Ahhh, seasoning your pan. Ask 100 people how they do it and i’m sure you’ll get 50 different answers on how to do it. I’ve messed up the process in the past resulting in having to strip it again and start over. Don’t feel bad if you don’t get it right. There are many videos online that you can watch, just be sure to find the ones that support a very thin coating of oil to season.
The process for seasoning is pretty simple.
If you have a stripped pan, scrub it well with soap and cold water and dry it thoroughly using an old towel and then paper towels. Make sure you’re preheating your oven to about 250 degrees then place the piece in there to dry. Leave it for 20 minutes or so. Using heat resistant gloves, spray your entire pan with regular old “spray pam”, that gooey loveliness that’s driven by butane as a propellant.
Note on “flash rust” – it’s bound to happen. Bare iron meets water and air, rust usually will form. Don’t panic, there’s a simple way around it. Coat your piece with oil and scrub the rust out with stainless steel wool and wipe it clean – repeat if necessary. What you’re looking to do is remove the rust and replace it with oil so it doesn’t rust again.
I should invest in paper towel stocks…
Using clean paper towels, rub the pan thoroughly and make sure every nook and cranny are coated in oil. Wipe off ALL excess oil. When you think all the excess has been rubbed of, take a fresh paper towel and rub it out some more. The key here is the thinnest possible layer of oil, you want your piece dry – and you aren’t going to rub it all off.
Crank the oven to 450 degrees, place your piece upside down in the oven and bake it for 10 minutes. Using heat resistant gloves (welding gloves are good), remove the piece and rub it again with clean paper towels. You want the thinnest layer possible. Bake for another half hour to an hour until it stops smoking and your home smells like a blast furnace – open the windows and doors, turn on any fans you have cause it’s not the most pleasant smell. Let the piece cool in the oven and repeat this process if necessary. One coat of seasoning generally won’t be enough to make your piece black, only repeated use will do that.
If you don’t wipe off all the excess oil during the initial seasoning process, the heat will break the surface tension on the cast and you’ll end up with blackened pools of oil. Not a good thing and you’ll start over cleaning it.
Your first cooking experience
Many people suggest frying bacon as a first cook to get the seasoning process going. I’ve never had success in frying bacon in a fresh pan, as a matter of fact, some things tend to stick no matter what you do. I like to bake with my fresh skillets, something that requires high heat like home made bread or corn bread. Both delicious, easy to make and does wonders to your cast iron.
Many of these recipes require you to preheat your skillet or dutch oven, do so but go through the process of a very light coat of oil then bring your pan up to suggested heat. When you’re ready to cook, remove the pan, give it another good wipe then add whatever oil or butter is required then finish your baking. You’ll notice after a couple of baking cycles that your piece will get darker. It’s a wonderful thing. Once your pan is black and you’re comfortable using it, use it on stovetop.
Cooking with cast on stove top
Cast iron needs to be preheated and that will take longer than your average skillet. Never cook on high, you should never need to go beyond medium when using cast as long as you allow it to heat properly. Turn your stove on 3 or 4, put your pan on and give it at least 5 minutes to preheat – give the skillet a quarter turn during the heating process as cast doesn’t heat evenly. Once the pan is hot enough, add your oil or butter and start your cooking. Adding food to a cold pan will result in sticking.
If things do stick to your cast – and they will.
I generally deglaze a hot pan with boiling water, this typicall loosens up anything stuck to the pan. You can also add water to the pan and let it simmer. Scrub with water and coarse salt works well too. The yellow sponges with the dark green scrubber works really well, it’s not abrasive and won’t hurt your seasoning. Once your pan is clean, dry it well, put it in the oven and let it dry. If you think it needs another seasoning, give it another round.