What Oil to Season Cast Iron With (Ultimate Guide + Crucial Tips)

With so many oils to season cast iron with, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Find what the best oil to season cast iron with is so you can build a lasting seasoning and hand down your trusty skillet to generations yet to come.

You see, when seasoned and cared for correctly, cast iron can withstand the test of time, ready to serve up scrumptious meals for your grandkids, their grandkids, and beyond. But seasoning isn’t just a matter of process; it’s about choosing the right oil, and oh, does it make a difference.

Remember the first time you ventured into the world of cast iron? Maybe, like me, you opted for extra-virgin olive oil, a kitchen staple. It seemed like a fine choice, but here’s the twist: olive oil, with its lower smoke point, yielded a seasoning layer that was a tad too soft and sticky, leaving us longing for that perfect non-stick surface.

So, grab your skillet, and let’s dive into the delicious journey of discovering what oil to season cast iron with. While grape seed oil is a common choice, we’ll explore a range of options that won’t break the bank and work just as well (if not better).

The best oils to season cast iron with (comparison) pin

What oil to season cast iron with?

Selecting oils with high smoke points and unsaturated fats is crucial for optimal results. Avocado oil, with its 271°C (520°F) smoke point, durability, and versatility, is a top pick and ideal for high-heat cooking methods. Tallow, rendered from beef or mutton fat, also excels with ease of use, durability, and high 250°C (482°F) smoke point.

RELATED: How to season cast iron (without an oven)

The science of seasoning: how cast iron becomes non-stick and flavorful

‘Seasoning’ on cast iron refers to the layers of baked-on oil or fat that give your skillet a protective, non-stick layer on its surface.

You see, cast iron is porous, with tiny nooks and crannies that are just waiting to absorb that oil. As you heat it, those pores open up wide, and the oil or fat starts to bond with the iron at a molecular level. This process is called polymerization, which creates a smooth, shiny, and non-stick surface that’s perfect for cooking.

This layer not only prevents your food from sticking to the pan but also adds a wonderful depth of flavor to everything you cook. 

But not all oils and fats are created equal when it comes to polymerization. Some fats are better at forming this protective layer than others. That’s why selecting the right oil is absolutely essential. 

Choosing the best oil for the job

When it comes to choosing what oil to season cast iron with, there are a few things to keep in mind:

High Smoke Point

Always pick an oil with a higher smoke point than the temperatures you’ll be using for cooking and seasoning. Every oil has a temperature at which it starts to smoke and change. When you’re seasoning cast iron, we want those temperatures to be between 400-500 degrees Fahrenheit. 

You’ll want an oil that can handle the heat, so look for oils with a high smoke point, like tallow or avocado oil. This means it can handle the high heat without developing a burnt or off-flavor through seasoning or cooking. Oils with lower smoke points might not perform as well for seasoning and could potentially add unwanted flavors to your cast iron and dishes.


When we talk about durability, we mean how long that protective layer on your cast iron will last. We need an oil that creates a durable seasoning layer that strikes the right balance between durability and ease of use. 

For example. Flaxseed oil creates a strong and durable layer on your cast iron that lasts many uses, but as you’ll learn soon, it can be a bit finicky to work with.

Unsaturated fats

Oils rich in unsaturated fats have a unique chemical structure that makes them ideal for the seasoning process. They’re more flexible, allowing them to bond with the iron more effectively and create that flawless non-stick finish.

On the other hand, oils with low amounts of unsaturated fats like coconut oil or palm oil have a more rigid structure. They’ll work in a pinch, but they’re not well-suited for the seasoning process.

It’s important to clarify a common misconception: the presence of saturated fats in fats or oils doesn’t disqualify them as suitable choices for seasoning cast iron. In fact, a fat like tallow is an excellent option because it contains significant amounts of unsaturated fats alongside saturated fats. Saturated fats, contrary to the misconception, do not hinder the polymerization process.


The oil you choose can bring a special touch of flavor to your dishes. Oils like coconut, olive, or sesame oil have unique and delightful flavors of their own. When you season your cast iron with them, a tiny bit of that flavor gets infused into your skillet. On the other hand, oils like vegetable or avocado have milder, more neutral flavors which allow your dishes to shine with their own tastes.

Most people prefer neutral oils when considering what oil to season cast iron with.


Different oils may contain allergens that some folks might need to stay away from. So, it’s crucial to be mindful of these health considerations when choosing what oil to season cast iron with.

For example, if someone in your household has a nut allergy, you’d want to avoid using oils like walnut or almond oil for seasoning. 

Cooking methods

If you plan to use your cast iron skillet for high-heat cooking methods like searing meat, it’s important to consider the smoke point of the oil used for seasoning. For example, grapeseed oil is suitable for many cooking applications but has a lower smoke point, which means it can start to smoke and break down at high temperatures.

Cost and availability

If you use your cast iron cookware frequently, you’ll probably want a more affordable seasoning oil. The good news is you don’t need to spend a fortune to buy a good cast iron seasoning oil.

When picking what oil to season cast iron with, consider your budget and what oils are easily available to you. There are many fantastic options out there that won’t break the bank.

ALSO SEE: Cast iron vs stainless steel cookware: the ultimate comparison

Easiest & most versatile: Avocado Oil

Smoke point: 271°C (520°F)

Ease of Use: 5 / 5
Performance: 4 / 5
Durability: 4 /  5
Affordability: 3 / 5
Versatility: 5 / 5
Overall rating: 4 / 5

Avocado oil is a fantastic choice for seasoning your cast iron, especially if you enjoy high-heat cooking like searing or frying. It’s easy to use, thanks to its high smoke point and stability, making seasoning a breeze. While it may not be the absolute best for non-stick performance compared to oils like flaxseed, it does a great job overall and forms a durable seasoning layer that keeps your cookware in excellent shape. Just keep in mind that it’s a bit pricier than some other options, but its versatility, with its neutral taste and suitability for various cooking methods, makes it a reliable kitchen companion. 


  • High smoke point: Avocado oil is suitable for all cooking methods, including high-heat cooking methods like searing and frying.
  • Non-stick performance: Avocado oil can create a strong and durable non-stick surface on your cast iron cookware.
  • Neutral flavor: Avocado oil has a mild, neutral flavor that won’t significantly alter the taste of your dishes. This makes it versatile for various types of cuisine and recipes.
  • Health benefits: Avocado oil is rich in monounsaturated fats and contains beneficial nutrients like vitamins E and K. It can be a health-conscious choice for cooking.
  • Vegan and vegetarian-friendly


  • Cost: Avocado oil can be more expensive than some other common cooking oils, which may impact your budget.
  • Allergies: Some people may have allergies to avocados.
  • Storage: Proper storage in a cool, dark place is necessary to prevent premature rancidity.

Best fat to season cast iron: Tallow

Smoke point: Typically 250°C (482°F)

Ease of use: 4 / 5
Performance: 4 / 5
Durability: 5 / 5
Affordability: 4 / 5 
Versatility: 5 / 5
Overall: 4 / 5

Tallow, rendered from beef or mutton fat, has been a trusted choice for cast iron seasoning for generations for good reason. It’s easy to use, durable, high in unsaturated fats, and perfect for high-heat cooking. It shines in many aspects and has plenty of healthy saturated and unsaturated fats, as well as some essential vitamins and minerals. 

Its high smoke point and stable nature make seasoning a breeze, and it forms a long-lasting, protective non-stick layer on your cookware. While it’s a bit pricier than some options, tallow is still quite affordable, especially if you render your own fat from local butchers. Tallow’s versatility, marked by its neutral flavor and adaptability to various cooking methods, adds an extra layer of appeal. Overall, it’s a reliable and well-rounded choice, but may not be best suited for baking treats since it can leave a subtle beef flavor depending on how it’s been rendered.


  • Durability: Tallow is known for forming a long-lasting and resilient seasoning layer on cast iron cookware, which can stand up to repeated use and provide excellent non-stick properties.
  • Ease of Use: It’s relatively easy to work with and provides a straightforward seasoning process, especially when compared to oils that require multiple thin coats and meticulous temperature control.
  • Affordability: While it may be slightly more expensive than some other options, it’s generally considered affordable, and you can save even more by rendering your own tallow from local butchers.
  • Versatility: Tallow has a neutral flavor, making it suitable for various cooking methods and cuisines without significantly altering the taste of your dishes.
  • High smoke point: Tallow has a high smoke point, which makes it suitable for high-heat cooking methods like searing and frying.


  • Sensitivity to storage: Like other animal-based fats, tallow can become rancid if not stored properly in a cool, dark place. Proper storage is essential to maintain its quality.
  • Limited suitability for baking: Tallow may not be the best choice for baking sweet treats, as it can sometimes impart a very slight beefy flavor to baked goods.
  • Not vegan-friendly: Tallow is derived from animal fat, so it’s not suitable for those following a vegan or vegetarian diet.

Longest-lasting seasoning: Flaxseed oil

Smoke point: 230°C (446°F)

Ease of use: 3 / 5
Performance: 5 / 5 
Durability: 5 / 5
Affordability: 2 / 5 
Versatility: 2 / 5
Overall: 3 / 5

Flaxseed oil is a great choice for cast iron seasoning due to its reasonably high smoke point, durability, neutral taste, unsaturated fats, and potential health benefits like omega-3 fatty acids. The downside? It’s not only expensive but more finicky to work with and season correctly which makes it a less user-friendly choice.

Not all varieties of Flaxseed oil are created equal. Seek out high-quality, cold-pressed flaxseed oil for best results. Some people have found that flaxseed coatings get brittle and flake off over time, and that’s most often due to using the wrong kind of flaxseed oil.


  • Excellent non-stick finish: When done well, flaxseed oil is known for creating a strong and smooth non-stick surface.
  • Best durability: It forms a durable seasoning layer that stands up extremely well to repeated use.
  • Neutral taste: Flaxseed oil typically has a mild, neutral flavor, so it won’t influence the taste of your dishes.
  • Most Nutritious: It contains a high proportion of unsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids, which can offer potential health benefits when used in cooking.


  • Finicky seasoning process: Flaxseed oil can be finicky to work with, requiring steps like applying extra thin coats and maintaining specific temperatures during the seasoning process.
  • Less versatile: It’s less versatile in the kitchen due to its sensitivity to high heat.
  • Prone to rancidity: Proper storage in a cool, dark place is essential.
  • Expensive: Flaxseed oil can be more expensive than other seasoning oils.

Best for added flavor: Bacon Fat or Lard

Smoke point: Around 204°C (400°F)

Ease of use: 4 / 5
Performance: 4 / 5
Durability: 4 / 5
Affordability: 4 / 5
Versatility: 4 / 5
Overall: 4 / 5

Bacon fat or lard, rendered from pork, has been used for generations in cast iron seasoning. It’s known for its ability to create a long-lasting and robust seasoning layer. This traditional cooking fat comes with several advantages, but it may not be suitable for very high-heat cooking or baking treats.


  • Excellent non-stick finish: Bacon fat or lard can result in a superb non-stick surface that improves with each use.
  • Durability: It forms a seasoning layer that can endure frequent use, making it a reliable option for long-lasting seasoning.
  • Affordability: Bacon fat or lard is often an economical choice, especially if you have access to it from cooking bacon or other pork products.
  • Neutral taste: While it imparts a mild, savory flavor reminiscent of bacon, it generally doesn’t overpower the taste of your dishes.


  • Sensitivity to heat: Bacon fat or lard has a smoke point similar to that of many other oils and fats. While it works well for most cooking, it may not be suitable for very high-heat applications.
  • Limited versatility: Its distinct flavor is mild, but may not be suitable for dessert dishes.
  • Health/diet considerations: Bacon fat and lard are rich in saturated fats, which may not suit all dietary preferences or health concerns. However, lard contains a mix of saturated and unsaturated fats, making it a suitable choice for cast iron seasoning.

Best for moderate-heat cooking: Grapeseed oil

Smoke point: Approximately 230°C (446°F)

Ease of use: 3 / 5
Performance: 3 / 5
Durability: 4.5 / 5
Affordability: 4 / 5
Versatility: 3 / 5
Overall: 3 / 5

Grapeseed oil is also an excellent option, offering a moderate smoke point, good durability, neutral taste, unsaturated fats, and potential health benefits, including antioxidants. It offers a balanced approach to cast iron seasoning, combining durability with moderate affordability and ease of use. While it may not be as durable as flaxseed oil, it’s known for creating a long-lasting seasoning layer that can withstand medium-temperature regular cooking and cleaning. Not suited for high-temperature cooking.


  • Long-lasting seasoning: Grapeseed oil forms a reasonably long-lasting seasoning layer.
  • Moderate smoke point: Grapeseed oil is suitable for most cooking applications, including baking and sautéing. 
  • Neutral taste: It has a mild, neutral flavor that won’t overpower the natural flavors of your dishes.
  • Fairly versatile: Grapeseed oil’s moderate heat tolerance makes it versatile for most cooking methods, excluding those with high heat.
  • Affordable: It is often more affordable than specialty oils like flaxseed, making it a budget-friendly choice.


  • Not as durable as flaxseed: While grapeseed oil offers good longevity, it may not create as indestructible a seasoning layer as flaxseed oil.
  • Sensitive to high heat: Grapeseed oil has a moderate smoke point, so it may not be ideal for super high-heat cooking like searing.
  • Prone to rancidity: Like many vegetable oils, grapeseed oil can become rancid if not stored properly. Ensure it’s kept in a cool, dark place

Best for convenience: Refined olive oil

Smoke point: 207°C (405°F)

Ease of use: 4 / 5
Performance: 3 / 5
Durability: 3 / 5
Affordability: 3 / 5
Versatility: 4 / 5
Overall: 3 / 5

Olive oil, a Mediterranean staple, offers a distinctive flavor and versatility when it comes to seasoning your cast iron cookware. While it doesn’t boast an ideal high smoke point, and therefore won’t last very long and can’t be used for high-heat cooking, it’s a super convenient option and offers some health benefits.


  • Distinctive flavor: Olive oil adds a unique taste to your dishes, making it a favorite for the Mediterranean and many other cuisines.
  • Convenient: Olive oil is an affordable staple in most pantries.
  • Health benefits: It’s rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, potentially offering health advantages when used in moderation.


  • Lower smoke point: Olive oil isn’t great for high-heat cooking.
  • Storage: Proper storage in a cool, dark place is essential to preserve olive oil’s flavor and prevent rancidity.

Best budget-friendly oil: Canola oil or vegetable oil

Smoke point: 207°C (405°F)

Ease of use: 4 / 5
Performance: 3 / 5
Durability: 3 / 5
Affordability: 3 / 5
Versatility: 3 / 5
Overall: 3 / 5

Canola or vegetable oil, both polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), offers a practical and budget-friendly choice for seasoning your cast iron cookware. Its neutral flavor and versatility make it a suitable option for many cooking applications. However, its moderate smoke point may limit its use in high-heat cooking. Another aspect to consider is that PUFAs can be less stable at high temperatures compared to other fats, which could impact the durability of the seasoning.


  • Affordability: Vegetable and canola oils are typically more budget-friendly compared to some other specialty oils.
  • Neutral Flavor: These oils have a neutral taste, which means they won’t significantly alter the flavor of your dishes, making them suitable for a wide range of cuisines.
  • Availability: These oils are readily available in most grocery stores, making them convenient for seasoning.


  • Moderate Smoke Point: Vegetable and canola oils have a moderate smoke point which makes them less suitable for high-heat cooking methods like searing or frying.
  • Polyunsaturated Fats: Both oils are high in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), which are more susceptible to oxidation and can lead to rancidity over time.
  • Health Considerations: Excessive consumption of PUFAs, if not properly balanced with other fats, may have potential health risks, including inflammation and oxidative stress.
  • Seasoning Durability: The seasoning layer formed by vegetable or canola oil may not be as durable as that created by oils with higher smoke points or more stable fats.
  • Trans Fat Formation: When exposed to high heat, PUFAs can undergo partial hydrogenation, leading to the formation of trans fats, which are associated with health concerns.

Oils that are not great for seasoning cast iron

  • Sesame oil
  • Walnut oil
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Butter
  • Coconut oil
  • Palm oil
  • Peanut oil

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Why is it important to season cast iron cookware?

Seasoning creates a natural, non-stick surface on cast iron, preventing food from sticking and protecting the cookware from rust and corrosion.

What oils are suitable for seasoning cast iron?

Oils with high smoke points and high amounts of unsaturated fats are ideal choices when choosing what oil to season cast iron with. Some popular choices include flaxseed oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil, and tallow. Avocado oil and tallow being surperior due to their higher smoke points.

Can I use regular cooking oil like vegetable or canola oil?

While you can use them, vegetable and canola oils have moderate smoke points and may not provide the best durability for seasoning. They are better for moderate-heat cooking and also aren’t the greatest health-wise, but work in a pinch.

What is the best oil for high-heat cooking in cast iron?

Oils like avocado oil and grapeseed oil, as well as tallow, which have high smoke points, are suitable for high-heat cooking in cast iron.

Are saturated fats like lard or tallow good for seasoning cast iron?

Yes, lard and tallow can work well for seasoning because they contain a mix of saturated and unsaturated fats.

How often should I re-season my cast iron cookware?

The frequency of re-seasoning depends on use. If the surface becomes less non-stick or shows signs of rust, it’s time to re-season, which can be anywhere from a few uses to several months.

Can I use flavored oils like garlic-infused or chili-infused oils for seasoning?

While flavored oils can add a unique taste to dishes, they may not be the best choice for initial seasoning. Stick with neutral oils for the base seasoning layer.

Is it safe to use olive oil for cast iron seasoning?

Olive oil is safe to use for seasoning but not the best choice for high-heat cooking in cast iron due to its lower smoke point. It’s better suited for moderate-heat methods.

Can I season cast iron with butter or margarine?

Butter and margarine are not recommended for seasoning because they contain milk solids that can become sticky when heated. When choosing what oil to season cast iron, stick to oils with higher smoke points.

How do I store seasoned cast iron cookware?

After seasoning, store your cast iron cookware in a dry place. If stacking, place a paper towel or cloth between pieces to prevent moisture buildup.

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