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© 2015 Shanna Lea
Over time, cast iron cookware develops a protective coating, known as “seasoning”, from the natural fats and oils during cooking. This coating fills in all the nooks and crannies in the cast iron to create a smooth, uniform surface.
This seasoning is what gives cast iron cookware that wonderful non-stick quality.
Today, most new cast iron cookware comes pre-seasoned with this protective coating already on them. If the package says “pre-seasoned” on it, then your new pan is ready for use, because the manufacturer has already completed the initial seasoning process for you.
Before using your new pre-seasoned cast iron skillet, all you need to do is rinse it out in hot water and dry completely by placing the skillet on the stove over medium-high heat. Make sure the entire surface is dry before putting away because cast iron will rust if moisture is left sitting on its surface.
After cooking with your new cast iron skillet, just wash it in hot water by hand. Don’t put your cast iron in the dishwasher or soak overnight in water due to the potential for rusting.
Instead, once the pan is cool to the touch, just rinse it under hot water, using a dishcloth, soft nylon brush or stainless steel chainmail scrubber to remove stuck-on food. Don’t use soap or detergents while cleaning as it can damage or remove the seasoning.
How to Re-Season Your Cast Iron Skillet
Sometimes, cast iron cookware loses its sheen and you will need to re-season it to get it back into shape.
A search online for how to re-season a cast iron skillet can be a bit overwhelming with all the points of view out there regarding the best methods and types of oil to use. There is a lot of debate about what oil to use due to different smoke points of each type and the release of unhealthy free radicals from oils with too-low smoke points. Ultimately it is up to you, but I have always used lard and like the results.
Lodge, a leading manufacturer of cast iron cookware, says the proper way to re-season their products is to preheat your oven to 350 – 400?, and while it’s heating, to wash the pan with hot, soapy water and a stiff brush. This is the only time you will use soap, because you are removing the old coating.
Once the skillet is clean, rinse and dry completely, then apply a thin coat of melted solid fat or cooking oil of your choice. Place the pan upside down on the upper rack of your pre-heated oven, with a metal cooking sheet under it to catch any drips.
Leave the skillet in the hot oven for an hour, then turn off and let the pan cool completely before removing. Remove the pan from the oven, and if the coating isn’t as consistent as you’d like, then repeat the process until the desired sheen is achieved.
Follow these easy tips to care for your cast iron cookware and they will last for many years, providing delicious meals for you and your family with a minimal investment of time and effort from you.