Tips and Tricks Tuesday- How to season a Cast Iron Skillet

We are in the home stretch!  Three days left until school is out for the SUMMER!  Home school moms rejoice at this announcement and look forward to putting the books away.  Lewisville is no exception.  We still read and do math one day a week during the summer, but the rest of the week is devoted to fun, sun, and ice cream!  Not in that order either.  Be sure to read through this post because I'll have a little preview of what's coming up for next weeks T3 post.  If your kids will be home for the summer, you won't want to miss it!

For today's T3 (T cubed- tips, tricks and Tuesday) post, I wanted to share about something really different for Lewisville.  You see, I have been shopping around for new pots and pans.  I've had an expensive, well known set for the last 10 years at least, and they have held up very well until now.  The biggest problem though is that they are Teflon coated which by now you may have heard is very, very bad for our health. Very.  We've been dealing with so many health issues here in Lewisville over the past seven months which is one of the main reasons why I've taken more time off in between blog post.  Health has been a major concerns and it's taken its toll on us.  I've changed the way I shop, the food I buy, the way I cook and now I'm looking to change the pots and pans I use to cook our food. 

Things are getting better, much better, and I want to keep it that way.  I've been researching and reading reviews for every stainless steel product in the culinary arts.  Wow, there's a lot to learn, but I think I've finally narrowed it down to two choices based on quality and my budget. 

It's never this pretty when I cook in the kitchen.
What I didn't expect while reading cooking blogs is the number of praises I found for a well seasoned cast iron skillet. There are a number of opinions as to which stainless steel product to buy, but every one agrees cast iron is an essential to any kitchen.  REALLY?  I had this preconceived idea of a cowboy cooking on his cast iron skillet over an open flame with his horse nearby waiting for drippings.  Weird, I know, but when I think of cast iron I think of the old wild west.  I was wrong.  So wrong. 

A well seasoned cast iron skillet is a great addition to any cook's kitchen, and if done correctly, it will take the place of your "non-stick" pan without the harmful health effects.  I'm still getting my stainless steel, but cast iron quickly became first on my list.  So this post, as you might have guessed, is about "seasoning" such a pan! 

I found a Lodge cast iron pan at Home Goods/ TJ Maxx.  Some pans come "pre-seasoned" and some don't.  In any case, the experts of cast iron say it's always a good idea to "season" your pan once you get it home regardless.

So what in the world does it mean to "season" your cast iron?  Contrary to my own novice understanding, it isn't about using salt and pepper.  Go ahead, laugh now.  "Seasoning" cast iron means to bond a layer of  carbonized fat to the skillet.  Think of it as a protective coating that builds up over times that eventually leaves your skillet with a smooth surface.  Your iron skillet is rough when you first buy it; it is iron after all.  As you "season" it several times throughout its use, it becomes more and more smooth. 

Now, let's continue our lesson on How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet.  There are many opinions on how to first season you cast iron, and you can choose just about any one of them and still be ok.  I decided to use a method I found several times in my research, thinking all these people can't be wrong.  They weren't.  I like this method.

First, Wash your Cast Iron Pan with soap and hot water.  This will be the only time you use soap with your cast iron.  Scrub, scrub, and scrub some more, both on the inside and outside.

Second, Dry your Cast Iron using kitchen and paper towels.  You have to dry you cast iron really well after every hot water rinse and scrub.  I put the towels underneath the pan so it doesn't scratch the cabinet surface.

Third, Heat your oven to 350F. (176C.)

Next, while your oven is pre-heating, start coating your pan with vegetable shortening.  I used about a tablespoon and rubbed it on with a damp paper towel, the same paper towel I used to dry the pan in step 2.  Rub the shortening on every surface of the pan- inside, outside, handles, top, and bottom. 

Here's a picture of my "seasoning" process.  It's a messy step and another good reason to keep a kitchen towel under the pan.

Keep rubbing the shortening into the pan and wipe any excess.  The more you rub into the pan though, the more the cast iron soaks it in.

Here's what the cast iron looks like with the shortening rubbed on just before I put it in the oven.

Now, You're ready to bake the seasoning in so it bonds to the pan.  Place the skillet in the oven upside down.  Using some aluminum foil under the pan will help keep the oven "less dirty."

Step 5- Bake it for one hour.  The house will fill up with the unpleasant aroma of iron baking at a high heat, so beware.    After an hour, turn the oven off and leave the pan in the oven until it cools completely.  This may take another two hours just to cool it down.

Finally, when the cast iron skillet is cool enough to handle, bring it out onto the towel you were working on and rub a small amount of shortening on the pan again.  I used just a small amount to get it all slick again- inside and outside- all over.

Now you're ready to get cooking!

We use this skillet for everything right now- pancakes, taco meat, chicken- and everything comes out great.  To clean it, I scrub with hot water and dry it immediately with paper towels.  Every couple of uses I'll re-"season" it on the stove top with a little oil and heat. 

Do you have a cast iron skillet?  How do you like yours?  I'm hoping to pass mine down onto the kids, so it looks like I'll need a few more skillets in order to be fair.

Join me for next week's Tips and Tricks as I tackle How to keep the kids busy during the summer!