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GMO Ingredients for Seasoning Cast Iron?

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I love my cast iron. I have several pieces, from a variety of sources, but the big skillet comes out most frequently. It takes a little bit more care than some cookware does, but it’s more about awareness than actual work. The most important thing is keeping the iron protected from moisture so that it doesn’t rust. A well-seasoned piece of cast iron is a thing of beauty. (See more about seasoning cast iron here.)

When seasoning cast iron at home, you can choose which oil to use. Commercially pre-seasoned cast iron might have a GMO surface.

Commercial ingredients for seasoning cast iron

Recently, a number of people have expressed concern to me that American-made Lodge cast iron products are pre-seasoned with genetically modified oils. GMO cast iron?? Not one to just run with a rumor, I contacted Lodge directly to see what they had to say.

We season all of our traditional cast iron products with 100% soybean oil. Because approximately 90% of all soybeans grown in the US are GMO, our seasoning oil most likely contains oil derived from GM crops.  As non-GMO sources of oil become more readily available, we will investigate the possibility of using those for our seasoning oil. Currently, the soybean oil we receive to season our products is highly refined and contains no toxins whatsoever. Lodge has a long-standing commitment to being an environmentally responsible company.

I have to say, kudos to Lodge for being so forthcoming.

Now that you know, you can make some choices about how to source cast iron for your kitchen. Some people may decide that the minimal amount of soy oil on a pre-seasoned piece of Lodge cast iron isn’t enough to worry about. Others may be purists who feel that no amount of GMO soy oil on their cast iron will do. People who want to start a collection of cast iron without potential GMO contamination have a number of options.

Sourcing GMO-free cast iron cookware

Buy second-hand cast iron. Unless a piece has a serious flaw, most rusty and worn cast iron is salvageable. Seasoning cast iron is something you can do yourself, at home. You can cook off the surface crud by putting your pan in the oven and running the self-cleaning function. Alternatively, you can set it in a hot fire pit and let the coals do the work.

Choose new cast iron that has not been pre-seasoned. This allows you to season your own pans with your choice of oil. Unfortunately non-seasoned cast iron is pretty rare these days. [Here’s one.]

Remove the pre-seasoning from new pieces. The price on new cast iron cookware is incredibly reasonable and there are so many styles to choose from.  You might decide it’s worth it to strip and re-season. [My son took one like this to college with him.]

Choose enameled cast iron. While these Lodge products are not American-made, the enamel finish means that there’s no need to season the surface, thus eliminating the soybean oil step.

More on cast iron cookware:

Cast iron recipes

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

15 comments… add one
  • Candi Dec 20, 2014, 5:08 pm

    That is amazing! I am celebrating that my cast iron was my Grandmother’s. It looked rough when I first brought it home, but with some scrubbing and some lard they are shiny and new (kind-of). Merry Christmas!

  • Cyn Dec 21, 2014, 2:22 am

    I wish to address some of the recommendations you’re making in this article. It is very easy to de-season a cast iron pan and start over. Starting over, one can season with natural fats like pasture raised pork lard or grassfed beef tallow instead of oils. I’m concerned about the suggestion of just buying a non seasoned cast iron as the marketplace is peppered with these supposedly cast “iron” pans that actually have lots of contaminants and heavy metals. These pans are made mostly in China and generally speaking, compromises are made to keep them cheap. Lodge is a trust worthy brand that despite using soybean oil, at least doesn’t poison you with the metal from which the pan is made. On a different note, enamel cast iron isn’t to be used in the same way as cast iron. The enamel cast iron pans come with instructions to NOT exceed medium heat. Cast iron skillets can go to red hot without issue, the same cannot be said of enamel cast iron. You don’t get any of the benefit of iron into your food when there is no iron contact, only enamel.

    • Kris Bordessa Dec 21, 2014, 2:35 pm

      Thanks for chiming in!

    • Frederick Wurst Dec 27, 2014, 8:19 am

      If you take old cast iron pans and sand blast or glass bead them to remove all the old coating, rust and burnt gunk on them, you will have what looks to be a brand new pan. To reseason it, buy some grapeseed oil at your local health food store and follow directions online to properly recondition. Animal fats work, but aren’t the best, and your vegetarian friends won’t eat out of it. You want to use an oil with a high flash/smoke point.

  • Kevin Coleman Dec 23, 2014, 4:57 am

    Can you please tell me what kind of genetic makeup the element Iron has? I’m dying to know. 😀

    • Frederick Wurst Dec 27, 2014, 8:06 am

      It’s elemental symbol is Fe, if you add a couple per cent carbon you get steel. It is a mineral, 26 on the periodic chart of elements

      • Richard Hewitt Mar 27, 2015, 1:05 pm

        You seem to have misunderstood. What kind of GENETIC make up does it have? (Not chemical make up). Where does its DNA come from?

        And how does the soybean oil alter the properties of the iron? I think the public has a right to know about these things if there is potential harm and warnings should be issued.

        Also – do you think that I should avoid cast iron pans for the sake of my son’s health? He has an allergy to soya (he comes out in hives because of it) and if it’s something else I need to avoid I’d love to know why I should take precautions against this contamination.

        • Kris Bordessa Mar 28, 2015, 7:18 am

          Cast iron is great. My suggestion is simply to make sure that the original seasoning is cleared off and you start fresh.

    • YoungRocketSamurai Mar 27, 2015, 6:47 am

      Um, only organisms have genes. An element cannot have a genetic makeup.

  • Elizabeth Jan 3, 2015, 2:26 pm

    I petitioned Lodge forever ago to stop using GMOs in their seasoning process. 🙁
    https://www.change.org/p/lodge-stop-using-gmo-oils-to-pre-season-cookware

  • Geoff Mar 28, 2015, 2:57 am

    Jeez…are you people frightened of your own shadow? How do you get through the day with all the things you’re afraid of? GM soybeans aren’t going to hurt you. Not if you ate them three meals a day for a hundred years. And certainly not the few grams used to season your cast iron.

    • Brooke Jul 20, 2015, 6:46 pm

      How about you don’t read things that offend you, or scroll on by….. Some of us know that there are GMO’s & very dangerous toxins in everything & we do EVERYTHING we can to remove as many as possible for our health and our children’s health. Geoff, are YOU afraid of people caring about GMOs? And yes, GM soybean is extremely dangerous!

  • Melissa D. Oct 16, 2015, 8:00 am

    I’m more concerned now about cross contamination affecting my soybean allergy. It’s not bad enough that i’d have to worry about anything more than a rash, but for people who are more sensitive this could be a serious problem. I never would have thought to look into what sort of oils my pans were originally seasoned with!

  • Jordan Oct 20, 2015, 3:31 am

    I don’t know about you guys, but I (and about every other cast iron user I’ve ever met) has had to reseason my cookware about a hundred times in it’s life. If you are using it daily, yyou are going to be reseasoning it at least once a month. You don’t need to sand blast or glass bead them over a wonky season (Sorry, Frank, but that was a bit melodramatic).

    You should be reseasoning your pans frequently, anyway. What is the big deal? I get wanting to encourage the company to use GMO free oils and even to make the public aware of the situation, but this article is pure scare tactics and fluff.

    If you have ever eaten out at a restaurant or at a clueless friends’ house, you have been exposed to more GMOs than your preseason skillet has to offer. Do your due diligence, sure, but try not to cross everything off the acceptable list just because we lice in an imperfect world.

  • crabapple Sep 18, 2016, 3:12 pm

    I think people are bored, if all they have to worry about is soy oil.

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