seasoning my cast iron skillet

The one drawback to using cast-iron cookware is the necessary process of seasoning it. At least that is what I thought until I committed myself to the project this morning and quickly recognized my assumptions were completely unfounded. It’s really as simple as cleaning your cookware, coating it with oil (you can use cooking spray) and letting it “bake” in the oven for an hour. The super-simple procedure takes less than ten minutes’ active time and left my skillet glossy and practically nonstick. I used the instructions from Lodge Manufacturing found on the Lodge website. The site also has FAQs, recipes and even a little history lesson. If you’re a cast-iron user, I suggest you give it a look. — Erica P.

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readingglasses

The instructions are for NEW cast-iron cookware … does it work the same for old cookware that has been scrubbed clean and needs to be seasoned?

Like you, I always thought it was a complex process. Readingglasses, I am willing to try the process on my scrubbed clean old skillets. In the worst-case scenario, I will need to get now ones. I rarely use my cast-iron cookware because I never season them. I figure I have nothing to lose. If you have a wood handle, remove them before seasoning.

Dorian

I have about four or five old cast iron skillets and what I learned from my mom was every once in a while after washing them is to set them on a burner turned on low and add a little bit of cooking oil, rub into the pan and let set for about 10-20 minutes. I probably do it about twice a month. I also don’t use soap and just use a good scrubber… if it’s really bad I might at a little bit of Dr. Bronners to cut the grease/burnt bits/whatever and then re-season. You could probably use vinegar too. You’ll find a whole debate about the soap-vs no soap, but I think the soap soaks in and comes out in the food so I don’t use it, plus it strips off your seasoning. I like the idea of doing the whole thing in the oven though– I don’t see why that wouldn’t work for older pans too.

Brian W

I’ve always found that the oven method makes a sticky mess. Plus it’s kind of a pain in the summer. I use the Cook’s Illustrated method, kinda like Dorian’s, where you season on the stovetop.

j

I inherited a well seasoned 12″ cast iron skillet from my grandma, and have never had to reseason it so far. I only use hot water and a nylon mesh scrubbie (not a brush) to clean. It gets off all of the burned bits and doesn’t remove all of the seasoning/oil. However, my husband tends to want to soak it in water to get the burned bits off like he does with ‘his’ other pans. I have threatened to beat him with the cast iron skillet should he ever attempt this. No second chances there! After reading about how teflon pans can kill birds if scorched (via angrychicken.typepad.com), I am sticking to my cast iron.

Erica P.

readingglasses: The same seasoning method should work for new and used pans. In fact, many people suggest that you re-season the pan every so often to keep it slick.

Brian W: The foil lining the bottom shelf in my oven caught any drips and made it a cinch to clean up.

Happy Cooking!

redneckmodern

i’ve done this many times, but found the most success with oils that withstand a higher temperature before smoking. seed oils are good for this (refined peanut and canola being the latest i’ve used) while extra virgin olive oil is bad.

I’ve just linked to your post in our newest “Cast Iron Around the Web” feature at http://www.cookingincastiron.com

i love my cast iron and only have one teflon coated pan, a wok, that i never use. i do use soap to clean my pans and have never had a problem with them. i have had good luck coating them with a little vegetable shortening and tossing them in the oven.

MS

I have a question for everyone that uses cast iron pans. One person said they do not use dish soap on the pans because they believe it will soak into the pans and will come out into the food later. The question is what do you think is coming out of the pans when you cook with it? stale food and bacteria?! Try this put a little water in your cast iron skillet and scrub it with a small scotch brite pad, drain the water into a measuring cup and see what you get. After you do that take a dry paper towel and dry to skillet with it and see what you get then. Because of this I no longer cook out of cast iron

i use my cast iron at least once a week and find that if i rinse it out with hot water and use a little salt or baking soda to scrub out the inside it cleans the remains of anything sticking to the bottom. i usually season my skillets three or four times a year scrubbing them with baking soda made into a thick paste and then rinsing well then running my skillets through the dish washer set on pots and pans. then into oven at 350 for about 20 minutes to heat the iron then coat the complete surface inside and out with crisco or some other vegitable oil then back into oven for around 45minutes to an hour. one hint i picked up several years ago was to never cook any acidic food in the skillet (I.E. tomatoes ect) because it causes the iron to transfer to the food and also ruins the seasoning

diana

I just recently started using cast iron for cooking and i love it to season it we do it the way my dad did we put it in a wood stove till it turns red then we cool it off a little and wash it in hot water and oil it down then set it on top of the stove to finish drying. I have found several iron skillets on auctions and thats all i cook with now.

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Ohmigosh, Cathy. Don’t do that to me first thing in the morning.

In most culinary things I believe there are several ways to the same end. So I almost never say, “that’s wrong.” I just provide alternatives.

This is, unfortunately, one of those rare other times.

Properly cured cast iron is a near to being non-stick at to make no-never-mind. So, unless you’ve actually burned something to it (which takes both extra high heat and inattention), clean up should be simple. Before looking at how it should be done, let’s look at what you are doing.

BTW, never use soap on cast iron.

1. Deglazing. Quite a number of people were taught this trick, usually while in the scouts. And, as so often with scout stuff, it is stone cold wrong. Yes, pouring cold water in a hot pan deglazes it. Actually it steam cleans it. And there’s two things wrong with that. First is the danger of warping and cracking. Most times, if a pot or pan doesn’t sit level on a burner, this is why. The item was warped. And, in the second place, steam cleaning not only cleans, it pulls the cure out of the metal.

2. Oh My God! With one exception, soap should never touch cast iron. Soap has only one job in the kitchen: to dissolve and remove grease. And cast iron is cured with what? With grease, my dear. Every time you use soap on your cast iron you assure that the beautiful cure you work so hard for doesn’t develop. I can tell from here that your iron has a flat, gray finish, when it should be black with a slight sheen.

3. Now you are on the right track. Just wiping is a traditional method of cleaning cast iron. There is a problem doing that, however, in that, depending on what you cooked, you could leave bacteria-breeding residue behind without realizing it. So, from a safety point of view, it’s best to actually wash it. Only don’t use soap. Ever

To properly clean cast iron means merely to flush it with hot water. How you do that takes us back into the world of different strokes.

What I do is turn the hot water on straight, and let it run into the pan, shifting both the pan and the faucet so that water pressure helps surface clean the iron. I have a brush, dedicated to the purpose, that I use to lift off anything that might be adhering. You can use anything for this purpose that doesn’t scratch. A brush. A dobie pad. A scotch-brite pad. Just think of it as a non-stick surface, and use appropriate tools when cleaning.

Dry the piece well. Then apply a thin coating of whatever your favorite grease is. Old timers still use lard, for instance. I’m a big believer in shortening. Liquid oils are not the best choice.

Oh, yeah. Did I mention that soap should never, ever touch cured cast iron?

Mario Zammit

I just wish one thing, that we had our collection of cast iron pots and pans we have now (nearing forty in number at the moment) from the very first day of our marriage. Once you get hooked on using them, you would not need to buy anything else, nor your children or grandchildren at that.