How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet

How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet

How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet

How to season a cast iron skillet has to be one of the most frequent questions I am asked as a good southern girl; or as we call ourselves, a GRITS (Girl Raised In The South). Mind you, if that question is asked in a room full of us Southern Belles, you will get a different answer from each one of them. All their answers will start out with….Well, my Granny used to season hers with…..

5 Myths about Cast Iron

Before we get into the hows, we should dispel the Top 5 Myths about Cast Iron. For those of you with a southern Granny like I had, you may roll your eyes at this list. We are just going to include it for those that may not have been raised like we were.

  • Casti Iron is hard to maintain. – FALSE! Once you have your cast iron evenly seasoned, it is easy to use again and again as well as store.
  • Cast Iron heats evenly. – FALSE! If you are using this on your gas stove or a gas burner on the side of your grill or griddle, it will have hotspots where there are flames. However, once your cast iron gets hot, it stays hot!
  • Seasoned Cast Iron is as Non-Stick as any other pan. – FALSE! Teflon is more non-stick than any other pan. They even had to come up with new technology to get the teflon to stick to the pan! A well seasoned cast iron pan should be all the non-stick pan you need.
  • You should never wash your cast iron pan with soap. – FALSE! If your cast iron has been properly seasoned, the oils used has become a polymerized oil that is somewhat like a plastic coating on your pan. So wash away, it won’t hurt it at all. Just one little note here, I would not let it sit in sink to soak overnight. If you cannot wash it right away, leave it to wash the next morning.
  • You should not use metal utensils on your cast iron. – FALSE! Just like with washing th epan, the polymerized coating makes it save to use that metal spatula to flip the eggs and bacon.

Things you should avoid cooking in Cast Iron

There are so many things that are great cooked in Cast Iron that I would sound like Bubba Gump if I started to list them. But at the same time, there are a few things you should NOT use the cast iron for.  They can either ruin your seasoning or just ruin your pan! We can’t have that!

  • Stinky food like garlic, strong fishes, smelly cheeses. These things will leave that smell and taste in the seasoning on the pan. It is as bad as trying to get garlic smell off your hands! If you do happen to cook some of this in your skillet, it is probably a good idea to clean it really well and re-season it so your next batch of pancakes taste more like maple than those fajita’s you had for dinner.
  • Eggs and sticky things like that. When your pan is first seasoned, you might want to keep cooking your eggs in that non-stick skillet for a bit longer. Othewise they will be brown! Give your cast iron a few cooks of other things before you start with the eggs.
  • Tomato Sauces and other acidic foods. This one is tricky. Some Grandmas’ say it is ok to cook spaghetti sauce in the cast iron but others say the acid breaks down the seasoning and discolor the pan. In my own pan, I have made sauce and found that the discoloration portion is true but I did not notice my seasoning breaking down. Best thing to do if you do decide to make that sauce is to re-season it afterwards.
  • Fish – Again, another one like the acidic foods, it depends on who you ask and what sort of fish you are cooking. If it is a strong fish like salmon it will leave a smell, if it is a delicate fish then it may overcook it in a hurry.
  • Some people say to not cook desserts in the pan. I have had many a cobbler or even some Mexican s’mores in a dutch oven around a campfire. I would again guess that if you had it seasoned properly and had not cooked catfish the night before, your s’mores should be good

Steps to Seasoning Cast Iron

Now that we have busted those myths, it is time to start seasoning your cast iron. As I said before, there are as many ways to season a casti iron pan as there are southern grandmas’ . So we will combine all the different methods and use the most common list.

  1. Wash the pan with good hot soapy water
  2. Dry it throughly
  3. coat the pan both inside and outside with a thin layer of oil. (We will get into the choice of oils below)
  4. Place the pan upside down in the middle rack of your oven (with a sheet of tin foil or a backing sheet on the rack below to catch the drips)
  5. Bake for 1 hour. The temperature seems to vary with diffent Grandmas’, but the average is between 350 to 500 degrees.
  6. Turn the oven off after the hour and let the pan cool in the oven.

And that is it! Easy Peasy!

Choce of oils for Seasoning Cast Iron

There are many different ideas on what the best oil to use is, so I will make this list the Top 7 I have heard from Southern women.

  1. Shortening – According to my Granny, there is no better substance to use to season a pan and make the best Cat Head Biscuits you have ever tasted than good ol Crisco Shortening.
  2. Fat-Back and/or Baccon Greese or any animal fat
  3. Soy Based Oils – Some cast iron manufacturers actually season their pans in the factory and they use a soy based oil
  4. Vegetable Oil
  5. Peanut Oil
  6. Avocado Oil
  7. Coconut Oil

The oils listed above have a higher smoke point than say olive oil that will smoke and burn quickly. We want to season the pan, not catch it on fire! So what are the worst oils to use? Here are the Top 3:

  • Olive Oil (Due to the low smoke point)
  • Motor Oil
  • Snake Oil

Foods you should avoid cooking in Cast Iron

Now that you have it seasoned, there are so many things that are great cooked in Cast Iron that I would sound like Bubba Gump if I started to list them. But at the same time, there are a few things you should NOT use the cast iron for.  They can either ruin your seasoning or just ruin your pan! We can’t have that!

  • Stinky food like garlic, strong fishes, smelly cheeses. These things will leave that smell and taste in the seasoning on the pan. It is as bad as trying to get garlic smell off your hands! If you do happen to cook some of this in your skillet, it is probably a good idea to clean it really well and re-season it so your next batch of pancakes taste more like maple than those fajita’s you had for dinner.
  • Eggs and sticky things like that. When your pan is first seasoned, you might want to keep cooking your eggs in that non-stick skillet for a bit longer. Othewise they will be brown! Give your cast iron a few cooks of other things before you start with the eggs.
  • Tomato Sauces and other acidic foods. This one is tricky. Some Grandmas’ say it is ok to cook spaghetti sauce in the cast iron but others say the acid breaks down the seasoning and discolor the pan. In my own pan, I have made sauce and found that the discoloration portion is true but I did not notice my seasoning breaking down. Best thing to do if you do decide to make that sauce is to re-season it afterwards.
  • Fish – Again, another one like the acidic foods, it depends on who you ask and what sort of fish you are cooking. If it is a strong fish like salmon it will leave a smell, if it is a delicate fish then it may overcook it in a hurry.
  • Some people say to not cook desserts in the pan. I have had many a cobbler or even some Mexican s’mores in a dutch oven around a campfire. I would again guess that if you had it seasoned properly and had not cooked catfish the night before, your s’mores should be good!

And there you have it, the best ways to Season a Cast Iron Skillet according to GRITS. Now that you have that skillet all seasoned up, it is time to cook like Granny. There is nothing better than a big pan of cornbread cooked in a cast iron Skillet. Yum Yum!

 

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Jul 11, 2020 - -

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