The Care and Feeding of Cast Iron: Cleaning and Seasoning Cast Iron Cookware

Cast iron pots and pans are the basis of a well-stocked kitchen, and will last a lifetime if you learn the methods for cleaning and seasoning cast iron.

| December 1999/January 2000

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    Curing (seasoning) cast iron means filling the pores and voids in the metal with grease of some sort, which subsequently gets cooked in. This provides a smooth, nonstick surface on both the inside and outside of the piece.
    PHOTO: BARBRO PHOTO
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    Cast iron cookware heats evenly and can last a lifetime.
    BARBRO PHOTO
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    There's a cast-iron piece for most any cooking job you can dream up.
    BARBRO PHOTO

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Learn the tricks and tips to cleaning and seasoning cast iron cookware. 

The hallmark of any country kitchen is an old black cast iron skillet sitting atop the woodstove. And there's good reason for that: Whether you're baking biscuits in a cast iron Dutch oven, flipping pancakes on a cast iron griddle over a woodstove or pan-frying chops on a modern electric range, cast iron makes the best cookware. When it comes to cast iron its important to learn about cleaning and seasoning cast iron cookware to get the best from your cookware.

Types of Cast Iron Cookware

Cast iron cookware has been used steadily in America since the 1600s, though over the last half century or so it has been known primarily as an outdoor cookware, used mainly by campers, hunters and living historians. But with more and more people discovering its virtues, there has been a resurgence in the use of cast-iron cookware in the home.

When folks think of cast ironware, most tend to think of skillets and fry pans, but the fact is there is an iron pot or kettle designed for just about any cooking chore. You can bake in Dutch ovens, make stew in a kettle or even do up a stir-fry in a cast-iron wok. Then there are griddles for making flapjacks, specialized pieces for making corn sticks and muffins, baking pans and large pieces designed specifically for putting up preserves. Cast iron also provides more even heat distribution than today's lightweight aluminum pans. It cooks evenly, cleans up easily and holds heat longer (thus requiring less fuel). Moreover, cast iron also has medicinal qualities. In fact, many medical authorities believe that there are health benefits to cooking in iron since food may absorb and pass onto us traces of the essential mineral.



Cast Iron Cookware Maintenance

But in order to live up to its potential, cast-iron cookware must be properly seasoned (cured) and that cure must be maintained. If done correctly, the iron will not rust, nor will food stick to it and burn.

Curing cast iron means filling the pores and voids in the metal with grease of some sort, which subsequently gets cooked in. This provides a smooth, nonstick surface on both the inside and outside of the piece. While the curing process is similar whether you start with new or used cast iron, there are a few important differences. Let's look at new cookware first.

Shebear
5/23/2019 4:25:03 PM

You can also deep clean a heavily soiled pan by burying it in a bed of coals and letting them burn out. I will come out clean as new and ready to be reseasoned. I frequently do this when I purchase a pan that's appearance makes me suspect of how it was treated or with an unknown history so I know what is cooked into it.


Mel
5/20/2019 8:18:58 PM

I agree with Dave, I've used this method a number of times and have always been pleased with the results


Keith
5/20/2019 7:48:41 PM

Some good info but I have to disagree with a few things, mostly using a fire to help with the cure. There is no way to control the temp and if too hot will lead to warping. Fires are almost as bad as a self cleaning cycle on a oven which will eventually warp your iron. A much safer way to season cast is to preheat oven to 200 and place the iron in for 10 minutes then slowly increase temp to 350(do this in 10 minute increments) and then leave it for 10 more minutes, remove and put a light coating of oil(your choice) and place back in for 15 minutes upside down. After 15 minutes remove and wipe any excess oil and return to oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes turn oven off and leave iron in oven till cool, done. Also cleaning a heavily used pan is as simple, a diluted lye bath(not scary, really, we use lye to make soap!) for up to 8 hours and then a simple electrolysis solution of washing soda(not baking soda) and a manual battery charger and you'll have a almost new piece of iron. Please never use Easy-Off oven cleaner. All simple procedures which can easily be found on line. Heavy coating of oil will leave a shiny "finish" which is not seasoned and will cause food to stick. As the author says never use soap in the iron, for that matter never put anything in cast iron you are not willing to eat, it may be a metal but it will hold onto contaminants.







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