Seasoning a Pan With a Wooden Handle

Reader Annemarie writes:

This is off topic for this question, but something that you might be able to help me with. A few months ago I won a “Le Crueset” cast iron saute pan, with a wooden handle. I know that you are supposed to season the pan before use, but I’ve only been able to find methods that involve putting the entire pan into the oven. I’m reluctant to do that with the wooden handle. Can you suggest a method? I’ve tried just heating oil in the pan, but that doesn’t do the trick.

Hey Annemarie! First, congratulations on a nice pickup! This is an obvious question, but did the pan itself come with any instructions? I ask because Le Creuset is obviously a very respectable brand, as such the odds are very good that it’s pre-seasoned and all you need to do is start using it. In fact “just using it” is good advice just generally for cast iron. People get overly obsessed with seasoning these days. Plain ol’ use will accomplish the task quicker than you might think.

Seasoning all has to do with the breakdown of fat molecules. Those molecules are “E”-shaped with three long fatty acid molecules attached to a “backbone” of glycerol. Heat them, however, and they begin to break into pieces. The individual fatty acids come loose from the backbone, at which point they’re free to bond with whatever type of molecule catches their fancy. If they happen to be near iron, they’ll bond to that, with their polar end down and their “fatty” end up. The end result for the pan is that all the tiny pores in the metal get plugged up and the surface becomes slick. This action happens with normal use and produces a very nice seasoning patina.

Hard core seasoning aficionados kick the whole procedure up a proverbial notch by employing a liquid fat (oil) and very high heat. This method not only breaks the fatty acids off their glycerol backbones, it breaks the fatty acids themselves into pieces — pieces which, in the presence of metal and oxygen, rearrange themselves into chains known as polymers. These polymers inter-weave with one another to create an incredibly hard and dense plastic-like film. If you’ve ever spent hours trying to scour blackened drips of burnt fat off the exterior of a sauté pan, you’re familiar with the stuff. You find it on the outside of pans and on cooktop surfaces because that’s where the big heat is.

To create a polymer film on the inside of a pan you need oil (because less saturated fats make harder polymers) and a temperature of 500 degrees or more. It’s a stinky, smoky process and one that in my opinion isn’t necessary, except maybe for a wok. A plain ol’ modest-heat-and-fat seasoning works great for most purposes and after time will become so thick that you won’t be able to scrub it off. So my advice is just to use it. Alternately, a reader had an interesting suggestion when I last discussed this topic: take the pan to a corner diner and ask them to put it in the deep fryer for 5 minutes or so. It’s a short cut to the plain-ol’-using-it route that would actually not hurt the handle and would be pretty entertaining to do!

Me, I’d make some corned beef hash in it with plenty of butter, once or twice a week for a month, being careful not to soap it much afterward. Done.

18 thoughts on “Seasoning a Pan With a Wooden Handle”

  1. Browning off ground beef is another great way to build up seasoning on cast iron. But it looks like that’s enameled, like most of what La Creuset sells:

    “Durable black enamel finish requires no seasoning”
    “Remove all packaging and labels. Wash the pan in hot, soapy water, then rinse and dry thoroughly. Your pan is now ready to be used and does not require any further preparation.” – See more at:

  2. Thanks, Joe, for addressing the recent near-neurotic fixation on seasoning. Seasoning is important but few seem to remember that it is the beginning of the process. Use and time, as you so accurately point out, is the rest of the process… and perhaps the most important part. On cannot achieve instant gratification in the pan seasoning process. Old school technique = old school satisfaction: good things take time!

  3. p.s. After initial seasoning I often encourage a binge of bacon cheeseburgers to complete the process. Then a visit to a cardiologist.

  4. So how do you get that lovely “seasoning” off the cooktop? I’ve got a gas stove, and there’s brown stains around the edge of the burners (the wells I’ve managed to keep reasonably clean).

    1. I’d suggest some glass cooktop cleaner, since it’s designed specifically to break down those polymers. Top shelf of the cleaning section in the supermarket. A little hard to find but easy to use!


      – Joe

  5. I love the “take it to a diner” suggestion. Sounds like the easiest/fastest way to get a cast iron pan nice and seasoned. I just wanted to plug the KnappMade CM Scrubber — perfect for cast iron, woks, glassware, basically anything that isn’t enameled/non-stick.

  6. Thanks Joe, I don’t think it came with instructions, but I was so excited when I unwrapped it that it is possible they got caught up in the wrapping, I didn’t think to check.
    I like your idea with the corned beef hash! I’ll just get to using it regularly then!

    1. Hey Annemarie! I’d bet money that the pan is pre-seasoned. Also check out what reader Eric found on the Le Creuset site. I think you’re good to go…just wash it and procure the bacon!

      Cheers and thanks for the question,

      – Joe

  7. If you eat bacon I recommend using the pan to cook your bacon for a few weeks/ months depending on how often you eat bacon. It will give it a great kick start on seasoning.

    1. THERE you go. And if you can’t figure out what to do with the bacon, you can mail it on to me. I’ll keep an eye out for the greasy envelopes.

      – Joe

  8. If you really want to season it, there are some good instructions here:

    De Buyer make great pans and pretty much nothing sticks to mine. I agree – just using it does the job, although I do try to put in some oil and heat it high when it loses some slickness.

    I also (at De Buyer’s suggestion) try to avoid scrubbing it with soap and just use a soft brush and super hot water – when nothing sticks, this seems to do the job nicely. If I feel worried about germs, I tend to put it back on the hot plate, add a little oil and heat to smoking – I hope that kills everything (no tummy bugs so far!) but don’t take my word for it!

  9. Well, you know what actually happened. I put it on to cook some sausages, added fat to cook in, and then I got distracted by something, (night shift brain, always makes cooking just that little bit more exciting!) you can guess that the next thing I ended up doing was putting a lid on a burning pan full of fat. Waited for it to cool, and wiped it out, hoping that I hadn’t damaged it beyond all use, and noticed that the surface seems smoother somehow. Used it yesterday and it is definitely more “non stick” than it was.

    1. Though I wouldn’t recommend that as a technique, that should have done the trick, Annemarie! Just keep using it, but you know, when you’re fully awake! 😉

      Your friend,

      – Joe

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