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Seasoning Cast-iron

What is seasoning?

When it refers to cast-iron cookware, seasoning is the layer of good stuff between your cast-iron and the food you’re cooking. Lodge Cast Iron has a good article on the science of cast-iron seasoning here:

https://www.lodgecastiron.com/cleaning-and-care/cast-iron/science-cast-iron-seasoning

As they mention, “When oils or fats are heated in cast iron at a high enough temperature, they change from a wet liquid into a slick, hardened surface through a process called polymerization.” Seasoning helps create a natural, non-stick surface. When there isn’t a good layer of seasoning on our cast-iron, it corrodes and rusts. My cast-iron skillet spent 6 months residing in a shipping container from Dubai to Chicago and it ended up looking like this:

Ahhhhhh!!!!

Who knows how many different changes in climate it went through on the journey and in storage. But all was not lost, because cast-iron can be re-seasoned to bring it back to life. Because I needed to re-season my pan, I first washed it very well using a mild detergent and baking soda in order to take care of the grime and rust. If you are seasoning a pan for the first time, you don’t need to use baking soda like I did.

Here’s the rest of how you can season and re-season your pan:

  1. Heat the oven to 350-450 degrees Fahrenheit. (You’ll find varying temps all over the web when you search. Sometimes the higher temperature comes with directions for a shorter time, so I decided to do the lower temp for longer option)
  2. Coat the inside and handle of the pan with a thin, even layer of tallow.  A soft cotton cloth makes a good applicator.  Turn over and place on a cookie sheet to do the same thing on the bottom of the pan and handle, applying tallow all over. If you have a lid, you can do at the same time.
  3. Place in the oven on the cookie sheet face down and bake for 1 hour.  Remove from the oven and place on a metal cooling rack.  After the pan’s cooled to “warm,” buff the inside with a clean soft cloth.
  4. It’s good to season your pan a few times, even if it come “pre-seasoned”. As Lodge Cast Iron even mentions in the above article, the seasoning fills in the rough surface of your cast-iron making it smoother and more non-stick.

If you are a visual learner- we have a video you can see as a part of our Facebook Group, Cast Iron Journey 2021, here:

https://fb.watch/2ZU9LXA9dH/

Join along and contribute- we would love to hear from you this year about your cast-iron and recipes you love!

And check out our Kitchen Tallow for seasoning your cast-iron in our shop! You’ll like the results:

What It Looked Like, and Now!

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How to Join In:

  • Follow #castiron2021 on Instagram
  • Post the recipes you love to make in your cast-iron cookware (or the new things you try!!!) on Facebook and Instagram, include the hashtag #castiron2021
  • Tag @connorscollective.etsy on Instagram and share on our ConnorsRdCollective page on Facebook so that we can see your posts and include your posts and recipes on our page, especially if you really loved something you found!
  • Include the disasters, not every journey is smooth so even if a dish turns into a disaster or differently than you expected- let’s share it!
  • Try out some of our Kitchen Tallow to enjoy the experience even more and find out how to properly season and keep your cast-iron in good shape, or teach us how you do it!
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The Kettle That’s Cooked a Thousand Stews

My children and I read through “Red Sails to Capri” by Ann Weil this past term. We enjoyed it so much. My favorite character in the book is Signora Pagano, who sings to her eggs as she boils them to know when they are done. I was tickled by her love and the way she expresses it. As well as the seriousness she has for her business: cooking for and taking care of her family and the guests in their inn.

At one point in the book, Signora Pagano stops cooking for some guests that are lodging with them, and one of those guests tries to keep the kitchen going and cooks for himself and the others in her absence. He is not a very good cook, or a knowledgeable one, and ends up bringing out a charred kettle to show her, “smoking like a live coal.”

Of course, Signora Pagano is deliriously mad- she calls him a “Thief! Robber!” Being like any good-natured guest that has stepped too far, he offers to buy her a new kettle. He thinks this will solve the problem and is under the presumption that she will be blessed by the replacement. Here is her reply:

“Listen Monsieur Jacques, a new kettle has to learn how to cook, just as a person has to learn how to cook. A new kettle is green, stupid, foolish, unreliable. Things stick to it. It has an odd taste. It cooks too fast or too slowly. It is this way and that way— one can never be sure. It takes a year, sometimes two, to break in a kettle. Let me tell you this, Monsieur Jacques; the second stew cooked in a kettle is better than the first one. The tenth stew is better than the fifth. The two-hundredth stew is better than the hundredth. And when a kettle has cooked a thousand stews— ah! Then it is just getting started. Why? Because a kettle has to learn how to cook. Remember that.”

I love this quote because it captures the joy of cooking with a skillet or pot that is well-seasoned and cared for. This is the joy of cast-iron. It just keeps getting better with time. You don’t have to teach it to cook, it already knows.

All of us are under the assumption, like Monseiur Jacques, that a new kettle or pot would be better. After she told him that a new kettle has to learn how to cook and it was out of the question, he replied that the pot he ruined didn’t have a working handle.. she needed a new one. But she replied, “One does not cook the stew on the handle.”

You can’t really teach new pots how to cook in this day and age because they don’t mature. If anything, cooking with them makes them scratched, worn, and uneven in cooking. I should show you a picture of my most-used “nice pots” and a picture of my cast-iron skillet. The condition of each is opposite of what it should be. My nice newer pot is scratched and worn, while my cast-iron looks great!

I wonder if you cook with cast-iron or if you have ever tried it. If you are like me, something different or new (which is actually very old) is a bit intimidating at first. But I agree with Signora Pagano- I love cooking with something that knows how to cook. That brings out the best flavors, is easy to clean, and a joy to maintain.

If you are looking for something to maintain your cast-iron pots and pans, look no further. We believe that the old way is most often the better way and in our combined years of cooking have realized what a joy simple tallow can be when used to maintain and season cast-iron. I, myself, used to use whatever I had in the kitchen to season my skillet, but when I returned home to the US after years of living away from my parents- I was amazed when I saw the condition of my father’s cast-iron. I was flabbergasted, mine had never looked that good! I switched from using “whatever” to using his Oarsman Marine Kitchen Tallow and I am hooked!

You can find out more here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/ConnorsRdCollective