How to clean, season, and care for your cast iron cookware

John Kopischke
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What is cast iron?

Cast iron, when properly seasoned and cared for, is a very popular choice in cookware. The first thing that needs to be said about cast iron cookware is that you must take care of it. It is not indestructible and not a pan that can be washed and set aside. It needs to be maintained.

A cast iron skillet will actually release a small amount of iron when used for the first time. After you cook your first cast iron meal (and you will want to), wipe it dry and place it in the oven to store. It will continue to release a very small amount of iron into the skillet for the first few times that you use it. This self-seasoning process is important for a cast iron skillet to achieve the nonstick surface that they are so well known for and for it to endure cooking acidic foods.

Over time, as you use your cast iron skillet, you will notice that it develops a non-stick, shiny patina. This patina is a sign of a properly maintained cast iron skillet.

What are the characteristics of cast iron?

Cast iron cookware is versatile. It can be used on the stovetop, in the oven, on the grill, and over a camp fire. You can buy cast iron cookware in many colors and sizes. It looks vintage, but it modern. It’s easy to use and once it’s seasoned it will work like a dream.

Cast iron is rugged. It lasts a very long time. It can also be recycled. After use, you can cook acidic foods like lemon or tomato in your iron pan, to break it down. Over time, your pan will eventually begin to rust, and this is when it’s time to recycle your cast iron. If you have small nicks in your pan, you can place the pan upside down in a preheated oven and bake for one hour. This will seal the pan. Just make sure that you don’t heat your pan for too long in an oven, or it will lose its quality to conduct heat.

Coat your cast iron cookware with 252150 before each use for the first three uses. After this, it will season itself. You should use any oil or fat you wish to use within that time. This will season your pan.

What is seasoning?

Seasoning is the process of using layers of fat to form a non-stick barrier that allows food to slide around and cook more evenly. Without a proper seasoning layer, food can get stuck in the pan and you’ll risk scraping off the seasoning layer (and the non-stick qualities) if you’re not careful.

When you read the directions of your cookware set, you might find one of these terms somewhere in the list: pre-seasoned, seasoned, de-glazed, or enameled. This simply means that the cookware has been seasoned before use.

Some brands don’t want their new cookware to stick, so they coat it with some kind of glaze that makes it cook more like a non-stick pan. This is usually a no-no. We’ve tried a few cheap non-stick skillets, and while they’re convenient to use, they’re a pain to clean. So we advocate cast iron’s natural non-stick coating.

How do I season my cast iron cookware?

Although cast iron isn’t the heaviest when it comes to weight, it’s the heaviest when it comes to how it needs to be cared for. It’s a must to season cast iron if you want it to stand the test of time. If you fail to season the cast iron by oiling it, the finish will fade and it will rust. However, with proper care, cast iron should last you for many years.

Seasoning cast iron is done in four steps.

First, clean and wash the cast iron cookware with soap.

Second, dry the cookware thoroughly with a towel.

Third, heat the cast iron over medium heat for about 30 minutes.

Lastly, coat the entire surface of the cast iron with a thin layer of oil, including the handles. It’s also important to oil the inside surface of the lid.

You might want to replace the oil coating every six months to keep your cast iron looking like it’s in mint condition.

Would I ever want to reseason my cast iron cookware?

Yes, depending on how often or you cook with it, you may need to reseason it. The process, which involves washing and applying an extremely thin layer of vegetable oil, may need to be repeated every few months. It’s also a good idea to reseason your cookware every fall, when the oven is used less often, and whenever it’s been washed with soap.

You will need to season cast iron cookware before using it the first time. Seasoning will enhance the cooking properties of the pot.

First, wash the pot by hand and dry it completely. Place the pot upside down over low heat. Apply a very small amount of vegetable oil (Cast iron cookware works best oiled with vegetable oil. Do not use salad or cooking oils that are made from animal fat, as they burn easily. Do not use margarine, butter, or lard. Butter will burn and give your food an off-taste. Margarine and lard are a little more stable, but they’re often made from hydrogenated oils, which are also less healthy to cook with.), a few drops at a time, evenly over the surface. If the oil smokes, it has reached the right temperature. Now the pot is ready for use.

How do I reseason my cast iron cookware?

Cast iron cookware can become unseasoned rather easily. The seasoning layer is simply a coating of fat and other compounds (including wax) which render the cookware nonstick. When the cookware becomes unseasoned, cooking food in it with will be extremely difficult. In fact, the unseasoned cookware will be very likely to stick and crack.

How do I reseason my cast iron cookware?

Your pan really doesn't need to be cleaned. Simply scrub it off with a scouring pad if there is food stuck on it, and then turn it upside down on the stove and heat it on high until all the water is gone from the pan (or any other liquid, such as wine or milk).

This will take awhile and the pan may smoke a bit, but it's better to take it to this extreme than go through the process you're about to read about.

You can reseason your cast iron cookware by heating it over high heat until it is very hot (do not use it over the open flame, you will damage it). Then, coat the cookware inside and out with vegetable oil.

Place it upside down in your oven (place a large pan filled with water on the bottom shelf so that it will catch any oil drippings. Set your oven to 350 and bake for 1 hour.

How do I clean and care for cast iron cookware?

For the most part, you should avoid cleaning cast iron like you do other metals. It is very absorbent. It can absorb the taste or smell of every other metal your cookware comes into contact with. It can absorb odors and materials from your dishwasher and drying rack as well.

When you use a dishwasher with your cast iron cookware, make sure to load it very carefully and handle it with extreme care when it comes time to unload.

To clean cast iron thoroughly, you should dry each piece and then heat it up. Let it sit over a low flame for about 30 minutes. If it’s still not clean, you can always give it a scrub with just a little hot water. Dry it again and then re-season it.

One of the best ways to keep your cast iron cookware in top condition is to season it. This is something you should only do after the pan has been cleaned. The traditional method of seasoning your pans involves using lard. Some people are increasingly concerned about the trans-fats in lard that have recently come to light. You can season your cast iron using vegetable shortening to avoid the trans-fats.

Summary

Cast iron cookware is best suited for slow-cooking items, particularly those with sauces. Most recipes will work in your cast iron cookware, but it’s important to know that these pans and skillets need preparation and attention. Unseasoned cast iron skillets and pans can be used if they are treated correctly. Seasoning cast iron is a process to protect the pan from rust and make cooking easier.

When you first get your cast iron cookware, you should season it right away. Seasoning will make your pan non-stick. It will also lock in moisture and seal nutrients, so the food you cook retains more vitamins and minerals. Seasoning cast iron is a process to protect the pan from rust and make cooking easier.

The first step in the seasoning process is washing and drying them. Never throw out the box that your cast iron came in. Even if you don’t want to keep the box, you’ll need it to store the cast iron in between use. Once they’re clean, place the pan on a burner set to medium-high heat. Make sure that the pan is well-wiped and has been thoroughly dried.