Monday, July 16, 2012

Seasoning Cast Iron Skillets (Not As Hard As You Think)

So, I posted the other day about how we have switched from using non- stick cookware to cast iron and why. Something that apparently a lot of people are curious about. What you seem to be even more curious about is the part where I mentioned "seasoning" the cast iron. I got at least 4 messages about that. I guess its a term that I grew up with, so I didn't think anything of it.

(Image via
Seasoning a cast iron skillet is what makes it naturally non- stick. Think about cast iron and the texture, do you think food is going to stick to it? It totally is. A lot. So, you have to apply a layer of something slick to make your food not stick. Some manufacturers sell pre- seasoned cookware. I am not a huge fan of their seasoning. Its generally okay for the first use or so but then you are going to want to season it yourself to make the surface more durable.

What do you season with? Odds are your grandparents used lard but you can use any kind of natural oil like vegetable or coconut. Overall, Crisco makes for the best taste but something more like coconut oil will be much more healthy. Once you have picked out your oil of choice, just follow these simple steps:

  1. Coat the inside of the skillet or pan with the oil. You can do the outside of the skillet as well if you want a uniform look or are a messy cook. It will also prevent the outside of your cookware from rusting over time but it isn't necessary for use. Obviously. It doesn't need to be a particularly thick, heavy coating either. I use a paper towel dipped in oil and then gently wipe the entire surface.
  2. Place the skillet or pan upside down in a preheated 350 degree oven. I would highly recommend putting a piece of foil or something on the rack underneath you cast iron. This will keep your oven from getting all oily and possibly catching fire. Major plus.
  3. Let cast iron "cook" in the oven for about an hour and then turn the oven off and let the cast iron cool in the oven*.
Voila! Your cast iron is ready to use! Personally, I would recommend repeating the above steps once or twice for the most even coverage and durable surface for cooking. You will also have to occasionally reseason your cast iron if you don't keep it clean or cook a lot of acidic type foods in them. Basically, if your foods start to stick, its time to reseason.

A few other helpful hints about cast iron:
  • All that is needed to clean a properly seasoned cast iron skillet is hot water. Seriously. Using harsh cleaners will strip your surface and the dishwasher is a definite no- go as it will rust your cookware quickly. If something is stuck, you can use a heavy duty scrubber or a special cast iron scraper but if things are sticking that badly, its time to reseason.
  • Don't ever leave standing water in your cast iron. Just like an old bumper, water is not any kind of metal surface's friend.
  • You should never use your cast iron to store food. Remove food from the cast iron cookware as soon as it is cooked to prevent any damage to the pan or your seasoning.
  • You can get cast iron to replace any of your cooking utensils. They make them in all shapes and sizes from skillets to bread pans. (My favorite by far is the bread pan!)
So, there you have it! The basic ins and outs of cast iron cook ware. If you haven't made the switch yet, but are considering it or have quesions, just let me know either in the comments or through my contact tab and I will try to answer as best I can. I am knowledgable but far from an expert.

*- Please, please, please, don't ever just grab a heated cast iron skillet and be sure your kids know not to touch too. Test it with a drop of water or finger before you try to pick it up. Cast iron stays hot for a while after its been heated which is good for cooking but bad for your sensitive hands. Pot holders are a necessity.

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