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You all know how I love coconut oil. I have an entire section of my site devoted to Coconut Oil and Health. Some of my most popular posts include:
- 52 Uses for Coconut Oil (and counting)
- The Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
- Coconut Oil for Happy, Healthy Pets
- Cinnamon Vanilla Herbal Coffee (my favorite way to eat coconut oil)
- DIY Coconut Oil Sunscreen
Recently, I got the honor of sharing a couple ways I use coconut oil in my home on the Health Impact News and CoconutOil.com sites. I wanted to share this article with you, so read on!
How to Use Coconut Oil for Seasoning Cast Iron Pans and Conditioning Wooden Cutting Boards
Originally published on Health Impact News and CoconutOil.com
There are literally hundreds of uses for coconut oil and the list only continues to grow. In addition to being part of a healthy diet and used for a wide variety of beauty applications, you can also use coconut oil for a number of other things as well. One of the ways that I use coconut oil in my home is for seasoning my cast iron pans and conditioning my wooden cutting boards.
I have always used cast iron pans. My mother grew up in the South using cast iron and she has passed the tradition along to me. Cast iron is durable and if properly taken care of, it can be passed down from generation to generation. Once the pans are properly seasoned, they are a low maintenance and safe alternative to other pots and pans (i.e. no nasty chemicals leaching into your food!). The seasoning process helps maintain the integrity of the pan, reduces sticking, and makes clean-up a breeze. And, it’s really easy to do!
How to Season Cast Iron Pans With Coconut Oil
In order to season your cast iron pans, you need a few simple tools:
- Cast iron pan(s)
- Coconut oil (affiliate link)
- A dry cloth or sponge
- An oven
The first thing you want to do is to make sure you pan is clean. Cast iron is not ideal for those people who like to leave their pans to soak for hours on end. It also cannot go in the dishwasher, so hand-washing is required. You should clean your pan once you’re done cooking and the pan has cooled enough to handle. If your pan is properly seasoned, cleaning should be as simple as rinsing the pan out with hot water. If you have some food that is stuck on the pan, use a non-metal scrub brush or sponge and gently scrub the spots. Make sure you don’t scrub too hard, or you may end up removing some of the black layer (this is the seasoning). You can also use course salt and a little water and it will act as a gentle abrasive, but not enough to harm the pan. Soap is not recommended. Dry the pan completely and now you’re ready to move on to the seasoning.
Keep in mind that the seasoning of cast iron is an ongoing process. Each time you cook something in the pan, it is helping season it a little more. You’ll often notice that your pans will get darker after many uses. That said, there are times when the seasoning may have been scrubbed off, or perhaps the cast iron has started to rust a little. When this happens, you just need to do a full re-seasoning of the pan. To do so, simply follow these steps:
- Preheat your oven to 325°F. Place a sheet pan or some foil over the lower rack of your oven while the oven is cool. You can also season your pans on a grill if you would prefer. This keeps the mess and potential smoke outdoors.
- Using your fingers, a cloth, or dry sponge, spread a layer of coconut oil around the inside and outside of the skillet. You can use virgin or refined. I use refined. Some people will season the bottom of the pan, but I prefer not to, because I find that it can create a lot of smoke the first few times you use it on the stove top. Make sure the inside is coated completely.
- Place your pan face down on your top oven rack.
- Bake in the oven for 90 minutes. There is a chance of smoke, so I like to keep my stove fan running and also open the windows if appropriate.
- Turn off the oven, but don’t open the door. Let the pan cool in the oven and then repeat as needed. Sometimes one session is all you need, but if it’s a new, unseasoned pan, or one that has had the seasoning worn off, you may need to repeat the process a few times for a stronger bond.
Properly seasoned pans won’t regularly need to be re-seasoned, but if you see that the black coating is wearing off, experience any rusting, or see uncoated metal showing through, then it’s time to re-season. Each time you wash your pan, dry it thoroughly and rub a little coconut oil into the pan. You can use a dry towel to remove any excess oil and this will help preserve the baked on seasoning on the pan.
Using Coconut Oil to Care for Wooden Cutting Boards
Wooden cutting boards are a common kitchen tool and like cast iron, with proper care and maintenance, they can last for decades. I have a wooden cutting board that is over 60 years old (made my by grandfather and passed on to me by my aunt) and it’s still in great condition. I love having this piece of history in my kitchen and this tie to loved ones who have long since left this earth. Wooden cutting boards are also much more gentle on your knives, meaning you don’t have to sharpen them as often, plus you are not risking exposing your food to the toxic chemicals found in plastic cutting boards. Glass cutting boards are also common and while they are easy to clean (since you can toss them in the dishwasher), they are very hard on your knives and will dull them much quicker.
Wooden cutting boards need to be conditioned between uses and one of the most common oil that is used is mineral oil. Now, if you’re like me, you will want to avoid mineral oil (even “food grade”), as it is a petroleum product, which can create a wide variety of health issues. Not something that I want to be exposing my food to. While you could use almost any oil to condition your cutting boards, it is wise to steer clear of olive and vegetable oils, as well as nut and seed oils, as they go rancid very quickly — yet something else you don’t want to expose your food to. My oil of choice? Coconut oil, of course!
Coconut oil has natural antimicrobial properties, making it a potent germ killer. Many people are afraid of using wooden cutting boards because they fear they cannot be sanitized properly to prevent illness (I was one of those people, believe it or not!), however, I have since learned that when properly cleaned and maintained, wooden cutting boards are perfectly safe. The antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties of coconut oil come from the medium chain fatty acids/triglycerides (MCTs) found in this oil. Lauric acid is the most predominant MCT found in coconut oil and it packs a strong antimicrobial punch. Research has shown that microorganisms that are inactivated by coconut oil include bacteria, yeast, fungi, and enveloped viruses. All of this makes coconut oil a fantastic oil to use to treat and condition your wooden cutting boards and chopping blocks. In addition, wood itself, has been shown to have natural antimicrobial properties, so paired with the strength of coconut oil, there is very little to worry about in the way of germs.
Before you condition your cutting board, make sure it is clean and dry. To clean your cutting board gently scrub the board with hot water and a gentle soap. Rinse dry. Do not completely submerge your boards, don’t let your wooden boards soak in water, and don’t run through the dishwasher. Let air dry completely before storing or conditioning. I like to towel dry them and then let them air dry on a rack, so the air can circulate. Sometimes, when a board is just propped up to dry, moisture can create cracks in the bottom edge.
You can also quickly sanitize your cutting boards by giving them a spray with full-strength white vinegar. Spray it on, let it sit for a few seconds and then wipe off completely with a towel. You can follow-up with a spray of 3% hydrogen peroxide, let sit for a few seconds and then wipe off. I keep a spray bottle of each of these liquids on hand for quick sanitizing jobs like this. Let your board air dry.
If your cutting board has any odors, you can easily remove those by sprinkling a little course salt on your board (a tablespoon or two, depending on the size of your board) and then using half of a lemon (cut side down) as your scrubber. Rub the salt around with the cut lemon until your board is completely covered. Let the mixture sit on the board for a few minutes and then rinse off and dry completely.
Once your board is clean, deodorized, and completely dry, you can condition it. Conditioning the wood will help preserve it and prevent it from drying out and cracking. It’s easy to do with just a few simple steps:
- Take some coconut oil (virgin or refined) and start rubbing it into the wood. Depending on the size of your cutting board and how long it has been since it has been conditioned, you may need anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon.
- After the board has been completely coated with coconut oil, let the board sit for a few hours or even overnight. If the wood is really dry, it will soak up the oil very quickly.
- Wipe the excess oil off with a soft cloth and re-apply as needed. If your board has never been conditioned or has dried out, it may take a couple coats. Re-apply the coconut oil until it doesn’t soak in anymore.
Your board is now ready to use!
Keeping your cast iron and wooden cutting boards in tip-top shape is easy with the use of a little coconut oil!
Tell me, do you use coconut oil on your cast iron pans and wooden cutting boards? What other ways do you use coconut oil in your home? Leave a comment below!
would this same theory apply to soapstone countertops? I have used mineral oil on them, but it looks like it would make sense to switch to coconut oil.
Hi Suzette – I think I read somewhere just recently that you could use coconut oil on soapstone. I can’t remember for sure now. I would just Google it to make sure, but I personally don’t see any reason why you couldn’t.
I just wrote about how much I love my cast iron pans! http://defiantlyhealthy.com/2014/03/21/the-joys-of-an-old-cast-iron-pan/ It hadn’t occurred to me to use coconut oil to season it with, but now that you mention it I will have to try that the next time around. Thanks for the great tip!
What can’t coconut oil be used for! 😉 Thanks for stopping by! 🙂
I am confused! After watching one of your bonus lessons on proper cast iron care and following that lengthy discussion, I stopped using coconut oil when cooking in cast iron, only animal fat. When I made that switch, I stopped having my ongoing seasoning issues. I can’t put my hands on those notes, but what changed? Don’t get me wrong, I still use coconut oil, just not on my cast iron. Did I get something all wrong here?
Hi Eileen – Thanks for your comment, but I think you meant to post this on the GNOWFGLINS site: http://gnowfglins.com/. Wardeh is the author of that site. My name is Jessica. 🙂 On a side note, I use coconut oil most of the time for my cooking (including in my cast iron) and I have never had any issues.
Would the same cleaning and conditioning tips apply to bamboo cutting boards?
Hi Marie – Yep! I have one bamboo board that I use these steps on and it works great! 🙂
I was getting ready to season my cast iron skillet with Crisco because that is how my mom taught me then I ran across this on Pinterest! I am so using my coconut oil instead!!!!
Awesome Dana! So glad the post could help! 🙂
I love the seasoning method I’ve used on my pans. They are just like non stick pans. But, I sometimes wonder if my technique isn’t the healthies option. Here is mine. What do you think?
Hi Kim – I have seen that article before. I personally steer clear of flax oil for seasoning pans because it is high in polyunsaturated fats, which makes it go rancid when heated. Flax oil should only be used for cold applications and never heated. Hope that helps!
I use coconut oil (refined) for almost anything “oil” in my kitchen. When it comes to seasoning my cast iron (we have 7 pans in 4 sizes that are in almost continuous use)I vary the fat type depending on what is handy; animal fats or coconut are my “go to” choices. I try to use coconut oil, 1/2 and 1/2 with other fats for any cooking, even with butter for frying eggs and the like. It’s an easy way to get more inside my family.
I also use coconut oil in place of shortening for cooking things like biscuits, pie crusts and the like. It works great but you don’t want to chill the dough as long because the coconut oil becomes much more solid when chilled.
I don’t use body lotion, just coconut oil (unrefined – love the smell). I make my own tooth paste with coconut oil. I feed it to my dog – it helps with her coat. I use it in my hair as a dressing and conditioner. I am always looking for new ways to use it.
I have never conditioned my cutting boards. I will have to begin. I love the idea of the antibacterial quality of coconut oil, it adds another level of assurance that my cutting boards will be sanitary as well as long lasting.
Isn’t coconut oil great stuff? Definitely try it on your boards. It will prolong the life of them a lot and make the surfaces nice and smooth!
Is this available in a printable format? Thank you
Hi Tina – Yes, there is a print button at the top of the post! Let me know if you have any other questions!
I Love Coconut Oil and Your Advice, so here’s one. My dilemma came up with the coconut oil attracting creeper crawlers like ants, as I have to leave my pans and cutting boards out. What do you do to offset this?
Hi DianaGrace – Thanks for stopping by! I’ve never had that issue before and I’ve been using coconut oil on my cast iron and cutting boards for years! I’m not sure why it would be attracting pests for you. No fun! 🙁
I have used that system for my cast iron for 40 years. Good advice, except that I just buy the cheap, iodized salt at the grocery (that I do NOT use for cooking because of the way it is manufactured) for cleaning purposes, instead of the COARSE salt. Another step that I have taken with wooden cutting boards is to sand them smooth and get rid of some deep scratches and cuts where debris or bacteria can congregate. then, season with any oil and begin again. I have several that were inherited, including my Great-grandmother’s bread board that she used when baking her several loaves each DAY for her family!
Great tips Carol! Thanks for taking the time to share! I definitely need to sand down some of my older boards! Will do that soon. Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂
I use just lard. I keep a can of bacon grease on the back of the stove and I rinse the pan while it is hot after using and wipe it out with a cloth. While it is still hot I put lard in the pan and coat the bottom and heat it a little. I scrape the bottom with a putty knife or the spatula until there is no build up of carbon on the bottom or sides. I then wipe out the excess grease… smooth as silk.
We have an iron egg pan that is never washed we only scrape it and season it with lard. We cook our eggs at a medium temperature and use butter. It is as non-stick as Teflon.
We use cast iron skillets almost exclusively and I have done so since I was a boy.
Lard works for those who eat pork. But if you don’t (like myself), coconut oil works great too! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂