Today I am thrilled to bring you a guest blogger who will be speaking on a topic we all need to know about! As a Mechanical Design Engineer, Richard Hall may seem an unlikely choice for a food blogger, but his heritage, common sense know how, and generosity in sharing his knowledge with us make him the perfect choice for a topic of the utmost importance to any Southern cook! Thank you, Rich!
It is a pleasure to blog on southernplate.com. Just as Christy has written about her southern heritage, mine is similar. Both sets of my grandparents were sharecroppers in southern Tennessee and North Alabama. I grew up eating fresh southern food out of the garden and barnyard.
Since Christy has all these great southern recipe’s, I thought it might be useful to share how to season a cast iron skillet or other type cast iron cooking vessel. You may ask, what is seasoning and why do I need to season my cast iron skillet? The answer is very simple. Seasoning is making your cast iron non-stick like all the new miracle cookware. And the why is you can buy and maintain a non-stick skillet with nothing more than lard and common sense and it will never wear out. The cast iron skillet can be used to cook on the stovetop, the oven or the grill. A good iron skillet can be passed down as an heirloom if taken care of properly.
It is very simple to do albeit a little messy. What you will need is the cast iron skillet, a box of lard, which can be purchased in your favorite supermarket for less than $2.00, a roll of heavy paper towels and an oven. Just a quick note, the seasoning of a new skillet and the re-seasoning of an existing skillet are the same except for the first step. So lets get started.
Make sure your new skillet has been washed in hot water and mild detergent. This will remove the factory anti-rust coating. For re-seasoning an existing skillet, just make sure to wipe the entire surface with hot water and a clean wash cloth or paper towel (sponges need not apply).
Dry the skillet by heating on the cook top then let it rest and cool. Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees.
Fold the paper towel into a fourth and place a dollop of lard in the skillet. The size is not important, but for a 10” skillet, use about 1/4th of a cup. More can be added as required to cover.
Take the paper towel and coat the interior, the exterior down to the bottom edge and the handle liberally.
I don’t coat the very bottom of the skillet, as any cook surface that it touches will make smoke and just burn off the lard.
Once you have the skillet coated, place it in the oven (at 200 degrees) and set a timer for 3 hours. This low temp will open the cast iron pores up and allow the lard to penetrate as it liquefies.
After the time is up, cut off the oven and let the skillet cool. Once it is cool enough to touch, wipe it down with another paper towel to remove most of the lard and just leave a thin coat on the surfaces.
In another hour or so, wipe it down again.
After this final wipe, the skillet will continue to cool and in about an hour will look like the last picture.
Now you are ready to use the skillet. For the first couple of uses, cook something greasy like bacon or sausage. This will help to heat cycle and re-coat the interior surface which will make the non-stick coating better. Also be aware that it is going to smoke the first couple of uses as it heat cycles and burns off the water trapped in the pores and the excess lard.
To maintain the skillet you will need to wipe the interior every couple of months with bacon grease during a heat cycle or cook something greasy and re-season about every 2 years following the process above.
Also, don’t let food sit in the skillet as this will remove the seasoning.
After each use, wash the skillet out using a very mild soap solution and warm water. NEVER wash in the dishwasher. The reason for using mild soap solution is to keep from removing the seasoning layer.
One other note that I personally do is the drying step after a wash. I will turn the cook top on to high and place the wet skillet on it for about a minute. This will heat the skillet up enough to dry the water and heat cycle the pores. This keeps everything as it should be.
If you choose, you can render your own lard from bacon drippings. If you own a microwave bacon-cooking tray it is very easy. Just cook some bacon and let the drippings cool either in the tray or pour them into a bowl or shallow dish while still hot. Once it has cooled and congealed, you can use it just like the lard as described above. This is perfect for the occasional re-seasoning of your skillet.
I hope this has been helpful and if you have any questions just direct them to Southernplate.com and I’m sure Christy can find me to get the answers.
P.S. From Christy: This post would no be complete without me sharing one of my all time favorite Southern Plate comments with y’all! Special thanks to Bill Gent for this sweet, horrifying, and hilarious memory!
When I was about 7 or 8 I saw those dirty old skillets and decided I would clean them both real good with SOS pads. My mama would be so proud that I got off all that old black stuff and make-em shiny. I took them outside and used the garden hose since I didn’t wanna make a mess inside. I proudly took them to her when I was finished and proclaimed my good deed. I heard a gasp. She calmly said..”Why thank you honey.. but.. uhh..” I don’t know why I remember it.. maybe it was that horrified gasp that burned it into my memory. ~Bill Gent
Great Cast Iron Recipes to Start You Off!