Sunday, March 14, 2010
Seasoning and Cleaning Cast Iron
So, I packed my Great Great Grandmother's 10 inch skillet in my already overloaded suitcase, checked it at the airport, and brought it to St. Louis. The pan was in good shape, but it did need to be cleaned and seasoned. Cast iron is porous, and seasoning (or curing) is a process that fills these pores with fat, creating a rust-resistant, virtually non-stick surface. (See Living the Country Lifestyle All-in-One for Dummies). When I started researching the care of cast iron online, I was shocked not only by the variety of opinions on the subject but also the zeal with which those opinions are advanced. Seriously. Cast iron appears to be a contentious topic for many people. The biggest debate seems to be whether seasoned cast iron should be washed with soap, detergent, or just water. Many commentators are concerned that the oil used for seasoning the cast iron will become rancid if the vessel isn't washed in soapy water. Others contend that soap will be detrimental to a carefully seasoned surface. There is also some debate about the best type of fat to use for seasoning the cast iron. Based on the sources I read, here are the methods I decided on for the initial cleaning, seasoning, and continued care for my cast iron.
Although the debate rages regarding the use of soap on cast iron that has already been seasoned, the sources pretty consistently state that cast iron should be scrubbed with soapy water BEFORE seasoning. (See the Lodge website: http://www.lodgemfg.com/use-care-seasoned-cast-iron.asp). Most cast iron aficionados contend that this is the ONLY time that soap should touch the skillet. Although my skillet is older, you should know that new cast iron comes with a wax coating on it that should be removed before seasoning. So I scrubbed out my skillet with dish soap and a nylon brush. Then I dried it thoroughly with a dish towel (I remember my mother telling me, when I first started cooking, not to leave her skillet wet because it would rust.) Once the skillet was well washed and dried, it was time to season it.