Cast iron cookware is a favorite with serious chefs and home cooks and is known for its excellent nonstick surface and even heating abilities. The best cast iron cookware will last forever if properly cared for and maintained and seasoning cast iron cookware correctly is necessary to maintain its nonstick surface as well as preventing the pots or pans from rusting.
Unlike nonstick Teflon cookware, which is treated with chemical compounds to get their nonstick properties, cast iron cookware requires a natural nonstick coating to be applied in the form of oil/fat called “curing” or “seasoning”, this process also protects the cast iron from rust.
Most of the new cast iron skillets and cookware come pre-seasoned by the manufacture so all of the hard work as already been done and you can get cooking straight away. But for older cast iron pots and pans or for unseasoned pans, seasoning or re-seasoning is a must to keep the cookware in tip-top shape.
Seasoning Cast Iron Cookware
Seasoning cast iron cookware is pretty simple and all you need to do is follow this below process before you can start to use your cast iron.
Before you season or cure your cast iron you need to strip the coating and completely clean the surface using soap. Important, this is the only time you should use soap on cast iron cookware.
Make sure you rinse the pots and pans thoroughly to get rid of any lingering soap. If you are trying to re-season an old cast iron pot or pan use an abrasive cleaning pad like wire wool or a green scourer to remove rust and stuck on food, if this is a new pan this is not necessary.
Once your cast iron is thoroughly cleaned go over it and make sure it is completely dry and the surface is smooth and clean.
There are different techniques to seasoning cast iron and everyone has their favorite method and will probably swear that theirs is the best. I like to use melted vegetable shortening when I season cast iron which needs to be applied in a thin layer of the pot or pan, this is how I was taught and I seen no reason to change, as the saying goes “don’t fix it if it ain’t broken”. If you don’t have shortening you can always use cooking oil such as safflower, canola, or soybean and follow this same seasoning procedure.
✓ Bake It
Once you have your cast iron coated in your chosen oil you need to then place the cookware into an oven upside down at a temperature of 350 to 400 degree F for around one hour. To stop any oil dripping onto your oven place a baking tray or a sheet of aluminum foil underneath to catch any drops. Once done turn off the oven but do not remove the cast iron, you need to let it sit and cool to room temperature over several hours.
✓ Store and Maintain
Store you cast iron pots and pans as you would with any other cookware, in a dry cool place. Between uses you can lightly oil the cast iron surface to help maintain the seasoning.
Cleaning Cast Iron
Special care needs to be taken when cleaning cast iron cookware; it’s not really a “set aside and soak kind of pan” last thing you want to do is remove all of the hard work you put into seasoning it.
To maintain a well seasoned cast iron pot or pan you need to rinse with hot water immediately after each use. If you notice that there are stubborn stains such as stuck on burnt food you can lightly scrub with coarse salt and a non-abrasive cleaning pad or brush to presser the nonstick surface.
Iron is prone to rust, so to help prevent rusting on the surface of your cast iron cookware always make sure your pan is fully dry and lightly coat the surface with cooking oil before putting it away and cover with a cloth to prevent dust sticking to it.
If the pan becomes sticky overtime you can gently scrub it with steel wool or a green scourer and then re-season it.