Cast iron cookware is considered by many people to be the ultimate choice when cooking over any type of fire. This is especially true when cooking over a campfire or in a fireplace. However, in order to get the most satisfaction out of the cast iron cooking experience, it is important to properly season and care for your cast iron skillets, dutch ovens, griddles, pie irons, and any other type of cast iron cookware. This page contains useful information designed to help you get years of service from your cast iron cooking equipment.
What Is "Seasoning" And Why Is It Important?
"Seasoning" is the term commonly used to describe the process of burning a finish onto cast iron cookware. It protects the cast iron cookware from rusting and also provides a smooth cooking surface that helps prevent foods from sticking while cooking. Proper seasoning will cause the cast iron to turn from the gray color it has when purchased new, into the smooth, blackened surface most commonly associated with cast iron skillets and other cookware. With proper care, seasoned iron should never show signs of pitting or carbon build up.
How Do I Season My Cast Iron Cookware?
When new, wash the cast iron utensil in hot, soapy water. This is the only time you should ever use soap when cleaning cast iron cookware unless you are re-starting the seasoning process, or are restoring old cast iron cookware.
After washing, rinse and dry completely. If the drying towel has a dark discoloration, don't worry....this is normal Apply a thin, even coating of oil or melted shortening (don't use butter, margarine, etc.) to the utensil with a soft cloth or paper towel, spreading evenly and leaving no excess. Apply inside and outside (NOTE: If your utensil has a lid, make sure you season it as well.)
Place cookware on a stove top burner or into a preheated oven @ 350 degrees. On the stove, place cookware on a low (simmer) flame for at least one hour. BE SURE AND LET OTHERS KNOW THAT IT IS HOT SO THEY DON'T ACCIDENTALLY TOUCH IT! If using an oven, put the utensil on top shelf, bottom up. Use aluminum foil on a baking sheet beneath the cookware to catch any drippings. Bake in oven for one hour. Use a thick pot holder to remove the cookware, or simply turn the oven off and let utensil remain until cool.
A newly seasoned piece of cast iron cookware may have a brownish, caramel-like color. This is normal. Over time and use, your cookware will become shiny and black.
TIP: The first few times you use your cast iron cookware fry bacon and other greasy foods in it to achieve a faster, seasoned interior.
What About The Outside Of The Cookware?
You need season the entire utensil, inside and out. Once the seasoning is set, the outside only needs to be seasoned periodically unless pitting or wear spots appear. If your cast iron utensil came with a lid, you must season the lid also.
How Often Do I Season Cast Iron Cookware?
Seasoning is an on-going process. The more you use your cast iron, the better seasoned it gets. At first, you'll want to season it well after each use and cleaning. As the cookware ages and the seasoning "sets in", the frequency can be reduced to every few times or so. If, for some reason, the seasoning becomes thin or worn, it is best to re-start the seasoning process as if it were a new utensil.
How Do I Clean My Cast Iron Cookware?
For best results, always wash cast iron immediately after use, while it is still hot. DON'T LET IT SOAK. Use boiling water and a plastic scrub bun or brush. Do not use soap, unless you are going to repeat the seasoning process. Do not put your cast iron cookware in dishwasher.
After washing utensil, dry thoroughly, then spray lightly with vegetable oil and spread it evenly with a paper towel. If already seasoned, place the cookware on a stove top burner over a low flame (simmer) for 10-15 minutes to keep the seasoning set. Let it cool before storing.
To remove heavy food or grease build-up, clean the utensil as described above until eliminating all that can be removed. Place empty cookware over a medium flame for about 15-20 minutes to allow the build-up to burn into ash. Let the cookware cool, then lightly scour with steel wool, or scrape build-up away with a butter knife. Re-season the utensil to restore the finish.
Does Cast Iron Cookware Ever Break?
With normal usage and care, your cast iron cookware should last many years. It is rugged and tough, but everything has it's limits! If you use common sense, your cast iron skillet, dutch oven, or other utensil shouldn't break. If you put cold water into a hot cast iron vessel, it can crack the iron and ruin the utensil. If you take your cast iron skillet camping and use it for a make-shift hammer, it can break. Dropping a cast iron utensil usually doesn't hurt it, unless you decide to drop it from a high cliff or airplane.
How Do I Season Old Cast Iron Cookware?
There are several ways to bring old cast iron cookware back to life. It usually depends on the condition of the utensil being restored. Whichever method is used, be sure to strip the cast iron down to the bare metal and start the seasoning process as if it were new. Follow the cleaning tips found on this page, followed by the seasoning instructions.
If you encounter a situation that you need further advice with, just drop us an e-mail and describe it with as much detail as possible. We'll do what we can to help you find the solution to get your cast iron restored.
What Else Should I Know?
~ Never store your cast iron cookware with its lid on. (Cast iron needs air circulation.)
~ Do not use cast iron as a food storage vessel.
~ Deep fry in Dutch ovens at least six times prior to cooking beans of any kind.
~ Re-season cast after cooking acidic foods, such as beans or tomatoes.