Let me tell you, if you’re not cooking with cast iron you’re missing out! For years I was intrigued by cast iron but the care and seasoning process intimidated me. It seemed strange and unsanitary that you didn’t use soap to clean it. It also seemed like a pain in the neck to have to go through all of those steps each time I used it.
But after a while, curiosity got the best of me, and I asked for a cast iron pan for Christmas.
After a bit of research, I’ve found that caring for cast iron is really no big deal. It takes less time and effort than cleaning my juicer. (My least favorite kitchen gadget to clean) And the cooking payoff WAAAY out-weighs the care required.
Benefits of cast iron
- It’s all about the sear. Cast iron sears the exterior of food into a crispy, crunchy, caramelly crust and it’s amazing! Steak gets this amazing sizzled browning that is out of this world! Fried potatoes … don’t get me started!
- It cooks evenly. The heat distribution travels uniformly across the entire pan surface so you don’t get hot and cool spots.
- It has a fairly non-stick cooking surface without the use of Teflon or other possibly toxic technologies.
- You can move from stovetop to oven with ease.
- You can crowd the pan and still get crispy food.
Caring for cast iron
The enemy of cast iron is water. Really that’s the logic behind the seasoning process. The seasoning process heats the pan to remove any water that may have penetrated into the porous surface of the cast iron. Then it is sealed with an oil as a protective layer.
You can wash your cast iron with soap, but soap will remove the protective oil. So you’ll have to repeat the seasoning process.
Most of the time seasoning is done with a room temperature solid oil. I like to use rendered lard, but vegetable shortening or coconut oil works well too. An oil with a high smoke point is best.
Seasoning with beeswax works especially well if you plan to store cast iron for a period of time. The wax also holds up better if you do have to use soap.
Beeswax is a great waterproofer. It’s also completely edible and natural. Beeswax hardens better at room temperature than oils so you won’t get that sticky residue that sometimes happens with oil. Beeswax has the slightest honey flavor which may be detectable if you’re cooking something without a lot of flavors right after you season your pan. But, with most food it’s undetectable and will disappear after the first round of cooking.
Seasoning your pan with beeswax
- Clean the pan with salt and a stiff brush, steel wool or soap and water. Rinse well with hot water. Dry thoroughly with a towel.
- Place the pan on the stove top. I let it heat up a bit to get out any extra water.
- Then sprinkle in some beeswax. I’m using pelleted here, but if you have a brick, just melt enough so you can spread it around.
- Use a paper towel to distribute the wax all over the pan. The bottom too.
- Place it in a 400-degree oven for around 30 minutes to an hour. You may get some smoking as the wax is burned off so an overhead exhaust fan works well.
- Check the pan after 30 minutes you want most of the wax gone and a dry-shiny appearance to the pan.