Cast iron cookware comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and even comes coated with colored enamels. Basic cast iron pots, pans, dutch ovens, and griddles need to be seasoned before you can use them. Seasoning cast iron involves coating the inside of the cookware with an oil or grease so that it fills the pores and any voids in the metal. Many cooks prefer to seal the outside of the cookware, as well, to help prevent the cookware from rusting. Properly done, seasoning seals the open pores of the raw cast iron and prevents foods from sticking. New cast iron pots and pans come from the factory coated with a protective layer of wax or shellac. This protective coating has to be removed prior to sealing the cookware.
- Wash your cast iron cookware in dishwashing detergent and very hot water to remove the wax or water soluble shellac protective coating.
- Dry the cookware thoroughly with paper towels.
Seal the cast iron cookware
- Preheat a stove top burner on low or the oven at about 200 degrees. Place the cookware on the burner or in the oven and let it become hot.
- Being careful not to burn yourself, coat the inside and outside of the cast iron with a light coat of oil or grease. Light vegetable oils like canola, sunflower, or olive oil work well. You can also use a light coat of shortening or lard.
- Allow the oil, shortening, or lard to soak in to the cast iron. The longer you let it soak at a low heat, the better the seasoning.
- Remove the cookware and wipe the excess seasoning away with paper towels.
- Let the cast iron cool to the touch and then repeat the seasoning process at least once more. Repeating the process creates a deeper seasoning and minimizes reseasoning your cookware over time, provided you use it correctly.
- If you use too much seasoning oil or lard and forget to wipe the excess away, it will pool up inside the pan, turning sticky or forming a gummy substance when you try to cook with it.
- If you think you may have used too much oil or lard in seasoning your cookware, simply heat it at a higher temperature upside down in the oven to season it. The higher temperature will darken the cookware, prevent the sticky, gummed up coating, and let you season your cast iron more quickly.
Seasoning cast iron cookware helps to keep it from rusting. If you have inadvertently put away your cast iron pots or pans damp, they may rust. Simply scour away the rust with steel wool and reseason them.
Cooking with cast iron works best at low to moderate temperatures. If you cook at higher temperatures, you may need to reseason your cookware afterwards.
If you wash your cookware in hot soapy water after cooking, you should reseason the cast iron each time.
Never wash your cast iron cookware in the dishwasher. If this happens inadvertently, reseason it before use.
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