A lot of people have been asking recently about how to season and care for cast iron cookware. It can sometimes sound like an intimidating process... the term 'seasoning' is new to some and it can sound difficult, long and arduous... but it isn't.
Seasoning a skillet or a piece of cast iron cookware is easy, and it makes it perform better and last longer. We've done some research, online and in the kitchen, and have all the science and information you need on how to season your cast iron cookware. Just wash your cast iron first, dry it, wipe it all over with vegetable oil, bake it in the oven for at least one hour on high heat, then allow it to cool.
Why You Should Season Your Cast Iron Cookware
Seasoning your cast iron is essential to ensure you get the most out of this superior cookware. Cast iron is a tough material that is built to last. It's virtually indestructible and will last you a lifetime... with proper seasoning.
Cast iron on its own, without seasoning, will not provide a non-stick surface for cooking. It's the seasoning process that creates a natural/ chemical-free/ non-toxic non-stick surface. Seasoning also protects cast iron from damage, like rust, but if you do encounter rust, your cast iron is so durable, it can be easily restored and used again and again.
We also love cast iron because...
- It offers even heat distribution and unbeatable heat retention - this means you'll get an even cooking result across the whole pan;
- Cast iron cookware is also super versatile - you can use it on any cooking surface - stove, oven, campfire; and
- Contrary to popular belief and other non-stick pans, cast iron cookware is also fine to use metal utensils on - hooray!
What Is Seasoning
Seasoning occurs when oil on cast iron is heated above smoking point. The oil cooks onto the surface to create a non-toxic non-stick layer. Just like a BBQ.
Cast iron is naturally porous, meaning there are tiny holes in its surface making it perfect for capturing proteins and oils. When oils are baked onto the cast iron they start to build up a plastic-like film that creates the perfect cooking surface. The once "imperfect" surface becomes smoother and smoother with each seasoning layer. Continued care will keep the seasoning intact and avoid rust.
Non-stick for cast iron isn't the same as the non-stick coating you find on many other pans. Non-stick on cast iron is the natural consequence of use whilst a coating is a chemical deposit bonded to the pan.
How To Season Cast Iron Cookware In 4 Steps
Start by thoroughly washing your cast iron cookware. You can use soap if necessary as well as a steel wool scrubber to remove any food build-up or rust. Some believe soap can remove layers of seasoning, but this is not the case. Just use soap sparingly - why waste?! Be sure to check the inside as well as the outside of your skillet to ensure it's clean all over. Don't wash your cast iron in the dishwasher, instead use warm water in the kitchen sink.
Once it's clean, you need to thoroughly dry your cast iron. You can use a tea towel or paper towel, but for best results, dry your cookware in a warm oven to be sure it's free of any moisture. Leaving a wet cast iron skillet to drip dry invites rust, so try to avoid this by always drying thoroughly after washing.
Next, pour a little bit of vegetable oil into the pan and spread it around with a paper towel. You want to get the oil all over the inside and the outside of the skillet. Every surface should be oiled. Then use a new paper towel to remove any excess oil. You don't want the cast iron to be glistening with oil, you want it to look almost dry again after this step.
Once your cast iron cookware is clean and oiled, it's ready to be baked. Heat your oven as high as it will go, usually 260 degrees celsius or above. It's best to place the skillet upside down on one tray and then on the tray below, place something to catch any drips. Set a timer for one hour once the oven reaches at least 260 degrees celsius. When the hour is up, turn your oven off but leave the door closed. It's time to let your cast iron cool down. This can take up to two hours. Once your cookware is cool enough to handle, it's done.
Well done, you've just seasoned your cast iron!
What Oil To Use For Seasoning
Edible vegetable oils are best for seasoning cast iron cookware.
We recommend going for a high smoke point oil, like soybean. Soybean oil is also an unsaturated fat - low in cholesterol and low trans fat. It's a healthy option, economical option and works extremely well for seasoning given its high smoke point of 234 degrees celsius.
There are other high smoke point oils which also work well, like flaxseed, peanut, avocado and grapeseed.
It's also important to remember to wipe the pan all over with oil - not just on the cooking surface inside.
When To Season Cast Iron Cookware
New cast iron that doesn't come pre-seasoned will need seasoning (all of our cast iron cookware comes pre-seasoned). And how do you know when to re-season to protect your cookware and ensure it stays non-stick...? Whenever its non-stick quality fades or you notice any rust - season straight away.
And in between seasonings, when you're preparing a meal, or cleaning your cast iron cookware, take a few extra minutes here and there to wipe it down with oil, set it on the stove or in the oven for a sneaky cheat-like season. Every time you cook with oil, every time you clean your cast iron and keep it dry, you're protecting its seasoning and prolonging its life.
It's also a great tip to wipe down your cast iron cookware with oil after you've washed and dried it - this will lock in the seasoning and lock-out any air or moisture which may lead to rusting.
Removing Rust And Restoring Cast Iron
Don't panic! A rusty or old cast iron skillet is redeemable! Combine a bit of salt with oil and scrub the piece all over. You can use steel wool or even a toothbrush for getting into and grooves in the pan to ensure you're removing any unwanted build-up. Once you've scrubbed away the rust, rinse the skillet thoroughly under warm water. Next, just follow the above seasoning steps like normal. Voila! Your cast iron is reborn!
Remember to keep it dry after each use and store it in a dry place to avoid any future rusting. It's particularly important to dry it properly immediately after washing.
General Cast Iron Care
Keep it clean.
Keep it dry.
Re-season when necessary.
- Wash your cast iron after each time you cook to remove food. It's ok to use soap but there's no point going overboard and excess amounts of soap and too much scraping may damage the non-stick layer.
- Be sure to dry your cast iron cookware immediately after washing. You don't want to leave any moisture on the pan as this could lead to rusting. For best drying results, use a warm oven.
- You may also choose to wipe down your skillet with vegetable oil after washing and drying in order to lock-in its non-stick properties and lock-out any air/ moisture. This will help avoid rusting.
- When you start to notice the non-stick quality fading or becoming less effective, it's time to re-season. Just follow our four simple steps above: WASH, DRY, OIL, BAKE.
- Caring for your cast iron is easy and it'll ensure a great cooking experience and a lifetime product.
Fresh Australian Kitchen Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Cookware
All of our cast iron cookware comes pre-seasoned and ready to use.
This means you can start cooking straight away. We include care instructions in-pack and also on our website... this is for re-seasoning purposes.
As mentioned above, it's important to look after your cast iron and re-season it from time to time, to retain its non-stick quality and prolong its life.
So there you have it... everything you need to know for seasoning and caring for your cast iron cookware. Happy cooking!