Cast iron lasts a lifetime, but needs to be seasoned when new. Here are full details of how to do this essential, but simple, task.
Why Season Cast Iron?
Cast iron cookware is a staple in kitchens; it is versatile, durable, has great heat retention, and can withstand high temperatures. Properly seasoned and cared for, it’s non-stick and long lasting.
- Once they are seasoned you need to know how to care for cast iron pans after every use (hint – it is easy!)
Whether you need camping cookware, a pan that can be used in an oven, or to dry sauté vegetables; a cast iron pan can be your go-to!
Cast iron can be used on a stove top, over an open flame, on hot embers, or inside an oven. It can withstand extremely high temperatures with superb heat retention and radiation. Cooking on well seasoned cast iron is a delight.
For example, when searing a steak, the weight of the cast iron maintains the heat when the cold steak is added to the pan, giving much better results than a light weight pan.
Cast iron can last for decades if carefully cared for with proper seasoning, cleaning, and use. A cast iron pan really is for life.
Are you wondering why you need to season a cast iron skillet? During the seasoning a process called polymerization takes place, where oil is cooked onto your cast iron pan.
This gives the pan the classic black patina and non-stick surface. Proper cleaning and use will add to this surface, giving an easy-release cooking surface and ensuring it will not rust.
The Steps to Season a Cast Iron Skillet
To season cast iron cookware, you will need the following:
- Steel wool or a stiff brush
- Washing up liquid/dish soap
- Aluminium foil
- Unsaturated oil
- Paper towels
You can use vegetable oil, rapeseed oil (also known as canola oil), sunflower oil, safflower oil, grapeseed oil, or flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil give excellent results because it has a low smoke point at around 107°C/225°F.
The low smoke point means that the oil polymerises at a lower temperature, and it’s the polymerisation process that creates the seasoned surface to the pan.
Never season with a cooking fat that is not 100% oil, such as butter or coconut fat. A melted fat will leave solids which can burn and damage the pan.
Seasoning cast iron is simple; here are the steps to season cast iron pan like a pro!
First, Wash Your Pan
Scrub the entire pan from inside and out with the steel wool or stiff brush and warm soapy water. If your pan is rusty scrub until all the rust has gone.
You can use a pan scraper or coarse kosher salt if there are stuck food particles.
Before the next step, there should be no grime, food particles, or rust left in your cast iron pan.
Rinse and Dry Your Cast Iron Cookware
When you are satisfied with your scrubbing, it is time to rinse and dry. It is very important to ensure your cast iron pan is completely.
Use paper towels and then place it over medium heat on the stove top until the cast iron pan is completely dry. Let the cast iron pan cool completely.
Oil the Pan
Heat your oven to its hottest setting – normally 240C / 475F / Gas Mark 9
Get your paper towel and drop vegetable oil or your chosen unsaturated oil. Coat the cast iron skillet with a thin layer of oil, including the handles, top, sides, and bottom parts. Do not soak your paper towel in too much oil. However, if there is too much oil, you can wipe them off using paper towels.
You will know when you add enough oil if it looks nearly dry.
Once every inch of the cast iron pan is coated with oil, it is time for baking. Place the cast iron pan upside on the middle rack of the oven. Place aluminium foil or a baking sheet on the bottom rack to catch any drips. Turn the oven on at 450F-500F. Let the cast iron pan bake for 1 hour.
Allow to Cool
Let the cast iron pan cool completely inside the oven. This can take a long time. Just leave it there and do your chores. Take it out of the oven when the cast iron skillet is completely cooked. Wear oven mitts to ensure you will not hurt yourself.
For best results need to repeat this process 3 to 5 more times or more to ensure your cast iron cookware is seasoned well. But this is a one-off. Once properly seasoned, as long as you look after your cast iron well, it will give you a lifetime of service.
The one thing to remember is not to use it for cooking highly acidic foods like tomato sauce or white wine. The acid can break down the pan’s seasoning.
Cast iron pan is useful and versatile cookware. Seasoned well, and well cared for, you have a pan for life.