Well-Seasoned: As Important in Cookware as in Cooking

I cook.  A lot.  Like, at least twice per day – breakfast and dinner for sure, and sometimes I have to heat stuff up at lunch, too.  So my pots and pans get abused!  They don’t get thrown in the dishwasher or anything, but I can tell you that I’ve had to do the terrible soak/scrub/repeat on the pan I scramble eggs in WAY too many times lately.  Then the epiphany happened, and all was suddenly clear: I’d ruined that crucial, seasoned layer on my precious cookware!

 

There are many reasons to season cookware, but the most pressing one for me is that I don’t want to put extra labor into scrubbing burnt eggs and potatoes off of my pans.  All that scrubbing is actually contributing to the loss of that beautiful seasoned layer – in fact, a well-seasoned pan should not have to be scrubbed too much or washed with soap – and a well-maintained, seasoned pan will just get better with use.  (This is what I hear, anyway – my pans inevitably get a hasty scrub from me or someone else.)

 

Here are some things to consider when seasoning (or re-seasoning) your stainless steel or cast iron cookware:

 

         Pots and pans should be seasoned with a fat you would want to consume – so don’t use vegetable (soybean) oil unless you would use it in cooking.

 

         Good (traditional) seasoning fat choices include palm oil, lard, and chicken fat.  You just want the fat to have a high smoke point.

 

         If your cookware is coated with a non-stick surface like Teflon, you cannot season it.  You shouldn’t be using it anyway, though, because you’re leaching cancerous chemicals into your food!  (Confession: I still have a non-stick griddle I whip out every once in awhile for pancakes.  My denial is based upon the fact that no metal utensil has ever touched it – only a plastic spatula – so I ignore the fact that the Teflon and the plastic are harmful in anyway.  Perhaps this admission will be my turning point.)

 

Seasoning your cookware is also really easy.  All you need is the fat of your choice (I used organic palm fruit shortening), a paper towel, an oven or stove top, and the cookware that needs seasoning.  The cookware must be completely clean and thoroughly dry.

 

1.  Using your fingers, spread the oil/fat liberally over the entire cooking surface.  How much is liberally?  Well, I tried to photograph it, but this makes it seem like the oil is in hills.

 

season-1

 

Really, the oil covers everything, and there is enough on the pan that there is extra in some places (where you can actually see the white).

 

2.  Heat the pan.  I did this on the stove, but an oven works well, too, especially for that very first seasoning – the one you do before you use them the very first time.  Keep the heat on until the oil starts to smoke – then remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

 

season-2

 

3. With a paper towel, rub the oil in well, making sure to wipe out any excess.  It should look very shiny, like this:

 

 

season-4

 

My cast iron skillet could probably use more seasoning, too, but I’ll do that another day.  Ah…procrastination!

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6 responses to “Well-Seasoned: As Important in Cookware as in Cooking

  1. My Mom has a cooking stone from Pampered Chef that absorbs all the flavors and stuff as you cook on it…food coming off that stone tastes mighty delicious.

    NAOmni

  2. thank you for this mini-tutorial! I was just worrying about my own non-stick pan and how I’m scrubbing the death out of it!
    btw, thank you so much for ideas of using leftover beans!

  3. Nice post. I only use cast iron and I never wash them- just hot water and a brush. If I ever get a stuck on mess (like when my husband tries to cook) I pu some water in th pan and heat up the ater and it boils off the mess…

  4. sorry if this is a repeat…the comment thingy doesn’t always work for me- This is a great post. I only use cast iron- I never wash it – just hot water and a brush. I have trouble cooking on anything else b/c cast iron is so wonderful. If food ever gets stuck (like when husband tries to cook) I just add some water and let it boil off the mess.

  5. I did not know that seasoning was so important to the life of my pans. The only pan I have ever seasoned is my wok. Thanks for the info!

  6. If you live in an area where the tap water leaves a white chalky film on your cookware, then fill it with 1 part vinegar and 3 parts water, bring to a boil, let cool to touch and wash with hot soapy and dry thoroughly.

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