(Yep, the title is an homage to the Donovan classic, ‘Season of the Witch’, which I enjoy singing when I feel Mike is being irrational. You can imagine how much he loves that. But, he does the same to me, so we’re even )
So, why the Donovan song pun? Because today I am showing you how to definitively season your cast iron pans. If you own cast iron, you know this is easier said than done.
First of all, Mike and I, in the first months of our relationship, somehow came to the conclusion that we didn’t need non-stick teflon (pardon the triple negative) in our lives. To be green? To avoid carcinogens? Probably all of the above, but also, it just felt good to ditch the oh-so-vulnerable teflon coating for the weighty, earthy iron. And added bonus, we could fearlessly turn our steaks with a fork. A METAL fork! What did we do to deserve such good luck??
But adopting the hefty pans was not without its woes. There is a definite learning curve to cooking with them, and the pan seasoning is a whole other story. I really had no idea what an epic saga we were getting ourselves into. I didn’t even know you had to season pans to make them slick! At first, we had just one small pan, enough for two eggs on a Sunday morning, so scraping and scraping after a meal was not a huge deal. Then we doomed ourselves by getting a larger pan and wanting to get fancy and cook up some chicken, or maybe get crazy and even fry a steak! Everything stuck. And turned black. That has to be worse for you than some teflon flakes. The original seasoning the pan came with had worn off, and instantly we were deputized to find the best, most durable cast iron pan seasoning the world has ever known. And we found it! It only took us 5 years, but by god, we found it! Wanna know the secret?
Flax oil! Funny aside: my grandpa used to soak ground up flax seeds in a cup of water and give it to my brother and me as a snack. We loved the crap out of that stuff. Also, good for the digestive system, if you know what I mean. But back then when my bro and I were sipping the flax slurry I had no idea what far reaching uses laid in the little seed. Come to find out, it’s the best ever cast iron pan seasoning there is! Who knew?!
Mike found this little gem in the bible of good cooking, Cooks Illustrated. It’s simple and effective. He didn’t follow the directions to the T, but we got great, slick results. And after about 4 years of trial and error, mostly with that gross solid vegetable oil, we couldn’t be happier. (Btw, Mike did this while I was away, so all photo credits go to him. I didn’t even know he documented this little project until after. Love that guy!) First step? De-season your pans, you want a blank canvas to work with.
Mike just thoroughly hand washed them, but you can also put your cast iron into the oven and set it to self-clean. After they’re back to factory setting, set them in a 200 degree oven to warm ‘em up. Pull them out after 15 minutes and pour some flax oil right in them. Swish it around to coat the surface.
Once everything looks coated, wipe the excess with a paper towel, and place the pan upside down in the oven and turn it to max. It’s important to put the pan in the cold oven so the pan heats up along with the elements.
Leave ‘er there for an hour and viola! Seasoned pan. Oh wait, you have to do that 6 times: warm up, oil coat, wipe, oven for an hour, repeat. At least you only have to de-season it once! But seriously, it’s worth it. Mike did it over the course of 2 days, and it worked out perfectly. Apparently, the flax oil polymerizes with the surface of the pan to make an almost permanent coating. Cooks Illustrated even put the flax-coated pan in the dishwasher and it came out unscathed. Incredible! Check out our results for yourselves:
Making eggs never felt so good.