It is favorable to season your cast iron a few times in a single year. We recommend seasoning by oven when restoring your rusty cast iron pan. Follow here in our article the simple steps and methods to season a cast iron pan or skillet and details on how often to season cast iron.
Cast iron pan is heavy-duty cookware made of cast iron is valued for its durability, heat retention, ability to be used at high temperatures. It is hugely used for non-stick cooking provided that it’s properly seasoned. The seasoning is used to protect the bare cast iron from rust and prolong its lifespan.
What is Cast Iron Seasoning?
Seasoning is the process of creating a veneer of carbonized oil. The veneer that has been baked onto your cast iron skillet. It forms a preservative layer on top of your cast iron pan. It’s what gives your iron pan or skillet an easy-release, natural finish. It makes your cooking and cleaning a breeze. The more you cook in your cast iron skillet, the better this layer of oil enhances. Ultimately resulting in transforming your skillet into an heirloom with a smoother cooking facet.
Re-seasoning Your Cast Iron & Why
With regular use, the finish on your skillet or pan is fated to wear off. How fast it will happen depends on how much usage your pan gets regularly and how you care for it after each time you use it.
If you observe that your pan’s finish is worn off and doesn’t return to a nice shine after cleaning it or you’re having stick problems even though you use a sufficient amount of fat to cook and low heat, it is time to re-season your cast iron.
Re-seasoning makes your skillet or pan release food easily, clean up quickly and remain stain and free of rust.
In such a case, you follow the general re-seasoning steps (we have added below for you to look at). When you will be doing the re-seasoning, you might not have to do as much as six layers. Maybe just one or two is all that’s needed.
And just remember that if your pan doesn’t have built on gunge, you don’t have to strip it totally. You can re-season on the topside of the cleaned old seasoning. Because even though it might be tattered, it’s still in good enough shape with a smooth surface.
Re-seasoning Cast Iron in the Oven
Start with a simple preheating of your oven to anywhere 350° to 400°. Line the bottom with foil paper. Clean your pan with hot water and liquid soap. Scrub it properly and let it dry well. Then spread oil over the entire surface both inside and outside of your cast iron pan. Place the pan upside down on the top of your oven rack and bake for one hour. After that turn your oven off. Let the pan cool down inside the oven completely. Best you should just leave it overnight. The next morning, take it out of the oven, and voilà! You got your re-seasoning done.
Re-seasoning Cast Iron on Stove-top
First, wash and scrub your cast iron pan or skillet thoroughly. Use liquid soap and steel scrub to clear the skillet’s rust off. Then wash the pan with plain water slightly hot if possible. Then let the pan dry and clean it with a dry piece of cloth.
Second, place your pan on your stovetop and heat it up until you feel it’s evenly heated up at a high temperature.
Third, carefully apply a layer of oil or fat (whichever you are going with the re-seasoning) to your pan or skillet. Make sure to use a paper towel to rub it on the skillet.
Fourth, put it back on the stovetop for ten minutes and heat it the pan up. Keep the kitchen windows or exhaust open to let the smoke out of the room. Repeat the number third and fourth steps until your skillet is cooled completely. Your re-seasoned cast iron skillet is ready to use now.
Do You Season Cast Iron After Every Use?
Yes, you absolutely should. While your pan or skillet is still warm, rub it clean with paper towels. It helps to withdraw excess oil and food. Rinse under hot running water, scrubbing with a brush or gentle scrub pad to clear traces of food. Use a small amount of soap if you like to rinse the pan well.
There are basically two ways to maintain the seasoning on your cast iron pan or skillet.
The easiest way is to simply keep cooking with it. Because, every time you cook with oil in it, you are potentially adding another layer of oil to the seasoning.
Although, there are some activities that may reduce or remove a bit of seasoning over time. Things like using excessive heat, cooking acidic foods, or scrubbing with scouring pads or abrasive utensils. That’s why we strongly advise our readers to rub-down oil into your cast iron skillet or pan after each use to guaranty the seasoning persists for quality cooking.
Also, the seasoning or re-seasoning of your cast iron in the oven can add a more thorough layer of seasoning onto the entire pan. Which will strengthen the bond to the iron. It can be beneficial to season your cast iron in the oven a few times a year as we’ve already mentioned before in this article. We also recommend our readers to oven-season when restoring a rusty cast iron pan.
Our Tips for Cleaning and Caring Your Cast Iron Pan
1. Try your best to keep the cooking temperature low. Use lower temperatures than you usually do with other skillets or pans.
2. You can be generous with the usage of fat or oil. This tip just boosts the non-stick behavior of a well-seasoned cast iron pan. Purified fats, such as ghee, work truly well because they don’t have any impurities to gunge up the cooking surface of your pan.
3. Choose traditional fats like tallow, lard, goose/duck fat, butter, coconut oil, or ghee. With higher smoking points, these oils or fats are less likely to burn and gunk up your cast iron pan.
4. You should not be afraid to use any soap when cleaning your cast iron pan. This is contentious because some people argue to NEVER use any soap. Yes, they really do mean it and think it is as good as a sin to do so. Because they are sure that it will destroy the seasoning of a cast iron pan. We will argue that it depends on how the seasoning was created.
If it is the prototypical seasoning that has built up over time by not washing off cooking fats or oils, then yes, any soap could take that seasoning off. If you season or re-season as we have discussed at high temperatures to develop a non-stick plain then soap will not take that off.
5. After washing a cast iron pan, dry with a kitchen towel and put it away. Be careful to not let your pans air-dry or they will rust.
Should You Cook on an Unseasoned Cast Iron Pan?
The non-stick belongings are ultimately in the cook, not the kitchenware! Traditional wisdom says that the seasoning on a piece of cast iron pan is what makes it non-stick. But surprise, that is just not true. With the accurate mix of oil and heat, it is possible to cook on an unseasoned cast iron skillet or pan without food sticking.
The key resides in the technique and matching of the temperature to your food! Sure, seasoning makes it a cakewalk to cook without the food sticking to your pan. But even a well-seasoned pan or skillet risks sticking food in it.
Or the user can damage seasoning if he/she doesn’t have the right amounts of oil and heat. So the point we are trying to make is that you should not chase the perfect seasoning. Rather figure out how to cook with the correct technique and temperature and the seasoning will develop eventually.
Few Seasoning Related Issues and Fixes
From time to time food may stick to your cast iron pan. This can happen for an array of causes, such as not using sufficient fat or oil when cooking. Or using a pan or skillet that isn’t well seasoned. Even when breaking in the new pan that hasn’t developed additional thickness of seasoning.
The solution is prior to cooking, add a teaspoon of oil to your skillet. Heat it slowly on your stovetop or in your oven to help lower the sticking. After cooking, please allow the cookware to cool down. Then use a pan scraper to remove stuck-on food. Scrub it with a non-scratch pad or a nylon brush. Hand dry it and add a good layer of oil. Make sure to rub the oil onto the pan until it is equally distributed all over.
Sometimes the seasoning on the pan may break down. It leaves black specks, especially if the pan is not well-seasoned. Note that it is not harmful in any way.
To remove these loose flakes, lightly scrub your pan. Then season it by rubbing your pan with a thin layer of oil. Place it in your oven or stove-top upside down. Let it heat up for one hour at 350-500 degrees F. Remember to line the bottom rack of your oven with aluminum foil to catch any surplus oil. As the seasoning builds up over time, the flaking of your pan eventually becomes minimal.
Every experienced (yes I have planned that pun) home cook knows the merit of keeping at least one reliable cast-iron skillet. If you are a novice cook who has just started working with the pan, it will only take a few recipes to find out that this piece of kitchen utensil is unmatched in terms of functionality, durability, and versatility.
So, knowing how to take care of such a tool is of utmost importance. Hence, we are serving up our two cents on the subject so that you will be able to unlock the boundless potential of this must-have cookware.