Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Seasoning Cast Iron

Warning:  This is NOT for the girly-girls who are afraid of chipping a nail...or even having them.  My nails were completely horrendous after the scrubbing process.  But my cast iron skillets shine beautifully and they are so much more practical! 

My cast iron skillets have been in my family for years.  They were my mother's grandmother's.  I love them.  I love all things old!  I had them hanging on the wall, as a decoration, but then I decided that that was ridiculous.   I mean, I really should use them rather than just look at them!

Reasons to use cast iron:
  1. Sturdy...won't break and will last you a life time, or in my case 3 or 4 life times!
  2. They can be used on the stove or in the oven for baking.
  3. When well seasoned they are stick resistant and don't require any additional oil.  In fact, you will like them better than Teflon if you keep them seasoned, plus they are healthier than Teflon pans!
  4. Cleaning is easy and fast - one of my FAVORITE things about them.
  5. You don't need any special utensils.
  6. You don't need to use any extra oil - less fat in your cooking!
How to season your cast iron skillets:
(Remember - if your food is sticking your cast iron is not seasoned or "cured" correctly.
  • If your cast iron has lots of cooked on food and grime on it, you can put it in a self cleaning oven and let it burn off.  Be sure it cools before you remove it from the oven.  ALWAYS use pot holders as cast iron becomes VERY HOT!  If your cast iron is like mine - not crusty and dirty, but with quite a bit of rust - you can sand it off with steel wool.  Be sure you remove ALL the rust.
  • Wash with warm water and soap.  Use a scouring pad.  Even new pans need to be scoured to remove the protective coating that is supposed to prevent rust.  (Don't worry - the seasoning process will prevent rust.) This step is a MUST!
  • Dry the cast iron VERY WELL.  It would be helpful to place it in the oven for a few minuets.  You need the iron to absorb the oil you will be putting on it.  Oil and water don't mix.  Be sure your pans are dry.
  • Let the pan cool and then smear it inside and out with lard, bacon grease, olive or coconut oil, butter or Crisco.  Don't forget to season the lid if there is one.
  • Heat your oven to 300 degrees and place your cast iron in the oven upside down. Bake for one hour.  You may want to put something under it to catch any drippings.  (There really shouldn't be any, since you are only putting a thin layer of oil on your pans.)  This "seasoning" protects the pan from rust and creates a non-stick pan.  
  • For best results, let the pan cool and then repeat steps 5 and 6 several more times.  

Remember: every time you use your cast iron you will be seasoning it.  If, by chance your food begins to stick in places you simply need to clean it off, dry it and "season" it a few times in the oven.  

How to clean your cast iron skillets:
Cleaning is easy!  If your skillets are well seasoned you shouldn't have much clean up to worry about.  

Hot water and gentle scrubbing with steel scrubbies should do it.  Soap is NOT recommended on seasoned cast iron.  It will interfere with the seasoning of the oil.  If your pans are collecting a crust you may need to wash them more aggressively using a metal spatula and warm water.

Remember to dry them VERY WELL after washing them.  You may want to put them in the oven for a few minuets after you wash them.  

If you burn food, or cook tomatoes or other acidic foods in them, you may need to re-season if they were not seasoned well at the beginning.   If your cast iron is well seasoned you should be fine.  Just be sure you keep them well seasoned.

Be sure you store your cast iron in a well ventilated area.  You may want to keep a paper towel in between the pot and lid to keep air circulating.

  • Keep it dry.  You can put it in the oven to be sure it's dry.
  • Keep it well seasoned and you won't have much sticking or cleaning to worry about.
  • Don't put cold water or liquids in a hot pan.  It will crack!
  • If you put a few drops of water in your hot pan and they disappear your pan needs to be re-seasoned.
  • If you put a few drops of water in your pan and it jumps and sizzles you know your ready to go!
  • Don't cook tomatoes and other acidic foods in your cast iron unless it is very seasoned.
  • Don't use soaps or detergents on your seasoned cast iron items, as it will break down the oils that are seasoning your pans.  If you can't stand the thought of not using soap, you will need to re-season after every wash.
Oh, yeah, and this is not for you if you are one of those girls who's concerned about breaking nails...my nails are a mess right now!  ; D

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    1. I love my cast iron! I am hoping to one day come across a dutch oven at a yard sale or thrift store for cheap. That would complete my set :) (I'm too cheap to buy one new...wowzers, they can be expensive!)



    2. Unfortunately we have no family cast iron (yet) but I did find a very rusty little one at the thrift store. I used salt and lemon juice to try to get it all off. But I think maybe I'll start over and try this!