Thursday, February 2, 2012

How to season Cast Iron... the right way

Let's talk Cast Iron today.  
Because I am going to challenge everything you know about it.

 We were recently out to eat at one of our favorite breakfast/lunch spots, and overheard the chef talking to one of his cooks about cast iron.  And because it's an open kitchen and they know us pretty well, we listened for a while to their predicament.  And it sounds like what most people say.

He was complaining about how hard it is to properly clean them after a full meal is cooked, because everyone knows that you can't use soap and water, not to mention the time it takes to oil them down again.  But his biggest problem was that when he would come back to use them the next day, the oil would still be wet and somewhat gummy.  Not very appetizing to cook on.

So that's when we chimed in and let him know our secrets for the ultimate way to season cast iron.
And it occurred to me that I should let you all in on it too.  You will totally thank me.
I promise.

First of all, you should know that we are cast iron junkies.  We have two Dutch ovens with the proper pointy bottomed lids, 8 pans from 15 inch all the way down to 4 inch, muffin pans, biscuit pans, all cast iron.  You name it, we have it.  And we use it too.  So a while ago we set out to find out the science behind seasoning cast iron so that we could figure out the best way to do it.  And we found it.
But let me warn you...
it is so easy to do and goes against every rule you've ever heard about cast iron.
However,  if you follow my directions and give it a shot, you will thank me over and over!  Your cast iron will be like teflon, but natural!  And done with an organic product!  And you can wash it with soap and water... 
you can scrub it!! with the back of the sponge!



Ok, so here is a 10" cast iron frying pan that we got at our local flea market.  It's pretty beat up.
It has a scratched up coating and you can see rust and six different shades of iron.  It's not useable.







 Now the first thing we want to do is get all of the coating off.  This method works even on your gummy, chunky, thick and bumpy cast iron pans too. Turn your oven to 'clean', put your cast iron in there as-is, and let it run.  We generally don't put more than one piece in at a time but you could do two at once.  This will burn off whatever is currently on your cast iron and leave you with non-coated pan. 




 There will also be this gross layer of rust dust left on the pan.




 Now what I am about to tell you goes against everything you have heard about cast iron.
I want to to wash it.  With soap and water.  Use the back side of the sponge and get all that rust dust off of there. 



 Make sure you rinse it really well.


 And then immediately put it on the stove to dry it.  And if you're like me you will enjoy watching the patterns it makes while the water quickly drys up.  
And if you're like me, you're a total dork.







And as soon as the last water spot drys up, remove your pan from the heat and allow it to cool to the touch.


 Now the only thing you will need to properly season your pan is an old rag and Flax Seed Oil.
Yes, that's right. Flax Seed Oil.  Not Olive oil, or Vegetable oil.  Flax Seed. 
This is the kind we use because it's the only kind they sell at the Co-op.  I'm sure whatever kind you find will be organic and just fine.



 Squeeze a little of the oil into the pan and coat every last inch of your pan.
The inside, the bottom, the handle, everywhere.





Then after it is completely coated, take a dry part of your rag and wipe off the excess.
You don't want it dry, but you don't want it dripping either.


 Once you've wiped it down, flip it upside down and put it on the middle rack in your cold oven.



 Then set your oven to 500 degrees and let the cast iron heat up with the oven.  But don't go too far away because once it starts to smoke, you want to turn the oven off.  Don't open the door, just let your pan cool down with the oven.  Once your oven is completely cooled, you can take your pan out.
If you're not sure if your oven is still hot, just put your hand on the glass of the door to feel the temperature.


 Here is our pan after the first coating.


I hope you can tell, just from the picture, how smooth and amazing this pan is after just one coating of Flax Seed Oil.  It beckons to be touched and rubbed.  It wants you to cook on it and have some of the best meals you've ever made.  

Now here is the pan we just did with one coating on the right, and another pan after just three coatings on the left.  You can see how much deeper and richer the coating gets after just a few rounds.  It truly is remarkable. 





One coating:

Three coatings:


Now here is the best part.  After you have done this several times (three is minimum, I think five is perfect, and seven is overkill) the maintenance on your pans is so minimal.  When you cook your first dish in your newly coated pan and let it sit for a couple of hours after dinner is over because it was so good that you ate too much and now you don't want to move but you do finally get up and realize that your potatoes have dried in your new cast iron and made a hard crunchy coating in your pan. 
Oh whatever shall you do?
Well I'll tell you.

Go to the sink and put some hot soapy water in your pan and let it sit for a while.
Yup.  Seriously.
And then take the back of your sponge with the scrubby part and scrub off all the dried on food.
(I don't recommend anything rougher than that.  I haven't tried though, because it's just not necessary.)


We have even left a pan sitting with soap hot water over night.  The next morning everything washed right off with no effort and the clean water beaded up and ran off like it was coated in teflon.
But way better because it doesn't cause horrible health issues.

The Flax Seed Oil polymerizes to the cast iron so beautifully that after you wash it, you can wipe it dry and put it away.   There is never any need to re-oil it.  So there is no chance of it getting gummy or sticky or just not really clean.  And every time you cook in it, you are adding your seasoning to the pan, which is one of the best parts about using cast iron. 


I hope this has been helpful and given you a little insight into how easy it can be to use cast iron and get the most out of it, without dreading the clean up!

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. 
And if you do try it, which I hope you will, let me know how it goes!

Happy cooking,
sj*





6 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    Replies
    1. Sam, thanks for sharing this info. I will definitely try it! Xo's

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  2. Wow...I did not know this procedure and I am impressed. I used enamel coated cast iron (only one)...love it but probably won't get another because it is so heavy! It is like weight lifting! xx

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  3. @Shannon Please do try it and let me know how it goes!

    @Mona I am glad the scientist is impressed! And I love the LeCruset Enamle coated cast iron for many reasons, but it doesn't season like cast iron does. And they make 8" cast iron frying pans that are not so heavy and still have plenty of space to cook.

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  4. AWESOME! I love this! We are such cast-iron nerds too! Where do I get a cast iron muffin pan?!! I actually just revived an old dutch-oven that I thought was nearly a gonner, nasty rust from use as a garden planter : ) To get the REALLY rusty stuff off too, I read about soaking the pan in 1:2 parts white vinegar to water, and it works fabulous.

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  5. Oh great! Thank you for taking the time to post this S.J. I treat my wok similarly, I always wash it with soapy water before I dress it but instead of soaking it in the sink, I deglaze it on the stove with a wooden utensil, super fast and easy.

    xoxo, Ro

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