Cast iron is one of the best materials you can use for cooking. Cast iron cookware is sturdy and gets your food cooked all the way through. One of the down sides to using a piece of cast iron cookware, is it doesn’t come with a non-stick coating. In order to create a non-stick coating, you’ll need to do it yourself. This process is called “seasoning.” It’s not really a big deal, just follow a few simple steps. Let’s say that you have an older piece of cast iron cookware. You may not remember if it was seasoned properly. You’ll might need to be refreshed on how to season an old cast iron skillet. The process is the same as it is for a brand new cast iron skillet. However, you’ll need to wash it and buff out any rough spots first.
Get It Clean
You’ll want to wash the skillet in hot water and little bit of mild dish washing liquid. (Too much dish washing liquid and your food will take on soap flavor!) Even if the skillet is clean, it may have been sitting for a while since it was last used. It might be holding on to some stuck on or burnt on food. It’s best to make sure the skillet is fresh. After washing the skillet, pat it dry using a clean dish towel. The skillet should not be totally dry at this point. Set the cast iron skillet on the stove over a medium heat. It is important to dry the skillet over heat so the water does not seep into the cast iron and create rust. In about three to five minutes the rest of the moisture should be gone. If not, wait until the skillet is completely dry. When it’s dry, remove it from the stove.
Take a close look at your old cast iron skillet…
Look for signs of rust, any parts where food may have been burned and left residue, as well as any pitted areas of the skillet. If you notice any of these things, buff the areas using a piece of fine gauge steel wool. Wash the pan again using mild dish soap and hot water. Pat it dry and place it on the stove again to dry thoroughly over a medium heat.
Season It In The Oven
Now that the old cast iron skillet is thoroughly clean, preheat your oven to 200 degrees. As you’re waiting for the oven to heat up, coat the skillet with oil, shortening, or lard using a paper towel. Make sure you get every nook and cranny, and up all of the sides of the skillet. Next, coat the entire outside of the skillet with oil, including the handle. It’s not necessary to coat the underside of the skillet, as this will create smoke when you cook with it, and the oil will just burn off.
Once the oven is done heating…
and your skillet is covered in oil, place it in the oven for three hours. It’s a good idea to use a low temperature for a long amount of time to ensure that the lard penetrates into the pores of the skillet as it liquefies. After the three hours are up, take the skillet out of the oven and wipe any excess lard off with a paper towel. Place it on the stove top to let it cool for about an hour. Then wipe it down one more time. Your old cast iron skillet is now properly seasoned. Repeat the process until you feel it is well seasoned.
Now that you know how to season an old cast iron skillet, you can begin cooking up a storm of wonderful dishes. And each time you cook, the skillet gets seasoned! If you notice any scratches on your old skillet, it’s best to get a new one, for safety reasons. If you use a chipped or cracked skillet, it will continue to chip and could add flakes of cast iron to your food. Examine your skillet both before and after you season it to be absolutely sure.
What are your favorite recipes for cooking in a cast iron skillet?