How To Properly Season Cast Iron
If you’ve spent any time poking around MIC or you’ve seen my About Me page you’ll know that I’m a Southern girl. If you’re new, Welcome! I’m a Southern girl.
The reason I’m making that so crystal clear is to talk a minute about the foods I’m accustomed to or more importantly, the cooking tool of choice in my neck of the woods…the cast iron skillet. Just about every real Southern cook has at least one favorite cast iron pan if not multiples. They’re actually handed down from generation to generation because they literally will last forever and the older the better. There’s nothing you can’t cook in a properly seasoned cast iron. However, that’s the key. It has to be seasoned to turn it into the jewel that it is. Seasoning isn’t difficult at all but it is crucial. It gives you an amazing non-stick surface that heats evenly and browns to perfection. Nothing else comes close in my opinion so I’m going to teach you the simple steps to properly season your very own cast iron.
You might be wondering, why have several cast iron pans? Well there are a few reasons for that. One is to keep your pancakes and cobblers and anything sweet from having a hint of fish or something cooked with garlic and onions. The other reason is because there are so, so many sizes and options. I have a separated cornbread pan, a cute, really old breadstick pan, several large, medium and small sizes as well as a big pot with lid seen here.
I’ve talked about being a sucker for anything mini and a mini cast iron pan is one of my most favorite things! I love serving an individual berry cobbler topped with ice cream in the tiny cast iron it was baked in. Of course cast iron will also go from stove top to oven which makes it extremely versatile but ALWAYS remember to cover the handle before you touch it! It get’s the same temperature all over so be careful! There’s really nothing you can’t do with it…except wash it.
Yes, you read that right. Once it’s gone through the seasoning process, it should never have soap used on it again if at all possible. I’ll explain more about that in the directions but don’t worry, it’s not as gross as it sounds.
I’m going to teach you how to season a new cast iron or maybe one you got from somewhere that doesn’t look it’s best and needs a little sprucing up. I am not going into how to recover a badly rusted cast iron but it can be done. There’s a good tutorial on re-conditioning cast iron here. There are a few more steps but believe me, it’s totally worth it! If you’re out and pass a yard sale or a flea mall and see a really gross cast iron, don’t pass it up! Those can turn out to be the best pans you’ll ever have and some of my favorites came from the local flea market I hit up every couple of weeks. Here are some of my most recent purchases prior to seasoning.
Let’s get into the steps, shall we?
- Adjust your oven racks so that there’s one is in the middle of the upper half of the oven and also one just below it.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Take a large baking sheet (big enough to easily cover the area the cast iron you’re seasoning will cover, I do several small ones at a time) and cover completely with foil. This will help with cleanup. Put the baking sheet on the middle oven rack.
- No matter where I get my cast iron pan, I always give it a good scrub with hot water, dish soap and a plastic brush and dry it well. As I said before, do not wash it again. I’ll go over the cleanup in a bit.
- Take anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon of Crisco depending on the size of your skillet (I keep a tub for this reason only) and with the skillet over medium high heat, rub the entire bottom and up the sides with tongs, Crisco and a paper towel to coat evenly while it melts.
- Take your cast iron(s) and place it upside-down on the upper rack of the oven directly over the foil lined baking sheet making sure it’s lined up so that any dripping grease hits the pan below.
- Bake for 1 hour. Turn off the oven and let it come to room temperature.
- Repeat the process by reheating the cast iron on the stove top and melting the fat in it and baking again 2-3 more times. If I’m busy I’ll do this process over several days, just don’t use the pan until it’s been through the seasoning process at least 3 times.
At this point you have a properly seasoned pan but like I said, it only gets better with age.
After you’ve cooked something in your new pan, wipe it clean with a paper towel and then heat the pan and wipe it down with a good coating a Crisco or vegetable oil. If mine is really bad, I’ll rinse in hot water to remove anything pesky, heat it on high while rubbing with Crisco. Once cooled, store as usual and enjoy for many, many years to come. If taken good care of, it’s something you’ll pass down to your grandchildren while teaching them to cook!