Do you have a cast iron skillet that looks like this one below? Face it, we’ve all had one like this from time to time, passed down from our family or found at a garage sale.
Well guess what? I’m going to teach you how to how to season cast iron – step by step, because I want you to enjoy those pans as much as I do.
There is nothing like cooking with cast iron, NOTHING. I’ve been using cast iron since I can remember, my momma and my mammaw cooked with nothing but cast iron, and actually, my momma switched to non stick a few years ago because the weight was more than she could handle, but mammaw never did. She doesn’t even own a non stick pan and since my mammaw is the queen of the kitchen, I’d say she knows a thing or two …or three.
Seasoning cast iron shouldn’t scare you at all, although there are a few myths about cast iron we should discuss. Let’s begin:
1. Cast iron is hard to season – FALSE
When you first get your cast iron, or when you are trying to fix a piece that has been left to rust, the seasoning process may seem daunting, but I assure you that all it takes is some elbow grease and some, well, grease. I use Crisco to season mine because you are going to need a good grease with a higher smoke point. Do not try to use olive oil or some other light version. Crisco is my go to for this job, although the perfect oil, if you can get it is linseed oil. Linseed oil is a “drying” oil and transforms into a tough “shell” here. If you do use linseed oil, just make sure it’s food grade. The trick is thin layering here. It’s kind of like nail polish – when it’s thick it doesn’t really get dry but if you layer thin coats, it will last all week. It’s like that.
2. Cast iron is as good as a non stick if seasoned properly – FALSE.
When properly seasoned, it is pretty slick, but let’s face it – nothing holds a candle to say Teflon or ceramic coatings. The more you use your cast iron, and the more you maintain it, it is pretty slick, but it’s never going to compare with the new coated cookware that is out today. Never.
3. You can never use soap in cast iron – TRUE
There are two camps out there, the ones who believe that a little soap won’t hurt a properly seasoned piece of cast iron and those who say to never use soap. I am a member of the latter. Cast iron is porous and even seasoned well, it has the ability to pick up that soap and we all know what soap does to your stomach. You can form your own opinion, but mine is never use soap. I use salt instead. It helps to scrub off those bits of food and keeps it polished. Try it yourself and see how you feel about it.
Let’s get started!
First, you want to use some steel wool to get as much of the rust off as possible. That means SCRUB until you can’t scrub no more. I’ve seen posts that say to use oven or toilet bowl cleaner, but I haven’t ever done that. That just weirds me out, because POROUS – remember? We are talking about surface rust here, if your piece is pitted, cracked or beyond repair, just let it go. It will never return to it’s former glory unless you have it sandblasted. Sad but true; there isn’t enough elbow grease in the world to get rid of those pits. Sniffle.
Get your cast iron wet under water as hot as you can stand it – then pour the water out. Pour baking soda into it and swish it around so that it’s covering the surface and let sit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, use a non-wire brush to scrub. Rinse and let it dry. This is where it’s tricky because when it’s wet, it will look like the rust is gone, but don’t be fooled! Let it dry for a few minutes and if there is rust, it’ll rear it’s ugly head. Try it out and see. Wet cast iron looks ok, but let it dry and you can see what’s really going on here. If there is rust, repeat the process again and again until it’s all gone.
When all of the rust is gone, turn your oven on at 200 degrees and put the piece in there to dry completely – this will help to open it’s “pores” and get really good and dry. We want this as dry as possible because oil and water do not mix. I leave mine in there for about 15 minutes myself – but when it comes to this process, I have nothing but patience and it pays off, believe me! Remove from the oven and coat it with your oil and wipe all of it off. Yep – all of it. It will look dry, but there is a thin coat and this is where we want to be. Pop that puppy back into the oven, turned upside down onto a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil (to catch drips) and bake it at 250 degrees for an hour. After that hour, turn off your oven and let your cast iron it cool completely in there.
Now, coat it with oil again, and wipe it all off and repeat the process of baking for an hour at 350 degrees. Yep, 10 degrees higher here. After an hour, turn off the oven and let the piece cool inside of the oven again.
Now, it’s time for round 3 folks! Do the exact same thing again, baking at 500 degrees for another hour – remember to wipe that oil off completely because it really is leaving a thin coat. 500 degrees is high, but the Crisco can take it, although your house really smells funky at this point, but it’s worth it in the end. It’s also worth noting here that you can do this 3, 4, 5 or even 6 times if you want. The more you do it, building up that thin coat of oil, the better. Did I tell you that this was an all day process? No? Well, it truly is. Love takes time 🙂 I always do it 4 times myself, and 6 if I’ve got the time.
Turn off your oven and remove the cast iron. Now we are going to rub it – taking care because it’s hotter than you would even image after coming out of a 500 degree oven. This is where we rub oil into it, all the while sort of wiping it off at the same time. The hot cast iron will absorb it, so don’t use too much, thin layers here. Keep rubbing and wiping until it takes on a nice dark brown sheen to it. I personally continue this part of the process for about 15 minutes, just rubbing and rubbing. There are a lot of websites that show you how to season cast iron, but this is how I’ve been doing it for literally years and years and I use my cast iron almost daily. The more you use it, the better it gets.
Now that you’ve seasoned your cast iron, you’ll need to maintain it after every use – every single one. Don’t skip the maintenance, or you will be in your kitchen for another whole day fixing it, and nobody has that kind of time in today’s world. We all have jobs and kids and well, our lives going on.
After you’ve made a delicious meal in it, rinse it well with hot water, this is where you’ll really see that water beading up and rolling right off. It’s a beautiful thing. If you have some stubborn food stuck to it, I recommend using coarse salt to scrub those bits out. If seasoned properly, the salt will not hurt it, unless you have super human strength and scratch the seasoning, but that shell is pretty tough so don’t be afraid.
Now take it over to your stove top and turn the heat on low and let it dry completely, about 5 minutes or so, depending on how high your flame or burner is set. After all of the water is gone and you’re sure it’s as dry as it can get, rub some more Crisco onto it and let it heat up. Take a paper towel and wipe that oil off, as much as you can as our goal here is another thin layer. Turn off the heat and let it cool along with your burner. Now take another paper towel and wipe off any excess that may or may not be there. Store it away until next time. That’s it! Maintenance is not hard, and it just takes a few minutes of your time and again, it’s totally worth it. You have to love your cast iron and treat it well, and it will treat you well. It’s love, I tell ya!
Remember that scone pan picture above with all of the rust? Take a gander at it now, after the all day process:
Beautiful and durable, cast iron is my favorite for just about anything. Now I think I’ll go and use it because this pan is perfect for cornbread! Have you tried the Live G Free brand cornbread mix from Aldi yet? If you love Jiffy, you’ll love this! After a long day of cast iron seasoning, cornbread sounds really good and it just isn’t the same if not cooked in cast iron. That’s just how I feel about that.
Until next time, happy Sunday Funday ya’ll!