January 31, 2015

The care and keeping of cast iron skilletsIf you’re taking cooking classes in Boulder, you are surrounded by amazing opportunities to cook with incredibly fresh wild game. If you use a cast iron skillet to brown venison, make stew or sear duck meat, you are familiar with the trials and tribulations of the popular pan. Try these tips to keep your skillet in top condition for years to come:

Always clean the pan right after use
If you finish using your pan and place it in a sink filled with hot water for a few hours, it will likely start to rust. Instead, clean the skillet when it is still a little warm. Use hot water and a stiff brush but avoid using soap or steel wool because they can remove the pan’s seasoning. If a little elbow grease isn’t removing the food, fill your skillet with water and set it on the stove to boil. Once the water boils, remove the pan from the heat and wait until you can safely touch it to try scrubbing again. You should be able to remove any leftover food residue.

Seasoning your skillet
There is a lot of mixed messaging when it comes to seasoning cast iron. Some people say to use vegetable oil and others recommend lard. Sheryl Canter, a blogger and psychologist who focuses on healthy eating, decided to delve into the issue and find the oil that works best. Her results? Flaxseed oil. It’s the only edible oil that is also is a “drying oil” and will leave the surface of the pan hard and similar to a non-stick pan. You can find the it in the refrigerator section of health food stores and specialty grocery stores. It can be expensive but a little goes a long way.

Follow these steps to season your pan:

  • Place the skillet in the oven and turn the temp to 200 degrees Fahrenheit to completely dry it out. Wait ten minutes. Turn off the oven.
  • Place your now-warm pan on several sections of paper towel and pour some oil onto it.
  • Use your hands to fully coat the pan with recently shaken flaxseed oil.
  • Use a cotton cloth to rub the oily pain until it appears to be completely oil-free and dry.
  • Turn your oven as high as it can go (450 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit) and place your pan inside, upside down, to preheat along with the oven.
  • Once the highest temperature possible is reached, leave the pan inside for an hour.
  • After the hour has passed, turn the oven off. Don’t open the oven door. Let the pan sit in the oven as it cools for two hours.

Once you have completed these steps, you will have a thin matte layer of seasoning on the pan. You’ll likely want to redo the process several times until your skillet has a semi-glossy look and is fully seasoned. You may be tempted to use more oil than a few dollops to hurry the process, but that will likely only lead to an uneven surface and dripping.