Speaking for all fellow cooking enthusiasts, out of all the different frying pans available these days, a cast iron frying pan is every cook’s holy grail because it’s so easy to use and super versatile. From a perfectly seared steak to a simple omelette or a mouthwatering potato hash, a cast iron pan can do it all with professional level expertise.
A seasoned cast iron pan, on the other hand is a game changer, performing in an entirely different league. While durable, cast iron pans can still rust easily, so seasoning them with oil makes them last longer and takes the flavour of the meals you prepare several notches higher!
Now, most chefs would agree that their kitchen appliances are like their babies, so they care for them wholeheartedly. This is why seasoning the cast iron pans with great care is so important. Pre-seasoned pans like this one are great but they are no fun for a chefs like me because seasoning a cast iron pan you love brings incomparable satisfaction.
For beginners, who are just learning about the many joys of cooking, here’s an easy-to-follow four-step guide to seasoning a cast iron frying pan like a pro.
How To Season A Cast Iron Frying Pan: 4 Easy Steps
Step 1 – Wash With Soap
You will hear and read many contradictory things about washing your cast iron pans with soap, but here’s the truth. Washing your new frying pan with soap is an initial step that you perform only once before seasoning.
The first step to prepare your pan for seasoning involves a thorough clean to get rid of any rust and residue build-up from previous uses. People believe that unused pans don’t require this cleaning process, however it’s a common misconception because even new pans can start to rust from water exposure.
It’s recommended that you wash the pan with warm water and dish soap and use a metal scour to gently scrub off the rust. You can use pressure while scrubbing off stubborn build-up of the rust and clean the outer edges as well. This gives you a clean and smooth base to start.
This will also be a good time to set your oven to preheat at 450F.
Step 2 – Dry The Pan Thoroughly
This step may not seem like much, but it’s a crucial one. The best way to get rid of the residual water and suds from washing is to put the pan on a low heat for a few minutes and use a paper towel to wipe clean.
It’s important to make sure that the base of your pan is completely dry and clean for a smooth surface for seasoning. If you leave any water droplets behind, they will interrupt the seasoning process and you will have an uneven base.
Step 3 – Grease The Pan With Oil
Now it’s time to grease your pan and the best way to do it’s? rubbing the pan thoroughly with oil. Paper towels work best for evenly oiling the pan. You can dip some paper towels in the preferred oil and smear the oil on your pan.
Excessive amounts of oil won’t do the job better, so just a light layer of evenly spread oil on the inside and outside surface of your pan should be enough. Make sure you don’t over grease the pan because a pool of oil hardens into polymerized oil droplets that make the surface uneven and gritty.
Canola oil is a highly recommended and standard choice for seasoning. Other alternatives like vegetable and corn oil also get the job done pretty well, since all these oils have a high burning temperature (smoke point) before they start producing smoke.
Chef’s Tip: You need to avoid olive oil as it will burn at a low temperature and not give you the desired results.
Step 4 – Place Your Pan In Your Preheated Oven
Place your pan in an upside-down position inside your preheated oven, with a tray below it to collect the excess oil. The upside-down placement will allow any excess oil to drip off, creating an even surface. The tray will catch the excess oil, saving you from the dreadful task of cleaning stubborn and sticky oil spills in your oven.
Leave your greased cast iron pan for about an hour. Secure your hand with the help of some trusty oven mitts and take out the pan to oil it one more time. Bake it for another 30 minutes.
Repeat the last step to ensure a tough and solid layer of oil. After the final round of heating, you can take it out of the oven and let it cool.
Voila! Your cast iron pan is seasoned and ready to use!
Note: If you do end up with an uneven surface remember you can always start back at step 1
Further Care And Maintenance…
Like you pour all your love into the recipes you create, the instruments used to make those delicious meals require love too. It’s important to take proper care of your pan so they can serve you for a long time.
And remember – never soak your seasoned pan in water. Seasoning seals your pan with a protective layer, preventing water from getting inside.
Mild rusting on the pan’s outer surface is treatable but if it gets inside, eventually water damage will crack and rust your precious cast iron from the inside.
Other tips to keep your seasoned cast iron pans functional for a long-time include cooking care, such as avoiding cooking acidic foods like lemons, tomatoes or sauces because they tend to corrode the seasoning.
For maintenance, you can simply wash your pan with warm water and a light scouring after cooking. Make sure your pan is dry before you put it away. You can put it back on a low hob for a couple minutes and wipe it with a paper towel. Lightly oiling the pan will keep it protected from rust.
If you properly season and maintain your pan, it will serve your cooking adventures for a long, long time!