Cast Iron and Iron Pans
Cast Iron pans, despite popular belief or a few unfounded claims are easy to own, maintain, season and use.
Below is our definitive Cast Iron Care and Maintenance guide.
Cast Iron and our range of steel pans will last a lifetime, all they ask of you is to follow a few simple steps to create a surface of non-stick cooking joy.
First – a few truths about cast iron and some myths to debunk.
Seasoning. You’re not going anywhere without seasoning that pan! This is a big piece of metal, capable of rusting in humid air alone. If there’s any rust in your pan food will stick. It will also taste awful and reflect your apparent lack of respect for cast iron.
Seasoning is not about greasy coatings, but super thin layers of polymerized oil that has bonded to the surface of the metal. This means that the oil has turned into a kind of hardened plastic. Seasoned properly and enough, you’re left with a hard plastic skin that can make even stick-prone foods like eggs slide right out.
It is really Non-stick. With proper seasoning a cast iron pan will become non-stick. It will never be Teflon - which is so slippery, chemists’ had to develop new technologies in order for it to stick to the pan itself! But cast iron will cook your eggs and they’ll slide right out once it’s dialed in.
Also, our pans come with a kind a pre-seasoning from the maker, so with a clean and a light oil you can start cooking, but for true protection, a proper seasoning is the only way to go and our recommendation.
Oil for seasoning. There are quite a few conflicting ideas about what to season your pan with. But there’s no need to get fancy or try something new. Just use unsaturated fats like canola, vegetable or corn oil as they spread evenly and better than saturated fats like lard or shortening.
Flaxseed has become popular, but not recommended, as it will flake off with use.
Use soap. The myth that you can’t wash your pan with soap is almost as old as the pan itself. The truth is, a well-seasoned pan (notice a theme) is protected from any damage you might think soap might do. So, wash away. Just don’t leave it to soak or sit in the sink. Give it a clean and thoroughly dry your pan. Then make sure it is completely dry and free from moisture by popping on the stove or in a warm oven for a minute or two before putting away.
Using Metal Utencils. Go for it. The polymerized oil that creates the non-stick surface in your pan through seasoning has bonded to the metal surface. So feel free to use metal spatulas or tongs. Chances are if there’s anything coming off, it’s most likely food from last time. So clean your pans!
Heat Distribution. Truth is, cast iron isn’t great at heating evenly. Put it on a stove and the heat spots are obvious. What it is very good at is holding on to heat and that’s what makes cast iron so great to cook with and why a steak is rarely beat on this surface. Give your pan the time to heat up and the heat is everywhere. For a really great steak, heat your pan for ten minutes.
Acidic Foods. This may be the only true enemy of cast iron. Even a well-seasoned pan will have bare spots and as a result may interact with these foods. As delicious as a slow cooked Bolognese might be, it’s best to avoid cast iron. Saying that, a quick simmer is nothing to be afraid of.
How to season your pan.
1) Clean and dry your pan. It’s come a long way, so give it a clean. Just use your regular dish washing detergent and wipe with a sponge. Dry it off by heating it up a little on the stove.
2) Rub with a little oil. Use unsaturated oil (canola, vegetable, corn) because they’re easy to get and easy to use. There has been a lot of talk about using flax seed oil for cast iron, but don’t bother as the layers you build up with seasoning will flake off with use.
Wipe the oil in and out, around and on the handle, everywhere. And keep wiping until it’s not greasy at all. Rub everywhere; just make sure there are no spots where the oil has collected.
3) Heat your pan in an oven. Get your oven up to 230c degrees and place inside upside down. Make sure your kitchen is well ventilated as it may get a little smoky and smoke alarms tend to be annoying. Leave in oven for 30 miniutes.
You can use the stovetop, but using the oven provides even heat that you can do nice and easily.
The oil is now polymerizing and setting its first of many hard, plastic-like coats.
Because cast iron is not a particularly good heat conductor, heating on a stovetop can create cool spots, therefore not providing an even seasoning surface.
So use the oven and leave in, upside down for half an hour.
4) Repeat 3-4 times. Take your pan out of the oven – watch out, it will be hot. Then apply some more oil and rub as you did initially – all over, inside and out. Remember not to leave any pools of oil. At the end of 3 or 4 cycles you’ll have a good amount of seasoning to start cooking with.
5) Use it! There is nothing high-maintenance about cast iron. It is tough, durable and non-stick. You don’t really need to keep re-seasoning your pan except to use it. Every time you cook you’ll be laying down another layer of seasoning. The real lesson is a well-seasoned pan is a well-used one. And isn’t that why you bought it in the first place!