Wednesday, 5 October 2011

A Well Seasoned Pan

Ahh....  cast iron ~ either you love it or you hate it.  I'm in the love it club, but only once it's seasoned well.  If you haven't tried cooking with cast iron, I encourage you to give it a go - once you get the hang of it its really easy.  The trick is to use a little fat to cook in and allow it to heat up slowly.  Be patient and don't try to cook your food right after turning on the burner.  Start cooking your food only once the pan is at the correct temperature (when the butter is foaming).  A little moisture helps, too - for instance, when frying over easy eggs, I often add just a little water before flipping.

I actually leave this stack of cast iron frypans on the back of my stovetop which might drive the average person crazy, but not me!  I use those pans every day, so having them at my fingertips makes cooking that much easier.  I can easily grab a pan and get cooking without bending over to haul them out of cupboards (cast iron is heavy!).  I view my kitchen as a working one, not a showpiece, so leaving things out that I use every day doesn't bother me in the slightest :)

A well seasoned cast iron pan looks a bit glossy and should resemble patent leather.   The secret to building this up on a pan is to NOT scrub it off with soap!  If my pan is only slightly dirty, I'll just wipe it out ~ that's all it needs.  When it's truly dirty, I soak it in warm water for a while and scrub it out easily with a brush.  Drying it is key!  Leaving a cast iron pan wet will lead to rusting and that is NOT good for the finish.   After I've used water to clean a cast iron pan, I give it a very light rub with a bit of fat/oil to keep the patina glossy.  

These muffin tins were a wedding shower gift 22 years ago from my Grandmother (along with her recipe for Yorkshire Pudding).  They are seasoned nicely (blackened) and as a result, have a natural non-stick surface.  All those years of of baking yorkshire puddings in them have done the trick nicely.  I do still oil them lightly before cooking in them, but they are fantastic - food just pops right out.  

I'd much rather have an old seasoned pan than a new one.  In fact, the two small cast iron pans pictured above were bought second hand at our local thrift shop for less than $5.00 for the both of them.  A great score as they are worth much more to me pre-seasoned than in new condition.  

If you don't already cook in cast iron, have a look at your local goodwill/second hand shops to see if you can source some nice seasoned cast iron - you'll be glad you did! 


  1. I have been cooking with cast iron for over 8 years. They are very seasoned and I do pretty much all my cooking in them.

    They are the best tools you will ever use in your kitchen.

    Thank you for sharing.


  2. I have one cast iron pan, a grill pan, and it makes the best hamburgers! I love mine!

  3. I only have 1 as all new cast iron pans are preseasoned with soy bean oil and we have soy allergies. I love it though.

  4. I am also a cast iron lover! I was very lucky about 10 years ago to be vacationing in Tennessee near the Lodge Cast Iron Factory and store. The pieces I bought there have been my everyday cooking companions ever since.

    Coincidentally, I just wrote a post today on my blog about cast iron!

  5. I have one cast iron pan, no I fib I have 2. One hasn't even been used yet, it was a damaged freebie and I haven't gotten around to seasoning it yet.

    My other one was bought on ebay and is my absolute favourite pan. It too lives on my stove top, it gets used more than my other cookware

  6. I have just acquired a cast iron pan. What do you do to season it please?


  7. Hi Jo. First, wash your pan in soapy water and rinse. Dry the pan and coat evenly with bacon fat, shortening, or lard (using a clean small rag or even your fingers). Place in oven at 300F for about an hour. Let cool naturally, then wipe out any residue with a small clean rag or piece of paper towel. With new pans, you have to be diligent about continuing to keep up your seasoning after washing - you can do this by rubbing a small amount of fat into the pan and put it on the burner for a few minutes until it smokes. Again, let cool and wipe out excess. Once it gets a nice build up of seasoning, you can simply rub it clean after each use for all but the messiest of cooking jobs. Readers, do you have advice to help Jo?

  8. I have two pans - a dedicated vegetarian one and a dedicated meat one - since I am veg but my husband is not. I seasoned the veg one with a good olive oil and it worked fine. The meat one was seasoned with shortening and hamburger fat.

  9. Lol! Saw this post as I was looking for something else...but had to comment! I too am a cast iron fan! When we moved into the Little Shack, the previous owners left behind about 6 cast iron frying pans! I already had a collection of my own and decided to gift my children with their own seasoned pans when they get married. So far, I've given my 2 oldest daughters theirs and am hoarding others for my 3 youngest. The way I was taught was never to wash them with soapy water, only hot water. To season I was told to have a good fish deep fry in it!

  10. My favorite pan is over 20 now, got it when we were married:) It is so well seasoned ( i use it everyday) soap does not even hurt it now;)

  11. I just started using cast iron and I love it. My pan was new so I am still working on breaking it in.