A friend shot over this article over to me and asked me my thoughts on it. So here I am marking it up and adding my thoughts about it. It is a really good article none the less for someone getting into cast iron cooking but thought I would elaborate more on this topic. I would suggest you first go over here and enjoy the well put-together read and video and then come back to digest what I am about to throw at you.
Striping Cast Iron
For light surface rust a steel wool or salt will work fine. For heavier rusting you will have to use an acid of some sorts. 50/50 mix of apple cider vinegar and water. Ketchup or Coco-cola will also work too to neutralize the rust and get you back to bare iron.
When dealing with heavy rust and/or heavy carbon build up you may have to resort to a full strip. This usually evolves toxic chemicals or a bit of ingenuity. Some can get away with a 1 or 2 day soak in oven cleaner in garbage bags. Others will put the skillets in a lye bath. I go for a nontoxic method electrolysis that will safely strip it back to bare iron within 24 hours and minimal elbow work. Though these methods are very effective, they are also dangerous and extra safety must be used not covered in this write up.
So the next time you see something that looks like it should be in a scrap yard, look closer!! You may find a gem in the rough for your kitchen.
Note: Flaxseed oil is the new standard, since it dries the hardest and creates the best, longest-lasting nonstick seasoning, but it’s also pretty expensive. If you don’t want to spend that much money, canola oil will also work just fine.
Not necessarily, depends on the metal. Flaxseed oil does work well but you usually have to do more rounds of seasoning to get it thick enough not to come off during cooking and cleaning. You also have to keep flaxseed oil refrigerated or it will oxidize and go rancid rather quickly.
“After coating the skillet in oil, place upside down in your oven at the highest temperature it can go — between 450°F and 500°F. The high heat allows the oil to break down and bond with the cast iron. If your oven isn’t hot enough, the oil won’t break down and your skillet will come out sticky. This process takes about one hour. After that hour is up, turn off your oven and let the skillet cool off in there.”
This part is also partially correct for the exception of a few things and also does not go into what is really happening here.
- You need to take into account the smoke point of what oil you are using since all oils have a different smoke point. I will elaborate on this later.
- You need to also take into account the thickness of the iron you are seasoning. Some older skillets are really thin and 500F may cause warping.
- Here is a good link on smoke points of oil https://jonbarron.org/diet-and-nutrition/healthiest-cooking-oil-chart-smoke-points
One thing she did not point out is what is actually happening in the seasoning process when using fats and oils past the smoke point. It is actually going through a polymerization process essentially turning the fatty molecules into an organic, high-temperature plastic. Another note that wasn’t really emphasized enough is that you really need to do this when the skillet is warm. Since cast iron is porous, metal expands when heated and the oil thins, this will allow for a better bonding of the seasoning process.
It is always best to use a very thin, but even coat during the seasoning process.
Also make sure that when wiping the excess oil off from the application process that you use a lint free cloth. Inspect all the metal for lint fibers or hairs as these will become permanently encased in the seasoning. Wipe it as dry as possible to prevent any build up. This is why you put the skillet in upside down FYI.
Another note not pointed out in the article is the smoke created during the process. It is best to do as many pieces at a time if possible. Do it on a day you can open up the windows in the kitchen and turn the fans on as it will produce a lot of unwanted smoke and heat. You will at a minimum do this process 3 times, more depending on the oil used for seasoning. That usually comes out to 3 hours per round of seasoning so keep that in mind when you venture to do this.
A tried and true method of a good seasoning process is just to use it past the basic seasoning mention in the article and this write up. Anytime you fry something, use this new-to-you skillet with bacon, burgers or potatoes. When you feel that you have a good layer of seasoning on it, fry an egg with plenty of butter and see if it slides out. If it sticks, keep on with the seasoning.
As I agree with most of the article on this here are some things I do different and why.
I do preheat my skillets and seem never need to go above 3 in any cooking process on the stove top. I do not add my oil after it is fully heated though. The preheating process does allow for it to self-sterilize but before it comes all the way up in temp I will add my oil. I don’t want to add colder oil to a hot skillet as it may cause warping. It also speeds up the time a little in the preheat staging process to the time you can add your food. Cold meats (as stated previously) aren’t a good idea either. By also letting your meats come up to room temperature you do bypass the sticking issue, you also will get a better overall cook on the meat.
Season your meat cold and let it come up to room temperature before cooking it. It will taste and cook much better regardless of what it is being cooked on.
Yes, cleaning the skillet warm is best, but it isn’t a deal breaker either. A well-seasoned piece of cast iron will still clean up near effortlessly cold or just by warming it up with hot water. I also use one of these for about everything now and they work very well without damaging the seasoning. If it gets gunked up with oil, simply wash it with dish soap and rinse it and back to the pan you go.
Though you will never need to use soap, don’t freak out if it does get soap on it. Rinse it clean and all will be well.
I don’t recommend bringing them back up to the smoke point if it is something you use every day. Give it a light wipe with oil before putting it up. Then wipe it clean before preheating. If you are being climate or energy conscious, a final high heat blast adds up every time you cook.
These are just my thoughts on the topic and purely subjective since every kitchen has it’s own rituals and practices. So go get cooking with some cast iron already and walk away from the computer.