by Staff Writer
A chef's favorite for its even, slow heat and durability, cast-iron cookware lasts for generations as long as it is well taken care of. Regular seasoning creates a natural non-stick surface and protects the cookware from rusting. Here are the step-by-step instructions for how to season and care for your cast-iron cookware.
New cast-iron cookware is coated in a protective wax. Before you season your new cast-iron pots and pans, you will need to wash them thoroughly with soap and hot water to remove the manufacturer's protective coating. Once a pot or pan is clean, dry it completely.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Melt the shortening into a liquid. You can also use bacon grease for this. Dip your paper towel into the oil and coat all the bare cast iron surfaces with it. Some cast-iron pots and pans have an enamel coating over the handles and outside of the pan; you do not need to oil the enameled areas. If the handles and outside of the pan are bare cast iron, oil the entire pan to protect it from rust. Wipe up any excess grease.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. If you don't have a baking sheet large enough for your pan, you can wrap foil around the pan. This allows excess oil to drain away without making a mess in your oven.
Place the pan upside down on the foil-lined baking sheet and put it on the center rack in the oven.
Leave the pan in the oven for at least one hour.
When the hour is up, use a heavy oven mitt to take the cookware out of the oven and place it on the stove to cool.
Now you are ready to use your pan. Some foods may still stick to the pan at first; you'll need to repeat this process a few more times for the seasoning to build up. Experts recommend using your cast-iron cookware for cooking high-fat foods initially to help strengthen the seal.
Oil is flammable. Do not leave your oven unattended while you're seasoning your cookware.
Open a window or use your oven fan during this process as your kitchen may become smoky.
Do not use water and soap to wash your pan after it has been seasoned. You can use salt with a paper towel to wipe out the surface. Water can break the seal of the seasoning and cause rust.
Store your pans in a cool, dry area with the lids off to protect the cast iron from moisture damage.
Never store food in your cast-iron cookware. Any acidity in the food will break down the pan's seasoning as well as leach iron out of the pan and give the food a metallic taste.
Published August 20, 2009
Updated March 16, 2015