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Re- the oiling of cast iron

What's the general consensus about using mineral oil to oil cast iron instead of cooking oil? I've oiled pans and put them away for a long time and they sometimes get a sticky texture and/or funky rancid smell after a long time of not being used. A chef's dad once told me that he used mineral oil to season his cutting boards to keep the smell of rancid oil from happening.

True? False? Good idea? Bad idea?

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  1. You oil the pans and they smell funky... what oil you used?

    The general belief is that mineral does not go rancid, so it is use for long term storage. A very thin layer should be more than enough.

    Yes, many people use mineral oil for oiling their cutting boards. In fact, it is the standard method of choice -- for the reason you mentioned.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      Any time I have ever tried oiling or greasing my cast iron before putting them away, the same thing happens to mine. They get sticky dusty and smell rancid. I was at a flea market with some old cast iron for sale. It all smelled the same way. It was nice and shiney but stunk. It does not matter what kind of oil I use, it is the same. I think the only people that can do this is those that use their pans every day (before the oil goes rancid) or they just can't smell it. My husband has trouble detecting the smell of oil that is rancid in the bottle. Heck I can even smell it in old peanut butter.

      So I just do NOT do it. If I feel the pan needs oiling, then I will oil it (actually I use some kind of animal fat) then I heat in the oven untill it is hard. Then I will put it away. Otherwise, I just put the pans away as soon as I know they are completely dry. I dry them with a towel and then heat them up to make sure. Once completely cool, I just put them away. If you have several coatings of seasoning on the pans. And I mean all over the pans, you can store them just fine without fear of rust. That is as long as they are stored in a dry area. Like your cabinets or pantry.

      I find absolutely no reason to oil my pans and store them oily. In fact no one in my family has ever done this. But like I said, we all have many, many layers of seasoning on the pan. Inside and out, including the handles. I don't even use a new cast iron pot or pan until it has, oh, maybe 8 to 10 coats of seasoning. Then I will still continue from time to time adding layers to it. With that many layers, it is hard to get it to rust :o)

      1. re: dixiegal

        Well seasoned cast iron needs no "oiling"....Use it, wash it, dry it....put it away until next time. In 50 years I've never oiled a seasoned piece of iron...

        1. re: Uncle Bob

          I agree if it is going to see use but I assumed the OP was looking at longer term storage where humidity may be an issue.

          1. re: SanityRemoved

            I have had my seasoned pans stored in cabinets and hanging on walls, unused for years, they have not rusted at all. But if you are talking about storing them in a garage, shed, barn, basement with dampness. They will eventually rust no matter what you do to them. Though oiling does help. But it won't totally prevent it. Just like any other metal that is not used. Heck even painted metal will eventually rust when stored under damp conditions.

            1. re: dixiegal

              a friend of mine that deals with storms on the east coast always dries their pan on the stove and once it's cool they put it into an oversized ziplock bag. she says she put some in a storage unit like this that flooded at one point during a storm and they came out fine. for added protection you could try putting a silica gel packets in with the pan and bag combo.

    2. Food grade mineral oil will do what you want. Like Chem said a thin layer will be fine.

      1. I always re-oil my cast after washing, however, I use only a few drops, spread with a paper towel, and let'er sit on a warm burner for a few minutes...Never a funky smell, never oily when it gets put away. I use peanut oil, never thought of using mineral, should be fine

        1 Reply
        1. re: BiscuitBoy

          I always oil my cast iron cookware after use. I use mine with in three days of each use though, if i am not going to use it for a while then I will wash it with really diluted soapy water. If your season is good enough the soapy water will not hurt it. After that put it on the stove and heat it to about 400 degrees and this will sterilize the pan. Now you will have no remaining oils in the pan that can spoil, the only thing that is left is the carbon that creates the season. I never use vegetable oil re-oiling or ever in fact, only extra light olive oil as it last longer in the pan and has i high smoke point. After a long storage you may want to warm it up first then rub a little oil on it, then let it cool, then heat it up to cooking temp and use. I use always a touch of oil for cooking, maybe a tbsp, and always some kind of olive oil.

        2. Mineral oil is a laxative, so be prepared!

          1 Reply
          1. re: C. Hamster

            Thanks, but I wasn't planning on using all that much- :-) just a thin layer to replace the smelly rancid dusty vegetable oil that some of the pans have when they get stored for a long time.

          2. I season all the family cast iron and pieces for the Boy Scouts with a solid fat or Crisco. They don't need to be oiled. In fact, oil is drippy, sticky, and it can smell off, so I never use it to season or afterwards even though some of the companies even say to use vegetable oil.

            1. Mineral oil may be better than vegetable oil for long term storage, though residue from cooking fats might still go rancid. I would not recommend it for regular seasoning; I would wash it off with soap and water before starting to use the pan again.

              On wood boards and bowls, mineral oil is used cold. We don't know how it behaves when heated (as when seasoning a pan, or frying).

              Mineral oil is just a highly refined petroleum, pure enough to be consumed. It is not digested, but does have a lubricating effect hence its use as a laxative.

              1. As BiscuitBoy says - I oil mine after every washing. I put it on a warm burner to dry then give it a very light wipe with oil while still on the burner. I've never had stickiness or rancid oil problems yet by following that practice.

                1. EWSflash: Here's yet another take. Are you storing these pans and putting them away with lids on? My experience with storing my cast iron camp ovens (which I store in my barn) is that if I lid them, they are likely to come out of storage rusty and/or rancid-smelling. I read somewhere that if you fold a paper towel multiple times to make a 1- or 2-inch wide strip, and lay that across the rim and into the pan before putting the lid on, the pan can breathe. Whatever the true explanation, I haven't had problems with either rust or rancidity since I started doing this.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    Mineral oil is not edible, it is a by-product of distilling petroleum oil .
                    UGH !!
                    Use sesame, olive or any veggie oil.
                    See last reply - "Definitive answer on cleaning cast iron skillet "

                    1. re: bellybones

                      Food grade mineral oil is recommended for long term storage not for cooking. Any vegetable oil can go rancid over time. That's why mineral oil is recommended for cutting boards and cast iron storage.

                      1. re: bellybones

                        bellybones: Did I say anything about mineral oil?

                        1. re: bellybones

                          I would NOT recommend veg oil either! Gets sticky over time if not used alot and WILL go rancid in storage...Olive oil or lard is the tried and true best and evidently cooks off enough not to go rancid...I have stored some of my pans for a year or more, with paper towels in between, in a barn and not protected against cold in a plastic bin.

                          1. re: bellybones

                            Food Safe Mineral oil most defiantly IS edible I have had excellent results seasoning cast Iron with it.

                        2. My mistake, It thought I was replying to original post.
                          The government in their infinite wisdom has said there is such a thing as
                          'food grade' mineral oil. They at the same time said WD-40 was food grade also.
                          My advise to to stay away from both when near food.

                          1. My husband and I are both sensitive to petroleum byproducts, so we stay far far far far away from anything like mineral oil. I'm highly allergic to flax, so flaxseed oil is out as well. I've used coconut oil to season/cook with my cast iron pans and to protect my cutting boards with no problems. I've never had a rancid smell or taste.

                            1. I use mineral oil to preserve carbon steel tools and blades. If you store anything with a coat of mineral oil it will build up a coating of dust, grit and lint. That's OK for a hatchet head but not something I want on a cooking vessel. I don't really see a reason to oil cast iron cookware for storage. if you are that concerned with humidity, throw a couple desiccant packets in there with your pans.

                              As an aside, desiccant packets will lose their drying power as they soak up moisture over time, but they can be "revived" by drying them out in a low oven.