A seasoned cast iron skillet means more than the number of years you’ve put it to good use cooking delicious dinners for your friends and family. A seasoned skillet has a layer of cooking oil or grease that has been baked into its cooking surface, providing a natural non-stick surface. This doesn’t mean you simply never clean your cast iron cookware—you need to know how to properly clean and season it periodically to make it work and last a lifetime.
Step 1: Properly Clean the Cookware
In order to keep your cast iron pots and pans seasoned, you must know how to properly clean them. Knowing when and how is key, however. You shouldn’t clean the cookware by scrubbing or scouring it with soap and water after every use. To keep this natural non-stick coating on the pan as long as possible, you simply need to wash it with water immediately after use and then wipe it with a cloth or paper towel to remove food particles (cast iron is easiest to clean right after cooking—after cooling, of course).
Crusty, caked-on food can be burned off of cast iron in an oven while keeping the non-stick coating created by seasoning.
Over time, the seasoned non-stick coating can wear off, so you need to periodically re-season your cookware. Begin by cleaning your pot or pan thoroughly. Use water, dish detergent and a scouring pad or stiff-bristle brush to thoroughly scrub the pan. Then dry it completely with a clean dishtowel.
Step 2: Coat the Cooking Surface with Oil
Before adding cooking oil or fat to the cookware, place a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to cover the bottom grate of the oven to catch any dripping oil from the cookware. Preheat your oven to at least 350 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven heats up, cover the cooking surface of the pot or pan with vegetable oil, olive oil, vegetable shortening or even bacon grease. Use a paper towel or basting brush to spread the oil around the entire cooking area and work it in.
Step 3: “Bake” the Cookware in the Oven
After you have applied the cooking oil or grease, place the cookware upside down in your preheated oven and let it “bake” for approximately two hours. Remove the cookware from the oven, using an oven mitt to protect your hand. Place the cookware somewhere where it can cool safely.
Properly seasoned cast iron cookware will have a cooking surface that appears smooth or shiny and will be non-sticking. When a skillet’s surface appears dull or food begins sticking to it during cooking, it’s time for a new round of seasoning.
That’s it! Your seasoned cast iron cookware is ready for you to start cooking.
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