When we season a pan, we’re not talking about salt and pepper. We’re talking about oil.
Seasoning cast iron, carbon steel and some cast iron enamel is necessary for performance and maintenance.
The thing that intimidates most people about seasoning is the care. Why? You can’t stick it in the dishwasher and you shouldn’t use dish soap.
That’s right. No soap.
Cast Iron and germs
Don’t worry. You should always pre-heat a pan before cooking so you don’t need to worry about germs or bacteria. Once your pan is properly pre-heated, it should be hot enough to be food-safe.
Seasoning and high heat
Some recipes say to turn a cast iron pan onto high. A properly seasoned pan will have a good coating of oil on it. If you heat oil on high, it will smoke and might start a fire. Don’t do it.
Let your pan preheat and it will get piping hot, even on 4 or 5 out of 10 on your stove’s dial. Overheating isn’t worth the risk.
The golden rules of seasoning are keep it fresh, and keep it dry.
It’s also a good idea to keep some dedicated tools for cleaning seasoned cookware. That way you can ensure they don’t have soap on them. And they might get discoloured from the oil.
Don’t touch your pan until it’s cool. When it’s cool enough to touch, use a plastic scraper to scrape the solid food residue from the pan.
Then, use some water and a dish brush to remove the remaining food residue. Don’t use soap. This will take off some of the seasoning. For tips on cleaning tools, click here.
After you’ve cleaned your seasoned cookware, place it on the stove and heat it about 3 or 4 (out of 10). This will dry the water from the pan. It will also expand the metal and make it easier for the pan to absorb the oil.
Turn the stove off.
Use a dedicated dishtowel (or some paper towel) to evenly spread some oil on the pan. First, don’t use oil that goes rancid quickly. Olive oil is great for some things, but it goes rancid when exposed to air. Use oils like canola or sunflower for your seasoning.
Make sure it cools completely before storing it. Check out the section on storage tips here.
Seasoning and tomatoes
High acid foods, like tomatoes, will strip the seasoning from your pan. If you’re making Nona’s famous tomato sauce, stay away from a seasoned pan.
Seasoning and dietary restrictions
If someone in your household (or a dinner guest) is allergic to things like nuts or gluten, it’s important to not use a seasoned pan that has been exposed to these allergens.
Similarly, if someone is vegetarian, don’t use a pan that has been used to cook meat.
The oils you use, and what you cook on these pans could contaminate the food you cook.
When in doubt, grab a pan that has been cleaned with soap. Try stainless steel.