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.

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