The Importance of Keeping It Non-Stick & Long-Lasting
There are many benefits to using cast iron pans. One of the biggest perks to using cast iron for cooking is that it does not have a potentially toxic non-stick coating. The seasoning it gains from regular use acts as the nonstick coating as it adds extra flavor to your meals and favorite recipes.
Methods for seasoning your cast iron cookware differ depending on whether you are just re-seasoning after cooking, seasoning it for the first time, or stripping the current seasoning completely and re-seasoning. Before you season your pan, your cast iron pan will need to be cleaned in a manner different from nonstick or stainless steel pots and pans. To learn more about cleaning cast iron pots, pans and skillets, view our article The Definitive Guide to caring for Cast Iron Cookware: Methods to Maintaining Your Cast Iron. Also, it should never be placed in the dishwasher.
Stripping and Re-Seasoning Cast Iron Cookware
Sometimes your cast iron may need to be stripped of its old seasoning and re-seasoned. This may occur after purchasing a vintage piece at a flea market or if your cookware becomes damaged.
Step 1: Easy-Off
For this step, wear heavy rubber gloves and spray the pan outdoors. Easy-Off is a lye-based oven cleaning spray foam. Spray the foam all over the cast iron pan then seal it in a heavy-duty garbage bag. Let it sit for 24 hours.
Step 2: Scrub
Next, wearing the heavy rubber gloves, remove the pan from the garbage bag and scrub it with a stiff wire brush to strip the pan down to its original surface. You may need to complete steps 1 and 2 multiple times to get the seasoning completely removed.
Step 3: Remove Rust
Now that the older seasoning is stripped down, if your pan has rust spots you will need to remove them with distilled white vinegar. To do this, soak your pan in the vinegar for 6-12 hours and scrub the rust spots. Never soak in vinegar for more than 24 hours because this will erode the cast iron.
Step 4: Season Immediately
As soon as you have all the old seasoning removed your pan will be immediately susceptible to rust. To keep the pan from rusting it is important to follow the steps for seasoning it in the following section.
Seasoning Cast Iron Cookware
New cast iron should be washed with soap and water before seasoning. After that, it is not recommended to wash it with soap and water because that can strip away the non-stick properties of the seasoning. After washing new cast iron, or stripping your old cast iron, it needs to be seasoned before use.
Step 1: Warm
Warm your pan in a 200-degree heated oven for about 15 minutes. This will open the pores of the pan to get it ready for the oil.
Step 2: Oil
Place a small amount of flaxseed oil in the pan, about 1 tablespoon, and use tongs to rub it into the entire surface of the pan with paper towels. Other oil options include: sunflower oil, or soy bean. The highly unsaturated fat in those oils will oxidize and polymerize more quickly, sealing the pores of the cast iron. With fresh paper towels thoroughly wipe out the pan to remove the excess oil. Some also prefer to use shortening, vegetable or olive oil.
Step 3: Place in Cold Oven
Line the bottom of the cold oven with foil to catch oil drippings and then put the cast iron cookware on the rack in the cold oven upside-down. Next, set the oven to the maximum temperature. Upon reaching the max temperature, bake the pan for one hour.
Step 4: Turn off the Oven
Turn the oven off and cool the pan in the oven for at least 2 hours, this allows the seasoning to harden/polymerize onto the pan.
Step 5: Repeat
Repeat this seasoning process 5 more times or until the pan’s surface is dark and semi-matte, this is the non-stick surface that is essential to cooking in cast iron cookware.
Re-Seasoning After Cooking
After using and cleaning your cast iron cookware, it should be re-seasoned for next time. This is an easy process that is typically done with a light coating of oil. To do this: thoroughly rub 1-2 teaspoons (depending on the size of the pan) of your preferred oil.