Cast iron pans are tough, durable and reliable kitchen staples that have been around for a very long time. While cast iron has never really gone away, it was largely displaced in home kitchens by lightweight cookware sporting fancy non-stick surfaces. In the last decade, cast iron has been rediscovered by dedicated back-to-basics cooks who love working with the pans, despite the added care and knowledge required to maintain them.
Why do cooks love them? They’re great at holding heat and they can be used both on the stovetop and in the oven (as long as the handles are designed for this). But the selling point for many is cast iron’s natural non-stick surface, which can be achieved through a process called “seasoning.” This simple procedure gives your pan a protective coat that keeps food from sticking and inhibits rust. There are no fancy space-age coatings required; all you need is oil, heat and patience.
Unless your cast iron pan is pre-seasoned, you should always season it before using it for the first time. We get lots of questions about this, so we thought we’d share our guide on how to properly season a cast iron pan:
- Wash the pan well and rinse, then dry completely.
- Coat the interior of the pan with a thin layer of vegetable oil, lard or shortening. Avoid using butter or a low smoke point oil such as olive oil.
- Bake in a 250 F oven for approximately 30 minutes.
- Let the pan cool in the oven. If you have to move the pan before it’s completely cool, use an oven mitt, as the handle will be hot.
- Wipe the pan and repeat steps two through four of the procedure. You can do this two or three times for an even better seasoning.
Once you’ve seasoned your cast iron pan, it’s important to clean it correctly so that the seasoning stays in place. Here are our general cleaning tips for seasoned cast iron pans:
- Do not soak, and do not put in the dishwasher.
- Always allow the pan to cool before washing.
- Wash with hot water and a small amount of dish soap, then rinse and dry well.
- If you have to scrub at a burned on portion, use coarse salt and a non-scratch pad to preserve the seasoned surface.
- If the pan gets sticky or develops rust over time, use steel wool to scrub it clean and then re-season the pan using the seasoning procedure.
- If stacking pans for storage, place a layer of paper towel between the pans.
If you have any other questions about taking care of cast iron pans – or any other type of pans – get in touch with the professional home economists at our ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen Answer Line