How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet – Without an Oven

Last Updated on October 12, 2021

Jim Bob

Jim Bob

A long-time contributor to GrillBabyGrill. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.

how to season cast iron without oven

Your cast iron skillet is probably one of your favorite pieces of cookware. It’s heavy duty, versatile, and when cared for properly can literally last a couple of generations. They are amazing pans, and well worth the investment. 

If you haven’t invested in a cast iron skillet, but you’re curious, and wonder if they are worth the cost and effort, you’re probably curious about care, and this mysterious process called, “seasoning”.

Seasoning your cast iron is a process that uses carbonized oil to create a non-stick surface on your pan. Seasoning is something that you should do on new pans, and periodically with cast iron pans that you already have in your kitchen. The process seems scary, but in reality, it boils down to coating your skillet with oil and cooking it on. 

The easiest way to do this is in your oven. You don’t have to watch your pan, and it doesn’t smell, and creates a great result. However, how do you season your cast iron if you don’t have an oven available? That really depends on how hard you want to work, what tools you have available and the existing condition of your pan.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through a few different options for seasoning your cast iron skillets without using your oven. We’ll also give you some hints and tricks to make the process easier.

1. Buy Pre-Seasoned

putting a powder

This is really the easiest way to get a cast iron skillet seasoned without using an oven. Many companies today sell pre-seasoned skillets. Some hardcore cooks might tell you that this is cheating, but it is safer than buying a pan lined with Teflon or ceramic. 

Also, you get the amazing benefits of a super versatile pan that goes from the stove to the oven or over direct flame, without an issue.

Buying pre-seasoned doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to buy a new skillet, either. We love scoping out the cast iron cookware in antique stores and our local thrift store. 

Many times, you can find amazing skillets, in perfectly great condition, with that beautiful layer of seasoning. A quick wash in warm water, and you’re ready to cook.

2. Use Your Stove Top

If you have a skillet that needs to have its seasoning refreshed, but you would rather not fire up your oven, then a great option for you is to season your pan on the stove top. 

This is also your solution if you need to re-season a cast iron skillet or griddle when you’re camping. Honestly, this is the “traditional” way to season cast iron, but it does require a bit more effort than using your oven.

Here are the steps to seasoning your skillet on the stove-top.

Step 1 – Thoroughly wash your skillet

Use warm water, and a small amount of soap if necessary. Remember that dish soap cuts grease, so too much soap can strip way some of your existing seasoning.

Step 2 – Dry using a paper towel

We don’t recommend using a cloth towel. Your cast iron can stain cloth towels.

Step 3 – Coat your pan with oil

We prefer vegetable oil or Crisco for best results. However, any low flavor oil will work just fine. Use a paper towel to spread the oil.

Step 4 – Heat the skillet on the burner

We prefer medium to medium-high heat. You’ll know it’s ready when it starts to smoke a little.

Step 5 – Turn off the heat and let the pan cool

Do make sure you let your pan set for a good while. Cast iron does take some time to cool, and you don’t want to burn yourself.

3. Season with Foods

So, maybe you’re not keen on buying a pre-seasoned skillet, or maybe you just don’t feel completely comfortable seasoning your skillet right now. That’s OK, there’s an option for you as well. Frankly, if you don’t want to purchase pre-seasoned cast iron, this is the next easiest way to season your skillet.

This magic process? Cook in your skillet. Preferably something greasy or fried. Think pork chops or fried chicken. Foods that have a lot of natural oil or fat, or foods that require some fat for cooking are a simple way to introduce grease to your cast iron skillet. 

Now, it is important for us to point out that if your skillet is brand new, and not pre-seasoned, this could be a bit frustrating. The purpose of seasoning a skillet is to create a layer of oil that sticks to the pan, and creates a non-stick coating. If you don’t season before cooking in your skillet, you’ll find that your food sticks to the pan. 

This will get better with time, and it’s important to note that this is actually common with all new cast iron, even skillets that have been seasoned. It takes many uses to create that nice seasoned layer.

4. Hints and Tricks

So now that you know how to season a skillet without using your oven, it’s time to toss out some handy hints and tricks to help you get the most from your skillet and your seasoning process.

Only put oil on the inside of the pan – Generally, if you are seasoning in your oven, we would tell you to coat the whole pan, inside and out. However, if you’re seasoning on your stove (or camp stove) just season the inside of your skillet. This is especially important if you have a gas stove. Excess grease dripping on the flame could cause a fire.
You don’t need a fancy seasoning product – To be fair, you can buy “cast iron seasoning” spray. If you want to spend the money, that’s up to you, but plain old vegetable oil works great and is really inexpensive.
Season periodically – You will want to season your pan periodically, even after you’ve achieved a nice non-stick coating. Washing and use can wear away at the coating.
Use your skillet frequently – This is really the easiest way to maintain the seasoning of your skillet. The more you cook in it, the better the seasoning becomes.

So there you have it. Our guide to seasoning your cast iron skillet, without using an oven. We hope that by comparing the two options it inspires you to step away from your non-stick pans, and start using the versatile and reliable product that is cast iron. 

And while seasoning is an essential part of caring for your cast iron, now, it’s no longer a daunting task, one that can be done with or without your oven.