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Top Tips for Seasoning Cast-Iron Cookware

Keep your cast-iron skillets in tip-top shape and this traditional cookware will last for years.

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"The trick to cooking with cast iron is to understand—and respect—the seasoning," writes Modern Cast Iron author Ashley L. Jones. "And I'm not talking about salt and pepper." In her new book, featured in the January 2021 issue of Country Sampler, Ashley provides in-depth information about seasoning cast iron because it's so important to caring for this classic kitchenware. Here are some quick tips from the author to get you started:

1. Avoid the Smoke Point. In order to season your cast iron, you will apply oil to your pan and then heat the oil. Doing this, you can create a fairly durable and natural nonstick coating. "Too much heat is a bad thing, though," Ashley notes. "At a certain temperature, oil begins to decompose and emit harmful fumes." This is called the oil's smoke point. Every oil will have a different smoke point; before using an oil, do some research to find the temperature at which it will begin to burn.

2. Know the Two Types of Seasoning. Cast iron isn't as much work as you might think. The amount of seasoning depends on the task at hand. "Through research and trial and error, I've discovered two main ways to season cast iron, giving it what I call a light seasoning or a deep seasoning," Ashley writes. Light seasoning is best for after cleaning or cooking, or when you see rough patches start to develop on the cast iron's surface. Deep seasoning is necessary when you must season the outside of the pan as well as the inside, or when you are trying to salvage an aged or rusted cast-iron piece. Deep seasoning takes more time and energy, but it can be well worth the effort.

3. Heat It Up. "When I first started using cast iron, I diligently cleaned it and rubbed oil into it after every use. However, my pans started developing rough patches that caused food to stick. Only after learning about the science of seasoning did I understand what I was doing wrong: I wasn't using heat," Ashley reveals. Heat is a vital component of the seasoning process. Heat your pans while seasoning because the heat makes the fat molecules bind to the surface of the pan, creating the natural nonstick surface.

Quotes from Modern Cast Iron by Ashley L. Jones. Copyright 2020 by Red Lightning Books, Indiana University Press. Used with permission of Red Lightning Books; https://redlightningbooks.com/modern-cast-iron.

Order Ashley's book, or enter to win a signed copy in our latest giveaway, appearing in the January 2021 issue of Country Sampler.

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