Seasoning Cast Iron
I found a couple of great threads on this forum on how to season cast iron. But it seems everyone has their own ritual, and because of the number of different ways it's being done and due to the long nature of the threads I was reading, I'm a bit confused.
I'm about to go out right now and buy my first cast iron. Questions:
1) Do I need to sand it at first? I have one of those metallic spiral scours/scrubbers, will that do?
2) After sanding/washing it, I heat it on the stove, apply a very thin layer of lard, and put it upside down in the oven at 500F, correct? Some say don't use vegetable oil, but others advocate using olive oil (that's a vegetable, right?). Still, others say don't use lard or animal grease and use coconut oil instead, but yet some complain that this makes the surface sticky. HALP!
3) Do I need to repeat this process?
4) When cleaning it after cooking, can I use my spiral scours/scrubbers? Or will that damage the seasoning?
5) Do I need to reseason after every cooking? I hope not.
6) Any other tips?
1) No, but you can
2) No, not lard. Too soft. Vegetable oil. Peanut oil works well if you aren't concerned with allergies. Some other oils might have too high a smoking point.
3) Yes, definitely. I recently reseasoned a pan on the stove top. Oil it and let it smoke up and just toast some bread in it to help soak up the excess oil. After about a week or two it will be fine.
4) I would not use a metal scouring pad. At first, I think the salt/paper towel thing is best, it seems to help polish up the initial surface. Once you have built up a nonstick layer, soap/water and nylon scrubbie is okay.
5) Dry the pan over a low flame and wipe with a bit of oil after every cleaning.
The manufacturer's instructions are designed to speed up the process.
1) I don't think you need to sand it, and the Lodge website says wash it with a stiff brush.
2) OK, there may be more than one good and dependable way, but I don't heat it on the stove. I wash it, dry it, wipe on a layer of peanut oil inside and out and put it right side up in the oven, set the oven to 400, leave it alone for an hour, turn the oven off and let it cool. Then I do the oiling and heating (but not the washing) again. Then I'm done. I've read that lard is better and I've read that olive oil is bad. I don't know. My experience with peanut oil has been fine.
3) Yes, probably repeating it once would be good. It's what I do anyhow.
4) I always use a spiral scour/scrubber but NOT a metal one, just a plastic scrubbie with hot water, but not soap.
5) No. But as you cook with it, it continues seasoning itself and getting better. Especially if you roast chicken in it. You only have to re-season it if it gets spoiled.
6) Tips/Opinions: Avoid washing it with soap. Don't worry about submerging the pan. I don't get why people say this unless they mean "do not submerge and leave it around sitting in water for a really long time". Do worry about getting it dry after washing,so rust won't form, but don't worry a whole lot: just put the pan in the oven to dry, if the oven was used and is still warm, and take it out tomorrow. Or set the pan on the stove for a minute to dry over a flame, but don't walk away like me and forget to turn the fire off. People talk about cleaning cast iron pans with salt, but I don't do it. Maybe it's a good idea but it doesn't seem to be absolutely necessary. People recommend oiling the pans before replacing them in the cupboard, but I don't do that either. Also, often if the pan is heating on the stove (pre-heating for a steak, for example) I will wipe out any residual grease that has melted, using a paper towel. I suppose one of these days the paper towel may ignite, given paper, grease and heat all together, but it hasn't happened yet. If you get your pan beautifully seasoned and it later gets ruined by aggressive scouring with Comet or being left on a burner for way too long and drying out, don't worry. Just clean it and re-season it. It will come back. Oh and if someday you are cooking and happen to get a grease-fire in your pan, pour in a lot of salt to put the fire out. Not water. (Not because of cast iron, just because water can make grease splash and spread the fire. Maybe everybody knows this but it's good to remember if you ever turn around and see an alarming panful of flames.)
Here's a suggestion: Get a high-quality skillet, and follow the manufacturer's instructions. They're the experts, and their success depends on your satisfaction.
I've done that with all four of my (current) cast-iron utensils and have reached a higher state of pan-grilled-steak, chicken-under-a-brick, and jalapeno-cornbread being (to mention only a few favorites).
One thing I will say that often isn't emphasized enough: Clean after use as soon as the metal cools down -- hot water only, of course -- and rub firmly with a hard-wire brush, before lightly coating with oil once again. (I also then heat briefly on top of the stove.) I used to be a little too careful about scrubbing hard, and eventually a thick layer of carbon built up that bubbled and separated from the metal after pre-heating in a hot oven. It took a lot of elbow grease to get that pan back in shape!