Seasoning a pan

Seasoning a pan correctly in effect makes it non-stick without using all those nasty chemicals. Reactive cookware made out of cast iron needs to be seasoned to create a protective barrier (carbon) that keeps food from sticking. It also helps prevent oxidation which leads to rust.

A properly seasoned pan can last for years upon years of non-stick use. The culprit that causes food to stick is the uneven texture of the metal. By seasoning the pan, you are essentially building up layers of carbon that fill the gaps. Carbon is one of the greatest non-stick compounds (think diamonds). So, by every once in a while re-seasoning a pan builds up that valuable layer of carbon.

Here are a few simple steps.

With a new pan

  1. Heat the oven to 250°F - 300°F
  2. Clean with water to remove any dirt and debris.
  3. Dry throughly.
  4. Coat the pan with small film of lard, bacon grease or vegetable shortening. Don’t use a liquid vegetable oils because it will leave the pan sticky and will not correctly season.
  5. Place the pan in the oven upside down on rack.
  6. Place a pan or foil on rack under pan. This will catch excess drippings.
  7. Bake for 2 hours
  8. Remove and let cool.

Before cooking

Never put cold liquid into a very hot cast iron pan. They will crack! Preheat your pan. Then give it the water drop test: when a water drop is added to the pan, it should sizzle, roll and hop around the pan.

After cooking

While the pan is still hot sprinkle some kosher salt into the pan. That salt will absorb any excess water. Once the pan has cooled use a paper towel to wipe up any excess. The salt also acts as an abrasive that helps scour/clean the pan. Coat pan with a small film of vegetable shotening to pan. To store, I place the pans between layers of paper towels. This protects the pans and absorbs any moisture.

What about soap and water?

Cast iron is pourous (that’s why we season). Do not use detergent or scouring pads to clean a cast iron pan since this will destroy the seasoning. Never soak or let soapy water, or any water, sit in the pan for any length of time.

A note on cooking with cast iron

Cast iron pans are reactive which means they made from material that chemically reacts with acidic foods. The reaction can cause the foods to absorb a metallic taste and also to discolor. Basically when reactive pans are exposed to foods with high acidic content tiny traces of the metal leach into the food creating an off taste.

Some ingredients that you should avoid using with reactive pans are:

  • artichoke
  • chocolate
  • lemons
  • lemon juice
  • limes
  • oranges
  • rhubarb
  • tomatoes
  • vinegar
  • wine

Click here for a list of recipes calling for cast iron skillets or pans.

To expand or improve this reference page, click here.