What’s all the fuss about cast iron skillets?
If you are here reading this article then you’ve either purchased one or intend on purchasing one. Or your grandma must have gifted you an old rusty and you have no clue what to do with it. If the latter is the case you are as lucky as it gets. This piece of kitchen utensil has been used for centuries and has lots of benefits;
- It’s pretty much indestructible; this means you can use it for years and pass it down generation after generation
- It’s naturally non-stick; after several uses and proper care. Unlike the usual non-stick pans available in the market, cast iron pans become non-stick naturally over time without any chemicals.
- It fortifies your food with iron. YES, IT DOES. Iron is a super beneficial nutrient in our bodies and the cast iron skillet releases this precious nutrient into foods cooked in it.
- It cooks evenly. Cast iron pan has the ability to conduct heat evenly hence even cooking. That’s why this kitchenware is an absolute favorite for steaks and chicken and even baking.
I have been using my cast iron skillet for close to 5 years now. Yes, 5 years using the same skillet. We have this beautiful mutual relationship because my cast iron pan easily fixes for me gourmet dishes in under 45 minutes or less. What’s even more amazing is that I can serve food in it and get that rustic look ( well fewer dishes for me to wash). I guess it’s time I invested in another one, probably a dutch oven too. Well, we’ll see about that.
Anyway, in these 5 years, my pan and I have come a long way. In the beginning, I couldn’t use it to make my favorite fish dishes, tomato sauces, or even fried eggs without making a sticky mess out of it. With time my cast iron skillet has become non-stick because of good seasoning. Now, there is nothing I can’t cook in it. It is actually my go-to skillet pan.
This didn’t just happen overnight. It took some time and of course some knowledge on how to care for it. And so today, I want to share with you the best-kept secret to a perfectly functional non-stick cast iron.
Drum rolls …SEASONING
Just that. Continuous seasoning.
So, what is seasoning you asked?
In simple terms, seasoning is the process of achieving the hard protective layer that is formed when cooking oil continuously gets heated in your cast iron pan. You can either achieve this by intentionally oiling and heating your pan in the oven or overtime as you cook with your pan.
How to season your cast iron pan
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Step 1: Wash your cast iron pan and thoroughly dry it
By now you must have heard that you can NEVER wash your cast iron with soap. Unless you plan to re-season it which in this case we are.
So thoroughly scour your pan with warm soapy water, scrubber, and if necessary steel wool to totally get rid of any rust and food stains. We want to create a smooth surface all over our pan so that the end result will be an evenly seasoned pan. This might require a whole lot of patience and some mummy juice aka wine too 🙂
If it doesn’t get clean in one wash, get some warm water in a basin put lots of sliced lemon in the water, and soak your cast iron pan in it for about 20 minutes to an hour. This will help in loosening up the hard stuck grime. You may use white vinegar in place of lemon slices. If you do mix the vinegar in a ratio of 1:2 with water. After soaking, repeat the warm soapy water process and the grime should come off easily this time.
Once it’s all clean, take a dry towel or paper towel and dry it completely. Any drops of water left and rust will form. To be certain that it’s completely dry, you can place it over the stove flame for a minute or two.
Step 2: Preheat your oven
Preheat your oven at 450°F for 10 minutes then continue with the next step.
Step 3: Rub some oil all over the pan
Smear about a teaspoon of oil on the pan and rub all over it (yes inside and out). I would highly recommend Canola oil, Coconut oil, Flaxseed oil or Corn oil but if you don’t have either of these just use whatever oil you have. Cooking fat is okay too.
Step 4: Heat the pan in the oven
In the preheated oven, place your pan on a rack while facing upside down and leave it there for about 30 minutes.
An oven has evenly spread heat so the pan will be evenly heated and there won’t be any bumpy surfaces that often happen when you use stove-top to heat. These bumpy surfaces eventually make your pan unevenly seasoned that is why you sometimes see a pan with some rough patches even after numerous times of seasoning.
In case you don’t have an oven then go ahead and use your stovetop but on low-medium heat. Keep an eye on the skillet and watch out for any smoking. When the pan is too hot ( you’ll know this when it starts smoking) just pull it off the heat, let it cool down a little bit, and put it back on. Repeat this until all the oil burns off.
Step 5: Repeat the seasoning
To get a good first layer of seasoning, repeat steps 3 and 4 at least three more times. And especially if your pan is brand new. Let it cool down and your pan will be ready for use.
For the first time use, I recommend cooking something fatty in your skillet, like bacon or well-marbled steak, to get the flavors infused into the pan. If you are vegan you can use high flavor oils like butter or peanut oil to cook your vegan meals. Cast iron skillets absorb flavors over time and that’s why a well-seasoned skillet that is frequently used, produces the most flavorful meals.
Use your cast iron pan as often as possible. The more you cook with it, the better it becomes, just like wine huh?