a cast iron skillet sitting on top of a fire pit

How Do You Season Cast Iron Pans?

Cast iron pans are a beloved kitchen staple, renowned for their durability, heat retention, and the flavorful sear they impart on food. Seasoning is the process that makes cast iron’s naturally rough surface smooth and non-stick, turning it into the ultimate kitchen workhorse. Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of seasoning cast iron pans.

Understanding Seasoning

Seasoning is not a one-off coating you apply. It’s a continuous process of building up layers of polymerized oil. These layers bond with the iron, creating a slick, protective surface that prevents rust and makes your pan naturally non-stick.

Step-by-Step Guide to Seasoning

  1. Clean Thoroughly:
    • New Pans: Most new pans come with a factory coating. Scrub with hot soapy water and a stiff brush to remove it.
    • Used Pans: If your pan is rusty or has old seasoning, a deeper clean might be needed. Check online resources for safe and effective rust removal methods.
  2. Dry Completely:
    • Dry your pan thoroughly using a clean towel. You can even pop it on the stovetop over low heat for a few minutes to ensure all moisture is gone.
  3. Apply a Thin Layer of Oil:
    • Choose a neutral oil with a high smoke point like vegetable, canola, flaxseed, or grapeseed oil. Avoid olive oil as its smoke point is lower.
    • Apply a very thin layer of oil to the entire pan – inside, outside, and even the handle.
  4. Buff Excess Oil:
    • Use a paper towel or clean cloth to wipe away excess oil. You want just a light coating, not pools of oil.
  5. Bake in the Oven:
    • Place the pan upside down in a preheated oven at 450-500°F (230-260°C) for one hour. Place a sheet of foil on the rack below to catch any drips.
    • Let the pan cool completely in the oven.
  6. Repeat:
    • For the best results, repeat this process 3-4 times. Each bake cycle deepens the seasoning.

Seasoning Maintenance

  • Cook Often: The more you use your cast iron pan, the better the seasoning becomes.
  • Clean Gently: After cooking, avoid harsh soaps or scrubbers. Hot water and a stiff brush are usually enough. If needed, a little coarse salt can help remove stuck-on food.
  • Dry and Oil: Immediately after cleaning, dry the pan thoroughly and apply a very thin layer of oil before storing.

Extra Tips

  • Acidic foods can strip seasoning, so it’s best to avoid long-simmering tomato sauces and the like early on.
  • Some light flaking during the initial seasoning is normal.
  • Your pan will darken and become smoother with use, a sign of good seasoning.

The Magic of Seasoning

Seasoning your cast iron pan is a simple yet transformative process. With a little care and attention, you’ll create a versatile and long-lasting piece of cookware that will reward you with delicious meals for years to come. Don’t be afraid to experiment – the more you cook with your cast iron, the better it will perform. Embrace the seasoning journey and enjoy the unmatched flavour and performance your perfectly-seasoned cast iron pan will bring to your kitchen!

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