{How To} Season and Care of Cast Iron

Non-stick cookware have been popular lately because they don’t stick and easy to clean.  However, it also emits toxic fumes when overheated.  Toxic fumes from Teflon released from pots and pans at high temperatures may kill pet birds and cause people to have flu-like symptoms.

Though cases of Teflon flu are rare, they do happen.  Some sites, like the EGG, have concerns about potential cancer concerns links with the fumes; though more research have to happen.

So, the best way to avoid the Teflon flumes in the kitchen is to use alternative pans. One of those choices is cast iron.

There are many advantages and disadvantages of using cast iron.  A well-seasoned skillet is stick free, you can sear and move it to the oven with one pan, they are fairly cheap, and they last a lifetime.  However, they are very heavy (hello, muscles!), they are a bit of a hassle to maintain they are a hassle to season, and they should to be stored in the oven or on a cooktop.

The hassles of owning one are really not a hassle to me.  I love how I can’t really do anything wrong to it that can’t be fixed!  I don’t have to be too careful with it.

After much research, I went with cast iron.  I’m so glad that I did!  Cast iron is tough as nails!  There is a reason why there are 100-year old cast iron pans still being used today.  Today’s brands are basically the same as they made them back in the 1800s.  (Except the old ones were polished smooth, while the newer ones—from 1950s on—started to skip this polishing step, meaning newer ones have that bumpy surface.)  It’s very difficult to ruin it.  You can use any utensil on it and it will be fine.  I love using my metal spatula.

If your pan is well-seasoned, it will be non-stick enough to fry and egg with no problem.  But it will not be as non-stick as Teflon.  Let’s be real here.  If your pan is well-seasoned and you make sure you pre-heat it before adding food, you should have no problems with sticking.

These are lifelong rules to use with your cast iron to make it your kitchen best friend for life:

  1. Season it when you get it. This step it easier than you think!  To season your pan, put a thin layer of oil all over your pan.  (I use Crisco)  Put it in your oven at 500° for an hour.  Please be aware that it will smoke.  It’s ok!  This is part of the process.  It’s best to do this on a day that you can open your windows and let the air circulate.  After an hour, turn it off and let the oven cool.  It’s not necessary, but you can do it again to ensure your skillet is seasoned.  For the first few times of using, use an animal fat like bacon grease to ensure you’re well on your way to a well-seasoned pan.
  2. Clean it after each use. I’m still working on getting my husband to do this.  But, even though he fails to do this often, my pan is still good!  Despite what people say, you CAN wash your pan with soap and water.  It will not remove the layer of oil because it isn’t actually oil.  It’s actually a thin layer of polymerized oil.  In a properly seasoned pan, the oil has already broken down to a plastic-like substance that has bonded to the surface of the metal.  This is what gives it a type of non-stick surface.  You can soap it up as the soap will not take away the layer of oil.  BUT, you should not soak it in the sink.  Put it in water as little as possible, dry it immediately after (put it in a warm oven works well to make sure it’s dry), and preseason.  Soap isn’t the enemy—water is as sitting water can cause cast iron to rust.  You can use salt to scrub it without water.  Sometimes I just clean it with a dry towel if I’m lazy.
  3. Re-season it. Put the skillet on the burner that’s on high to dry your skillet.  When the water is dried, add about a teaspoon of oil.  Rub it around with a towel.  Let it cool and you’re done.  Sometimes I even skip this part and just rub a small amount of oil on it without heating it.  Make sure your skillet has a light sheen to it at all times.
  4. Use it often! The more you use it, the better the seasoning will be.  I use mine every day!

There!  That isn’t hard, is it?  It’s a bit more work than Teflon, but this is worth it in the end.  I love, love, love my cast iron, and don’t use anything else!  In fact, I want more!  I am looking for an old, true vintage Wagner or Griswold from the early 1900s.  If you know where I can get one, let me know!

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