Cast iron cookware truly is the ultimate kitchen companion and if you don’t have any - you’re missing out! It’s affordable, versatile, sturdy, and just invincible! As with all great things in life, cast iron cookware does need a little maintenance, so it’s important you learn how to season cast iron cookware. Whether you’re looking into buying some cast iron cookware or you already have some but didn’t know about seasoning, keep reading this blog for all the information you could possibly need on how to season cast iron cookware. Let’s go!
What does it mean to season cast iron cookware?
To season in this way is not the same as sprinkling herbs and spices over your meal but to bake oil onto cast iron through a process called polymerisation, to create a natural, easy release cooking surface. Polymerisation is where the oil is heated past its smoking point forcing it to carbonise.
Why is it important to season cast iron cookware?
Overtime cast iron will lose its non-stick and sheen and it will rust, so to maintain its great quality you should season your cast iron cookware.
Cast iron is porous, so when it is heated the pores expand and the seasoning (the oil) fills the pores. Overtime and use the seasoning becomes securely bonded into the cast iron - think of it like layers of paint on a wall, every coat builds up the resilience level - after enough layers of seasoning, you will end up with a blackened skin that protects the metal and prevents rust.
Learning to season cast iron is very much a process of learning that the more you use it and the more you cook with oils and fats, the better the seasoning. I know we said the process of seasoning cast iron cookware is not the same as sprinkling herbs and spices, but a well-seasoned cast iron dish will add to the flavours of your meal.
How do I know when I need to season my cast iron cookware?
When you buy a new cast iron skillet or dish, it’s always recommended to wash and season it even if it says it has already been seasoned - we recommend this with all our cast iron dishes too.
With cast iron dishes you’ve had a while, some of the cooking you will have done may reduce the layers of seasoning, for example, cooking with acidic foods, using excessive heat, using abrasive utensils, and storing it away when it’s not thoroughly dry (water corrosion).
You will be able to tell when you’re due to season your cast iron cookware because your food will start to stick, and the colours will go dull or rusty. We recommend you season cast iron cookware a few times a year even if you don’t start to notice these things.
What oils can I use to season my cast iron cookware?
To season cast iron cookware you can use all cooking oils and fats; however, some are more recommended than others. For example, butter and coconut oil can leave lumps which will then burn and scorch when heated, so we recommend using unsaturated oils like vegetable oil.
The 4 easy steps to season cast iron cookware
Step 1: Wash & Dry
Firstly, to season cast iron cookware you need to wash the cast iron with soapy water and a soft cloth
Ensure you remove any dirt or marks from previous cooking
Then, dry it using a paper towel or tea towel, and for a minute or two, heat over medium flame on the stove to dry thoroughly - the pores will trap the moisture underneath the surface if left even slightly wet.
Step 2: Buff
Rub your oil all over the pan, dish, or skillet, including the handle
Buff it so much so that the pan doesn’t look greasy
You don’t want it to be greasy or wet - any excess oil will dry and form hard droplets or will turn sticky.
Step 3: Heat
When your oven is at 230 degrees Celsius, turn your unit of cast iron cookware upside down and place on the middle rack
Put some foil or greaseproof paper below to catch any excess oil - hopefully there isn’t any, or much
The goal is to meet the oils’ smoke point, so if you’ve used anything other than vegetable oil, give it a quick google and heat the oven to that temperature
The oil will polymerise and form the first of several hard layers
Using the oven rather than the stove is beneficial because the oven provides a more even heat, so the oil will set all over rather than run hot and cold in different parts
After 30 minutes is up, take it out the oven (remember it will be hot!), re-oil and buff, and heat again, repeat this 3-4 more times
Let it cool and then it’s ready for cooking!
Regarding the routine cleaning of your cast iron cookware, you should avoid using abrasive materials and soap to preserve your layers of coating. Instead, use a soft sponge and warm water (without submerging it) and if needed, you can use kosher salt to remove any marks. Every time your cast iron gets wet, ensure to dry it thoroughly before storing it away.
When using your cast iron cookware, be generous with fats and oils, and keep the heat low for the first few times, once it is well seasoned - broken in if you wish - using higher heats and cooking with acidic foods can be done here and there without detriment.
Properly seasoned cast iron cookware will last lifetimes, that’s why many people have their parents or grandparents’ skillets, pans, and dishes - remember, the more you use it the more seasoned it gets. Truly the ideal heirloom!
After reading all of this you may be thinking what a hassle and that it’s a lot of ‘faff’! It really isn’t as high maintenance as you think, the process is easy and if you use the cookware regularly and properly, you will get the quality for the work you put in.
Our top tip to you: when it comes to learning to season cast iron cookware, patience is key. If you make a mistake or feel you haven’t done one of the steps properly, return to step one and start again.
I hope this has taught you a thing or two about what it is to season cast iron cookware, why it is important, and how you can do it. If you’re looking to buy cast iron cookware, you can check out ours here.
We’d love to see your freshly seasoned dishes and delectable meals created using them so capture that perfect Insta shot and tag us @rinkithome or use the #rinkithome.As always, thanks for reading,
Love, Poppy and the Rinkit Team.