Oooohh. Isn’t she pretty? That is my beloved Lodge cast iron skillet. And she is now perfectly and brilliantly non-stick. She hasn’t always looked like this though. I recently put her through a 3-day-long seasoning boot camp. Which involved taking the batteries out of our fire alarm and saying, “No no… HOT!” to Sadie about 67 times. A day. Our oven gets pretty hot to the touch, but the good news is that this experience finally taught her what the word “hot” means. Now she says “HOT!” whenever she sees the oven and I’m happy to let her think it’s hot all the time.
This skillet came pre-seasoned, according to Lodge, but to be honest the seasoning wasn’t that great. I didn’t know much about cast iron when I first bought it, but read up a bit, cooked a few batches of bacon in it, and of course never used soap when cleaning it, etc. It worked pretty well and was decently non-stick. I love how evenly it cooks food, and it gets smoking hot, so it’s really great for searing.
Alas, there was an unfortunate incident that involved “someone” leaving the pan in a sink of soapy water. I would never name names. That would be so rude. This tall, “John Doe” who lives in my home was doing five things at once and didn’t even realize what he had done until his wife saw the pan in the sink and her head exploded. All over John Doe. Poor guy.
So I needed to start from scratch with the pan. There was pretty much nothing left on it seasoning-wise by the time I dried it off, and things were crazy with an infant in the house at the time so I wasn’t doing much cooking anyway. The pan sat unused for a long time until I eventually used it a few times to cook fatty foods, in a half-hearted attempt to season it again. It never really got there.
So a few weeks ago I decided to give it a good scrub with vegetable oil and sea salt to clean it really really well, and then research the best way to season it. I found some great info online, specifically on Sheryl’s blog that recommended using flaxseed oil. I learned that seasoning your cast iron is actually a chemical process called polymerization. If you’re curious, I definitely recommend reading her post about it. I won’t get into the chemistry here cause I’m no Alton Brown , but here are the steps…
Make sure your pan is clean and very dry. Here is what my pan looked like at this point. Blotchy. Blah.
Rub a generous amount of flaxseed oil into the pan. Use your fingers. Really get it in all the little nooks and crannies. (I don’t know what is happening with my scary-glowy hands in these pictures. I told you. Bad photographer.)
Now rub the oil off with a paper towel. All of it. It will look like the pan is dry, but the oil got in there. Promise. If you leave too much on there it will drip and cause uneven splotches in the seasoning. Put the pan upside down on the middle rack of a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 500°, or the hottest your oven goes. Bake for an hour. (You might want to turn off your smoke detector if your child is napping. Now I know.) After the hour is up, turn off the oven, but LEAVE THE DOOR CLOSED. Set your timer for 2 hours to let it cool in the oven, then remove the pan. It’s gonna look a little weird. Here’s mine. It kind of reminds me of that strange matte nail polish fad. Which I never liked.
Now, repeat the process at least six times. Yup. SIX. I ended up doing it eight times over a period of three days until I was really happy with the sheen. On the sixth cycle it was just barely starting to show a sheen. You can use your judgement. I should warn you… somewhere around cycle 4 or 5 you’re gonna be really over this whole thing and be tempted to leave a thicker layer of oil on there to try to “speed things up”. If this happens, just put your baby in a safe place, like a crib or something, and go into another room to calm yourself down.
Seriously though, dont do that. It will ruin the whole thing and then you’ll have to scrub it all off and start over. And really, as much time as this took it really wasn’t very much work. It only took about a minute each time to coat it with the oil and wipe it off. The rest of the time was all hands-off time. I’m SO glad I decided to go a couple of extra cycles. I bet the next time I make skillet cornbread it’s gonna just come sliiiiiding on out of the pan. Right into my belly. And onto my butt. Where it belongs.
What are your favorite things to make in your iron skillet? Did you season yours? What technique did you use?