questionshow do you season your cast iron skillet?

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It may take a few times to get it to the non-stick surface you're seeking.

Nom Nom Paleo has an easy almost fool-proof tutorial:
http://nomnompaleo.com/post/24798115724/how-to-season-care-for-cast-iron-skillets

Try to wash with hot water only, and maybe some coarse salt for scrubbing stuck on messes. After following her directions, I guarantee you will get the surface you are looking for.

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The ones I have are pre-seasoned.

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Mrs. Dash. It makes it taste better and tenderizes.

And what @lavikinga said worked for me.

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@jsimsace: Mine is "pre-seasoned" but it seems to need a little extra.

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@lavikinga: Thanks! And will coconut oil leave a weird taste in the pan?

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re: Using olive oil.

DON'T USE OLIVE OIL! Use a high temp oil with no taste, i.e. canola is best, peanut would be next, grape seed oil is good also.

Most likely your Lodge came preseasoned, but doesn't matter, you can re-season it very easily. Wash it out, make sure it's VERY dry (I put mine in a 250deg oven for 10+ mins), wipe a very thin coat of oil on it and then bake it for an hour or longer at 250+. It will take a few times of doing this for you to achieve a nice season coat on it.

The best thing to do is to just use it. I've been using cast iron cookware for over 40 years, have fed over 400 people at one time from my dutch ovens and have NEVER ruined a meal.

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@jerrygifford: I agree. If I'm camping I bring a can of nonstick spray to protect it until the next time I use it at home.

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Cast iron are the only pans to use to make true southern cornbread, or put a great sear on a thick steak! It's not hard to take care of, plus you can defend against ninjas or complaining diners if need be with the added weight!

I like the seasoning method mentioned by @lavikinga. I use grape seed oil to season mine as it has a higher smoking point than olive oil, which I use a lot of, but is not good to use at the temp you need to season a cast iron pan for long periods.

I will try the coconut oil next time as I have a ton of it on hand.

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@jerrygifford: 250 is too low.
the lodge people put 350 in their instructions, Alton brown said 350 on good eats, but both have said, that temp recommendation was from the lawyers. the real temp you want is 500. oil 'er up, into a cold oven, up to 500 for an hour, kill the oven, leave it in until cool.
this is going from memory BTW, could be faulty.

when i bought my woot skillet, researched the "proper way" to season, the best results seemed to come from safflower oil..IIRC..

but yeah, the best, easiest way is just to USE IT. and USE IT OFTEN.

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@jerrygifford: I prefer to use Olive Oil for breakfast. It gives my eggs a slight crunchy texture that I think is amazing.

If I am out of Olive Oil, I simply cook the bacon first, and then put the eggs in the bacon grease left in the pan. It's not as healthy, but very tasty!

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Just remember to use a very thin coating of oil. If you use too much, you can potentially create a sticky/tacky surface.
You shouldn't get much flavor from the coconut oil as you won't be using large amounts. Less is more in this case.

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@devexityspace:
olive is fine for cooking, jerry was referring to the seasoning process. olive's smoke point is too low to be effective.

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Here a link nabbed the forums, when the Woot! Skillet was first offered:

A Science Based Technique for Seasoning Cast Iron

I haven't tried it myself, but it uses flax seed oil and appears to create a smooth and hard seasoning. Looks like it's worth trying.

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You'll get the best results from an oil that is solid at room temperature, i.e. shortening.

Wipe the pan out, get it hot, put some shortening on a paper towel, and rub it all over the skillet - including the outside. Get it good and hot. Then let it cool.

The biggest mistake some people make is failing to season the outside of the pan. When the bottom of your pan rusts, you'll know you've made that mistake. The good news is that rust on the outside isn't as big of a deal as it is in the inside.

Number one rule: NO DISHWASHER!!!!! Even a single trip through your dishwasher will strip the seasoning and turn the pan into a giant rusty chunk of metal. And make sure that everybody in your house knows this rule just in case somebody gets it in their head to do you a favor. NO DISHWASHER!!!

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@mrgrogg: while on the topic of rust. What if I found a pan at a sale, that is a little rough and has some rust marks but not too bad. Is there a way to repair this damage ?

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I agree with the above about baking it coated at a higher temperature. And just using it.

No matter how tempted you may be, don't use soap when cleaning it. Before mine became properly season, to clean tough messes I would scrub with kosher salt. I bought a brush recently to use with my cast iron griddle and it works great on the skillet too:

http://www.amazon.com/OXO-Good-Grips-Grill-Brush/dp/B004ZLAGN6/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1365307971&sr=8-3&keywords=cast+iron+skillet+brush

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Coconut oil - most of them do not smell/taste like coconut. If it does, I think the label will tell you. Walmart carries the LouAnn brand - it'll work.

Olive oil - I would not season my pans with it, but I do cook in them with it. No problems so far.

We actually do use soap and water on our pans occasionally, but we re-season them if we do. The link @lavikinga posted should work just fine.

Enjoy your pan! And don't be afraid to let it get HOT before you add your food, the sear on a good cast iron is pretty great.

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never read the tutorials until now - but i do it the way my gramps did his, and his mother before him: lard and heat. i never cook with lard, but it certainly gives a pan a nice non-stick to it.

also - unlike newer thin-tin pans, keep in mind, you never (well, almost never) have to go full blast with the flame to cook things properly in a cast skillet.

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@ceagee: sand/wire brush the rust away, then season as stated above.

if it has a funky/chunky/clunky/ otherwise bad season, there are 2 main ways to get rid of the season down to a clean starting point.
#1 involves soaking in lye, which is very caustic, and not something i wanna mess around with. (i'm sure google will turn something up)
#2 is HIGH heat. like throw it in a campfire heat. (or, put it in your oven, and run it through a self clean cycle, which is up to 800 degrees for around 4 hours.)
then just clean /brush off the ash, and season as above.

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@thumperchick: Gotta watch that heat. I put one of my empty cast iron pans on the "heats water to boiling in 4 minutes" burner to get it ready to sear something. I swear it hadn't been on there but 2 minutes when I heard this musical tink. The pan has a fine hair crack from the center to the handle. Can't use it for anything now other than target practice.

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I second and third @publicart's link.
Science uber ales!

j5 j5
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@ceagee: Regarding the one you found with rust spots - That's part of the beauty of cast iron pans. You can take one that is covered in rust and restore it to like-new condition. And, since they used to make them with higher quality than you typically find today, you'll actually end up with a better pan.

It does take some work, but it is SOOOOO worth it if you are into quality kitchen stuff. (I love my cast iron.)

Just do a Google search on "cast iron pan restoration techniques" and you'll find a bazillion websites that really get into it.

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One more thing about the seasoning: You actually want the thin coating of oil to smoke. That's when it undergoes the chemical transformation from oil to permanent protectant. The problem is that it stinks and really does make a lot of smoke. You don't have to do it every time, but whenever you find the seasoning in need of real help (like if you wash it with soap and then realize that everybody was right about that being a bad idea) then that's when you do it.

I coat mine in a VERY thin layer of shortening (you can barely tell it's there), cover it with a lid that can take the heat, and then put it in my oven at its highest setting. I wait until I see the first sign of smoke and then I grab it and run outside as fast as I can, and take the lid off and let it smoke out there. That way the lid prevents most of the smoke from filling the house. I do this when my wife isn't home because I value my marriage.

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The skillet I use, my mom found literally buried in the back yard of a house they were renting in Massachusetts before I was born. No idea why or how long it had been there but it was under about a foot of soil, they were making a hole to put in a tree and thought they'd hit a rock. This was more than half a century ago. My mom cleaned it up (my mom is OCD about that sort of thing) and my grandmother spent 30 years cooking in it before passing it on to me, I have cooked in it for almost that long. Nothing sticks to it. My grandmother taught me to maintain it: rinse it out, heat it up on the stove to dry it, then rub vegetable oil on the hot metal and let it cool. Put a paper towel inside to absorb extra oil and protect other dishes and stack it in the cupboard with the other pans.

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Never use soap or put cast iron in the dishwasher. Clean them by boiling water in them on a stove and then scraping them with a hard plastic or wood spatula (not metal!) and scouring them without soap in a sink full of clean warm water. Set them back to dry on the cooling stove and rub oil on them after the water evaporates. If you do this for years, you will have a well seasoned pan.

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No! Don't boil water in it!!!!! It will damage the seasoning. It's not nearly as bad as soap, and as long as you don't boil it too long it probably won't hurt much, but there's no need to do it and it does do some damage to the seasoning. (Sauces and other things containing water can be boiled because they contain oils. Plain water - or worse, salty water - should never be boiled in cast iron.)

On a similar note, never cook tomato-based sauces or soups in it. The acid will harm the seasoning.

All these rules and special care instructions might make it seem like cast iron isn't worth it, but it totally is. Take good care of it and it could last generations. Properly cared for it will remain very low-stick and just be dependable forever.

(I say low-stick and not non-stick because if you try to cook something like an egg without oil it will stick to even the best-seasoned cast iron pan. A little oil in your cooking not only helps prevent sticking but is also good for the seasoning.)