Monday, July 16, 2012

Hello all!!

All of my blogs, and all future blogs, are now located at    Please drop by and check out the new website, subscribe to the new blog, and be sure to follow me on twitter.   I look forward to seeing you all there.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

How to Season Cast Iron - Part Two, The best method I have ever found!

Today I am going to share with you the absolute best method I have found to season cast iron cookware.  As I have said before, this is based totally on the research performed and posted by Sheryl Canter.  I invite you to read her blog posted at  I also invite you to read an article she wrote on  “black rust”.  You can find it located it

Now for those of you who know me personally, you know that I have a degree in biology and a minor in organic chemistry so when I was reading Mrs. Canter’s blog post on the subject  of seasoning cast iron I was thinking to myself the whole time, well this makes perfect since, why didn’t I think of that. 

I have been comparing her techniques to the ones I have been using for years and find that her methods do produce a superior season to the methods I had been taught and used for years.  I will go through the steps here so that you can start using them right away. 

First, your CI has to be clean.  Wash and scrub your CI to get it as clean as possible.  Use scrubbing pads and soap if you have to.  After all, we are going to be putting a new seasoning layer on it.  If the cooking surface is very dirty or flaky or has an uneven look/feel to it I suggest you use oven cleaner to strip it.  Spray down you piece of cast iron completely with Easy-Off oven cleaner.  Make sure you wear gloves and follow all safety precautions.  Wrap the oven cleaner soaked CI in a plastic bag and sit outside for a day or two in the sunlight.  When you take it out and wash it off, most of the caked on grime and old finish will come off with minimal scrubbing.  It you still have spots that will not scrub off, soak it again in oven cleaner.  

Before you actually start applying the seasoning you also need to make sure that it is completely dry.  Generally I will set my oven to the highest setting it will reach (550° in my case)  and leave the pan in it for about 1 hour. This drives off excess moisture, opens up all the pores of the metal, and starts to form the first of the black coating that you want as protection on your cookware.  Let the pan cool for at least 3 or 4 hours in the oven before moving on.  You want the cookware to be warm but not so hot that you cannot handle it. 

Now comes the oil.  If you read the two links I posted above you know that Mrs. Canter recommends Flax Seed Oil because it produces a hard finish. I have conducted several test of my own and I agree with Mrs. Canter.  Flax Seed Oil does produce the best seasoning finish I have seen.  I personally will never use another method for seasoning my cast iron.    You can buy Flax oil at most health food and whole food stores like Earthfair, The Fresh Market, or The Health Home Market.   Save yourself some time and ask where it is.  They generally keep it in the refrigerated section somewhere. 

Now take the still warm, but not to hot to handle, pan and set it on a paper towel. Now coat every single surface, front and back, with a very thin layer of flax oil.  You can use your fingers or you can use a paper towel to coat the surface. Just make sure you coat every surface with a nice thin layer.
Next, take a paper towel and wipe off as much of the coating as you can.  Trust me on this one.  All the oil that needs to be on the surface stays on the surface. Get it as dry as possible. 

Put the pan back into the oven, upside down, and set you oven to its highest setting.  Once it reaches temperature hold it there for 1 hour.  Then, let it cool in the oven back to room temp.  I generally let it cool for 3 or 4 hours so that it is still warm but can be handled.  Then repeat the whole process. 

The secret is to repeat the oiling and heating until it has gone through a total of 6 applications of oil and heating.  This will give your cookware a very hard protective surface.  

Do not be tempted to use a thick layer of oil to speed up the process, it will not work.  If after the piece cools the seasoning it the least bit gummy or sticky it is because you used to much oil, didn’t heat it high enough, or heat it long enough.  When it comes out of the oven after it has cooled it should feel nice and dry. 

There you go, the very best method I have found for seasoning cast iron.  If you try it, you will agree.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Seasoning your Cast Iron Cookware - Part One, and a recipe

Welcome back to The Cast Iron Medic blog!  I hope you are finding some information here that you can use to help you enjoy using your CI cookware and help overcome any issues you may have had in the past while using your CI.  If you have any questions or comments please do not hesitate to share them with the group. 
So today we are going to be looking at the allusive topic of seasoning your cookware.  What is seasoning? Well “seasoning” refers to the process by which oil is introduced to the surface of your cookware to give it that wonderful non-stick quality that is so unique to CI cookware.   Once properly seasoned CI will rival most non-stick cookware you can buy in the store today.  A very good friend of mine (a brother really) shared the following comments with me, 

A friend of ours fixes cornbread on top of the stove in CI. has the flipping of the cornbread to brown the top to a fine art. She is good. I have seen her spin the CB in the pan cooking it!!!”

Now guys, that has to be a well seasoned piece of CI right there. 

Now here is the thing, if you ask 12 different people the proper way to season CI you are likely to get 12 different answers and all of them probably work, at least for the people sharing them with you.  Recently the scientist side of me has been looking for the very best method for seasoning CI and after some research I think I have found it.  So today I am going to share with you the method I used for years with great results.  This is also the method I include with pieces that I have restored for people. Tomorrow I will share the new method I am using that I give full credit to Sheryl Canter for developing. 

First, you want your cookware to be clean and bone dry.  I recommend putting it in a 200° oven for an hour or so to make sure there is no moisture present.  This step is important to make sure the oil has a good surface to bond to and polymerize or harden.  

Next, using a paper towel wipe a thin layer of Crisco onto your cookware.  You should be barely able to see the shortening on the surface.  It should shine like just wiped it with a water soaked towel with no globs of Crisco anywhere.  I recommend Crisco over liquid vegetable oil, lard, or bacon grease, but they will work just fine.  You can check out my last blog for details on why.  Also, on the first coat I wipe every surface of the cookware, not just the cooking surface. 

Next, place the cookware upside down in a cold oven. Set the temp to 250° and let it heat up.  After it reaches the set temperature let it heat for 1 hour then turn off the oven and let it cool to room temp without removing the cookware.  You may want to put a cookie sheet on the bottom rack to catch any oil that drips, but if you put the Crisco on in a thin enough layer, you shouldn’t have to worry about it.  

Then, take the cookware out and repeat the whole process again, but this time heat it to 275° and let it cool. Also from this point on I only coat the cooking surfaces with Crisco.

For the third and final heating, you are going to use the same procedure as on the first two heatings, but this time you are going to heat the cookware at 375° - 400°  for 1 hour and let it cool.  When you are finished you will have a nice hard layer of oil that has coated and filled all of the little voids of the CI. 

 I recommend that the first thing you cook in your newly seasoned CI be something a little greasy.  Cook some bacon or fry some chicken.  

Now all of the above has worked for me for years and I have never run into a problem.  It is straight forward and relatively easy to do.  I actually recommend that anyone who buys “pre-seasoned” cookware run it through at least one coating of Crisco and heating to 375° - 400° for 1 hour just to add a little extra protection. 

As I said at the beginning of this post, I have recently changed how I season cookware that I restore based on some research done by Sheryl Canter.  Tomorrow I will be sharing that information with you in Part two of seasoning your CI cookware. 

In closing, I thought I would share this Fried Chicken recipe designed specifically to be made in CI with you.  Happy cooking!!!

  • 1 broiler/fryer chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 cups low fat buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Flour, for dredging
  • Vegetable shortening, for frying
Place chicken pieces into a plastic container and cover with buttermilk. Cover and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.

Melt enough shortening (over low heat) to come just 1/3-inch up the side of a 12-inch cast iron skillet or heavy fry pan. Once shortening liquefies raise heat to 325 degrees F. Do not allow oil to go over 325 degrees F.

Drain chicken in a colander. Combine salt, paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Liberally season chicken with this mixture. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.

Place chicken skin side down into the pan. Put thighs in the center, and breast and legs around the edge of the pan. The oil should come half way up the pan. Cook chicken until golden brown on each side, approximately 10 to 12 minutes per side. More importantly, the internal temperature should be right around 180 degrees. (Be careful to monitor shortening temperature every few minutes.)

Drain chicken on a rack over a sheet pan. Don't drain by setting chicken directly on paper towels or brown paper bags. If you need to hold the chicken before serving, cover loosely with foil but avoid holding in a warm oven, especially if it's a gas oven.

Happy 4th Everyone.

I hope you all have a safe and happy 4th. Be expecting a new post tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Everyday Cleaning and Care of Your Cast Iron

I decided to go ahead and post my first set of tips today instead of tomorrow.  I am very excited about this blog and I sincerely hope that all of you find something that you can use.  I am passionate about cast iron cookware (CI for short) and I hope you are too.

One of the most common mistakes people who are new to using CI make is in the everyday cleaning and care of their cookware.  I have run across countless people who will tell me things like, "Things always stick to my CI when I use it," or "I bought a piece of CI at big box store and I can't stop it from rusting and they said it was pre-seasoned."  More often than not after talking with them for a few minutes it becomes clear to me that they do not understand how to properly care for and clean their CI.

The simple guidelines I am about to give to you have worked for me for years but I realize that there is always more than one way to do things.  If your mother or grandmother have a method that works for them that differs from mine, I would love to know what it is.  With that said, let's talk about cleaning!

First, the best tip I can give you is to clean your pan while it is still warm.  Noticed I said warm and not hot.  Let it cool down a bit so that it is just warm, but cool enough to handle.  Please do not soak you CI or let it sit in standing water or you run a chance of rusting it.

Wash you CI by hand using ONLY hot water.  I recommend using a stiff brush made for hand washing dishes (you can find them at the grocery store) or a sponge.  DO NOT use soap, steel wool, abrasive pads, or put your CI in the dishwasher as all of these can strip the seasoning from the pan.  As a side note here, never ever put cold water into a piece of hot CI. It can actually cause it to crack/split, and then your prized CI is pretty much useless.

If you have stuck or cooked on foods you can remove them one of two ways.  First you can put some Kosher salt in the pan along with a little water and use it as an abrasive to scrub the pan.  Alternatively you can boil a small amount of water in your pan and it will generally help to loosen stuck on food.  I have also found that those little plastic scrapers that come with stoneware also work very well.

Always dry your CI after washing it.  You can either towel dry it by hand or you can put it onto your stove burner and turn it on its lowest setting for a few seconds to a minute.  You want to warm it just enough to help evaporate the water.

Until your CI is heavily seasoned, I suggest you put a thin film of oil on the cooking surface.  Just take a paper towel and wipe a very very light coating of vegetable shortening (I prefer Criso) on the cooking surfaces.  Some people like to use liquid vegetable oil or a spray, but I suggest you stay away from using them.  They can actually cause the surface to become very sticky when they dry and cause problems when you are cooking.

Finally, make sure you store it in a dry place.  Under the sink is not place for your CI.

If you do find a situation where you feel like you have to use steel wool or soap, it isn't going to ruin your cookware.  You will probably have to re-season your CI, but don't worry I am going to cover re-seasoning in my next post.

If you do happen to find a small rust spot on your CI, don't worry.  Just use some steel wool to rub it out, and re-season.

If you follow these simple cleaning and care instructions you will get more than a lifetime of use out of your CI while protecting that all important "seasoning" that gives it that wonderful non-stick surface.

For those of you who have a piece of CI that has lost its "seasoning" I will be giving you instructions in the next post for what I think is the best process for seasoning.

See Ya Then.

Monday, July 2, 2012


Hello all!  My name is Wes and I am the Cast Iron Medic. The person with all of the information you need to use, clean, season, and restore cast iron cookware. 

For years I have been collecting and restoring cast iron cookware.  I love the weight of it, the feel of it, the look of it, and of course cooking with it.  In my opinion nothing cooks as well as a piece of old, well seasoned, cast iron.  It is good for everything from cooking bacon and eggs to pancakes to muffins and when properly season it will outperform and outlast most non-stick cookware available today and it last forever.  It is just hard to beat a good piece of cast iron cookware.

So why did I start this blog? Well I recently found there are a lot of people out there who own cast iron but don't use it. Some people are scared to use it while others have sticking problems because it is not seasoned properly while others can't seem to stop it from rusting between uses.  I am here to help with all of your problems.  Once you learn the proper way to use and care for your cast iron you will find it impossible to cook without it. 

I will be sharing all manner or cooking and cleaning techniques along with my thoughts on seasoning and restoration of old cookware.  I will be sharing some of the techniques I use to rescue a 100 year old piece from a rusty demise and I invite you to share your thoughts, projects, and questions.  I will do my best to answer all of your questions.  Look for my first post coming up this week so make sure you subscribe and join in on the fun.