How often to season?

dmloveJuly 13, 2007

How often should one season a new pre-seasoned cast iron pan, that is, in addition to using it and oiling it after using it?

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First of all, avoid using oil to season cast iron. Of course, it's a mistake you'll only make once (believe me, I know--LOL). Using oil to season cast iron leaves a really sticky, awful residue, rather than the slick, hard, non-stick finish you're trying to achieve.

You want to season your pan by wiping it with solid shortening. I would NEVER feed my family Crisco, ever--but I keep a small container on hand, for my many pieces of cast iron. Coat the pan with the solid shortening and then heat until the finish is black and dry (you'll obviously have to wait to test that until the pan is cool). You can do that in the oven (put pan upside down, with a cookie sheet under to catch any shortening that may drip off), or you can do it on the burner--be sure to turn on your exhaust fan. Or--my personal favorite--I like to put the pans on the covered grill out back. That keeps the mess and smell out of the house. And either a gas or charcoal grill work fine. Just keep an eye on the pan as you 'bake' it--it is possible to go past 'seasoned' and end up back with a bare naked pan.

Once your pan is seasoned and has a nice, non-stick finish on it, it should just need a good washing with water and a stiff brush between uses. If you find the finish is starting to chip off or is getting hard to clean, you can always clean it down to the bare metal (on the grill or in your self-cleaning oven) and reseason. I do occasionally clean and reseason pans, if I don't like the way they look, or if they start to rust (a sign that the seasoning is not doing it's job.)

Now, all that being said, I have to ask--is this a pan you've recently purchased? Is it pre-seasoned? Most are these days. If so, you can just give it a good rinse, and use immediately--no need to start out by seasoning it. The factory pre-seasoning is a very thin coating, but it's enough to get you started, and with proper use and care, your pan will only get better and better with use. Enjoy--I have over 3 dozen CI pans, every size, shape, purpose, and use them pretty much daily for something or other. Best pans to have, and they're healthy for you since they add iron to your food.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2007 at 8:21AM
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now that Crisco has eliminated the trans fats, do you still avoid it?

    Bookmark   July 16, 2007 at 1:16PM
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Three dozen? Where the heck do you keep all of them. It's one thing to stack regular pans, but if I had to lift all those CI pans regularly, I could stop paying gym dues :)

Yes, this is a new pan - and it is pre-seasoned. So you're saying don't even bother -- just keep using it. Will do!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2007 at 1:17PM
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LOL--they're not all huge skillets, of course--although I do have an assortment of skillets in all sizes and shapes. I've got a set of the round individual serving dishes, a couple of casseroles in various sizes, a pair of the muffin pans, a biscuit pan, a number of other specialty pans.

Now understand, some of the pans I bought, some were gifts. Some just sort of 'jumped into my car' when we visited the Lodge factory store in So. Pittsburg, Tenn (at those factory prices, you can't NOT buy them). And some were part of the prize package given for being a contestant in the National Cornbread Festival==they are custom-made, limited editions that have the festival logo imprinted on the bottom, and are used more or less as trophies.

As to storage--it is a challenge. I keep the wok, a square skillet and an 8" skillet on the range (stacked), because they get frequent use. A couple of the larger pieces are on top of the fridge. And I've got a free-standing cabinet in the kitchen that I've reinforced the bottom shelf of--where a number of the less frequently used pieces are stacked. And a few are on the lower shelf of my stainless steel workbench.

I'm a bit of a cast iron addict--as you can tell. Once couldn't pass up a square skillet at a church rummage sale--brand new, never used, never even seasoned--for 50 cents!

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 11:34AM
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Back in the day people seasoned with lard and grease, later they used Crisco and grease, later still vegetable oil. No matter what you use to season your pan, you will only get a sticky residue IF you don't heat it at a high enough temperature. Use whatever is cheap but you must heat the pan to a high enough temperature for a long enough time to turn that oil/lard into a carbon coating. A lot of people season cast iron on an outside grill or fire since getting them really hot smokes up the house. If your pan is sticky just put it back in the oven/grill/fire until it is not sticky. Never remove a coating of oil to start over. Just add more oil and more heat. Very simple. Do this 2 or 3 times.

Fry chicken, cook bacon. Every time you use your pan the seasoning will get a little better/deeper. After use, wipe a very light film of oil all over it before storing. That's how my grandmother and mother cooked with cast iron. Don't let anyone tell you there is only one right way or one right grease. Once seasoned nothing short of steel wool will remove that coating.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 8:57AM
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So here's what I did last night - I heated the pan (to use), added a little vegetable oil, fried potatoes (I know, I know, this is 2007, but DH was really in the mood, and our other side dish was berries :)). When done, I "brushed" out the residue and reheated the pan to completely dry. Then I spread some Crisco all over (which melted immediately). Is that all I have to do until I use it again?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 12:24PM
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Nancy zone 6

dmlove, that is what I do every time I use mine. After spreading with crisco, I do wipe all excess out.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 3:55PM
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Thanks - I did notice there was enough Crisco once it melted that I should have wiped it off. I'll do that next time.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 12:22PM
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Having use cast iron, Dutch ovens and skillets and fry pans, for a long time now, I would suggest using cannola oil for seasoning and re-oiling after using.

Most of my cooking with cast iron is done over an open fire of either wood or charcoal. After cooking and removing the food, the cast iron goes back on the fire to burn off any left particles. When the pots are pulled from the fire, I lightly coat the inside with the cannola oil.

The outside of my cast iron is never treated. Some of my Dutch ovens are over 40 years old and have a beautiful natural coating on them.

Enjoy the journey.

eal51 in western CT

    Bookmark   August 6, 2007 at 6:53PM
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All, I am really enamored of my [relatively] new LodgeLogic pan. Question - when you make something in it with a little oil, or that has it's own fat (like steak or hamburgers), so you still scrape out the bits and recoat with canola or other oil, or is the fat that's already in the pan enough?

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 6:46PM
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DM, I would suggest that you completely remove the fond and rendered oil that has formed in your pan from searing your hamburgers or steaks. You are still building up your patina seasoning in your new pan and that gunk interferes with the process. Put a cup of water in your pan when you finish cooking and boil it for a few minutes to completely remove those bits. If real thick do not be afraid to use some soapy hot water (dawn liquid detergent is fine) with a stiff NYLON scrub brush to completely remove the not soak your pan in the soapy water. After cleaning with soapy water and rinsing several times, put your pan back on the stove burner and add another cup of water and boil for a few more minutes.......this will remove any soapy residue traces. After this, remove the hot water from your pan then again heat your empty pan on the stove burner to remove all traces of water.......remember towel dry is not good enough (especially with a Lodge product)......DO NOT SKIP THIS IMPORTANT STEP. Then while your pan is still HOT put a bit of Crisco solid shortening (not liquid Crisco vegetable oil)in the pan......distribute it evenly on both the inside and outside of your pan using a wad of paper towels. Afterwards, with another clean wad of paper towels wipe all excess oil from your pan......its very important to only have a thin trace layer of oil on your pan.....and it's very very important that you do not use vegetable (canola) oil if you plan to store you pan for more than a couple of days. You are still developing seasoning on your new pan and its surface is still very reactive to the unsataurates in vegetable oil.........means your oily coating will easily become sticky and if put on too thick can turn rancid. After your pan becomes "cured" following many "seasonings" this becomes less of an issue and concern. A cured pan will not need to be coated with oil for storage. For now stick with applying a light coating of Crisco shortening and you won't have a problem.
I will respond to your question regarding seasoning via a Cajun roux when I get a chance. I realize that there are several types of cajun roux......the one I was referring to is made using 1 part oil to 1 part all purpose flour. When you make this type cajun roux the temperature of the oil/flour mixture will automatically regulate itself to near the smoke point of the oil........if the temperature is too low, the flour won't brown properly......if the temperature is too hot, the flour will burn.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 8:46PM
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"I will respond to your question regarding seasoning via a Cajun roux...using 1 part oil to 1 part all purpose flour. When you make this type cajun roux the temperature of the oil/flour mixture will automatically regulate itself to near the smoke point of the oil........if the temperature is too low, the flour won't brown properly......if the temperature is too hot, the flour will burn."

Wow. What a difference making a roux makes. I made gumbo the other night (former New Orleanian here), and the pan went from good-but-not-great nonsticking qualities to amazing nonstickness (nonstickitude? nonstickability?).

I cooked 4 chicken thighs on a light film of olive oil just to get things started. After the chicken was cooked, I removed the thighs & threw in a handful of flour to make the roux. I cooked it for 30 minutes on medium low heat until dark brown, stirring frequently.

Oh heck, might as well give the rest of the recipe at this point. After roux was made, added chopped celery (2 sticks), onions (3 small), green onions (2 chopped), green pepper (1 chopped), a little garlic & some leftover green & yellow squash (sliced, just to use up leftovers). Stirred all these in the roux & let cook until soft. Then I added collards (1 bunch), curly mustard (1 bunch), flat parsley (1 bunch), 2 bay leafs & some thyme. Let these steam until slightly wilted. I removed the meat from the chicken thighs & added to the gumbo, along with 1.5 cups diced ham. Added about 4 cups of water & simmered to blend the flavors. Served on top of brown rice.

This recipe is a combination of chicken gumbo & gumbo z'herbes: lots of veggies & antioxidants, plus brown rice for fiber. Hope you purists don't mind the variation :)

Anyway, we didn't clean up right away. The gumbo sat in the pan during an extended dinner time, then I didn't clean the pan until the next morning when I needed it to fry eggs. I cleaned it with soapy water & a sponge. Added just a little butter to the pan, and WOW! Like Teflon. Even despite the improper after-dinner care.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 12:27PM
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The more you use your pan to make a roux the better the patina will get. Each roux made in it adds another thin layer of "seasoning" to your pan. After many seasoning layers are added, you pan will become "cured". A cured cast iron pan is non-reactive to acidic foods and is a wonderful thing to cook with.....I love cooking with cast iron.


    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 8:40PM
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