The Definitive Guide to Seasoning and Caring for Cast Iron
Any chef worth his paprika will tell you that cast iron cookware is essential for gourmet cooking. Cast iron always cooks food at an even temperature, and can be used over any heat source — including a campfire. Also, cast iron cookware can last for 100 years or more; if you buy a cast iron skillet tomorrow, your great-great-grandchildren may one day use it to sear their space beef. However, you’ll need to know how to season cast iron so your cookware can fry, sauté, and bake through the ages. If you’re looking for new cast iron cookware to season, we recommend you try the fine wares from FINEX.
Though cast iron may seem indestructible, it has a few weak points. If you wash your skillet like any other pan, for example, exposure to oxygen and moisture will result in rust. To maximize the longevity of your cast iron cookware, you need to give it a protective, shiny, non-stick coat of fat. This process — known as seasoning — is easier than you think.
Related: How to Cook with Cast Iron
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Thoroughly wash your new skillet using an abrasive sponge or brush, hot water, and soap. This is the only time you will use soap to clean your skillet.
- Immediately rinse your skillet and dry it with a towel. Be sure to designate a particular towel or rag for this purpose, as cast iron tends to stain cloth.
- Use a paper towel to apply a coat of shortening or oil to all surfaces of your skillet (even the handle). Crisco and vegetable oil work fine, but flaxseed oil is best.
- Lay a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom rack of your oven. This will catch any oil drops that fall during the seasoning process.
- Once preheating is complete, place your skillet upside down on the top rack of your oven.
- Bake for one hour at 350 degrees.
- Turn off the heat and let the skillet cool inside the oven. DO NOT try to cool the skillet with ice or cold water, as this could cause cracking and warping.
- For the best results, repeat steps 4 through 8 twice or thrice.
NOTE: You should season your new cast iron cookware the moment you pull it from the box. If your cast iron is “pre-seasoned,” reseason it once food starts to stick.
Though seasoning is important, it’s not the only important aspect of cast iron cookware maintenance. Keep the following tips in mind as you cook with, clean, and store your cast iron skillet.
- Refrain from cooking tomatoes and acidic sauces with your skillet after seasoning. You should first build up the seasoning by frying chicken, bacon, or other high-fat foods.
- DO NOT boil water with your cast iron skillet — this will cause it to rust.
- After each use, wait until your skillet cools to a sufficient temperature, then rinse it with warm water. Use a sponge or non-metal brush with coarse salt to scrape off leftover food debris. DO NOT use soap and DO NOT let your skillet soak.
- Thoroughly dry the skillet and apply a thin layer of vegetable oil before storing. DO NOT store your cast iron cookware with the lid on, as the iron needs to “breathe.” Instead, you can protect your cookware from dust by covering it with a paper towel.
- If your cast iron skillet develops rust, don’t worry! Scrub off the rust with steel wool and immediately reseason your skillet. Extensive rust may require more substantial restoration measures.
- Don’t neglect your skillet — use it as often as you can to prevent the seasoning from going bad. Fortunately, cast iron cookware is extremely versatile; you can use it to fry, sear, or bake just about anything.
If you’re ready to get serious about cooking, you’ll need cast iron cookware in your kitchen. Considering that cast iron lasts forever and doesn’t require a whole lot of maintenance, a good skillet is certainly a worthwhile investment.