I Know It’s Science, But It Feels A Lot Like Magic

our 10" pan, after stripping and de-rusting

Having finished and submitted a grad school paper today, I am rewarding myself with another round of re-seasoning our cast-iron skillet.

Did you know that it’s virtually impossible to find out how to properly season one of these puppies just by looking it up on the Internet? Oh, sure, you’ll find instructions and opinions, but they differ wildly from person to person, sharing only the barest of fundamentals: you need to put oil in the pan and heat it up; then the pan will be smooth and non-stick.

But how? Why? Really?

Sheryl’s Blog explains. Fantastically. Scientifically. Read and be amazed.

7 thoughts on “I Know It’s Science, But It Feels A Lot Like Magic

  1. Cat August 29, 2011 / 9:32 pm

    Lololololololololol. You and me are two peas in a pod. I, too, spent hours scouring the net back in January looking for a real how-to on seasoning cast irons. Haha, as you said, the instructions varied as much as on how to milk a cow! Anyways, I ended up finding Sheryl’s blog, too, and another one, that set me straight and helped me out. Teeheehee, we are sooo alike.

  2. ei powell August 29, 2011 / 10:14 pm

    haha!! i too have scoured the internet looking for the answer…but did not find sheryl’s blog. once i get my cast iron skillet back from home, i’ll do this

  3. kloncke August 30, 2011 / 12:12 am

    This can only mean one thing. You (cat and ei powell) and i need to make a YouTube video demonstrating the science/magic of cast-iron seasoning.

  4. Dana August 30, 2011 / 6:58 am

    I cook with cast iron all the time: “To season a new pan wash it well and dry it. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees while you warm the pan gently over low heat on top of the stove. Using a brush or a paper towel, spread a tablespoon or so of a fresh neutral oil like corn or grape seed in the pan; the surface should be evenly covered, with no excess. Put the pan in the oven, bake it for about an hour and let it cool in the oven.
    That’s it.”

  5. kloncke August 30, 2011 / 9:17 am

    Yep, that’s the basic formula that I’d heard, but it didn’t help me know how to strip, de-rust, and re-season my crusty used one, so I felt intimidated. The way Sheryl explained all those processes together calmed my anxieties. :)

    I wonder why the processes are so different, though? The way I’m doing it calls for much higher heat (550 degrees), many repetitions of thinner layers, and using flaxseed oil, which she says is ideal because of its low smoke point and efficient polymerization, which gives the best hard-slick-non-stick surface. If corn or grape seed work then that’s great — but I found it interesting and very reassuring the way she explained the science behind her flaxseed recommendation. If you ever re-season a cast-iron something, maybe try it with flaxseed and let me know if you notice a difference? Maybe her distinction is just academic.

    More importantly: What are your favorite recipes that make use of the properties of cast iron? :) When our pan is done I’m excited to try making English muffins from scratch. I hear cast iron is good for browning meat. Why do you pref it?

  6. Dana September 2, 2011 / 6:08 am

    You cannot break a cast iron pan- it is the Tonka Truck of cook ware. I love that you can cook direct from stove top to oven. I re-season it every time…real quick: after I clean it (no harsh soaps), I just throw a little oil on it and heat it up on the stove top, or I put it back in the cooling, but still hot, oven. Flaxseed oil is great, I’ve used it before. Any oli that can reach a higher heating point is good and will work. I also use Sunflower and Safflower.

    This site has a wonderful chart for cooking oils:

    I don’t mix flavors though, meaning I have a cast iron pan solely for savory dishes. I do sweet dishes with a Le Creuset pan (enameled cast iron).

  7. chaos September 8, 2011 / 6:47 am

    cast iron rules because you will likely never have to replace it and it doubles as a handy weapon or shield :)

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