Cast iron seasoning is necessary if you buy your castiron cookware new and if it has not already been pre-seasoned. Even if you have the good fortune to find it used, you may have to re-season it if the previous owner did not care for it properly.
Seasoning cast iron cookware is necessary to keep it from rusting and to give it a non-stick surface. The oil you season it with becomes embedded in the iron's tiny pores, and the more you use it, the more oil becomes embedded, creating a better surface with each usage.
If you have more than one pan to season, do as many as will fit in your oven at once.
If the pan has been only lightly used, to fry and egg, for instance, you can even just wipe out the pan with a paper towel. It will help to season the pan even more.
TIP: For tough, cooked-on food, you can fill the pan with about half an inch of water and heat it to a simmer, then use a spatula to scrape the cooked on bits off. It works like a charm. Dry as usual and rub a little oil into it before storing.
Never, ever, put cast iron cookware in the dishwasher! It will remove all the cast iron seasoning and you'll have to start over again, which is something I'm sure you won't want to do often!
Cast iron cookware should always be stored without lids so moisture doesn't get trapped inside and cause your cookware to rust. If stored with their lids, it helps to put a paper towel inside so it will help absorb any moisture. It's best to store them in a dry place with plenty of air circulation to discourage rust.
Never store food in cast iron, as it will give the food a metallic taste and the food will break down the cast iron seasoning.
When your cookware is newly seasoned try to cook as many fatty foods in it as possible. Anything using butter, lard or oil is good. Try to avoid watery or acidic foods at first. After your cookware has built up a good seasoning layer you can cook almost anything in it (very acidic foods aside).
To discourage food from sticking, be sure the pan is well heated before adding the food. A drop of water should jump around and sizzle when placed in the pan. If it evaporates immediately the pan is too hot. If it just sort of sits there or bubbles a bit then the pan is too cool.
The more you use your cookware, the more the cast iron seasoning will improve. After a little while it will be as non-stick as any Teflon pan, but without the poisonous chemicals!
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