If you had to start using a Nokia 3310 now, you would probably find it dull and useless after a week or so. Of course, you could still make phone calls, send messages, and play Snake, but you would still miss taking pictures, checking your social media accounts, and sending voice messages to your friends.
When it comes to cooking, cast iron cookware suffer from a similar misconception. We see those cast iron pans as heavy, over-complicated, mysterious kitchen tools that just don’t fit at all our fast-paced everyday schedule.
Well, while all of this is indeed true, you should still give cast iron pans a chance. Cast iron is a durable and timeless type of cookware that can last generations if properly cleaned and cared for. Don’t give up once you hear that indeed cast iron pans require intentional care. The task is not as daunting and overwhelming as it sounds. And here are all the steps you can take to start enjoying from right now all the amazing properties of this type of cookware.
What does it mean “to season cast iron”?
Seasoning your cast iron pan means that you oxidize iron on it on purpose. Well, that indeed sounds complicated. But it actually just means that you need to spread oil on your pan, heat it in the oven for an hour or so, and then dry it completely. Once you’ve completed this process, you will be rewarded with a pan that is as non-sticky as you can possibly imagine. You could even mirror yourself while cooking. “Mirror, mirror on the pan, who is the most un-sticky of them all?” asked the cook enchanted by her new glossy cast iron pan.
How to season your cast iron pan:
- Get your pan ready:
Regardless of if you just bought a new pan or picked up one at an antique store, you should season the heck out of it. If the pan is new, you can eventually use a few drops of soap but be mindful that this will negatively affect its seasoning. Better if you can just wash it with hot water to remove any dust accumulated on its surface during the time spent on a store shelf. Just remember to rinse and dry it out completely to avoid shooting yourself in the foot by making it rusty before you can even take a picture of it.
- Preheat the oven at 325’:
Wonder why you need to turn on your oven just to place a pan and no food inside? That’s because you need a source of heat stronger than your stove to fill all the cavities of your pan with a layer of oil. Once all the pores of its pitted surfaces will be permeated with this coating, it will develop a non-stick surface strong enough to prevent water from creating rust and acidic food from creating reactivity.
- Apply a layer of oil on your pan:
We suggest using cooking oil, lard or shortening to coat your cast iron pan. Some cast iron enthusiasts propose using butter and margarine as alternative coating materials, but lard can spoil faster than oil. Once you go for a flavorless and natural oil, you can rest assured that the result will be as good if not better than with butter. Just don’t go too hardcore on the amount of oil you put on your pan. You will end up with the risk of creating a pool of excessive oil and grease to gum up dust over time.
- Dry the pan with a cloth or paper towel:
If you indeed added too much oil onto your pan, you can still wipe away all the extra greasiness with a cloth or paper towel. Actually, you should really do it anyways. That’s because oil is a heavier liquid than water, so it will not spread itself on the pan if you order it to do so. You will need to coat your pan with oil by moving it around until the pan looks glossy but not too greasy.
- Place the pan upside down on your oven:
Once your pan looks like it’s ready to take part to a bodybuilding competition, you can breathe a sigh of relief. You made it through the harder stages of the seasoning process. The ideal solution would be to place your pan on the middle rack. You can also add aluminum foil or a baking tray on the lower rack to catch any dripping oil. The last thing you want to do after building your biceps by moving around a heavy cast iron pan is to clean up all the oil and mess left by it in the oven. Better safe than sorry.
- Bake for 1 hour:
No, we haven’t lost our minds. You really need to bake your cast iron pan almost as if you did the same with chocolate chips cookies or apple pie. Just be ready for a smell not as delicious as these delicacies. That’s why you would be better seasoning your cast iron pan when no one is around or on sunny days. If you can’t stand the smell, at least you can open the windows to let some fresh air come in. Repeat the same process for a couple of times to get even better results. You can’t have enough of seasoning, and the more you do it the better your food will taste once you start cooking. Small pro tip: reward yourself with stirred, fried, sautéd foods right after seasoning your cast iron pan, especially if the one you got is kind of new. This will give your pan a further cuddle. The more love and care you show to your cast iron pans, the more you will get from them. That’s as easy as it gets.
And … you’re done! Congratulations! You made it through the dark lands of seasoning, the creepy caves and pores of your cast iron pan, the daunting task of baking an empty pan on your oven. Well, before celebrating too much your victory, be reminded of a few extra tips on how to avoid having to repeat exactly the same process after just a couple of weeks. Ready? Get your notebook ready to take notes of these pearls of wisdom:
- Never ever place your cast iron pan in the dishwasher; not even after years, decades, or centuries. Just don’t do it. You will ruin your cast iron pan and even damage your dishwasher;
- Limit using soap to clean your cast iron pan; you cooked a whole meal and want to skip doing the dishes? That’s why cast iron pans are the most lazy-proof type of non-stick cookware you can possibly find. You can (and should) wash your pan with hot water, coarse salt, and scrub it with a plastic or wooden tool.
- Avoid soaking your pan in water for prolonged periods of time; if you’re planning to leave your cast iron pan in the sink for a whole day (or even longer), just change your mind as quickly as you can. Unless if you want to experience the (un)pleasing situation of eating food that tastes as rust, because, well, your cast iron pan actually did get rusty with all that water.
Don’t worry, if you managed to get through your first day at school, your first day driving, or even your first breakup, you are more than mentally ready to face and to win this challenge. If you did already complete all the steps above, congratulations on having a pan that is easy to use, heats evenly – and keeps heat for longer periods of time – as well as helping your immune system with extra bits of iron while cooking. Talking about health, one of the best investments you can make is to buy a cast iron pan pre-seasoned with a natural layer of fat. No added chemicals, all the best for your family’s health. You can opt for a Velosan pan, which would do the job excellently. All their cast iron pans meet the EU standards and have a CE mark. Health is no joke, so rely only on the best. That’s why you can get your pre-seasoned cast iron pan right now at Velosan.