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Anyone who enjoys cooking and does it a lot will know how popular cast iron kitchenware is. Whether you have a cast-iron skillet or a cast-iron pan, you’re going to want to season it and you are not only going to season it once. Cast iron seasoning will eventually wear off so you will need to re-season it multiple times throughout its lifespan. Thankfully, the seasoning process is not too complicated and only requires a bit of time.
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What Is Seasoning?
When investing in an item that is bound to last for generations, if treated properly, it is essential to understand how and when to take care of it. Cast iron kitchenware can be compared to a high-quality leather or denim jacket. They are versatile, durable, and timeless. If treated properly, they will last for ages and can be passed down from one family member to another. Cast iron pans and skillets are exactly the same as they are ridiculously durable and definitely worth the premium price you pay for them.
To keep your cast iron in the best condition possible, you are meant to make sure it is seasoned. A large selling point of cast iron stuff is that it can be seasoned. This is one of the many reasons why they are expensive and highly recommended.
Seasoning is the process of coating the surface of your cookware in a bioplastic layer formed from heated fat and oils. This thin layer that covers your entire skillet is used to make sure that the skillet is heat, corrosion, and stick-resistant. The science behind this is that the seasoning is hydrophobic and highly attractive to oils and fats. This forms a protective layer of fats that prevents food from touching the surface of your cast iron. This is why it is classed as a non-stick item as it prevents the food from sticking. The best use for this is when you are trying to fry or bake something in your cast iron.
What Is The Point Of Seasoning?
As mentioned, the whole point of seasoning your cast iron is to make sure that it does not allow food to stick to it. A lot of kitchenware is marketed as non-stick because food sticking to your pans is a very annoying problem to deal with as it can ruin your food, or just make cleaning up a load harder than it should be.
Alongside forming a non-stick coating, seasoning also helps keep the pan in better condition as it makes the iron heat resistant and corrosion-resistant. If you use any cast iron product without seasoning it, you will notice that the surface will quickly deteriorate. This is even quicker when cooking acidic foods as they damage the iron. You will see rusty patches appear and the skillet face will be a lot less appealing and will not be nice to cook on.
A seasoned skillet does not have these problems as the seasoning protects the iron from any acidic foods. When treated with the proper care, your cast iron pan should last for decades.
How Often Should You Season Cast Iron?
For optimum performance, you will want to re-season your cast iron multiple times periodically throughout the year. A good method is to do it once every four months if you can. The seasoning will eventually wear off but this is quite slow so, with the proper use and care, you can keep it healthy until you re-season it.
How To Maintain A Healthy Seasoning
There are ways to ensure that your seasoning lasts for as long as possible so that you do not have to re-season it all the time. Keeping your seasoning protected is very important and is one of the best ways to keep your cast iron healthy and durable so that it will last for ages. The main ways to maintain your layer of seasoning are;
- Pre-heat your pan – If you preheat your pan with some oil before you begin cooking, the pan can draw the oil in and seal the seasoning slightly which will help it remain in a good condition.
- Clean your skillet – It is important to keep your skillet clean by wiping it with a paper towel to remove any excess fat and food residue after use.
- Rinse it – Rinsing your skillet with warm water is the recommended way to clean it after wiping it. Using soap is likely to damage the seasoning so only do this when necessary.
- Remove scorched food – You can use salt or bicarb with oil and a cloth to rub away any scorched food that is on your skillet. The bicarb is also useful to remove any strong smells that may be lingering on your skillet.
- Remove burnt-on food – To remove food that has burnt onto your skillet, add water to the skillet and heat it in your oven. Try scrubbing this with a brush after it has been heated and only resort to a scouring pad or steel wool if you desperately have to.
- Dry instantly – Do not allow your skillet to soak after you have been cooking with it. After rinsing, it is important to immediately dry your skillet.
- Use your skillet often – Using your skillet often will build a natural seasoning on it as you use a lot of fat and oils in cooking. Using your skillet a lot will do this over time, whereas rarely using your skillet will mean you have to re-season it more often.
How To Know When To Re-Season Your Skillet
If you have a brand new cast iron skillet that was pre-seasoned before you bought it, you may be wondering when you will have to season it yourself. There are a few signs that point to this and will help you identify when you need to add your own seasoning to the cast iron. The signs to look for are;
- Dull/rusty patches appearing on your skillet
- Black flakes are breaking off of your cast iron and touching the food or are coming off during cleaning
- Food starts sticking to your cast-iron skillet
When any of these three signs start occurring, you need to re-season your pan as soon as possible. It is best to keep on top of this and season it before you try and cook with it again.
How To Season Cast Iron Skillets And Cast Iron Pans
If you are wanting to season your cast-iron cookware by yourself, then you have two very simple methods to choose from. To ensure your cast iron is the best cooking surface possible, you should re-season it whenever there is apparent damage to the current seasoning.
Stovetop seasoning is better for minor repairs on your cast iron pan as it can not get to the same high heat that your oven can. To thoroughly season your cast iron you will first want to start off by cleaning your skillet as best as you can. Once it is cleaned to the best of your ability, apply a thin layer of oil evenly to the skillet. It is best to choose whatever oil you have in stock as most types will work. The ideal oils to use have a high smoke point. These oils can be canola oil, grapeseed oil, vegetable oil, and sunflower oil.
Ensure that you remove any excess oil from your skillet as you want a thin layer on the skillet and nothing more. After this, heat your skillet over medium heat on your stovetop and allow it to cool. This may need to be repeated multiple times in order to get to the level of seasoning which you desire.
Oven seasoning is required when there is extensive damage to the seasoning on your cast iron. While it is required once there is lots of damage, you can still do this method even if the damage is minimal. Using the oven to season a cast iron skillet is so easy and can be done frequently.
To start the seasoning process you will want to clean your skillet. As you are about to apply more seasoning, you can use soapy water and scrub it as thoroughly as you want. Normally this would be bad as it would damage the seasoning but in this case, it is fine. Once the skillet is clean, evenly apply oil to the inside and outside of your cast iron cookware. You can also use animal fat or any cooking oil such as vegetable oil or flaxseed oil.
Remove any excess oil with a paper towel so that you leave only a very thin and even coat of oil. Heat your oven to 400 degrees and place your skillet upside down on a wire rack. If your oven does not go to this temperature, just set the heat to as high as possible.
Allow your cast iron cookware to bake for an hour at the minimum and then turn your oven off when you are happy. Do not remove the cast iron skillet yet as you will need to let it cool completely.
Once entirely cooled, you can remove your cast iron skillet. If you have stripped away the previous seasoning on your cast iron skillet, as you want to do a major restoration, you will need to repeat this step 3-4 more times to ensure that you have a good and trusty seasoning on your cast iron pan.
Is Seasoning Worth The Effort?
While it may seem like seasoning cast iron is a huge burden that requires loads of time and effort, it is actually a labor of love. If you put in the time and effort to treat your cast iron pans properly and take care of them, they will stay with you for decades and help you cook anything you want. That might sound dramatic, but it is true. Seasoning a cast iron pan is necessary and everyone should do it as it helps keep the kitchenware in the best condition possible.
FAQs On Seasoning Cast Iron Kitchenware
Should you season cast iron after every use?
No, there is no need to season it after every use. You can do so if you want to. However, this is very over the top and not at all necessary. Only season your pan every few months unless it shows signs of needing to be seasoned prematurely.
Can you season cast iron too much?
You cannot season cast iron too much. As long as you season the cast iron skillet properly, you can do as many layers as you like. Five layers are perfectly acceptable and durable so anything more than this will be overkill, yet that is your choice to make.
How many times should I season cast iron?
If you keep your cast iron skillet in the best condition possible after cooking with it, the current seasoning should not degrade that quickly. If treated right, you will only need to season your cast iron skillet once every 4 months.
Should I season my cast iron twice?
You can season your cast iron skillet twice, but a lot of people recommend repeating the process five times as a minimum just to make sure the seasoning is strong, sealed, and durable.