Seasoning Cast Iron

Everyone knows that the cast iron skillet is the quintessential tried-and-true original non-stick pan.  What most people might not know are the little tips and tricks needed to keep that iron performing at its best.
The most essential feature of any cast iron tool is its seasoning.  Seasoning essentially refers to the of layers of fat bonded to the iron, which creates its unique cooking surface.  Achieving a good seasoning is easily done through a slow heating and cooling process with a fat product.  When the iron heats, its pores open to capture the fats.  The pores then close as the iron cools, sealing in the fats, which creates the aforementioned surface.
As far as the fats go, pretty much any type of fat or oil, except butter and olive oil (which will burn), can be used.  I prefer to use shortening.
Most cast iron products available nowadays are pre-seasoned, but I recommend seasoning them again before using.  In the event that you come across new, non-seasoned iron (like I did, which is silver, not black), thoroughly season it at least twice (or more!) before using. With continued use, the seasoning layer continues to be built, making the pan even smoother and easier to use.  With proper care, cast iron will long outlast any other utensil in your kitchen.
For those of you who already use cast iron, good for you!  Please remember to periodically re-season those pans.

Materials:
– cast iron pan
– shortening

1.  Preheat oven to 275F.  Thoroughly scrub out the entire cast iron pan with hot water.  DO NOT USE SOAP!!!
2.  Completely dry the pan, then rub a thin and even layer of shortening over then entire pan (inside and out).
3.  Place pan upside-down in the pre-heated oven on the center rack.  Baking it upside-down allows any excess fat to drip out.  Place a baking sheet or aluminum foil at the bottom of the oven to catch any excess drippings.  Bake for 1 hour, then remove and allow to cool completely.
4.  Repeat steps 2 and 3 as necessary.
5.  Wasn’t that easy?  Now go cook!

*  When cooking with cast iron, remember: it gets HOT!  Handles are not insulated nor are they heat resistant.
*  After cooking, allow pan to cool before washing.  Cold water on a hot iron pan will crack it.
*  Clean by scrubbing with hot water, then placing pan over a low heat to dry, with a little rubbing of oil.  Water left on the pan will cause the iron to rust.
*  DO NOT use soap – it will strip away the seasoning.  Only use soap if you plan on re-seasoning.

One comment

  1. Pingback: My Cast Iron: a follow-up to a previous post « I'm Not A Cook

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