Saturday 15 August 2015

Seasoning and Maintaining Cast Iron

I got a brand new kitchen toy! It’s a cast iron skillet. Cast iron is fantastic because it’s thick, heavy and durable. This means it evenly distributes heat for perfect cooking conditions and when taken care of properly, it can literally last for generations. You may already have cast iron cookware that was past down to you from a previous generation already. Cast iron will work on your stove, in your oven, on your grill or even your campfire. There are so many different dishes and techniques you can use a cast iron skillet for but it’s particularly ideal for searing meat, caramelizing veggies, shallow frying and just about anything that you can benefit from something that gets screaming hot and consistently stays that way. You can use just about any utensils with it too, even metal, and it will stand up to it.   

With such power comes responsibility. Cast iron has a tendency to rust if not properly managed. Food also loves to stick to new cookware, including cast iron. This can all be avoided by a process referred to as “seasoning” which basically means baking a thin layer of fat onto the exterior of the iron. This should always be done before you use a brand new piece of cast iron and every now and then as maintenance. Doing this will not only keep your cast iron skillet useful for several decades, but it will actually get better and better with time. No kitchen should be without one of these. 

Since I have a new cast iron skillet and I gotta season it anyway, I thought this would make a useful post for the blog. If you have some cast iron cookware of your own that you might be neglecting, take this as a sign to season it. It’s a very simple and inexpensive process. It can even repair some wear and damage your old cast iron might have. 

First step, as with any new cookware you bring home from the store, is to wash the cast iron. Using an abrasive, non-metal brush or pad, thoroughly scrub the cast iron with warm, soapy water.

*record scratch*

Hold the phone, Bram! Soap on cast iron? That’s a no-no! 

Generally speaking, that’s correct. In fact, this is the one and only time you will ever use soap on cast iron. If you are not using a brand new cast iron piece of cookware then omit this step. The reason for this is that soap strips the seasoning off of cast iron. It’s only ever required before the very first use after bringing it home from the store.  

Then thoroughly dry the cast iron. Avoid using nice linens as cast iron can leave marks at this stage. You could technically let them air dry, but it will take a lot longer. The cast iron must be completely dry before proceeding to the next step.

Use a little bit of neutral oil or shortening on a paper towel or cloth to rub a thin, glossy layer all over the cookware. The inside, outside, walls, top, bottom and the whole handle. This will prevent rusting all over the cast iron. 

Cover the bottom rack of your oven with aluminum foil. 

Preheat your oven to 350 F/177 C. 

Once preheated, place your cast iron cookware upside down on the top rack. The aluminum foil on the bottom rack will catch any possible fat drippings. I also have a cast iron dutch oven so I took this opportunity to season that along with my new skillet.

Bake your cast iron for about an hour. You could go up to 2 hours if you want. Then turn the heat off and leave the door closed until it and its contents are completely cool. This makes a great late night task so it can cool overnight or maybe even in the morning before you head to work for the day.

Now your cast iron is seasoned and ready to use! It should appear darker and shinier than before. After you use it for cooking, do not use any soap. Just hot water. If there’s anything stubborn stuck to it, use a non-metal, abrasive brush or pad to scrub it clean. 

Now here’s an important question: How often should I season my cast iron? Well, that all depends on how often you use it. If you use it often you might want to season it every 4-6 months. If you only use it every now and then or only special occasions then you can get away with seasoning it once every year or two. A new cast iron piece, like my skillet here, will need a little more frequent seasoning and require less as it ages.

I hope you found this article helpful. Let me know if you have any questions or feedback in the comment section below. I can’t wait to see what I will get to make with my new skillet. Chances are it will last me the rest of my life! Pretty cool when you think about it.


1 comment:

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