Seasoning Cast Iron with Beeswax

October 15, 2012 · 17 comments

I’m kind of obsessed with cast iron. Even though my cast iron pans are heavy and large, I can mostly justify keeping what I have and occasionally adding to my collection even with very limited storage space because they’re functional, and they’re beautiful. Vintage cast iron is my guilty pleasure.

For the record, I believe I currently have 16 cast iron pans, pots, griddles, etc. in rotation. I bought three of them brand new (this, this, and this), four used ones were gifted to me, two skillets were Henry’s from way back when, one came from a thrift store, and six I bought at the Coburg Antique Fair on three separate occasions.

Henry and I cook with and bake in our cast iron pans constantly, especially our workhorse skillets. Generally speaking I don’t get too worked up about having a rigorous seasoning routine. I wash with hot water (no soap), scrub with a stiff bristle brush if necessary, and then dry over low heat on the stove. I used to add a couple drops of olive oil to the pan at the end, but now I have a new trick.

When I heat up the pan to dry it after washing, I rub it lightly with a block of solid beeswax, melting a thin layer of wax onto the iron. I got this idea after reading this blog post on the Kitchn about “greasing” baking sheets with beeswax, and it sounded like a pretty good idea. That, and I had a giant wheel of beeswax sitting around that I didn’t know what to do with.

Here are a few things I like about this beeswax seasoning…

It smells amazing. I had a friend come over for the first time a few weeks ago, and upon entering the house, she remarked, “It smells like a cabin in here.” I took the statement as a compliment and give partial credit to the lingering sweet beeswax aroma.

Beeswax is solid at room temperature, so once my pans cool off, they’re not greasy or sticky, and when I hang my pans on their hooks on the wall, I never get an oily smear on the wood paneling as I have in the past.

For me, beeswax is free, and we have a ton of it (at least enough for a second wheel as big as the one in this post). It’s also a natural substence that’s inert and perfectly edible but mostly tasteless in small quantities.

Though I’ve only been doing it for a couple months, seasoning my pans with beeswax seems to be working quite well. I especially like to use this technique on my yet-to-be-perfectly-seasoned popover pan because it seems to really give the it a non-stick quality. The only pan that doesn’t get a regular beeswax treatment is my small round griddle because we use it all the time to heat tortillas, and I’ve found I’m not a big fan of waxy tortillas. Otherwise, I haven’t noticed any strange flavors or texturs in the food that we’ve cooked in waxed pans.

Last week when I stopped by my mother in law’s house to pick up my kids who had been playing there for the afternoon, my mother in law told me she had something that I might want. It turned out that she found three cast iron pans in the basement of her church that nobody wanted, and she was going to donate them to a thrift store if I didn’t take them. There was one standard dutch oven, an extra deep fryer, and an absolutely huge-diameter skillet. These pans were nothing short of amazing, and even if I didn’t NEED them, I had to have them.

The new-to-me pans were a little crusty (though not majorly rusty), so I scrubbed them out with soap and hot water. I then brought them out to my barbecue and baked them on high for about an hour after rubbing them down with a generous coating of beeswax. The beeswax burned and smoked (the reason I did this outside) until the pans went from looking wet to being mostly dry. Now they’re in great shape and will be perfectly usable for many many years.

If you’re new to cast iron and/or don’t have easy, cheap access to beeswax, Lodge has some great tips about caring for cast iron pans here. If you’re up for it and want to give this beeswax method a try, I’d love to hear what you think. Leave your comments below. Happy cooking, friends!

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Jane October 16, 2012 at 7:31 am

I so love cast iron also. Have new and old pieces, a few from my grandmother even. I recently found a cast iron bundt pan that was at my MIL’s house, unused!! We are actually 30 minutes away from Lodge……their company store is amazing!!

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Camille October 17, 2012 at 9:07 pm

I would be in big trouble at the Lodge company store!

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Jane October 23, 2012 at 6:33 pm

It is big trouble for me too…….maybe that’s why my husband is always rushing me through!!

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Ashley Wilson October 16, 2012 at 8:18 am

Question: i know you’re not supposed to was the pans with soap, because it can get into the metal, right? I understand sanitizing an unknown pot, but was there a reason you elected to use soap to clean it initially? I’m truly curious, I’m not trying to be smarmy at all :)

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Camille October 17, 2012 at 9:12 pm

I’m no expert, but I think the reason you’re not supposed to use soap on a regular basis is because it strips off the seasoning. If you’re planning on reseasoning anyway, soap is okay. Scrubbing and heating up a pan will kill bacteria, but I kinda feel like if I get a pan from somewhere unknown, I need a little soap to wash out any chemicals or weird funk.

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Missy October 19, 2012 at 9:16 am

I just got a three pan set of cast iron at a thrift store. I went the whole way and stripped the pans (using oven cleaner) and then re-seasoned them (using lard). The results were amazing!
http://missyvanee.blogspot.com/2012/10/restoring-cast-iron.html

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oukay October 22, 2012 at 12:02 pm

When I have acquired cast iron of questionable origin, I have used our weed dragon (flame thrower) to burn out all of the mystery crust. After cleaning out the ashy debris, I proceed with seasoning.

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Nita October 16, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Tried it today and it worked great! I’ve used cast iron for years and this is the best tip ever. Much more pleasant than the added oil. Thanks!!

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Camille October 17, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Glad to hear it!

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Miranda October 26, 2012 at 8:44 am

You really never can have too many cast iron pans! Unless you’re stuck in a “temporary” apartment living situation with no place to keep ‘em ;)
I had been “seasoning” my cast irons for hte past year since being gifted them from my step-dad…. but lately i read a great permaculture post that encourages seasoning via cooking…. who doesn’t love an excuse to use lots of butter when you cook??? My pans are already improving a ton. I’ve also stopped using harsh bristles which were chipping off the good seasoning i already had.
I’m curious if the beeswax tastes like anything when you cooked? I wasn’t sure beeswax was ‘edible” – i know it’s ingestible, but that’s not exactly the same thing.

And speaking of the wax – do you ever sell it? i’d be keen to pick up a few pounds for my herbal salves in time for the holiday markets :)

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Camille November 1, 2012 at 10:55 am

It’s such a small amount of beeswax that you can’t really taste it, and eating a little wax won’t do you any harm.

We haven’t sold beeswax in the past, but maybe we should start. We do have a lot of it.

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Jim November 1, 2012 at 12:50 pm

I just happened to have a huge chunk of beeswax leftover from making mouth pieces for didgeridoos or something rather. Gave it a go on my casties and it worked great! And yes, definitly made the house smell good.

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Dawn Morea January 25, 2014 at 8:38 pm

I have to try this. My husband likes cast iron pans also. Thanks for the info, Cousin!!

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Goldie March 26, 2014 at 7:55 am

I can’t wait to try this…I just got some beeswax to make a finish for some wood toys I’m going to create and while scrubbing my cast iron wondered if I could use the wax on it. I use mine frequently…for everything…family of six mine is huge and I want to get some smaller ones. Cooked 12 stuffed peppers in mine last night. At any rate…I always clean…dry on stove…and put a small amount of veggie oil and wipe into pan and let cool. It would be so much easier to use the wax. Thanks for the tip!

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