With all the concerns about the possible dangers of Teflon non-stick coating on cookware, cast iron has become popular again for concerned consumers. Some people may feel intimidated or not know how to properly season and care for a cast iron pan, pot, Dutch oven, skillet or griddle. Properly seasoned cast iron pots, pans & skillets can very well be your favorite pan to use in the kitchen. With a little preparation and some care know how, you can have non-stick pans in cast iron. If you are lucky enough to find an old castaway iron pot at a yard sale or thrift store or as a family hand-me-down then you have won Ã?Â½ the battle. If you are starting with brand new cast iron, follow the directions on the label to see if there is a protective coating that needs to be removed from the pans before seasoning them. Oftentimes there is a wax coating that needs to be removed prior to use to prepare your cast iron for use. Scour the pans under warm water to remove any dust, rust or grit. If there is rust, gently scour with a steel wool pad until you get to the metal surface. Rinse well under cold water. Dry with a soft cloth. Paper towels leave paper lint in the pan and shouldn’t be used except to wipe up and absorb excess oil. Heat your burner low and dry the pan completely over the flame.
To prepare your pan for seasoning, have a clean, dry, well-oiled surface. Heat oven to 350 F. Using coconut or peanut oil, lard, or bacon grease, coat the entire inner surface of the pan. Don’t have the oil dripping or puddling, but use a generous amount. Place in the oven and cook for about 3 hours. After about a Ã?Â½ an hour, take pan out and wipe the excess oil off the surface, or invert it on a piece of foil so excess oil runs off. You want to allow the oil to infuse the surface of the pan. Take the pan out to cool or just leave in oven to cool. Wipe off any more excess oil and store the pan. Once you have seasoned it, you can use it without worry about food sticking.
You may have to season a new pan more than once or re-season an old pan that as been neglected. Never soak a cast iron pan for long lengths of time. This can ruin the season and cause the pan to rust. If rust happens, scour all the rust spots off the pan with steel wool and re-season as indicated. I often leave pans that need more seasoning in the oven as I cook to keep them nice & well seasoned.
To clean your pan after use, do not use any soap or harsh scouring tools. Wipe out excess oil with paper towels. Use a dishcloth, sponge, scouring cloth or gentle brush and hot water to get most of the debris off. If the pan has dried, caked on food fill it with water and heat it on the burner to soften & help dislodge any stubborn food particles. Or you can do a dry wash using salt as an abrasive with your washing cloth or paper towels to scour the pan. Rinse the salt off, dry it on the stove over low heat and re-apply a thin coat of oil and store.
The real trick to seasoning pans is using the right oil, taking the time to ‘cook’ it properly, washing pans gently after use, always thoroughly drying with heat and keeping a fresh layer of oil on clean pans to keep the surface protected.
A great tip for cooking with cast iron pans is to always heat the pan then add the oil or butter to the hot pan then add the food you are going to be cooking after the oil has heated. This creates bubbles and air in between the food and the pan to help your ingredients not stick to the surface.
My most cherished cast iron pot is from my great grandma Gen. There is something satisfying about cooking a meal in a pot that has nourished generations of our family for decades. Proper care & feeding of your cast iron can make heirlooms out of the ordinary for family to treasure for years to come.