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Seasoning Cast Iron Cookware

Seasoning cast iron cookware is a necessity, no matter if your pan is brand new or a hundred years old. Seasoning is the process of sealing your cookware with oils to create a natural non-stick surface. While cast iron cookware does require a little bit of effort on your part to keep it in tip top shape, it is not difficult to do at all, and the rewards are great. Seasoning not only keeps your food from sticking, it protects the pan from rust and keeps your food from tasting like iron.

As you use the pan, the seasoning will continue to ripen and get better and better, but you need to start somewhere. Your cast iron needs to be coated in a thin layer of carbonized oil. This layer makes a smooth hard surface that is easy to cook on and protects the pan. Most cast iron manufacturers will recommend you heat the oil in a 250 to 350 degree oven to create this seal, but carbonization does not take place at that low heat.

Steps to Season Cast Iron Pans

Before seasoning cast iron cookware, it must be cleaned. If your cast iron is old, clean it thoroughly with soapy water. Sand off any existing rust with steel wool. If your pan is new, be sure to remove all labels and wash the pan thoroughly. In both cases, dry your cast iron pan completely. When you wash these pans, do it by hand. Never put cast iron in the dishwasher!

Now, rub a thin coat of oil all over the pan, inside and out. Any vegetable oil will do, although peanut oil and sunflower seed oil are exceptional choices. Be sure you cover every square inch of your pan. If your pan has a lid, apply oil to it as well, covering both top and bottom. Allow the oil to air dry for a day or two upside down on a sheet of newspaper.

This allows the oil to seep into the microscopic pits and valleys in the iron. When it feels tacky to the touch, blot carefully any drips that you find. If your pan has areas that are shiny and extremely tacky, there was too much oil. If the tacky feel is hardly felt, the oil layer was too thin. Recoat as necessary and wipe the oil around the entire pan.

Place a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom rack of your oven to catch any drips and set the heat to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the cast iron pan upside down on the top rack of the oven. Leave the pan to heat in the oven for an entire hour. Be sure to turn on the exhaust fan, as the oil may smoke a bit. At the end of the hour, turn off the oven and let the pan cool slowly before removing it. If you feel the seasoning layer is too thin, you can repeat the process.

Your cast iron cookware is now seasoned and ready to be used. If you cook items that tend to be greasy for the first few uses, it will thicken the seasoning layer right away. Bacon is a good choice to help build up that layer.

More Cast Iron Seasoning Tips

Seasoning cast iron cookware not only makes cooking easier, but it makes cleaning up easier too. In order to protect your seasoning, the following rules are good to follow. First, never cook at a higher heat than necessary. Cast iron is an excellent heat conductor, so high temperatures are rarely needed.

Next, try to clean out the cookware while it is still hot. If it cools before you can clean it, you can reheat it. Add a little oil and reheat quickly to make the cleaning job easier. Sometimes just adding hot water will work just fine. Remember not to do more cleaning than is necessary. Sometimes all you need is a quick swipe with a paper towel. If that isn't enough, hold the pan under hot running water from the faucet and scrub with a stiff fiber brush. Remove all bits of food, but don't scrub off the seasoning layer.

Don't use a wire brush, steel wool or plastic scouring pads. If you need to wash it with soap and water to remove the cooking residue, go ahead. Dry the pan thoroughly. Use a little oil on a paper towel and wipe the pan completely. Your towel will turn blackĀ… that is the carbon layer.

In time, your pan will be as slick any non-stick cookware without the health hazards.

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