A cast iron skillet or a dutch oven is the most versatile tool in any kitchen. They are heavy and have incredible heat retention. They can be used in the oven, over a fire, or on any other cooking surface. The most important maintenance step for any cast iron cookware is the seasoning process.
Seasoning a cast iron is essential in order for the skillet to become non-stick and for the cast iron to not rust or flake. The traditional method for seasoning cast iron is by wiping a thin layer of cooking oil over the skillet and baking it at 400℉ upside down for one hour. This allows the cooking oil to polymerize which leaves a coat of protection over the surface of the skillet and makes it nonstick and prevents rust and flaking.
Seasoning a cast iron is a simple process and should be done as soon as the cast iron is purchased. It should also be done on a regular basis to ensure the life of the skillet. However, there are other ways to season a cast iron, depending on one’s personal preference and the method they are using to cook with. This is an added benefit to the workhorse of the kitchen.
Can you season cast iron without an oven?
There are multiple ways to season a cast iron besides the traditional stove method. Basically, any high heat source combined with cooking oil will season cast iron. Cast iron is a heavy-duty porous material that absorbs the fat from the seasoning oil and whatever is cooked in it.
The important thing to remember when seasoning cast iron is to use cooking oil with a high smoke point. The smoke point is the point at which the oil starts smoking and breaks down. Using canola or vegetable oil is preferred because canola oil has a smoke point of 400℉ and vegetable oil has a smoke point of 400℉-450℉.
Another popular method for seasoning a cast iron is over an open fire. Cast iron is a great camping accessory, and for good reason. They are tough and can cook complete meals with no fuss. To season a cast iron over an open flame, wash it, dry it, and place it upside down on a grate. If the cast iron has a lid, wipe it with oil and season it as well. If you don’t have a grate, wait until the fire goes out and simply place the cast iron in the hot coals.
A major benefit of baking the cast iron during the seasoning process is that you can control the temperature and ensure that the oil doesn’t break down. Don’t let this deter you from trying other seasoning methods, however.
Can you season cast iron on a stovetop?
Cast iron can be seasoned on a stovetop as long as a couple of precautions are taken that are not necessary using the oven method. First, set the stove ventilator fans on high. If there are any nearby windows, they should be opened. When cast iron is properly seasoned on the stove, it creates smoke. When the skillet is smoking, it is doing what it is supposed to. Without proper ventilation, the kitchen will fill up with smoke.
Set the stovetop burner on high heat and dab a paper towel in cooking oil. Apply a very thin layer of oil to the surface of the cast iron using the paper towel and place it on the burner. Wipe away any excess oil with a dry paper towel. It will take 5-10 minutes to heat up all the way. Whenever the cast iron starts looking dry wipe some more oil on it using a paper towel.
Once the cast iron is smoking, the seasoning process has begun. The seasoning process takes 10-15 minutes once the cast iron is properly heated. Once the color of the cast iron turns from chocolate to black, the cast iron is seasoned. Remove it from the heat and allow it to cool for 30 minutes up to an hour.
Can you season cast iron just by cooking?
One of the most fun ways to season a cast iron is by cooking in it. When food is fried in cast iron, the same process is used as in the seasoning process. Cooking oil with a high smoke point and high heat is required for both. Since cast iron is porous, once it is heated, the pores open and the cast iron absorbs any fat or oil, which adds a protective layer to it.
Even if the cast iron is new and has never been seasoned before, frying food in it will produce a wonderful treat while the cast iron is seasoned. You will notice over time that the food flavor notes will be deeper. This is because over time, the more oil and fat that gets absorbed into the cast iron, the more flavor it adds to the food.
Another great seasoning idea is frying bacon in the cast iron. Bacon fat is a great medium for the seasoning process that is typically used in the south. If seasoning a cast iron (especially for the first time), make sure the recipe calls for oil. The food doesn’t have to be fried necessarily, but there needs to be a layer of protection between the skillet and the food. If not, the food will stick to the surface and the skillet will have to be scrubbed. Not to mention your dinner will be a mess.
What is the fastest way to season a cast iron pan?
The fastest way to season cast iron is by using the stovetop method. It only takes up to 20 minutes with preheating while the other methods take at least one hour. The stovetop method works so well because the heating coils heat up the bottom of the cast iron evenly and allows the seasoning process to completely adhere to the cooking surface.
My name is Jason Phillips and I cooked for many years, primarily aboard Merchant Marine vessels and in fast-paced commercial kitchens. My passion for culinary arts led me to attend a culinary arts academy in 2019 where the instructor piqued my interest in food and beverage writing.