Owning cast iron cookware is great. You can make almost anything in it, and it requires almost no maintaining.
You hear statements like this all the time, and it’s true… but notice the word “almost”. That word is a killer.
Well, because you do have to care for your cast iron. If it’s a Dutch oven, cast iron cooking pot, a pan or some other great piece of cast-iron cookware, you still need to clean and care for it.
Cast iron cookware requires seasoning.
Unfortunately, it’s not a spice. It’s the protective coating that you apply to your cookware. In today’s world, most cookware will come pre-seasoned (meaning that a coating has been applied to the cookware by the manufacturer). Even if you have pre-seasoned cookware, at some point you’re going to burn that blueberry cobbler and will need to re-season.
Seasoning starts with washing your cast iron Dutch oven or cookware with soap and water. This is the one and only time where soap should come in contact with your oven. The basic idea is to get the pan clean and back to the metal finish. Wash and prepare your oven. You can use an abrasive cleaning utensil like steel wool, or a coarse sponge. Clean, clean, clean.
Once it’s clean to your satisfaction, towel-dry the cookware. Make sure that the cookware is free of soap and water.
After cleaning, comes the fun part. Heat up your oven or grill. Between 375-450 degrees will work.
A trick I learned a few years ago is to place the (un-oiled) cast iron inside of the heating element for a few minutes (until it’s warm to the touch). Even after drying the metal moisture can still linger. This will remove any residual moisture for you and ensure a lasting seasoning.
Remove your cookware from the oven and let it cool.
Next, use a paper towel or non-abrasive cloth to coat the cookware in cooking oil (I use vegetable oil, but you can certainly vary the oil to your liking). Place the oiled oven back inside the heat source.
Leave the cookware in the oven for no less than 1 hour. Turn off the oven but do not remove the cookware. You will need to wait until the cast-iron has cooled off sufficiently. This should be at least another hour.
A helpful hint: the first few times you cook after the seasoning process, make something with a lot of grease or fat (like bacon). It helps to ensure you have a nice coating inside your cookware to get you started.
Good seasoning can last a lifetime. Or, at least, until the next time you make blueberry cobbler.