At least once or twice a year, I disassemble all of my cookware and thoroughly clean and re-season everything. Since I exclusively use stainless steel and cast iron in my kitchen, I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t season pans correctly and on a frequent basis, I’ll pay the price with burned eggs or skillet jam.
Today’s cast iron pans are normally pre-seasoned, however the seasoning in your pan will wear away with time and with cleaning, causing your eggs (and everything else) to cling. Rust marks may also begin to emerge, indicating that it is time to re-season.
Seasoning a pan is simple, but it does take time. To assist you with this process, I have created a step-by-step instruction on how to re-season cast iron.
About Cast Iron
While cast iron is brittle, it is quite durable. How many of us have an old skillet lying around that was handed down from a family member? It’s worth noting that ancient skillets generally season better than fresh cast iron.
Cast iron pans were created by pouring sand into molds and then polishing the surface until it was smooth. As cast iron manufacturing changed, producers stopped polishing the cookware after casting, resulting in a coarser surface on current cast iron.
Since the rough surface is more difficult to smooth with polymerized oil or seasoning, its nonstick capacity may never be as excellent as your grandmother’s old skillet.
Cast iron is an iron alloy with between 2% and 4% carbon, as well as manganese, silicon, and certain impurities like sulfur. Cast iron is created in a blast furnace by reducing iron ore, which is subsequently cast into ingots known as pigs. These pigs are remelted in a cupola furnace with other alloy components and scraps and cast into molds for pans and other products.
The Chinese were known to have created cast iron as early as the 6th century BC, and it was being manufactured in Europe by the 14th century. The earliest American ironworks were erected on the James River in Virginia in 1619.
Cast iron was popular because it was less expensive to produce than wrought iron. While more brittle than wrought iron, cast iron’s load bearing capabilities made it significant as a structural metal until it was superseded by steel in the twentieth century.
While cast iron has been used for cooking for millennia, the cast iron skillet was created in the late nineteenth century. While a number of producers went out of business during the Great Depression, cast iron remained popular far into the twentieth century. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, nonstick coated aluminum cookware surpassed cast iron as the most popular cookware.
Cast iron has regained popularity in niche markets during the past decade or two, with numerous small and new manufacturers currently making specialized cast iron cookware.
Cast iron cookware, unlike aluminum cookware, warms unevenly due to its inferior thermal conductivity. The actual benefit of cast iron is its capacity to become hot and then stay hot, which is required for good searing. To get the most of this ability, a cast iron skillet should always be warmed, preferably for 10 minutes, and turned on the cooktop while heating to ensure it is hot all the way through before adding your steak or eggs.
Cast iron is also more emissive than other types of cookware, which means it loses heat by radiation from its surface. This enables it to indirectly cook all of the food in the pan rather than just the surface of the food in contact with the pan.
Due of the rough surface of cast iron and its ability to react, even a few droplets of water left in a pan after cleaning may cause it to rust. If you live near the seaside, the salt in the air, as well as using your pan seldom and putting it in a cabinet away from circulating air, might increase the danger of rusting.
Profile rusting is corrosion that can be felt as well as seen and can typically be eliminated with steel wool or an S.O.S soap pad before re-seasoning. If you happen to acquire a rusty old skillet at a yard sale, you’ll find it simpler to take it to your local auto or body shop for sandblasting rather than attempting to handle it yourself with steel wool.
As we season our pans, we cover them with a coating of hardened or polymerized oil thick enough to fill in the rough places and preserve the surface of the cast iron while preserving the deep black patina that we all know and love.
What You Will Need to Follow This Tutorial
- Cast iron skillet
- Steel wool to remove rust from the pan
- Paper towel that may be used to wipe cold or hot oil without degrading
- Oil three to four teaspoons. Unsaturated oils, such as maize, canola, or vegetable oil, are generally preferable for seasoning since they spread out more easily than shortening or other saturated fats. Flaxseed is appropriate and will form a firm layer, although it is prone to flaking off over time. I use canola since it can withstand high temperatures without entirely filling the home with smoke!
- Oven preheated at 450°F, with one shelf in the center and one towards the bottom.
- Handle the hot pan using an oven mitt.
- Between seasoning rounds, use a pot stand to rest the pan on.
Several individuals like to season their food on the stove. I still use this process for stainless steel, but over the years I’ve discovered that, although seasoning in the oven takes longer, it results in a more uniform coating for cast iron since the oven heat does not generate hot or cold patches like the cooktop does.
Step by Step Instructions
Step 1: Wash the pan
A thorough rinse with warm water should typically enough. When seasoning your pan, you may use detergent to assist remove any food residue or rust particles from the pan’s surface. Instead, avoid cleaning a cast iron pan with detergent.
Step 2: Remove any surface rust
Scrub any surface rust from the pan’s inner or outer surfaces using steel wool. You may be as tough as necessary at this step since you will be seasoning after. Rinse the pan well after the rust has been eliminated and the surface has returned to its original state.
If you just have one or two areas of mild rust, often known as flash rusting, on a well-seasoned pan, rub the rust spots away with a little oil on a paper towel.
Step 3: Dry the pan
This is a critical step since any remaining moisture in the pan will prevent it from fully seasoning. A quick dry with a paper towel is generally sufficient, but you may also place it over low heat on the stovetop for a few minutes to evaporate any lingering moisture.
Step 4: Rub with oil
Put a teaspoon of oil to the pan and use a paper towel to wipe or buff across the whole inside surface. After you’re done massaging the oil into the surface, it should be dull and dry, not greasy.
Thin layers adhere more better to the iron than thick ones, and any surplus oil tends to leave hardened areas on the pan’s surface after seasoning.
After the inside pan has been coated, repeat the process on the pan’s outside and handle. Check that the pan is thoroughly covered with oil.
Step 5: Add pan to oven
Put the pan on the center shelf, upside down, and bake for 30 minutes. Put a tray on the shelf below to collect any oil drops, and keep your windows and door open since the pan will start to smoke.
When the oil in the pan warms up in the oven (or on the stovetop if you prefer), it begins to polymerize, connecting to the iron and forming a hard plastic-like covering that is resistant to sticking. This coating will also shield the iron from moisture and air.
It is critical that the oven be set to 450F, or at least 400F, since the smoke point of any oil is when it breaks down into carbon and short-chain polymers that may link to the iron.
The smoke points of canola, sesame, vegetable, grapeseed, sunflower, peanut, almond, and soy oils are all between 400F and 450F. If the oil remains below the smoke point temperature, it cannot fully polymerize; if it is above this temperature for an extended period of time, it will simply burn or carbonize.
Step 6: Remove pan from oven
Using an oven mitt, carefully remove the pan and set it on a pot stand. Handle the hot pan with caution and massage in another teaspoon of oil as in Step 4.
Step 7: Repeat steps 4 to 7
Once the pan has been cooked three or four times in the oven.
Pro tip: Depending on how often you use your pan and what you cook in it, one seasoning may be plenty; but, if you have the time, it is worthwhile to repeat the procedure.
Step 8: Allow pan to cool
It is presently operational.
When you use your cast iron pan, it continues to season, so a complete season is only required on occasion.
Keep the heat low for the first few uses after seasoning since the food may still cling. Early-morning seasoning may be built up with fried chicken or cornbread. While a seasoned pan may handle tomatoes and other acidic foods on occasion, avoid them at first until the pan is entirely nonstick.
After you’re through cooking, just clean around the pan with a paper towel. If it’s unclean, run the hot pan under warm water until it cools to the temperature of the water, then scrub away any food particles with a sponge. If you’re still having trouble cleaning it, a brush and some coarse salt might help.
Never wet a cast iron skillet because there is a good probability that water will get into the iron via a crack in the seasoning and cause it to rust. Regrettably, you may then need to scour with wire wool and re-season completely.
After properly cleaning and drying your pan, dab a little oil on a paper towel and wipe it down, leaving a very thin film of oil on it.
If the seasoning on your pan becomes sticky, this indicates an accumulation of extra oil that is not polymerizing. Flip the pan over down and bake for 30 minutes at 450F. You may continue this procedure until the stickiness is gone, or you can scour out the seasoning with wire wool and re-season completely (Steps 1 through 8).
There are several techniques to season cast iron, and just conversing with friends will reveal that everyone does it differently. But, if you are new to seasoning or have discovered that previous ways have not performed as well as intended, I hope this step-by-step seasoning guide will assist you in efficiently seasoning your pan.
While it takes time to do it well, it is time well spent since a cast iron pan can genuinely make or break a meal. If you appreciated this lesson, please share it, and please leave any comments about your positive or negative experiences with seasoning cast iron.