Seasoning Cast Iron Cookware
I did not see this addressed anywhere on the site so I thought I would share my experience.
Here is the best method I have put together from my experiences. It has developed over time with input from many sources and included failures, successes and a few frustrations. Some people want to make this more complicated and mysterious than it needs to be but it is really a simple process when done correctly.
Materials needed for “seasoning” your pan:
Crisco or flaxseed oil, clean cotton rag, paper towels. Vegetable oils do not work well so avoid using olive oil etc for the seasoning process. They just end up being gummy at the end result.
I prefer to use the flaxseed oil because it is a self drying oil that dries to a hard state.
Most new pre-seasoned cast iron comes with a sprayed on surface texture that is somewhat rough and although it is usable it will take longer for the pan to build that nice smooth seasoned surface we all desire. I use a piece of 50 grit sandpaper to smooth down the cooking surface before I begin the seasoning process. If you sand through the factory seasoning that is ok as long as the surface is smooth to the touch when you are finished sanding. Completely rinse off any sanding residue when finished sanding.
Alternately, if it is a pan that has been used previously, spray it with oven cleaner and put it in a plastic bag overnight to remove the old seasoning. I would put it outside or in the garage so it does not stink up your house. Completely rinse it off the next day. Repeat the process until it is stripped clean or to your satisfaction. The cooking surface is what we are primarily concerned with. Use the 50 grit sandpaper for smoothing if you desire. Comletely rinse it off with cold water and dry it completely.
You cannot let raw cast iron sit out long because it will begin to rust very quickly so be sure you can complete the process at least through step 2 to avoid oxidation of your cast iron. You can come back to the complete the other steps later if necessary.
Step 1. Preheat the oven to 250F for 15 minutes. Place the cast iron item in the oven and bring the item up to temperature for 20 min. The pre-heat before applying Flax seed /Crisco oil is essential to this process as it makes sure there is no moisture left on the cast iron. If moisture is left on your cast iron the seasoning will be blotchy and you will have to start again
. Using an oven mitt, remove pre-heated item and set on a large baking sheet or newspapers (place hot pads under sheet to protect your counter.)
Step 2. Wipe on Flaxseed /Crisco oil with a clean rag, inside and out, and then wipe off all the excess with paper towels. Be careful not to leave particles from paper towel. Wipe it down until it looks like you've wiped it all off. Even if it looks dry, it's not. Very little coating is needed. If you try to leave a little bit on, then that’s too much and it will end up blotchy. Now it is thin enough that it won’t drip off so just put it right on your oven rack.
Return it to the oven, still at 250F, right side up on the oven rack, for 10 min.
Step 3. Using an oven mitt, take the cast iron out, wipe once more with folded up paper towel to remove excess oil. Return pan to the oven, and raise the temp to 300F and let it heat for another 10 minutes.
When the 10 minutes at 300 F is finished, take the cast iron out, wipe inside once more with paper towels to remove excess oil. Return it to the oven, raise the temperature to 450F, and bake for one hour. Turn on your vent fan or open a window as this produces some fumes.
Step 4. After one hour at 450F just turn off the oven and leave it in, without opening the oven, to let it cool slowly for at least an hour.
Step 5. Repeat the given steps, 2 through 4, four more times, but only apply Flaxseed / Crisco or oil on the cooking surface. During the 4th and last time you bake the cast iron, let it bake at 450F for 1 ½ hours (90 minutes) to set the finish. Let cool as above. Your cookware should be nearly black and not sticky or blotchy. Your pan won't be sticky if the carbonization is complete.
One optional step that I have added is from seasoning a wok. Use green onions/ chives and ginger in a few tablespoons of peanut oil over a medium heat and using a spatula that won’t scratch your newly seasoned cast iron push it all over the cooking surface for about 15 or 20 minutes. This adds a nice initial seasoning / smell to the pan.
The cast iron will gradually turn jet black and glossy after using it to cook foods. Be gentle with utensils until it develops a hard, slick black coating. Clean with hot water only - no soap or detergent. Avoid cooking bacon, ham, or anything with sugar until it develops a hard, slick black coating. The sugar in bacon and ham tends to stick to the pan until it has been used for awhile cooking other foods. Also do not cook acidic foods or sauces like tomatoes until the seasoning has time to harden completely or it will eat away the seasoning you worked so hard to achieve.
This may seem a little putsy to do but the initial effort into your cast iron will pay big dividends over time. Enjoy!