Cast Iron 101
Cast iron has been around a long time and everyone has an opinion on how to take care of it. Today we are going to talk about the basics of cast iron care, and how to go above and beyond to give it that extra love.
Because cast iron is made from bare metal, it is easily susceptible to rust whenever exposed to air and moisture. Baking on a thin layer of oil prevents your skillet from rusting and gives it a smooth, non-stick surface. This is called seasoning your skillet. Seasoning is simply the process of heating a neutral oil to the point where it becomes a polymer and bonds with the surface of the skillet.
One of the biggest advantages of a good seasoning on your cast iron is having a smooth non-stick surface. Many mass-produced skillets today are heavy with a rougher surface, making this harder to achieve. Before cast iron was mass produced, each skillet would be hand poured, and ground smooth, allowing you to achieve a non-stick surface much quicker. At Marquette, we wanted to create a better skillet. We use a precision method called investment casting. This allows us to make our skillets thinner and smoother, just like the old days.
Whatever condition your skillet is in we need it completely clean before we can start applying an oil. Grab a non-abrasive scrub pad with a little dish soap or just the rough side of a sponge. Give your skillet a good scrub all over making sure to get every little bit of dirt and grime off. Using oven cleaner or letting your skillet soak in lye overnight will remove any leftover food or damaged seasoning. Just make sure to follow all instructions and safety precautions. Scrub again with soap and water and rinse well. Even though cast iron is extremely durable the only method we don't recommend using to clean your skillet is extreme heat – like throwing it in a fire.
Once your skillet is clean and dry, it's time to start the seasoning process. This is simple but does take time. The best way to season your skillet is to use an oil with a high smoke point, such as grape-seed, flaxseed, or coconut oil. These oils let you cook on a higher heat without damaging your seasoning.
First things first, preheat your oven to 475º. Then pour some oil onto the pan and with a lint-free cloth to wipe the oil over the pan. Now grab a clean side of the cloth and wipe as much of it off as you can. I know it sounds weird, but it's important to get all of the extra oil off so you don't end up with a sticky skillet. Put your skillet face down in the oven, and let it bake for one hour. The result should be a smooth shiny surface. Repeat this process two or three more times until you have a good coating on the skillet. After that, you are good to go.
Properly cleaning and oiling your skillet is just as important as a good seasoning. Many people think that you can't use soap to clean your cast iron, but while soap will remove surface oil, it does not hurt the seasoning. This doesn't mean you should soak it in soapy water overnight, but it does mean you can use a drop or two when cleaning if needed.
You should always clean and dry your skillet after you are done using it. If you want to go above and beyond, you can wipe on a thin layer of oil and heat it up to its smoke point. This will add to the seasoning and keep you skillet looking and performing great for years.
Cast iron is not as hard to use as many people think. As long as you take care of it, it will be around for decades.