How-To: season your cast iron cookware

Do you have a secret fear of your cast iron cookware? You’re not the only one. There are plenty of people out there who are too embarrassed to admit that their pan is sitting rusted, sticky and collecting cobwebs in the dark recesses of their kitchen.

And it’s all because they can’t seem to achieve this elusive “seasoning bond” that everyone keeps talking about.

Cast iron pan

Terrifying cast iron cookware! Image via Wikipedia

I know  because I used to be one of those people.

Why should you buy cast iron pans? They’re well-made, they’re durable and they’re an essential addition to any kitchen, provided you know how to treat them.

The truth is, a well seasoned cast iron pan is what our grandmothers and great-grandmothers used as their own old-timey version of a nonstick pan. And as we all already know: grandmothers know what they’re talking about.

Recipe for success: if you ever see any recommendations to season a pan with vegetable oil or vegetable shortening, beware. Vegetable oil leaves a sticky black coating on your pan that is almost impossible to remove and totally interferes with the natural “seasoning” or nonstick layer that you’re trying to build.

If you’re a vegetarian, coconut oil is an exception to the rule, since it’s stable at high temperatures and doesn’t leave a sticky residue.

Here’s how you season a pan:

Coat the bottom and sides of the pan with a thick layer of lard, beef tallow, bacon grease, schmaltz (rendered chicken fat), coconut oil or other Grandma-approved fat.

Bake the fatty pan in a 250°F oven for 2 hours.

Drain any leftover hot fat into a heatproof container (use oven mitts!) and let the pan cool.

See? How easy was that?

Repeat this process after each time you use your pan (for the first few times, anyway) and a very shiny nonstick patina will form. You won’t need to season it very often as the pan ages. Eventually, you’ll only have to do it if something gets really baked on and you have to really scrub at the surface of the pan.

Speaking of scrubbing, clean your cast-iron cookware with water and a scrub brush (salt also works as a good abrasive). Don’t use soap, as it breaks down your seasoning bond. Generally, a quick wipe with a damp towel will get the job done.

Now get to seasoning! Then go and make this delicious pancake puff (using whatever fruit you have on hand) with your now-totally-un-cobwebby pan.

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