Tip of the Week

Rusty cast-iron pan
Cast-iron pan, cleaned up and ready for cookin'
Cookin' cast iron (Ham and bean soup in cast-iron pan)

Keeping Cast Iron

If cast iron is properly seasoned, food won’t stick to it, it will clean up easily, and it won’t rust. Seasoning—or curing—creates a smooth, nonstick surface on both the inside and outside of the pan.

There are three steps to seasoning: cleaning the pan to expose bare metal, applying a layer of fat or vegetable oil, and heating the pan to bond the oil to the metal. Here’s how you do it:

  1. New cast iron that is not “pre-seasoned” is often sold with a waxy coating that must be removed by scouring to expose the metal before seasoning. Rusty pans also need a good scouring. You can use salt, steel wool, or even sandpaper to scour the surface. Then wash the pan in hot, soapy water. Use soap this one time only—soap will break down the cure once your pan is seasoned. Rinse and dry completely.
  2. Rub a thin, even coating of organic shortening, unsalted animal fat, or coconut oil inside and out (oils high in saturated fat are less likely to become rancid).
  3. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Place the pan upside down on the top shelf so that the oil doesn’t pool in the pan. A foil-covered baking sheet on the bottom shelf will catch any drippings. Bake for one hour, then turn the oven off and leave the pan inside the oven until it’s cool. That’s it!

The first six or seven times you use your pan, cook fatty foods to deepen the seasoning and enhance the nonstick surface. After each use, clean your pan with very hot water and a plastic scrubbie. Dry it thoroughly, re-apply a light coat of oil, wipe with a paper towel, and store without a lid to prevent moisture build-up.

Remember to check out “Grandma’s Wisdom” on all things cast-iron in every issue of MaryJanesFarm magazine.

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