Just received your cast iron pan? Ready to sear a juicy and tender steak? Hold your spatulas! Your pan may or may not come with seasoning post production. Some cast iron pans such as the Lodge cast iron skillets comes in pre-seasoned so you can by pass the initial seasoning stage if you choose to do so.
But if your cast iron pan is not pre-seasoned or you are the sort of person like me that wants to do it just for the experience, this is what involves seasoning a cast iron pan.
The first step is really to preheat your oven between 350-400℉. So fire up and turn on that oven then wash the skillet to get rid of any dust, dirt, chemicals or substances that was used post manufacture.
At this stage, you can use any abrasive tools and soap to clean your pan. There aren’t any built up seasoning that you will be damaging and taking off.
Wash the cast iron pan with soap and give it a good scrub down with a brush. Rinse it well in running water to get rid of soap, dirt, gunk that came off the pan.
Dry it thoroughly for better seasoning adhesion.
Once the pan is water free, apply a thin layer of oil inside and out. Avoid applying too much because this will make the seasoning have a sticky finish.
Which oil you want to use is entirely up to you. I use coconut oil or ghee bought from my Indian grocer. You can use lard too, but if you don’t use your pan often enough, it will go rancid. I try to avoid oils that are rich in polyunsaturates, after reading a lot of research on how toxic vegetable oils can be.
Vegetable oil or any oil that contains high amount of polyunsaturated fats, turns toxic when heated to 180℃. This toxic chemical is called aldehydes.
“People have been telling us how healthy polyunsaturates are in corn oil and sunflower oil. But when you start messing around with them, subjecting them to high amounts of energy in the frying pan or the oven, they undergo a complex series of chemical reactions which results in the accumulation of large amounts of toxic compounds.”
-by: Prof Grootveld of De Montfort University in Leicester
Whether you choose to follow this advice or not, any oil that has a high smoke point, is sufficient enough to season a cast iron pan.
Your oven should be within 350-400℉ by now. Before you stick the pan into the oven, make sure you have something below the rack to catch any drips. You can use your baking tray or an aluminium foil for this.
Place the pan on the top rack, upside down to prevent pooling of oil inside the pan. Then put your baking tray or aluminium foil at the bottom rack, just under the pan to catch oil drips. Set the timer for about 1 hour. This will give it plenty of time to polymerize the oil that was applied.
Waiting and coffee
At this time there aren’t really anything to do but to just wait.
This may or may not happen to you. In my experience, my house was filled with smoke due to the oil being heated. What I did was open up all windows and doors, this helps with the ventilation and turn off the smoke alarm. It can really be annoying. Make sure you turn it back on though when the initial seasoning of the pan finishes. Go have yourself a coffee, you deserve it.
After an hour and a great coffee, turn off the oven. Let the pan sit inside the oven to cool.
In about 15-30 minutes, it should be good to go to your storage room.
If done properly, your cast iron pan should be shiny and smooth to the touch. It should not be sticky and dull.
And that is how you season a cast iron pan. In regards to choosing the best oil to use and if you are having a hard time choosing which is best for your health. Just avoid anything that is highly processed such as a canola oil or just use what I use, coconut oil, olive oil or ghee. You can find these in any reputable grocery, except the ghee, for that, you should try an Indian grocer.
Hope you had fun first time seasoning your pan. I know I have when I first did mine. Now.