Why, Oh, Why?
Before we get to the how-to of seasoning your cast iron, let me tell you why I absolutely adore cooking with it!:
- Heat Distribution – Cast iron has very even heat distribution, which makes it superior for cooking and baking. Good heat distribution helps ensure that there are no hot-spots in certain areas of your cookware which can cause uneven cooking. And, yes, cast iron does take longer to preheat than some materials, but this is what makes it such a reliable servant in the kitchen, helping us produce foods that are cooked to the perfect temperature and color.
- Versatile – Cast iron is super versatile. It can go from the oven to the cook top to the grill, in any order that you like. . Cast iron is also great for serving from because it retains heat well, keeping foods warmer longer. I love being able to place my cast iron skillet meal in the center of my table to serve dinner family-style.
- Superior Browning – If there’s one down-side to cast iron, it’s the weight. However, the weight is due to the material (cast iron) and this is what guarantees a super hot surface that ensures a good crispy sear on steaks and salmon (among many other things) every, single time. I really like that in a skillet, don’t you? That crispy browning is where all the flavor is. What a wonderful thing.
Seasoning Cast Iron
If you are starting out with an unseasoned skillet, here are the steps that I use:
1. Wash – The only time I ever use soap on my cast iron is at the very beginning of the seasoning process, when I first unpackage it. After I’ve washed it with hot, soapy water, I give it a good rinse, making sure to rinse away every bit of the soap. Dry off your skillet with a clean dish towel. In case you’re wondering why I never use soap again on my cast iron, it’s because soap removes the oil that is needed to keep a cast iron skillet seasoned and smooth. Using soap when you wash the skillet you are trying to keep seasoned is defeating what you are trying to accomplish with your cookware!
2. . Season – Using canola oil or vegetable oil, pour a small amount into the bottom of your cast iron skillet, then use a paper towel to rub a thin layer of oil all over the skillet, inside and out, including the handle(s). Place skillet into a COLD oven and preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Once oven is preheated, bake skillet for 1 hour, then turn oven off and let skillet cool down with the oven.This process will need to be repeated several more times, until the bottom of the skillet feels completely smooth to the touch. (If you feel your cast iron skillet before beginning this process, you’ll find that there are lots of tiny bumps all across the bottom. Once your skillet is seasoned well, these bumps will level out, creating the smooth, finished surface that we all desire.)
3. Store – Store your cast iron in a cool, dry place. I prefer to keep my cast iron coated with a thin layer of oil at all times to maintain my seasoning layer. Since I have double ovens and use my cast iron cookware frequently, I store my favorite pieces in my bottom oven for easy access when I want it.
1. Never put your cast iron in the dishwasher, always wash it by hand. After cooking, allow your cast iron to cool completely before rinsing with water. If there are stubborn particles of food stuck to the sides and bottom, simply simmer some water in the skillet for a few minutes until particles loosen and can easily be removed with a wooden spatula.
2. To ensure that my cast iron gets nicely dried after I rinse it, I often set my skillet into a preheated 350 degree F. oven for 10 minutes or so, or I place it onto a burner over medium heat for about the same length of time. Once my skillet cools down a bit, I coat it with a small amount of oil and store it away.
Tips for Cooking with Cast Iron
- The more you use it, the slicker the seasoned surface will become – a wonderful asset of cast iron.
- Because the bottom of most cast iron cookware is uneven in nature, it is best NOT to use it on smooth-top stoves. Heat pockets can form between the bottom of the cast iron and the smooth-top, causing great damage to the cook top, often cracking it right down the middle – not a good thing.
- Remember that the handles of cast iron become just as hot as the cookware itself. Always have a good, heavy-duty oven mitt to use when handling cast iron.
- If you cook with cast iron often, your family will become quite fond of the meals you prepare for them. This will undoubtedly make them want to inherit your skillet at some point. Because cast iron is so inexpensive, I recommend that you get a large skillet in honor of each child in your family and cook with it for them so that one day, they’ll each get to have one as a keepsake. I have always regretted that I didn’t get my Grandma Lucille’s cast iron griddle.
Now You’re Cookin’,
Here are some great skillet recipes to try: