Properly seasoned for cooking iron
FIRST, a declaration. I was given a new frying pan, a naked piece of brutally functional cast iron. For review, I guess you’d say. And I like it a lot. But before this lump c conversation o of (Australian) had iron begun arrived with by its wearied creator courier, on the subject an ea and o of seasoning. after the cooking You know, … salt and pepper, before, during Only kidding. It was all about seasoning a piece of cast iron c cookware, a subject that, in this shake-and-bake, pluga and-play world of ours, might seem anathema to some. o of W Why the would box, right? you buy Well, something wrong. you can’t use right out
A properly seasoned piece of cooking iron — it m might be a skillet, or a casserole pot with a fancy mb French brand — is a beautiful thing to cook with, resistant to sticking with its hard surface, almost impervious to d damage from utensils, consistently radiant da of heat from a solid mass, able to go straight into the oven from the hob a and easy to clean without detergent — but a drag if i it has hasn’t been seasoned properly. Which is why nonstick steel and enamel ironware do so well in the stores. You d don’t need to run ’em in.
So Mark Henry, the man behind the new Fonte bran brand of Australian-made iron skillets, has a vested inter interest, as well as something of a challenge, in dem demystifying the seasoning story. Sure, he says, my new pan comes “pre-seasoned”. But if you’re prepared to inve invest a small amount of time in going through a seas seasoning cycle several times to do it properly, he claim claims, you will be rewarded.
I guess his pitch fell on fertile ground. The more food gets fussed with, the more comfortable I am with trad tradition. And there is little more traditional in food tha than a cast iron frying pan. Or cast iron anything, really.
He sent a fascinating piece found online from She Sheryl’s Blog. Catchy title, huh? Anyway, Sheryl’s an American, and they use a lot of naked cast iron cookware in the US, as opposed to France where enamelled iron is more popular, I’m told. And Sheryl — Canter — has gone into the seasoning process and science in almost obsessive detail. And it comes down to this: oils ain’t oils.
“The oil used by artists and wood-turners is linseed oil. The food-grade equivalent is called flaxseed oil,” writes Sheryl. “This oil is ideal for seasoning cast iron for the same reason it’s an ideal base for oil paint and wood finishes. It’s a ‘drying oil’, which means it can transform into a hard, tough film … The term (drying) is actually a misnomer. The transformation is through a chemical process called polymerisation. The seasoning on cast iron is formed by fat polymerisation … (which) is maximised with a drying oil, and flaxseed oil is the only drying oil that’s edible. From that I deduced flaxseed oil would be the ideal oil for seasoning cast iron.” It’s worth reading the whole thing. Her research is thorough.
Being cheap, I went with linseed. Several web sources do. And I’m still alive. It’s 100 per cent natural, or so it says on the bottle. And I applied it to a gorgeous old French all-iron skillet, a Dutch oven, a very expensive non-stick iron skillet that has long since shed its nasty chemical coating and been stripped back as hard as I could, and Mr Henry’s new toy. Oh, and a rusting paella pan. What the heck?
So here’s the nutshell version … Strip your skillet with oven cleaner. Rinse a lot. Put it in the oven at 200C for a while. Pull it out and coat entirely with oil (flaxseed if you can justify the expense, linseed if you can’t) and then wipe off as much as you can. Put it back in the oven, upside down, with the temperature increased to MAXIMUM. When the oven reaches max, set the timer for one hour, then turn it off and let the skillet or whatever cool slowly in the oven. Repeat five times. Yes, five. It’s a little time-consuming but … Well, you’ll see what I mean. Your power bill will go up. But you’ll use less water and detergent in cleaning. And what else are you going to do while watching SBS on a Thursday night? ’Tis the season.