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Have You Ever Tasted a Home Cooked Meal from a Cast Iron Skillet?
For those interested in getting new cast iron, there are some important things you need to know; including how to season cast iron.
If you haven’t, you simply do not know what you are missing! There is not much closer to heaven than a pone of cornbread or a seared steak with some fried potatoes to boot.
If you have, then eventually the black luster of the versatile cookware may dull or get rust spots, and you will need to know how to reseason that cooking multi-tool.
Prior to using a new one out of the box, you may consider burning off the preseason in a self-cleaning oven and then reseasoning it.
Maybe you find yourself on the cliff of buying an antique one and finding out you missed out on a good deal at the antique shop because the cast iron was rusty.
There is no doubt that cast iron skillets require a bit more care than stone or stainless steel cookware, but as a fan of cast iron cooking, the benefits outweigh the costs.
The most common reason that interested people have for not buying cast iron is the uncertainty of how to care for them.
But what most don’t know is that the 5 most common complaints can be prevented and/or resolved simply by seasoning or re-seasoning the cast iron pan, pot, or skillet.
Talk to anyone about cast iron cooking and you will hear the war stories of being too complicated to care for, cast iron skillets smoking, sticking, rusting, or seasoning turning out patchy.
Our four steps for how to reseason cast iron will put your concerns at ease and solve the common complaints about cooking with cast iron.
How to Clean Cast Iron Skillet Rust
Rust is a corrosive or deteriorating process that begins when cast iron is exposed to water.
The oxygen in water and metal have opposite magnetization charges and are attracted to each other.
When the two make contact, oxidation begins and the chemical reaction causes ferric oxide, more commonly known as rust.
Whether it’s a little or a lot of rust on your cast iron, there is no reason to panic and plenty of reason to take advantage of the deal on that rusty cast iron at the flea market or antique mall.
You can use soap to restore an old pan, but be sure to completely rinse it and allow it to completely dry before seasoning.
When your goal is cast iron rust prevention, it is important to put and keep a protective layer over the metal by applying a season or reseasoning your cast iron pans when needed, as we will explain below.
Why Cast Iron Skillets Smoke?
A cast iron skillet smoking can be caused by not cleaning or seasoning properly, high temperatures, the ingredients being cooked, or exceeding the smoke point of the cooking oil being used.
In a few, we will discuss the proper way to clean and season your cast iron.
High temperatures can cause a cast iron pan to smoke when burning off the manufacturer’s protective coating (a simulated seasoning) in place to protect your skillet until you begin to care for it.
Although high temperatures alone cannot damage the cast iron if exposed for short periods, they can affect the food you are cooking.
When meals include fat (see chart below) or high sugar content, smoke can appear when cooking at high temperatures.
Burnt or charred entrees can cause smoke when cooking subsequent meals as well.
When cooking with cast iron pans, it is best to preheat and increase in small increments to the desired temperature.
So that you can have the info handy in the kitchen, we developed the chart below for your personal oil preferences and desired cooking style.
With a little more know-how and with proper seasoning, you will be searing those steaks, sautéing those green peppers and onions, or frying those potatoes with confidence.
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Why is My Cast Iron Sticky After Seasoning?
It is a common complaint with cast iron skillets, but it usually comes from those unfamiliar with how to use or prevent this.
Sticky cast iron skillets are caused by the overuse of oils to season or cook with. In addition, it could also be from trying to season a cold skillet.
Preventing stickiness is as simple as completely drying and preheating your cast iron pan prior to seasoning and/or using only an amount of oil equal to the size of a quarter or half a dollar while cooking.
Now that we know what the common complaints about cast iron skillets are, let’s get you prepared to prevent them and more confident in their use.
How to Season Cast Iron Skillets
If you are starting with a new precoated skillet, unless you are sure that the process was chemical free, strip the cast iron in a self-cleaning oven at a high temperature to burn off the coating.
Once cooled, follow the below instructions.
Step 1) Clean the Cast Iron Skillet
Clean the cast iron skillet with hot water and a chain-linked scrubbing pad to remove any built-up oil or food on the pan.
Once cleaned, towel dry and allow time for the pan to completely dry in an area with low humidity. Once dry, preheat your oven to 350°.
Step 2) Oil The Cast Iron Skillet
While you are waiting for your oven to heat, spread a thin layer of your preferred oil (keep in mind the smoke points above) and completely cover the pan; inside, outside, handle, and all.
Be sure to not overdo it here, as you want the oil to bond gradually. Pompeian Grapeseed Oil is recommended because it is super versatile, durable, and affordable.
With a smoke point temperature of 400 °F, you won’t have to worry about smoke.
Spread the oil as evenly and lightly as possible while giving good coverage. The surface may appear spotty at first, but with additional even coats, it will even out and get darker with every use.
Step 3) Bake the Cast Iron Skillet
Use a sheet of aluminum foil to place on the rack below the pan. Then place the cast iron pan in the oven upside down to prevent the oil from pooling inside of the skillet. Bake for one hour.
Step 4) Cool the Cast Iron Skillet
When the hour has expired, turn the oven off and allow the pan to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, use a paper towel to remove any excess oil.
You are now ready to cook with cast iron. Now every time you use it, just run it under hot water (no soap) and wipe it dry.
When to Reseason a Cast Iron Skillet
During the course of your use, you may accidentally have exposed your pan to moisture while doing dishes or stored it in the garage over the summer.
If you notice rusty patches beginning to form, now is the time to remove them and reseason.
When your pan begins to look dull or food begins to stick more than usual, a reseasoning could be in order to clean the stuck food and add a fresh coat of oil to bring that shine back.
Why Cast Iron Skillets are the Best
There are many reasons why cast iron skillets are the best. We showed them earlier, but, one of the biggest benefits is their versatility and durability.
Cast iron can be used on a stovetop for a pan meal, in the oven for a casserole, or cooking over a campfire.
In my family, cast iron pots are handed down as heirlooms and have proven themselves to outlast any of my family members, in some cases for generations.
In addition, well-seasoned cast iron is naturally nonstick and gets better the more you use it.
Lastly, they are easy to clean. Once seasoned, hot water and a cast iron brush scrubber or towel are generally all you need to use to clean them.
Now that you know how to season cast iron, you can buy and use your cast iron skillets, pots, pans, and other accessories with confidence.
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