Wednesday, January 4, 2012
How to Season Cast Iron Cookware
This baby was my (requested) Christmas gift from my parents this year. It's a whoppin' 9 quart cast iron Dutch oven. And, let me just say...LOVE!
When I told my mom that I wanted a cast iron Dutch oven, she asked if I wanted an enameled one. Although cooks the world over sing enameled cast iron's praises - I just wanted a plain ol' basic one. Nothin' fancy, just hard working. I wish I could get back all the money I've wasted through the years on cookware with lifetime warranties that have disappointed. Without fail, I turn to my trusty cast iron skillets for cooking. The only time I find I use one of my other types of cookware is if I don't have it in cast iron. So, when my mom asked me what I wanted, I decided to go with what I know.
Here's what I love about this type of cookware. It heats evenly, eliminating hot spots. When properly seasoned (which we'll get to in a moment), it's non-stick. It is uber-easy to care for. Just as you have to be careful about cooking in aluminum because of the danger of it getting into your food, cooking in cast iron also infuses your food with iron - but in this case it's a good thing. Unlike other cookware's often false claims of lasting a lifetime, I know that this stuff will last for generations. And, the last thing that I love about this cookware is that it is so durable that it can even be used to cook in a fire. Camping anyone? Actually, my family lived in Florida in 2004 when the state was bombarded with hurricanes. We were just fortunate enough to live in a place where the eye wall of 3 of the 4 hurricanes hit our house. :0) The first storm left us without power for several days. I was so thankful for my cast iron skillets during that time because I was even able to cook green beans on the grill. I wouldn't have been as confident doing that with a regular sauce pan.
If you find cast iron cookware at a yard sale or thrift store it can be brought back to life even if it is completely covered in rust. All you have to do is remove the rust with steel wool and then re-season it several times. The only time you want to stay away from second-hand cast iron is if the metal is cracked.
Unless it comes pre-seasoned, new cast iron is grey in color. It will turn black with seasoning. So, just how do we go about seasoning cast iron? Very simply.
Rub the entire piece of cookware with oil. I did both the pot and the lid on mine. I used lard from the pastured pig we recently bought because A) I had it on hand, and B) it has a higher smoke point than many other oils. I would stay away from olive oil, but coconut oil or tallow would be great. And, honestly, though I don't use it anymore, for years I used plain old canola oil.
Put the oiled cookware in a 300 degree oven for an hour or two.
When it's done, rub it down with coarse salt. That's it. Honestly, sometimes I do the salt step and sometimes I just wipe off the excess oil with a paper towel.
The more you use cast iron the better it performs. Since iron is a porous material every time you use it, more of the oil will saturate the pores creating a better non-stick surface. It's like a fine wine - it just gets better with age. :0)
So, are you a fan of cast iron? Have any pieces that hold a special history or story for you? Do tell.
Tomorrow I'll share the recipe that I tried out my new Dutch oven for the first time with. See you then!
I'm linking this post to Healthy 2day Wednesdays, Simple Lives Thursday, Homestead Barn Hop and Your Green Resource.