Almost all modern cast iron cookware comes pre-seasoned. It might even be mentioned in the owner’s manual. But what does it mean?
When cared for properly, cast iron can last nearly forever. Many families pass down their cookware from generation to generation. Even the newer cast iron that comes pre-seasoned can last a lifetime or longer, if properly cared for, cast iron can be passed down through the family just like the recipes that are cooked in them.
Cast iron skillets are the preferred cookware for people all over the world for many reasons. It is non-stick, conducts heat evenly, gets incredibly hot, and retains the temperature, and it is extremely versatile as you can take it from the stove to the oven and you can even use it over an open fire.
Traditional cast-iron cookware needs to be seasoned before you get the non-stick finish you’re looking for, but a pre-seasoned pan is ready to use right away. We’re going to take a closer look at what pre-seasoned cast iron cookware is and whether or not you should have one of these great pieces of cookware in your kitchen.
Understanding seasoning in cast iron cookware
When you purchase a regular unseasoned cast iron pan, it needs to be seasoned before it will give you the non-stick cooking power you expect from cast iron cookware. Seasoning the pan and maintaining that non-stick coating are crucial elements when it comes to how well your pan will perform.
While a cast-iron skillet is a great non-stick option for sauteeing, frying, and baking, traditional cast iron cookware needs to be seasoned in order for your food to release from the pan with ease.
The seasoning process is much easier than many people think it is. When you purchase an unseasoned skillet, follow these steps to establish a base layer of non-stick coating:
Scrub the skillet well with hot, soapy water to remove any residue or chemicals on the surface.
Let the skillet dry thoroughly.
Using a paper towel or rag, spread a thin layer of vegetable oil or shortening over the skillet.
Place the skillet on the middle of the oven rack upside down. Place foil on the rack below to catch any oil drips.
Bake for 1 hour and allow to cool in the oven.
Remove, wipe with a paper towel, and store.
What is pre-seasoning?
Often cast iron is touted as being “pre-seasoned” as a way of marketing to those who may not necessarily want to go through the process of seasoning their new cookware themselves, or may need to begin cooking right away. Sometimes, this may be the case, but occasionally it is not, and that can lead to a cooking disaster.
Pre-seasoning a piece of cast iron cookware in the factory generally means the item has been coated by a basic layer of vegetable oil, or worse yet wax, to help keep the cookware from developing rust while in the warehouse or on the shelf at the store. While this will certainly fight the effects of atmospheric humidity and prevent it from rusting, it may need to be replaced by a full seasoning sooner than expected.
What is the difference between seasoned and pre-seasoned cast iron?
While one of the most notable benefits of having pre-seasoned cast iron is the out-of-the-box non-stick abilities, there are some other benefits that you may not realize, and while you may not see these same benefits from all manufacturers, they may be a good thing to keep in mind when looking at cookware.
One of these benefits is the precision and consistency of industrial production. If they have applied a seasoning layer at the factory or point of production, you can probably expect that seasoning to be more evenly applied and consistently heated.
In addition, with some pre-seasoned cast iron being around the twenty dollar mark, there really isn’t any premium that is being paid for the pre-seasoning, so why not enjoy the advantages of it. You can always test the effectiveness of the factory seasoning by trying to fry an egg in a little bit of oil. If the egg slides around easily, you should be good to go. If the egg sticks a little, however, you may way to consider doing a full seasoning yourself on the pan before tucking into any serious cooking.
Does pre-seasoned cast iron still need to be seasoned?
While the production facility has the ability to apply an even and consistent seasoning layer, if it fails the egg test we talked about, it might need a little help in the seasoning department. You can season your pan on the stovetop or in the oven, here’s how.
Heat your clean and empty pan on the stove until it is smoking hot, then take little oil, and rub it into the metal of the pan. You can use a paper towel and your choice of oil. Once the oil has smoked a bit let the pan cool completely. Repeat this process a few times and you will have a perfectly seasoned pan that is ready for anything. This is great for small skillets.
Coat your pan in your oil or shortening, and place it in a 375-degree oven, upside down, for about an hour. It’s also a good idea to have a baking sheet underneath to catch any oil drips. Let the pan cool fully in the oven, take it out, reapply oil, bake, and repeat. Each cycle adds more seasoning, protection, and non-stick ability. This method is ideal for larger skillets or pots like dutch ovens.
Can you use pre-seasoned cast iron skillets right away?
In most cases, if the skillet is preseasoned, it should be ready to use after an initial cleaning to remove manufacturing residues. If the performance isn’t what you would expect from a cast iron skillet, it may need to have additional seasoning applied by you once you get it home. For this, you can use any variety of oil or shortening, though the best ones are those with a high smoke point, like flaxseed oil.