Monday, September 24, 2012

Re-seasoning Cast Iron Cookware

About a week or so ago I made cheese steaks for the family, and they did not turn out as well I had hoped. The problem was not the cut of meat, the cheese, or even the roll. It was the equipment I was using to cook everything. Making cheese steaks was more of a spur of the moment, wild hair, type of situation. So there was little time to prepare and insure that all the necessary tools were assembled. My main mistake was using a frying pan on a crappy gas stove. This does not allow a person to chop the steak finely and the heat distribution is all wrong. Despite all of this I ate it all the same.

As the improperly prepared grease bomb of a sandwich slowly started to unfold and stir within my gastro intestinal tract, I pondered on what I could do to make the process better. More heat and more cooking surface would be a sure fire way of making things easier if not better. I immediately remembered an old cast iron skillet I had laying around. I bet if I could get that up and running I could make a decent cheese steak. Last I seen of the skillet it was out near the grill in the back yard.

 Ok, eww, I’m not sure I’ll be able to cook anything on this. It’s pretty rusted. I suppose I will have to go through the process of re-seasoning it.

Re-seasoning cast iron cookware is not that hard, but it is time consuming and definitely a smoky process, so if you have the opportunity to do this outside, I strongly suggest it.

Now there are a variety of ways to start the process. Most, instruct you to heat up the cast iron to some insane temperature to burn everything off. This is not a bad idea, and I advise doing it, if there is left over food and seasoning on the cast iron that needs to come off. In my situation, the only thing that needed to come off of the skillet was rust, so I was able to forego the burn cleaning method.

If you do need to clean the cast iron using heat, I suggest lighting your gas grill and setting it on high, and then baking the cast iron for forty minutes to an hour.  You can also do this in your oven, setting it on clean, but again you will be generating a lot of smoke so I advise you do this outside on a grill.

Anyway, back to my skillet. There was quite a bit of rust on it and I needed a way to remove it. Because I did not want to sit around all day rubbing my skillet with steel wool I opted to use a steel brush attachment for my drill. Trust me, this made things A LOT quicker and A LOT easier. If you do not have this equipment, find a friend that does, it will save you time and a sore arm.

 After only about ten minutes of hitting both sides of the skillet with the steel brush, I had a result that I was happy to live with.
 I was now ready to wash off all of the powdered rust and baked on crap from a thousand past breakfast sausages, that merrily sizzled upon its surface at one time or another.

A simple light scrubbing with some soap and water is all that is require. However, take note that you want to be sure you wash off all of the soap. It’s a bit caustic and will ultimately add to the cast iron rusting in the future. So make sure you rinse it well.
 Before you start the seasoning process you want to be absolutely certain that the cast iron is dry. Although it might look dry there are pores and crevasses that could contain moisture and you do not want to apply any seasoning on top of this. Take heed, MOISTURE WILL SCREW THINGS UP.  So to make sure the cast iron is nice and dry. Place it on the grill set on medium heat for ten to twenty minutes.

Next you have to decide what you want to season your cast iron with. I choose some old Wal*Mart corn oil because it was sitting in my cabinet. Nobody uses it and the smoke point is a little higher than most.  You can use almost any type of oil for this. Some folks use lard, others use butter, and still others Canola oil. It’s really just matter of opinion. Just keep in mind that certain oils have lower smoke points than others. So if you decide you want to use Extra Virgin Olive oil, just know that there will be a ton of smoke involved.

Using a brush or a rag, apply the oil to every part of the cast iron, and be sure to sop up any excess. You only want a coating of oil, not pools of it. Otherwise you will end up with seasoning bubbles, and that’s no good.

When everything is finally coated, turn the heat on high, close the grill and walk away for an hour. When you come back, turn the heat off and let the cast iron cool. Once cool, you can then reapply oil and repeat the process for as many times as you see fit. For my skillet I did this twice and it seemed to create a decent layer of seasoning.
 Now that the weather is nice and cool I imagine cooking breakfast and maybe lunch on this thing, sipping coffee, beer, or whatever other beverage of choice that might fancy me. LETS GET COOKING!

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