush to apply the grease. We like a silicone pastry brush because the bristles never come out on the food, but you can also use a small piece of wadded up paper towel if you prefer.
Rendering Bacon Fat
Cooking bacon in the oven on a foil-lined baking sheet is an easy way to create bacon grease, and after you gather the fat you can wad up the aluminum foil and discard it.
You can also cook the bacon in a frying pan over medium heat until browned and crispy. Remove the cooked strips with tongs to a paper towel lined plate.
Let the bacon grease cool to room temperature. IMPORTANT: Pour the fat through a fine mesh strainer or a double layer of cheesecloth, to remove any small particles that could stick to your cast iron pan.
(For more information, here’s our guide for saving and rendering bacon grease.)
Step by Step Directions
PREPARATION: If you’re seasoning a new cast iron skillet, clean it with water and dish soap and dry it with a clean cloth before seasoning. (NOTE: This is the only time you will ever use soap on the pan.)
If your pan is dirty, follow the directions below for cleaning it before proceeding with these directions.
For rusty pans, use steel wool or sandpaper to remove the rust. Rinse with warm water and proceed.
STEP ONE: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
STEP TWO: Use a pastry brush to apply a thin coating of melted bacon grease all over the inside of the pan.
Note: If this is the initial seasoning for a brand new pan, double the amount of bacon grease and brush it over the exterior and handle of the pan, too.
If you prefer, you can use a wadded up paper towel to wipe on the bacon fat:
STEP THREE: Put the pan in the preheated oven, and allow it to “cook” for one hour.
Note: If you’re seasoning a brand new pan for the first time and have coated the exterior, handle, and interior with a layer of grease, turn the pan upside down and lay it on the middle wire rack. Place a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any drips.
If the pan smokes, be sure to ventilate your kitchen by opening a window and running your stove fan or hood vent.
STEP FOUR: Turn off the oven after one hour, and let the pan cool in the oven.
STEP FIVE: Remove the pan from the oven and rub it all over with a paper towel to remove any excess grease.
Your perfectly seasoned iron pan is now ready for cooking bacon on the stove top!
How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet or Pan
Cleaning and maintaining a cast-iron pan is part of the unique experience of owning one. Here’s how to clean your pan after it’s been used for cooking.
Pro tip: It’s easiest to clean your pan when it’s still slightly warm.
IMPORTANT: Don’t use soap on your seasoned pan, as harsh detergents will remove the natural non-stick surface.
Instead, rinse it with hot water and scrub with a stiff brush or scratchy sponge to remove any stuck-on food. (Avoid using steel wool, scouring pads or harsh detergents, which can remove the finish.)
For really stuck-on food, scrub with a mixture of 2 tablespoons bacon grease and 2 tablespoons table salt or kosher salt. Use a sponge or paper towel to scrub the pan with this mixture using a lot of elbow grease until it comes clean.
Rinse thoroughly with hot water, and dry the pan immediately with a soft cloth or paper towels.
Pro Storage Tip: Place a paper towel on the surface of the cast iron skillet before stacking another pan on top, to keep its surface from scratching.
Maintaining Cast Iron
Keep your pans in top shape with these cast iron care tips. If the surface of your pan is starting to look dull, you can restore its luster by following these steps.
Step 1. Place the pan on the stove burner over medium-low heat and preheat it for 5 minutes.
Step 2: Use a pastry brush or wadded paper towel to apply a very thin layer of strained bacon grease on a clean cast iron pan.
Pro Tip: If you recently cooked bacon and drained it on paper towels, you can use one of the fat-soaked towels to wipe across the surface of a cast iron pan and give it a very light coating of grease.
Step 3. Increase the heat to medium and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.
Step 4. Turn off the heat, and let the skillet cool for 1 hour.
Step 5. Wipe with a paper towel or clean cloth to remove any excess residue.
Store the pan when it’s completely cool.
Heat your oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). This will allow the fat to bake into the surface of the pan without excessive smoking.
Great question. This works well for a pan that has lost some of its surface sheen. After cooking your bacon, pour out the grease through a fine mesh strainer into a small dish. Wipe the pan thoroughly, and follow the seasoning or maintaining steps above.
Instead of bacon grease, you can use neutral cooking oils with a high smoke point like grapeseed oil or canola oil for this process.
Because of the large surface area and constant exposure to high heat, Blackstone recommends the following oils for the initial seasoning of a new griddle: olive oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, flax oil, shortening, and their proprietary Blackstone Griddle Seasoning & Cast Iron Conditioner.
We find that most minor rust can be removed with hot water and a scouring pad. You can add a little salt for extra abrasion, if needed.
For major, all-over rust on a cast iron skillet, you can soak the pan in a solution of 50% lukewarm water and 50% white vinegar. Check the pan every 20 minutes or so, and remove from the solution once the rust can be scrubbed off. (Don’t soak more than 8 hours, or the skillet could be damaged.) Rinse, dry, and re-season the frying pan following the directions above.
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