Man has cooked in cast iron skillets, pans, pots and kettles for centuries. Cast iron is one of the safest, most durable, and most effective ways of cooking your feast. Not only that, they are convenient in that you can pile your whole kitchen in the pan and then eat right out of it.
- Very durable: they are hard to destroy, being a slab of iron, and are passed down from generation to generation.
- Safer to cook on than the questionable non-stick Teflon cookware. ((http://www.epa.gov/oppt/pfoa/))
- Heats evenly and retains heat longer, keeping your meal warm.
- Can be tossed from an open flame right into the oven if it’s entirely cast iron.
- Higher maintenance than other cooking metals in cleaning (can rust if left wet) and re-seasoning (takes time).
- Is much heavier than other cookware.
- Takes longer to heat.
Seasoning a cast iron skillet is the processes of covering the pan in oil or lard and baking the pan so as to form a smoother, protective, non-stick coat. Flaxseed oil has been found to be the best option for seasoning as it dries better and leaves a smoother, longer lasting, non-stick coat as a result of its high iodine value. ((http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/01/a-science-based-technique-for-seasoning-cast-iron/)) This improves the quality and lifespan of your cast iron skillet so you can pass it down to your son when you teach him to cook a proper steak. The non-stick coating a few good seasonings provides also comes in handy when you don’t want your eggs over easy stuck to the skillet like a tongue stuck to a flagpole in the winter. Normally, just cooking food with butter and oil will build a good layer of seasoning but sometimes a brand new cast iron skillet won’t come seasoned well enough. Or if you inherited a rusty old pan, or if you let a pan get rusty, you’re going to have to re-season it.
How to Season NEW Cast Iron
It’s actually really simple, it just takes time.
- Preheat oven to 450 ºF.
- Use a scrub brush and wash off the skillet in warm water.
- Dry completely with a paper towel.
- Coat the entire skillet (top, bottom, sides, handles) with a high iodine value cooking oil, lard, or vegetable shortening (preferably flaxseed oil because of its high iodine value).
- Place aluminum foil on middle rack and place skillet upside down on the aluminum foil
- Wait 1 hour and then let it cool in the oven.
- (Optional) Repeat 2-3 times if you want a thicker, smoother coat of seasoning.
How to Restore and Season an Old or Damaged Cast Iron
If your cast iron skillet looks sad and rusty, you’re going to have to take an extra step pump new life into its veins.
- Submerge skillet entirely in a tub filled a 50/50 water/vinegar mixture.
- Let it soak for three hours.
- Take steel wool or a hard scrub brush and scrap off any remaining rust that didn’t dissolve.
- (Optional) Throw some salt on the skillet to help scrub.
- Follow the instructions up top because you now have a brand new skillet (definitely do several coats though).