The main advantage of cooking with cast iron is that it has a very high volumetric heat capacity, which means that once it’s hot, it stays hot. Your cast iron cookware can be used for cooking almost anything as long as you take the time to maintain it and keep it in good condition.
In the old days, cast iron cookware was produced by casting in sand-based moulds, then polishing the resulting pebbly surfaces until smooth. Vintage cast iron tends to have a satiny smooth finish. By the 1950s, as the production was more streamlined, this final polishing step was dropped from the process. The result of which is that modern cast iron retains that bumpy, pebbly surface. Having a smooth finish allows food to move freely in the pan providing a non-stick effect. To add a smooth finish to your cast iron cookware, it is important to season cast iron before use.
When do you know it’s time to season your cast iron?
You should always season cast iron cookware before its first use. Seasoned cast iron has a smooth, shiny, and non-stick finish. This can be removed by steel wool, or washing excessively with detergent. The moment food begins to stick to the surface or rust appears then it’s time to re-season.
Instructions for seasoning your cast iron cookware
If you are seasoning your cast iron cookware for the first time, or your cast iron requires cleaning and re-seasoning follow from step 1. If your Cast iron is in need of re-seasoning follow from step 5.
- SCRUB: If you are cleaning your cast iron of stubborn marks or rust then sprinkle with salt, add water and scour with a stiff bristle brush.
- DRY: Place over a hot element for 5 – 15 minutes until any water has boiled dry. Use a paper towel or cloth to dry any excess water.
- SEASON: Using a paper towel, rub a thin coat of vegetable oil to the cast iron, being sure to season every cast iron surface.
- BAKE: Place upside down on the oven’s centre rack with a sheet of aluminium foil on the rack below to catch any drips. Bake in the oven for 180C for an hour. This is when the oil is polymerized to the metal’s surface.
- COOL: Turn off the oven and allow the cast iron to cool in the oven before removing.
Rust? Don’t panic, it’s not broken. If rust occurs then you can remove the rust with half a raw potato and a sprinkle of baking soda OR scour as per step 1 and re-season.