Saturday, December 26, 2009

How to Season Cast Iron

I'd been considering getting some cast iron skillets for a few months now so I can try doing steak the Alton Brown way. And make stuff that is supposed to yield brown bits that need deglazing -- all of my skillets are non-stick so the deglazing part for me is just going through the motions and adding flavor. And fry chicken.

Well guess what Rodney gave me for Christmas! A set of cast iron skillets. I love it that these have been rescued and will take good care of them.

Now the question is: how in the heck do I clean them up? Each one is pretty rusty, the largest one being the worst in condition. Fortunately, none of them have major rust pits. From what I can tell it's surface rust.

I placed the cast iron in the sink and ran hot water to cover the iron. The fact that our hot water comes out nearly boiling was a good thing.

Once I could stand the temperature of the water, I went at each skillet with the rough side of a Scotch-Brite sponge.

By now I was getting a little disgruntled. The sponge only removed the minimum of rust. There was a ton left! Already I had 20 minutes invested, it's 12:40 AM, Home Depot was closed and I needed a stiff brush. Something hard core.

Rodney came to the rescue! He had this brush in the garage he was going to use for welding or something. Originally intended for "aluminum only", it is now "cast iron only".

I drained and refilled the sink with nuclear reactor hot water and got busy with the brush.

And kept working on it.

By this time, I had an hour and two tubes of elbow grease invested. Fortunately, I didn't need anymore.

I rinsed each skillet, fired up three burners and cooked off the water. While waiting, I cranked the oven up to 350°F.

Once completely dry, I poured about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil into each skillet. Then I smeared that oil all over the skillet including the bottom and the handle with a paper towel.

Doesn't that paper towel look disgusting? It's only iron, so it's no big deal. But look at how the skillet shines!

Once the skillets are completely wiped down with the smallest amount of oil possible (too much will make a gummy mess -- I learned that with my cast iron grill pan), I stacked them up, inverted them and placed them on a rack in the oven.

I placed a sheet of foil on the lower rack in case there was too much oil and it drips. If it drips, it's a good indicator that there was too much oil, which means the skillets will be gummy and I'll have to start over. So be kind to yourself and use the oil sparingly!

After an hour, I turned off the oven; let the cast iron cool. Check out my handiwork.

Tomorrow we'll see how bacon fries in this sucker.