Is it just me or does it seem like online cooking advice has become both a blessing and a curse at the same time? Of course, there’s a wealth of info on so many things, but people seem to get caught up in minutia. Experts often argue about the tiniest of details and someone who just wants to learn how to do something can often be left somewhat befuddled.
So, after countless hours spent reading on the rather dry subject of seasoning cast iron pans, I came away with more questions than answers. Some people swear by lard. Some are gaga for Crisco. Some will accept nothing less than flaxseed oil. Still others insist that canola is the way to go. They all use different oven temperatures and different cooking times. What is a curious chef to do? How about toss it all out and go back to basics?
What the heck is seasoning anyway?
In this case, seasoning has nothing to do with salting or adding spices to anything. Here, it refers to adding a coating of some kind of fat to the cast iron. When that oil becomes heated, it bonds with the metal to protect it and keep food from sticking to it.
What happens if I don’t season my pan?
Like to live on the edge, eh? Well, the short answer is: it can rust. More accurately, it WILL rust. Just leaving it in the cabinet for a couple days after washing it will likely result in a thin layer of rust forming on it. However, for all you fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants types, keep reading. We have a solution for you too.
Alright, so if I buy all this voodoo, how do I season the pan?
First, we take the pan and wash it well to clean off any dirt or debris. Then, we need to dry it as well as we can. Unseasoned cast iron pans are finicky about both dirt and water.
Then, we take canola oil and a towel (paper is fine) and cover the pan with a light coating of oil. You want to make sure there aren’t any areas where the oil is pooling.
Then, we place the pan into a 450 degree oven for one hour. If you’ve covered the pan in a heavy coating of oil, put it in upside down, so no pooling happens.
You’ll want to repeat this process 2-3 more times to make sure you’ve got a nice seasoning on the pan.