How to season a cast iron skillet
Use a sponge and light, soapy water to quickly remove any remaining surface dirt and dry the pan thoroughly with paper towels or by air drying. This is the only time water should ever be used to clean the inside of a cast iron skillet. Future cleaning should be done with dry paper towels and salt only, to prevent damage from rust. Once the cast iron pan is completely dry, find a supply of oil or grease. Preheat the oven. Since the main point of seasoning is to bake the oil or grease into the pores of the skillet, a preheating temperature of 350 degrees or higher seems reasonable.
As the oven heats, wipe a generous amount of your chosen oil or grease around the inside of the skillet. Wipe out any obvious excess. Place the skillet upside down on the top rack of the hot oven. To prevent the grease or oil from dripping onto the bottom burners, place a cookie sheet or other oven-proof tray on the lowest rack. Allow the pan to remain in the oven for at least an hour. Do not be alarmed if you see or smell smoke -- this is a normal part of the seasoning process. The oil or grease is filling up all of the pores of the cast iron, creating fewer crevices for food to become trapped.
After an hour or more has elapsed, use oven mitts to remove the cast iron skillet from the oven. Place on a heat-resistant surface (right side up) and allow the skillet to cool.
The cast iron skillet is now seasoned, but some foods such as eggs may still stick to the bottom without additional oils or grease. The seasoning process needs to be repeated several times before a sufficient layer of charring has built up in the bottom of the pan.
Ideally, a cast iron skillet should be wiped out completely after cooking, and then put through the seasoning process again. It may take several years for a cast iron skillet to reach the non-stick level of your Grandmother’s prized frying pan, but the results should be worth the effort.
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