seasoning cast iron: 500 degrees or 350 degrees

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Paul Wheaton, Dec 5, 2006.

  1. Paul Wheaton

    Paul Wheaton Well-Known Member

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    I have read about a dozen web pages, and heard from about four dozen people experienced with cast iron, and they all recommend seasoning at 350 degrees in the oven. Some say to bake for an hour and some say to bake for three hours.

    But today there was a post here in another thread referring to a technique that uses 500 degrees:

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    For years I seasoned my cast iron like all the suggestions above, but never had the really good, slick, blakc, non-sticking coating that I wanted. I was constantly re-seasoning. Then, last year I found this web site, http://www.melindalee.com/Cast-Iron.html I tried it and I now have the best cast iron skillets ever. This is the only way to season a skillet in my opinion!!!

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    Anybody else have experience with this? Or even better: both?
     
  2. DenverGirlie

    DenverGirlie Well-Known Member

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    I have no idea... but it sounded good. Looking forward to a response as well. My pans all need to be stripped and reseasoned.
     

  3. A.T. Hagan

    A.T. Hagan Guest

    I think he's got what is actually happening a little wrong, but is on the right track.

    You don't want a layer of just carbon all over the metal although you will get some in the process. What you want is a layer of heavily polymerized fat which typically includes a fair bit of carbon black bound up with it. Use a cast iron pan long enough in normal cooking and it will happen naturally all by itself. But it takes time and it often doesn't happen smoothly and evenly all over pan and you'll get a sticky layer of partially polymerized fat all over it first.

    If you're willing to put up with the smoke what I've found works well is this:

    Wash and dry the iron thoroughly. Warm the metal but not so hot you can't hold it in your hand. Coat it evenly with a layer of whatever you're going to season it with, the more saturated the fat the better. Lard works well. Put the metal upside down in your oven so that any fat that runs off won't pool on the actual cooking surfaces. Turn the oven to 450-500 degrees and close the door. Bake the iron for about two hours then turn the oven off but do not open the door. Allow to cool to room temperature before removing the iron. If you've used a light cooking oil you may need to bake for three hours.

    You'll get a fair amount of smoke while all of this is going on so do it when you are able to have the windows open. I'd also line the bottom of the oven with aluminum foil so that any fat that drips off won't burn to the bottom of your oven.

    You should end up with an even, smooth, non-sticky seasoning. For brand new never before seasoned iron you may have to do it twice, but usually once is enough.

    The seasoning on any cast iron will need to be touched up once in a while unless you do a lot of frying which will do it for you as part of the cooking process.

    .....Alan.
     
  4. Paul Wheaton

    Paul Wheaton Well-Known Member

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    Alan,

    You know what polymerizing is and I don't. I tried to look it up and realized I was about to drown, so I got out of the water.

    The oil to the seasoning layer: is this a chemical reaction? Is smoking essential to seasoning?

    Why 450 to 500 and not 350?

    Any particular oil or fat better than another?

    What's the story on the sticky stuff happening before the slick stuff?
     
  5. A.T. Hagan

    A.T. Hagan Guest

    The temperature has to do with the speed of the process. You could use any temperature over about a hundred degrees, but the lower the slower. At 350 it might take three or four hours or more.

    Any fat will do, but quite a lot of folks prefer lard, Crisco, or some other fat that is solid at room temperature. Next would be olive or peanut oil then the more highly unsaturated oils, at least in my general experience.

    The sticky stuff is fat that hasn't fully polymerized yet. Essentially it's like the sticky grease that builds up in the kitchen over time that can be hard to clean off. It's aerosolized cooking that that has partially polymerized. Linseed oil does the same thing, but much faster which is why it was used as the base for paints.

    The smoking is not essential, but if you want to get the job done relatively quickly you have to use high temperatures which is naturally going to burn off some of the fat. If you're willing to be more patient you can lower the temperature to arrive at the same end. No or less smoke, but more time involved.

    We probably have someone who understands polymer chemistry better than I who could better explain this.

    .....Alan.
     
  6. MullersLaneFarm

    MullersLaneFarm Well-Known Member

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    I'm a believer of using LARD to season. Initial seasoning is to warm pan, thin layer of lard (or cook up some bacon, then wipe to a thin layer). Season at 425*-450* for 30-60 m inutes (longer for the first seasoning). I haven't tried peanut oil (which withstands high heat better), but vergin olive oil & soy oil left a sticky mess.

    My cast pots & pans have a glossy black coating and rarely need more than a wipedown with a wash cloth. About the only time I reseason now is when I boil water in my pots. Then it is a thin coat of lard while the pan is still hot from drying.
     
  7. hoofinitnorth

    hoofinitnorth Well-Known Member

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    Check out AmericasTestKitchen.com for cast iron seasoning tips.
     
  8. Chas in Me

    Chas in Me Well-Known Member

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    Paul,
    That's a great website. Thanks,
    Chas
     
  9. Paul Wheaton

    Paul Wheaton Well-Known Member

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    Alan,

    I'm trying to keep a web page of notes on cast iron

    I quoted you directly in there. If you are uncomfortable with this, I'll remove it. If you wish for me to give you more direct credit, please let me know and I'll put that in. I did make a link from your name to your site. Please take a look and let me know what is cool with you.

    Everybody,

    I updated my cast iron web page with information I learned from this thread. If anybody sees anything in this page that is less than accurate, please let me know! Thanks!