Seasoning a cast iron pan is important for preserving the seasoning and preventing rust.
It’s also an essential step to ensure your food doesn’t stick or have a metallic taste – this can be accomplished by using a non-stick skillet as well. You can use vegetable oil, but there are many other ways to season your cast iron as well. In this article, we will focus on some of these methods to ensure that your steel pan is seasoned correctly – let's get right into it.
What exactly does seasoning mean?
The seasoning is formed when the pan is “baked” or heated to a high temperature. While cooking, the oil will slowly vaporize and bond with the cast iron creating a hardened, ceramic-like layer. Ultimately this prevents rusting while making clean up easier with less sticking of food particles to the pan.
Chefs use seasoning to create a unique flavor profile that would be impossible to replicate with any other method.
You can season almost any metal cooking implement like: cast iron skillets, woks, and griddles as well as many different types of stainless steel implements.
The bad news is that unless done correctly, the food seasoning in a pan might get stuck to the surface and it has to be scraped off with some sort of blade – which will damage the pan itself. It’s not exactly easy or comfortable. This is why it’s important to ensure that your cast iron skillets are well-seasoned.
How do you season your cast iron?
First, preheat the oven to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, use a paper towel, or silicone brush to apply some oil all over your cast iron and put it in the oven while it’s preheated. After, take out the pan from the oven and let it cool down before storing it if you want that ceramic-like layer on this pan, otherwise feel free to use it as normal.
Next, you can repeat these steps if you prefer a thicker layer. The more times it is heated up to high temperature, the better your pan will be at resisting rusting and having fewer sticking food particles. These pans are extremely versatile and they last quite a while as long as you maintain them properly.
What kind of oil do you use?
You can use any kind of vegetable oil, but be aware that some oils have a strong taste. Do your research before applying certain oils or a combination of them to your cast iron for seasoning. Most seasoned chefs agree that flaxseed oil is the best choice because it has that unique earthy flavor to it and isn’t as vicious as other oils.
For example, one chef recommends combining 2 parts flax with 1 part coconut oil and heating on low. It is more common to season cast iron in an oven, however, it can also be done by slowly heating the pan over a stovetop at a very low temperature.
What should not be done?
You shouldn’t use soap or any type of detergent to wash it. Just let it soak for a few minutes in warm water before scrubbing with a brush, then rinse and dry up completely before storing away. Never put your seasonal cast iron pans in the dishwasher because the seasoning will be destroyed if put through that process.
While some people advocate cleaning them with steel wool, many chefs recommend against using this method as well. This is because rubbing the metal with an abrasive material like fine-grit steel wool will damage its surface and make it harder to season in the future.
What kinds of cast iron pans are there?
There are many different types and brands, but most people prefer to use the more expensive ones because they’re made from thicker metal and supposedly last longer and cook better.
For example, cast iron pans produce the best sear and crispiest crusts that are hard to replicate with other types of pans.
Some brands can be quite pricey, but the high-quality ones not only last longer, but they’re also easier to maintain as well.
Those cheaper kinds? You may have to replace them after a few years if you find yours rusting or having food sticking problems. Some tips to prevent your cast iron from rusting include cleaning it after every use and storing it in dry places with no moisture or wet items nearby. Also, avoid using soap on these unless necessary because those soaps will strip off that seasoning layer faster than you think. Lastly, don’t let them soak in water for too long.
Cooking with cast iron pans
Since they are heavier than normal pans, it takes longer for heat to reach the food that’s cooking and thus allows more time for smoking to occur before serving. During this process, you can develop those beautiful caramelized flavors that go perfectly well with grilled meat or vegetables. Using a generous amount of oil is ideal so nothing sticks on the pan during cleaning later on as well.
There are a few things to keep in mind when cooking with cast iron pans:
- Cooking meat too quickly will bring that tough chewy texture instead of that perfectly cooked juicy slab. Also, avoid stacking the food too high on top of each other because you’ll end up creating a pile of steam rather than cooking your food right.
- Remember to use metal utensils made from stainless steel so it doesn’t scrape off the seasoning layer during cleaning or handling later on. You can also purchase wooden handles for stirring and flipping if you want a more natural feel while using them. These are more expensive though, so be sure to check prices first before buying.
- Be sure to season them again if they are becoming old and rusty. The best way of doing this is by putting your pan into the oven overnight at 275 degrees Fahrenheit with 3 tablespoons of melted shortening or lard (preferably unsalted).. Let the pan sit in there for 6-8 hours then remove it and put it to air dry overnight before using.
Other tips include not washing these kinds of pans with soap unless it’s necessary. Using a paper towel to wipe off excess oils after each use should suffice.
Caring for your cast iron pans
After each use, be sure to clean off the pan with either soap or cooking oil. If you are using soap, no need to soak it in water. Rinse it under tap water then dry it with a paper towel or let it air dry overnight before putting it away until the next use.
Once in a while, you can season up your pan again if it's already developing some wear and tear. This will surely keep those unwanted particles from sticking to your food as well.
Even though these pans are pretty sturdy, they should still be handled with care and not dropped because that’s when accidents happen like cracks appearing on the surface of the pan – this is where toxic gases may leak out.
The best way to store them is still on a shelf or in the cabinet where it's cool and dry. If storing outdoors, don’t forget to bring it back inside when the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
What about seasoning other kitchen utensils?
Don’t just stop at your cast iron pans. Many different things can benefit from being seasoned such as stainless steel baking sheets, woks, griddles, and pretty much any other metal cooking tool from your kitchen. Just follow these steps and enjoy the natural taste boost of your cooking utensils.
The best way to season your stainless steel pans is by using vegetable oils just like we did before. Oils that are recommended for this method include canola, corn, safflower, sunflower, and veggie oil. Some people prefer olive oil but it tends to get sticky once the pan cools off so be sure not to use too much of it.
Final thoughts on seasoning stainless steel pan
In conclusion, you should know a lot more about seasoning cast iron pans by now. It’s best to use specific types of oil to season your pans based on your preferences.
While this is a great way to get rid of any unwanted particles and rust in your pan, it also gives off its original taste back so you can enjoy cooking with a final, superior taste.