My good and local friend Jami is guest posting today, sharing about the amazing new technique she found for seasoning cast iron. Her “new” cast iron pans are beautiful and boast a hard, non-stick surface! Thanks, Jami!
Edit: 2/29/2012 I use this method for all my cast iron now and it is fantastic! I demonstrate this seasoning method in the March 2012 thank you video and I share three cooking tips in this free YouTube video.
“The seasoning on cast iron is formed by fat polymerization, fat polymerization is maximized with a drying oil, and flaxseed oil is the only drying oil that’s edible.”
She goes into all the science behind seasoning of cast iron, but the gist of this is – that the use of cold-pressed, unrefined, organic flaxseed oil, with its low smoke point, is the best for achieving a hard, slick, lasting finish on cast iron. So that’s what we are going to use…..
“It’s possible to use a suboptimal oil for seasoning, like Crisco or bacon drippings, and still end up with a usable pan. Many (most) people do this. But the seasoning will be relatively soft, not as nonstick, and will tend to wear off. If you want the hardest, slickest seasoning possible, use the right oil: flaxseed oil.”
I followed the seasoning recommendation for using flax seed oil with my always-sticking cast iron pans, and I’m thrilled with the results! Here is how I did it . . .
When cooking, we don’t want the oils we use to get to the point of smoking, because then they release free radicals which are carcinogenic. This is called the smoke point. I will add a chart of various oil’s smoke points at the end of this article.
With seasoning, hitting the smoke point and going beyond that is exactly what we want. We want the oil to become so heated that a chemical reaction occurs (polymerization), which changes the oil into a sealant of sorts. So the science of seasoning with oil is the opposite of the science of cooking with oil. We want our flax seed oil to be in the open pours of our cast iron pans when it changes into a sealant.
- Steel kitchen pad, used for scrubbing pans
- Good, thick oven mitts
- Paper towels, or Cotton cloth
- High grade, organic flax seed oil* – should be refrigerated and fresh; check the expiration date.
PLEASE NOTE: You should never use the flax seed oil for your cooking when using heat because it smokes at very low temperatures, releasing free radicals which can get into your food. However, this oil is very good for you when consumed unheated like in salad dressings and such.
Cleaning Old Cast Iron
It was suggested that if your pan is very badly coated with stuck on gunk you can use oven cleaner to ‘strip it’ and start fresh from bare iron. This reminds me of the old advise of throwing a really bad pan into a very hot fire and burn the stuff off. Of course oven cleaner is composed of harsh chemicals so use this tip at your own discretion and with great caution. I went a different route that worked just as well for me.
What I Did: Cleaning Old Pans For Re-Seasoning
I set my “everything sticks” cast iron pan on a burner and heated it (FYI – I have a glass stove top). I heated the pan, old oil, bits of burnt food and all for a couple of minutes on a medium temperature . . . Then I took my steel kitchen pad and began to scrub all that old gunk off the inside of the pan with the heat still on. I scrubbed the inside walls also, but not as vigorous as they were not as bad. I watched as everything started loosening and coming off.
Next, I put my warm pan on it’s side, under hot water to rinse it all that stuff off. Using a stiff kitchen brush to scrub as the hot water ran over my pan. I put the pan back on the burner, turned off the heat and wiped it dry and clean with paper towels, leaving it there to completely dry and then cool. Success! I was left with a dry-grey looking pan with no seasoning on the inside. If you have food stuck on the handle, bottom or outside of your pan you’ll need to clean and re-season those areas as well.
If you have a pan you just purchased new – heat on your stove, add some oil and continue with my process outlined above for cleaning off that factory pre-seasoning. The factory seasoning is soft and will not last long. Also sometimes what the manufacture uses to finish the pans can be questionable. This is especially true if you buy foreign made, pre-seasoned cast iron pans – so it’s the a very good to just start fresh from the bare iron.
The Best Process For Re-Seasoning Cast Iron
Seems like everything having to do with cast iron starts with heating; this is no exception.
Step 1: Pre-heat your pan to 200°F in your oven to open its pores and remove all moisture for about 10 -15 minutes, or when the pan looks dry and your sure it’s warmed up.
Step 2: Get your flax seed oil from the fridge and shake it really well to mix the contents. Then remove the pan from the oven using a good oven mitt and sit it on your stove-top. Squirt about a quarter size drop of oil (for large skillet) in the pan and using your hand, or utensil rub this into the pan all over. Be sure to get every crack, and be generous. As you do this the pan will be cooling off so using your fingers lightly will become more doable. The pan will have a very shiny appearance at this point.
Step 3: Now wipe all that oil off with paper towels or a non-fuzzy cotton cloth. YES, all of it! It will look dull and no longer shiny, like all the flax oil is gone, but it isn’t. A very thin layer remains, and that’s exactly what you want. You are going to bake (polymerize) this oil into the pores of the pan, thereby sealing them.
Step 4: Now turn up your oven to its highest temp – mine went to 450°F (anywhere between 400 – 500 is good). Place your wiped-off pan upside down into the oven. You shouldn’t need any foil to catch drippings, because there had better not be enough oil left to drip! When your oven comes up to temp set a timer for one hour. At the end of an hour, turn off the oven but do not open the oven door. Let the pan cool inside the oven, about 1 hour, or until it’s cooled enough to handle. The pan will come out of the oven a little darker, but matte in appearance – not the semi-gloss you’re aiming for. It needs more coats. In fact, it needs at least six coats.
Step 5: Repeat Steps 1 through 4 five more times.
Note: During your first seasoning session, the pan will smoke a lot, so be ready to open windows or use fans as needed. Soon the smoking will be finished and the rest of the time the polymerizing will have no smell/smoke. The first smoking is not just the flax seed oil but also some of the old stuff on the bottom of the pan that didn’t get removed completely. Every session beyond the first will not smoke as bad.
Care And Cleaning Of Newly Seasoned Cast Iron
Most of the time I only have to wipe out my pans with paper towels. Other times I use either a wet-method or my dry-method for cleaning depending on how stuck-on the mess is.
NOTE: For best results with keeping your cast iron clear always clean your pans while they are warm, just after using!
When sticky sauces and such have been cooked I will run hot water over the pan and scrub it with a non-stick pad or brush at the same time. Then I place the pan back on the still warm burner and wipe dry with a paper towel. I look for a semi-shiny finish with no dull spots.
At times you may see some dull areas on the bottom of your pan. This is a very small amount of cooked on food/oil. You remove this by scrubbing your pan while it’s warm on the burner with a steal kitchen scrub pad and some oil – either the left over oil from whatever you were just cooking or a bit of new oil. Scrub until your steal pad slides smooth on the surface and you no longer see or feel any raised areas. Wipe out completely with paper towels and allow to cool. Now look at your pan – the finish should look semi-gloss again, no dull spots, and it should appear smooth. At least as smooth as cast iron can be.
You can see the nice semi-gloss finish this process puts on a pan from this picture above.
I have to add that the entire experience was very straight forward and easy.I’m no longer tense over re-seasoning cast iron. I hope you will give this a try and have the same great results I’ve had.
Are you willing to give this a try? Do you have cast iron pans that could use some TLC? –Wardee
Smoke Points Of Various Oils
|Canola oil||Expeller Press||464°F||240°C|
|Canola oil||High Oleic||475°F||246°C|
|Flax seed oil||Unrefined||225°F||107°C|
|Ghee (Indian Clarified Butter)||485°F||252°C|
|Olive oil||Extra virgin||375°F||191°C|
|Olive oil||Extra light||468°F||242°C|
|Olive oil, high quality (low acidity)||Extra virgin||405°F||207°C|
|Rice bran oil||490°F||254°C|
|Sunflower oil, high oleic||Unrefined||320°F||160°C|
|Tea seed oil||485°F||252°C|
I’m sharing this post in Fight Back Friday! hosted by FoodRenegade.