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Jul 26, 2013 06:35 AM

When seasoning cast iron with lard, does it make a difference what type you use?

After much frustration, I gave up on seasoning my pan with flaxseed oil (the Sheryl Canter technique). Like countless others, i've concluded that this method is just prone to flaking. My next attempt will involve seasoning with lard but i've heard that a pan can get cloudy. As said by the Pan Man (David Smith):

Seasoning vehicle: Crisco is his favorite. “I used to use lard, but then when I went to outdoor shows, it would turn cloudy and the pans wouldn’t look very good. An old guy who’d been in the business for decades told me his secret. His pans always looked better and sold better than anyone else’s.”

Perhaps the type of lard matters. Lard in a grocery store is typically hydrogenated and filled with preservatives and chemicals. Maybe this led to cloudiness. Im thinking it can be avoided if one used good lard, the kind rendered from leaf lard. I have a smooth Griswold if that helps as im aware some people use different seasoning techniques depending on whether its a rough cast like Lodge or smooth like a Griswold. Can anyone speak from experience if the type of lard makes a difference in the outcome? Im sure some of you do season with lard. Or would I be better off with Crisco?

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  1. My grandmother always used bacon greas in her cast iron. That's about as close to lard as I get. If I have to "wash" cast iron (salt scrub and lots of hot water), I put pan back on burner, get ripping hot, and add a dab of bacon grease. Wipe around with paper towel to get up excess... and don't forget to occasionally wipe on outside, too.

    2 Replies
    1. re: kseiverd

      My pan was previously well seasoned but I had to strip. :(
      I use a chain mail scrubber rather than a salt scrub to take off burned bits. Less waste and less messy. And yeah...I also wiped on a very thin coat of oil before storage.

      Im not really looking for seasoning techniques tbh. I wanted to know if there is really any difference in the type of lard you use when it comes to aesthetics. Its an expensive pan (paid over $200) and I would like it to look nice rather than be ruined by a cloudy seasoning as the Pan man experienced. People seem to rave about seasoning with lard but if its going to look bad, i'll go with crisco. Just wanted to know if its worth scouting out leaf lard.

      1. re: VongolaDecimo

        I am trying to understand what a 'cloudy' cast iron pan looks like. I have been around CI pans all my life, but have never seen one that was cloudy looking.

    2. I don't know, but you can get rendered leaf lard from

      2 Replies
      1. re: mwhitmore

        I personally wouldn't waste leaf lard for seasoning cast iron. I just use lard from the grocery store.

        1. re: rasputina

          I dont use lard for baking anyways. Actually, I dont use it period. I admit, it gives a nice texture to biscuits and pie crusts but they just dont give the flavor butter gives. Besides, its not even expensive. I paid less for it than I do butter.

          Honestly, im not sure if whether it does make a difference to use leaf lard or not. What I was more concerned about was the alpha-linolenic acid content as this influences polymerization. Lard from factory pigs are low in ALA due to being forced to eat grain. When I found lard from pastured pigs, it just so happens they only sold leaf lard.

      2. I would just use Crisco, cheap, easy and works great.

        Lard provides zero benefit over the long haul as the oils you cook with are going to polymerize over it as you use the pan.

        1. sheryl canter's ideas against lard are to do with the diet of the pigs today: she says a factory farmed/fed pig does not have the needed higher levels of omega 3's to create the high polymerization that flaxseed does. flaxseed has the highest omega 3s of any oil. I just read this somewhere on her site - sorry i can't give you the exact link - but it's in there. in fact, it might just be in one of the discussions i read on that site, but i know i just read it, because the defense was that pigs today are not fed a traditional diet, so the omega 3s are not present in high quantities. I just want to know - what the heck is a traditional diet for a pig?!?!

          sorry about not being more specific with a link. personally, i've used organic lard: i have it around, it's easy for me to do it with lard, and i trust my farmer.

          3 Replies
          1. re: rmarisco

            <...what the heck is a traditional diet for a pig?!?!>

            I can't say what a farm-raised pig used to eat, as I'm a girl from the 'burbs. When my cousin raised her prize-winning 4-H pig, most of her classmates bought Purina pig chow, but she went cheap. It had a simple diet... all (and I mean ALL) the food scraps from 2 families. Veggies, eggs, beef, chicken, fat trimmings, gravy, it was all there, right down to potato peels. The pig even ate pig. Seemed to like it, too. ;)

            Her pig was the largest in the class, by a wide margin. It's name was Maurice, but we called it Boeing.

            1. re: rmarisco

              Yeah, I read that a few days after posting. Seems her only problem was with lard from factory pigs. So I went over to the farmer's market and bought some rendered and unrendered leaf lard sourced from humanely-treated pastured heritage breed pigs (those that were common back then before industrial farming). Seasoned my pan with the rendered lard and keep the unrendered lard in the freezer for "spa days". Loving the pan so far. I thought my pan would never be back to normal. I did have to strip once after seasoning with the lard as I did not like the spotty appearance on the pan. I had this happen repeatedly with the flaxseed oil method and it would flake off. Reseasoned and just wiped the pan out every 10 minutes and the seasoning is wonderful, not spotty, and uniform. Seems that smooth antique cast iron is susceptible to spottiness when seasoning at high temperatures. I now believe that Sheryl Cater's method may be more successful should one wipe every 10-15 minutes as even trying to wipe the pan dry beforehand doesn't seem to be enough. There will still be excess oil pooling into dots. I may retest her method in the future, this time wiping out every now and then should I ever have to season another cast iron pan but for now, loving the lard.

              By traditional diet, I think she is referring the food a pig would naturally eat from foraging the land. Back then pigs were all pastured rather than stuffed in a barn or factory. I think we can all agree that pastured animals are much healthier and would as a result taste and be nutritionally superior.

              1. re: rmarisco

       has the most high-quality, divine lard you can get IMO. I use this and ghee to season cast iron and it works like a charm.

              2. I eventually started using peanut oil for its higher smoke point. Don't overthink things. If you are cooking in your pan, the oil/fat you use will get covered up in whatever fat you cook with.

                You need something to start with but, don't fool yourself into thinking it will be there after a year of cooking. Your skillet is a "living" thing that will change over time as you use it.