We love to cook with cast iron. We have an ever-growing collection of cast iron including a large frying pan, a medium sized Dutch oven, a griddle and two small Dutch ovens (which are perfect for French onion soup).
There are so many benefits of cooking with cast iron. The flavor of whatever you are cooking will taste richer and once properly seasoned, you will have a non-stick surface that far surpasses Teflon. No cookware has as even or consistent heat distribution. You can use it anywhere! Braise and cook a roast on the stovetop or bake bread in the oven. It also works fabulously on a BBQ or campfire. Cast iron is very durable too, it seems to last forever. If you have inherited your grandmother’s pan or haven’t used yours in a while and notice a rust spot, scratch it off with steel wool and simply re-season!
Most cast iron pans sold today claim to come ‘pre-seasoned’. We disagree. They have only just begun their seasoning process. This is a simple but very important process for getting the most out of your cast iron. These seasoning and maintenance tips are great for a brand new pan or if you are trying to revive an old pan that has been in the family for generations. The process will need to be repeated a few times and as you cook with your dish, it will continue season with each meal.
To season your pan you will need some veggie or canola oil, (do not use olive or sesame, they will make the dish taste funny), some paper towel or a cotton cloth, a cookie sheet lined with tinfoil and some time.
Preheat your oven to bake at 450F.
Lightly coat your pan with veggie or canola oil and wipe with the paper towel or cloth. Make sure that the pan is completely coated in oil.
Put the tinfoil lined cookie sheet on the bottom rack of the oven. This will catch any oil that drips off of the cast iron.
Place the cast iron upside down on the middle rack of the oven and let bake for half an hour.
Using oven mitts, take the pan out of the oven and very lightly re-oil the pan and spread again with paper towel. Be careful and always use oven mitts, the cast iron will be very hot. Return to the oven for half an hour. Turn off the oven and let the pan cool to room temperature. Repeat this process for as long as you have time for. Remember, as you continue to use the cast iron it will become more and more seasoned.
In the above photo you may have noticed that the two small ovens are a lighter brown colour than the rest. This is because they are our newest additions and have only gone through a few seasonings so far. The frying pan and Dutch oven (below) are our oldest and most favourite of all our cast iron, which is why they are almost black. They are by far the best and most used cooking dishes in our kitchen.
Always clean your cast iron as soon as possible after using.
There are many techniques and opinions for cleaning cast iron. We use a few different methods and agree with the idea that you should never use soap to clean cast iron, as it will strip your seasoned coating. No matter what technique you use, always be sure to dry the pan completely and lightly coat it in veggie or canola oil before storing.
Every time we use our pans, we clean them with very hot tap water and a scrub brush until the water in the pan and on the brush wipe clean with paper towel.
About every third to fourth time, we pour about a quarter cup of rock salt and scrub it around the pot to loosen anything that may be sticking to the surface. We then re-wash with hot tap water and do at least one more round of the seasoning process above.
Once every month or so (or about every 10th use) we will fill the pan with water and bring it to a rapid boil. We let the water boil for at least 15-30 minutes, sometimes even an hour. This will loosen any particles in the crooks and crannies of the pan. We then dump the water, dry the pan and repeat the above seasoning process again.
Acidic foods like tomato or vinegar based sauces will cut the seasoning surface. In new cast iron, they may take on a slightly metallic flavour. We tend to avoid acidic foods until our cast iron is well seasoned.
You cannot over season your cast iron, it will only continue to get better. Once your cast iron is well seasoned it will become more flavourful, you will not need to use oil for cooking, it will be easier to clean and will become your favourite cooking dish too.