When you first bought your trusty cast-iron skillet, it was probably nice and shiny, right? However, as time passes, and you cook more and more meals, it will lose this sheen, and the super non-stick powers that come with it! If you have reached this stage, you will be pleased to know that it is not the end of the road for your pan; you simply need to learn the best way to season cast iron, which is what we will explain in this post. Read on to discover the best oil to season cast iron, as well as tips on the steps that you should take.
What is Cast Iron Seasoning and Why Is It Important?
Before we take you through the steps that are associated with seasoning your cast iron skillet, it is first pivotal to determine what this is and why it is so important. Seasoning is a term that is used to describe the process whereby a thin layer of vegetable oil or animal fat is applied and cooked onto cast-iron cookware. The process is designed to ensure your cast iron skillet returns to the state it was in when you first purchased it. If you don’t season your pan, it is likely that food is going to stick to it.
The Steps to Follow When Seasoning Your Cast Iron Skillet
Hopefully, you now have a good idea regarding what seasoning is and why this is a process that every perso needs to do if they have a cast iron skillet in their kitchen. The process itself is very straightforward. These are the steps that you need to follow:
- Use water to scrub the skillet well – You should place your skillet into the sink, ensuring that there is enough water so that the bottom of the skillet is barely soaked. Add around a quarter of a cup of kosher salt to the skillet. You can use this to get rid of stains, with the help of a non-metal scrub. The salt’s coarse texture will be helpful in terms of getting rid of any impurities that are stuck to the skillet’s surface.
- Rinse and dry thoroughly.
- Add a neutral oil to the surface – Spread a thin layer of vegetable oil or melted shortening oil over the skillet. Grapeseed or canola oil are good choices. Make sure the metal is completely coated.
- Put the skillet in the oven – Place the skillet upside down on a middle oven rack at 375-degrees (little tip: catch the drips by placing foil on the lower rack).
- Bake for one hour – You should notice that the pan has a matte finish rather than having a sheen. You may want to rub a tiny bit more oil into the surface.
- Let the skillet cool in the oven – Cool it before storing in a dry place.
Daily Upkeep of Your Skillet
Now, we are going to take a look at some of the tips you should follow in terms of looking after your cast iron pan on a daily basis, or whenever you use it. Whenever you have used your skillet, you should clean it gently. Use water and you should use minimal soap. It is best not to use soap at all. However, if you feel it is needed, you should only use a very small amount. If you have a two-sided sponge, you should use this to clean the skillet. However, make sure you do not use the abrasive metal scrub but rather the firm scrubbing side.
Once you have finished washing and rinsing your cast iron pan, you should use a towel to dry it thoroughly. Once you have done this, put it in the warm oven for a further ten minutes. Once the ten minutes have passed, use a kitchen paper towel to coat the entire surface of the pan with a very thin layer of a neutral oil, for instance, grapeseed and canola. You should add the oil to the cast iron while the oil is still hot, as this will ensure that a chemical reaction takes place so that the oil protects the surface through becoming a polymer. The pan should then be stored in a dry place.
Caring For Your Cast Iron Properly
It is also a good idea to learn some tips regarding how to care for your cast iron skillet and kitchen equipment. Here are some useful tips that you can follow to ensure you do not need to buy a replacement sooner than you would like to:
- Do not marinate in cast iron. This is not recommended because mixtures that are acidic will damage the seasoning. You should re-season if you experience a metallic taste, rust appears, or if food particles start to stick.
- Before you start to cook anything, it is a good idea to add a bit of vegetable oil to the cooking surface. You should then turn the heat onto a low heat, preheatng the pan. You should then slowly increase the temperature.
- When cleaning cast iron, you should use a plastic scrubber or a stiff brush. Clean the material while the cast iron is under the running water. You should do this when the cast iron skillet is still warm yet, of course, cool enough to be handled with ease. One of the most critical tips is to never use soap to wash the skillet. If you have any baked-on stains, kosher salt can be utilized as an effective scrubbing agent to get rid of this.
- You should purchase a rust eraser to use on the skillet if you start to notice any rust stains. Once you have done this, reseason the pan. You will be able to find rust erasers in wood-working stores, as well as bike shops and hardware stores.
Cast Iron Cooking and Care Mistakes You Need to Stop Making
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding regarding some of the important steps you need to take when you are caring for your cast iron skillet. Not only should you know about the best way to season it, but you know how to care for it on a daily and long-term basis. However, all of this will not mean anything if you keep committing the deadly sins that are associated with cast iron care. So, let’s take a look at some of the cast iron cooking and care errors you need to stop making…
- You do not realize how forgiving cast iron is: Let’s begin by highlighting something that a lot of people do not realize; cast iron is very forgiving! So, even if you do commit any of the blunders that we are going to mention below, this does not mean that you have to go out and buy yourself a brand new skillet. Simply scrubbing it down, re-seasoning it, and using it again is the formula you need.
- You are using the wrong spatula: While there is no rule that says you cannot use a certain spatula, you will certainly find it a lot easier if you opt for a metal spatula. This is especially the case if you are going to be cooking foods of a delicate nature, for example, eggs.
- You are overheating: Another mistake that a lot of people make when they are cooking using cast iron is setting the heat too high. Because cast-iron is a material that is very efficient in terms of heat conducting, it often gets hotter than a lot of other pieces of cookware do. Because of this, you do not need to have the heat on such a high temperature. As mentioned earlier, it is always advisable to start on a low heat and then to gradually turn the temperature up. You will know that the skillet has gotten too hot if you start to notice it smoking. When this happens, turn the heat off until it has cooled down a bit, and then you can go back to cooking. It is also important to point out how important pre-heating is. Don’t throw in your food straight away. Give the material a few mintues to pre-heat first.
- A bit of rust frightens you: It does not matter how clean or careful you are, one day you are going to take your cast iron skillet out of the cupboard and you are going to notice that rust has started to develop. For some people, this makes them want to throw their pan in the bin straight away because they are freaked out by it. However, if you do this, you are going to find yourself spending a lot of money on new pans. It is important to recognize that rust is not fatal to your cookware. All you need to do is look for a method to get rid of it. There are a number of different options, even if this means you need to take steel wool to it. No matter what option you go for, simply make sure you wash the pan and re-season it before you decide to use it again.
- You use harsh chemicals: Aside from all of the mistakes that have already been mentioned, another thing that you should not do is use harsh chemicals in order to wash your cast iron pan. As already mentioned, you should not really use soap unless you deem a little bit of it necessary. And so, you certainly should never use harsh chemicals in order to clean your cast iron pan, even if you have noticed that it has rusted a bit. Skip the scouring powder and forget about the oven cleaner. Instead, all you need is a towel and a bit of baking soda. A small amount of mild dish soap is the furthest you should stretch in this regard.
- You do not clean your cast iron skillet properly: In addition to this, another error a lot of people make is failing to clean their cast iron skillet correctly. Earlier in the post, we provided you with some tips on how to clean and care for your skillet on a daily basis or whenever you use it. You should make sure you follow this. As mentioned, kosher salt works very well, or you can use a nylon brush with some baking soda. The reason baking soda comes recommended is because it neutralizes any odors or flavors from whatever you have just been cooking. Not only this but it also has anti-bacterial properties.
- You don’t re-season: Last but not least, the biggest sin of them all is to not re-season your pan. Now that you know the steps that you need to follow in order to do this, there really is no excuse not to re-season your pan. Of course, not only do you need to make sure that you season your skillet, but you need to make sure you do it properly. Follow the steps that have been given to you.
So there you have it: the steps that you need to take if you are looking for the best way to season cast iron so that you can get your pan back to peak condition again! If your pan has lost its shine and its non-stick powers, it can be frustrating and you may feel that your only option is to spend money on a new one. Luckily, this is not the case. You simply need to follow the tips and advice that have been given above.