Friday, July 16

Cast Iron Pans=How To Season Cast Iron

 I have “discovered” the secret to making a perfectly seasoned cast iron pan.  As, underneath my complex exterior I am a simple man, the simplicity of this secret is what makes it so profound.  The secret to making a perfectly seasoned cast iron pan is to cook in it.  The combination of food plus heat, plus scraping of a metal spatula all contributes to a perfectly seasoned cooking surface over time.  And I am not talking about a buildup of black crud on the surface, which is what some people think of as “seasoning”.  I want a steel surface that is smooth as a baby’s bottom when you run your hand over it and not greasy.  Here is what makes the old cast iron pans so superior to the “modern- that is; after 1960 cast iron pans”.   For one thing they were working with better steel (or so I have read), for another they “polished” the cooking surface at the factory to remove some of the milling marks; and three, the older stuff has endured 10000’s of hours of cooking and scraping that has further smoothed out the surface.  The scraping of the spatula wears down the very high spots of the metal and removes excess food from the surface,  but it also leaves cooked food in the pores and valleys of the cast iron.  I love scraping my pans with a spatula; I scrape them even when they don’t need it.  And obviously never put detergent within a mile of the cast iron surface.  You might set yourself back years in so damaging the “seasoning” of your skillet.  I do employ a shortcut to the years of effort needed to create a great pan.  It takes a couple of days and it works reasonably well.  Remove all noticeable rust and crud by whatever means, first.  Heat an oven to 300º F and smear a pan everywhere with a thin coat of Crisco or solid, clean grease, NEVER liquid oil. Bake the pan for 2 hours and remove and let it cool to a warm touch.  Scrape the pan of excess grease and wipe clean.  Then repeat the thin coat of Crisco and back to the oven.  5 to 10 cycles like this will get you halfway to at least making the pan worthy of use.  I have actually made some of the newer, very rough Chinese pans ( “gasp”  ) usable by constant use over years.  One of my favorite tricks to show skeptics of cast iron cooking is how I cook an egg without any oil, butter or grease so that it doesn’t stick and even watch the egg slide around inside the pan while I am cooking it.  It can be done and should be done to prove to you the superior non-stick qualities of properly seasoned cast iron.  Don’t try this on high heat though, I do 90% of my cooking at medium high or medium to medium low heat.  The only time you need high heat is if you are going for a sear on meat, and then you better watch what you are doing & use your utensils with quick effective movements. Obviously, I love cast iron cooking and I hope you will rediscover the wonder of it as well.  

No comments: