Friday, 9 July 2010


The amazon fairies delivered us a little package yesterday. A box full of kitchen goodies no less. Amongst the new toys was a brand new gun metal grey cast iron frying pan. In my mothers kitchen we always had a great set of old cast iron pans that would easily been 30 years old...possibly more. I first learnt to cook using these cast iron pans and grew to love their versatility. You could seal a steak beautifully and then throw the whole thing into an oven to finish off and not have to worry about the handle melting. You could gently simmer a sauce or vigorously deep fry in them. They were excellent and I realised I missed having one in the kitchen. Hence the new purchase. But as this is a brand new pan I realised I needed to season it properly before I used it.

'Seasoning' simply means coating the iron with thin layers of grease or fat to fill in the pores in the metal and form a smooth surface to stop food sticking to it. 

I figured it was similar to seasoning a wok - which I had done before - but I read around a bit and found this guide which gave me most of what I needed but was a bit of a mess. Here is my own version of a step by step guide with photos to seasoning a cast iron pan.

Seasoning your cast iron pan: 

Step One: Scrub off wax coating. 
All new cast iron pans have a wax coating. I assume this is to stop them forming any surface rust between leaving the factory and landing in your kitchen. Give it a good scrub with steel wool under the hottest water you can handle.

Step two: Find some oil or fat to rub into the pan
You need some kind of oil or fat to rub on and then bake onto the surface in your oven. You'll need to do this several times so you'll need a moderate amount. In my reading on the subject a few sites recommended animal fats such as bacon grease or lard as quite good for the job. So in the name of science I grabbed another pan and I fried off a few rashers of bacon to render its fat. I then made a bacon sandwich and ate it (tough job I know). Oh the interwebs also indicated any oil will do really - vegetable, coconut, olive oil - but I liked the idea of bacon.    
Step 3: Rub in thin layer of oil - bake for 30 mins in hot oven

Use a paper towel or similar to wipe a thin layer all over pan's surface. Place in a hot oven 200 degrees celcius or so for 30 minutes. There may be some smoke when you open the door again. That's ok. Be very careful with the pan when you get it out of oven - it will be red hot - make sure you have super thick oven glove or double tea towel. The surface of the pan should be sporting a light brown or black colour. Set it down and allow it to cool.

Step 4: And repeat... and repeat
Allow it to cool. Wipe it down. Add a thin layer of oil. Put it in the oven for 30 minutes. I did this three times. The goal is to allow each thin layer to bake and then build up a barrier. You will notice as it gets progressively darker as you go.

Step 5: And you're done! Finally a few care tips...

The more you use your pan the more this layer will build up and the better it will become. Dont wash it in a dishwasher, just hand wash it with a scourer and water. You want to preserve your barrier to avoid water getting into the iron. A little detergent from time to time is ok but dont over do it. Oh and dont pour cold water onto a hot cast iron pan - it could damage it.

If you take care of your pan it could last you 30 years or more... happy days!


James said...

Very informative! Bravo, You mentioned wok seasoning how is it similar / different?

Nick P said...

Hi James,

I have seasoned a Wok before as well - and you are right the basic principles of baking on layers of oil are exactly the same. I guess the key difference is you wouldnt typically be able to bake a large wok in your oven (well not in my oven anyways :).

So you would have to do the same thing by layering on fat and heating up and cooking each layeri for a period of time on the electric hob / gas burner.

Hannah said...

This is very interesting - thanks! It's such a coincidence as I've just been reading about seasoned pans in Julie Powell's Julie & Julia.

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