I have always loved the look of a nice cast iron skillet or kettle on a stovetop, it is so rustic, homey, and just plain awesome!
However I always thought using cast iron kind of sucked, everything always stuck to the bottom and they would rust after being washed. WTF, right?
First off I’m going to give you some simple steps to do a ‘stovetop season’, and then my top 5 tips for maintaining and using cast iron!
After much research and trial and error, I have finally found great methods to using cast iron, and you wanna know something, cast iron beats conventional non-stick anyway! (when properly used that is!)
Well of course, as with most things – as we say in the tech support world – the issue was between the chair and the keyboard. Or rather in this case, between the stove and the oven mitts!
What is Seasoning?
No, it does not involve salt and pepper, it is the act of basically ‘caramelizing’ oil onto the surface of the iron, filling in the porous nature of the metal and making a smooth, rust resistant cooking surface.
It does not matter how gross your cast iron pan looks, if it is structurally sound seasoning it can make it like new! Which is why cast iron is an amazing investment it will last FOREVER!
What is a ‘Stovetop Season’
Normally, seasoning cast iron is done in the oven at a temp just at the smoke point of whatever oil you choose to use, but a stovetop season is just as it sounds, it’s an in-between seasoning method to treat only the cooking surface of the skillet etc.
Generally the cooking surface is the first thing to go, especially if you use the item a lot, and have to scrub get it clean, the seasoning will likely fade away fairly quickly. You can see this when the iron is no longer shiny black, but more of a matt gray colour.
How Often to Season
Your pans will let you know, it will all depend on how often you use them and what kinds of food you are cooking – high salt, and acidic foods will wear away the seasoning faster than high fat. I use nothing but cast iron for all of my cooking except if I am doing a large batch of something like soup or sauce, they will get done in a large stock pot, so I end up doing a full seasoning every couple of months and a stove stop seasoning once or twice in between.
How to Do a Stovetop Season
You will need…
- Paper towel
- Oil (I use extra virgin olive oil)
- A well ventilated area (there will be some smoke)
- Oven mitts
Starting with a clean cast iron item, place on stove top and turn heat to High. Before it heats up too much, coat cooking surface in a VERY light layer of oil with paper towel.
When the oil begins to smoke slightly, turn heat down to medium high, you want a very small amount of smoke, but hardly visible. Opening a window, or using a fan to ventilate is recommended!
If any of the oil pools make sure to wipe it up with more paper towel – be careful the pan will be very hot at this point!
Once the oil has lightly smoked (no more than would be coming off of a candle!) for about 5 minutes, remove from heat (with oven mitts) and let cool completely before next use. Once cooled off the pan should feel smooth and dry, if it feels tacky you may not have had the heat high enough or waited long enough.
My Top 5 Cast Iron Care Tips
#1 – Wash immediately after use!
While the pan is still warm (not hot!) empty excess grease into tin, and fill the pan with hot water (and one drop of soap if you wish) until all food residue is covered. Bring water to a simmer for a couple of minutes, scrapping with metal spatula. Then using oven mitts pour water into sink and cool pan down with hand-hot water. Using a cast iron chain mail scrubber to remove any left over food. Place pan back to stove, turn heat on low until cast iron is completely dry. Turn off heat.
#2 – Empty and heat dry your cast iron kettle immediately!
If you are using a cast iron kettle to boil water, once you have used the water you need empty out any extra and place the kettle right back on the stove, the residual heat will quickly dry the bottom of the kettle so that it does not rust!
#3 – Stovetop season regularly
As soon as you see the non-stick properties of your cast iron are no longer up to par, or the iron starts to look dull and gray do a quick stovetop season! (see instructions above!)
#4 – Store cast iron in a cool, dry place
If you live in a very humid climate, make sure to keep your cast iron in a dry place. It can rust from over saturation of moisture in the air, or from steam condensing on it. Also keeping them well seasoned will reduce the risk of oxydation!
#5 – Boil vinegar in your kettle for hard water build up
If you have hard water, it is possible that mineral deposits will build up on the inside of your kettle. Boil 1:1 water and vinegar for about 5 minutes, rinse, scrub and re-season (same method as above!)
* Please use extreme caution when seasoning and cleaning your cast iron, do not inhale smoke, do not leave stove unattended, and be cautions of burn risk!