There are some things you should consider before using cast iron.
How To Season A Cast Iron Pan
Seasoning a CI pan is important. Before you do anything else with that pan when you purchase it (or find it for a steal at Goodwill), you must wash and season it properly.
- Start by washing the pan out well with a mild dish soap and sponge. Concentrate on any heavily soiled spots with a scrubber. These scrubbers are great for restoring CI, but aren’t typically used to clean CI on a regular basis. Once your CI is properly seasoned and used correctly, you won’t need this tool often. However, it’s great to keep on hand for those tough, grimey, exceptions.
- Next, dry your pan on the stove top on a low or medium heat. Once your pan is dry, coat your entire pan (inside, outside, and handle) with a fat such as coconut oil, avocado oil, or lard. These three fats can reach and withstand higher temperatures for longer amounts of time, versus the everyday olive oil.
- Preheat oven to 450 and place your CI pan upside down, directly on the oven rack. Bake for 1 hour, or until the fat is no longer visibly wet. Your pan will most likely smoke—this is completely normal. Be sure to keep the door closed until the pan has cooled. You can practice this step as many times in a row as necessary, until your pan is a deep rich black.
How To Keep a Good Seasoning on Your Pan
- Always start with a pat of fat in your cast iron pan before placing your food in it. I feel like this is something we all do, but apparently many people don’t add butter or a fat to their pan before cooking in a non-stick skillet. This is probably one of the more essential ways to keep your CI seasoned properly. The fat in the pan creates an extra barrier before food is place directly on the surface. And in all honesty, it’s just being culinarily proper! I bet culinarily isn’t a word….
- Clean your CI pan as soon as it can be easily handled without burning yourself. It is much easier to clean a CI pan when it is still warm than once it has cooled. Unless you are cooking something extra greasy in it (like fried chicken), you should just be able to wipe the pan clean with a damp rag, or you can run it under the faucet and wash with a sponge (soft side). I am not one of those “don’t use dish soap” people. If you find that you’ve left the pan a little too long and need some extra power, or it’s just plain greasy, a drop or two of dish soap doesn’t hurt. I will say, however, that if your pan is getting a little ratty, and you want to cook something that will season it without having to actually “season” it….make fried chicken.
- Dry your CI pan completely after being washed. If you leave a CI pan to air dry, the water can seep into the pans pores, causing the breaking down of the seasoning. Or worse, the breaking down of the iron pan. Place your CI pan on a burner on your stove top and let it dry out through that direct heat for about 5 mins or so.
- Try to stay away from dish soap as much as possible. A properly seasoned CI pan won’t need dish soap or a scrubbing agent (unless extra greasy like mentioned above), though there are certainly exceptions.
- Never leave food in a CI pan for storage. I learned this the hard way. I had made a lasagna skillet dish one evening, and instead of placing it in storage containers, I just left it in the pan and refrigerated the entire pan. No no, don’t do that. I regretted it the next day! The food will begin to break down the pans seasoning and could even start the rusting process.