Unfortunately, your cast iron skillet does not come ready-prepped with that signature sheen, characteristic of Grandma’s well-loved cast iron. You have to “season,” your skillet to develop that smooth, glossy layer, and we’re not talking about with salt and pepper.
“Seasoning,” cast iron refers to the process of baking oil into the iron through a two part chemical process known as polymerization and carbonization. It’s important to do this so food doesn’t stick to your pan. Proteins in particular like to stick to metal pans, but a well seasoned cast iron will be non-stick. Cast iron cooking tools are a kitchen staple. They’re incredibly versatile and make great addition to your RV kitchen and collection of campfire cooking tools.
Seasoning your cast iron takes time, but it’s well worth the effort. Plan this activity for a rainy day at home so you’ll be prepared to cook tasty cast iron recipes on your next camping trip. Your finished product should have a dark black shiny surface.
Here’s how to season your cast iron in seven easy steps.
Step One: Purchase the Perfect Cast Iron Cook Tool
Buy a cast iron skillet or griddle. Or, consider a specialty cast iron accessory. Here are few cast iron appliances to get the recipe ideas rolling:
- A cast iron pie iron: A fun tool to have at the campground. Cook sweet or savory hand pies in this clever tool
- A cast iron grill grate: Achieve that signature grill char look and flavor with cast iron grill grates.
- A cast iron dutch oven: A real workhorse, cook everything from cobblers, to bread, to soups, stews, and pot roast.
- A cast iron griddle: the paramount appliance for pancakes and crispy bacon. I like to sear a steak or Ahi tuna on my cast iron griddle.
- A cast iron deep skillet: Another multi-purpose kitchen tool, the skillet is great for one pot meals, frittatas, dutch pancakes, pies, or even deep dish pizza.
- If this is your first foray into cast iron, jump in with a cast iron starter set.
A good skillet is not cheap, but they can last forever so your family can use it for generations over a glowing campfire. A good quality cast iron piece can actually be a really cool heirloom. Imagine cooking the family recipe for apple dumplings in your grandmother’s dutch oven.
Occasionally you can find a used one at a garage sale or online, but then you risk taking on someone else’s issues and therefore have to do a restoration. Restoration can be problematic and more trouble than it’s worth. Our suggestion? Go new.
While you’re buying your skillet, you should also buy a good book to read. You’ll need it later, trust us.
Step Two: Wash And Dry Your Skillet
Wash and dry your new skillet with warm water and a small amount of gentle dish soap or cast iron cleaner. Use a lint free microfiber towel to dry the skillet.
Step Three: Oil and Heat Your Skillet
To start, set your oven temperature to 450F. Take your cast iron skillet and rub it with a thin coat of oil—inside and out and, yes, the handle too. An unsaturated oil works best here. You’ll want to heat the cast iron to just above the oil’s smoke point. Try grapeseed oil or sunflower oil. Some swear allegiance to canola, lard, or even a more exotic oil like flaxseed. But don’t waste your expensive extra virgin olive oil to season a skillet. You’re just laying the foundation right now.
For the easiest solution, use Lodge’s cast iron cooking spray, 100% canola oil and offered in a convenient spray bottle that delivers even lubrication.
A note: Do not season your cast iron skillet in your RV. This process will suck up a lot of LP to fire up your RV’s oven, and then you’ll be left with an awesome seasoned cast iron skillet and no gas to cook anything in it.
Step Four: Bake and Wait
Once the oven is at 450F and your skillet has been well-oiled, place it upside down in the oven on the middle rack, shut the oven door, set the oven timer for a half hour. Start reading your book.
After that half hour is up, don your oven mitts and take your skillet out. Re-rub the cast iron with oil using a heat tolerant rag and put it back on the oven for another half hour. Continue reading your book.
Step Five: Repeat
Repeat the previous step two or three more times. It’s a new skillet, so you’ll want to season it thoroughly. Keep reading your book; you have time.
Step Six: Remove and Let Cool
Don’t burn yourself! Take the skillet out of the oven using oven mitts or a pair of thick work gloves. Put it on cooling rack to cool (careful not to set it on unprotected countertops). Let the cast iron breathe until it can be easily moved without the use of gloves.
Step Seven: Maintain
Congratulations! You’ve actually done the hard part. Now you just need to properly care for and maintain your cast iron. Here are a few tips:
- When you use your cast iron, try to use hot water and a cast iron pan scraper to clean it out. You can use a small amount of soap if necessary for stubborn food, but remember: your cast iron does not need to be squeaky clean. When you dry your cast iron, the dark residue left on the towel is the seasoning–that’s the good stuff. If you’re nervous about what type of soap to use, be safe and use a verified cast iron cleaner, which combines a cleaning agent and lubricating oils in one.
- Too much soap will break down the seasoning, stripping it off. If that happens, you will need to season it more often. When you cook food with natural fats and oils, such as a good steak, your skillet should remain seasoned for quite some time.
- When lubricating your cast iron with oil, rub the oil in until there are no streaks or residue.
Do you have any questions, concerns or thoughts? If so, leave a comment below.