How to Clean & Season Your Cast Iron

When it rains, it pours. But what happens when it snows? This:

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Somerville, along with much of the Northeast, found the wrong Nemo this weekend and was treated to, say, three feet of wind-propelled snow. While most were swarming the nearest grocery store, burdened with feelings of dread and fear, MVB and I were sitting in bed, wearing our Kigurumis, anxious for Lord of the Rings Online to complete downloading. I was a bit harsh on the weather in my last post. I had a snow day and didn’t know that happened to adults, so I dealt it the only way I knew how.

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The next morning, one of my roommates barged in and told us to go to Union Square. It stopped snowing, work was cancelled, and I had no plans. So the roomies and I braced ourselves with our heaviest coats and ventured out into the post-snowpocalyptic world. The journey down the barren glacier-paved road to Union Square was not without its perils: unstable snowdrifts; wind-mobile ice shards; and, most of all, snowballs from those whom you’ve once trusted. But this was merely friendly preparation for what was to come.

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Union Square became something of a Winter Wonderland. People were welcomed with your typical snow sculptures (snow men, snow arches, snow castles, etc.), but what amazed me were the formations sitting atop stone pillars: the Snowdecahedrons. I was admiring their beauty when it happened: a blur of white zipped across my face, clipping the tip of my nose. I frantically searched for the assailant and found a Tusken Raider eying me down through his goggles while he began to pack another snowball. Adrenaline rushed through my blood and I retreated behind the masses to reach his opposing territory. I didn’t care who I was fighting or who I was fighting for; all I wanted to see was that Sand Person’s side fall.

I was panicking a bit. The snow was too fresh to compact a solid snowball and tried my best to supply MVB and my other roomies with ammunition. I spied the other side was using the firm snow found underneath the powder and it all became clear. I found a small clearing (admittedly too open to attack) and began hammering away at the snow beneath me with the heel of my boot. The satisfaction I got from breaking off jagged, hand-sized chunks of snow was similar to popping the bubbles in bubble wrap. The only satisfaction that could beat it was hurling that snowball at the other side and watching it burst on contact. One photographer captured my thirst for vengeance on camera and I found his stunning shot in the Boston Herald the next day.

photo courtesy of Dominick Reuter

photo courtesy of Dominick Reuter

My kitchen is my least favorite part about this blizzard—no, this winter. Being barefoot there is not an option. The floor was never insulated when the kitchen was built, leaving the ice-white tiles void of all things warm and homey. In these cold months, the only time the kitchen feels like a kitchen is when people are in it, cooking. I figured the best way to warm up after battle was to love my cast iron pans. Love them enough and they will certainly love you back.

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HOW TO: Clean and Season Your Cast Iron

  • cast iron pans/skillets/dutch ovens
  • neutral oil (vegetable/canola work great, but flaxseed is the best)
  • kosher salt
  • sponge or stiff brush

Preheat your oven to 500°. Clean your iron by scraping out any leftover debris with a wooden spoon while iron is still warm. Once large particles are removed, return iron to high heat. When iron is hot, add about 1 tablespoon of neutral oil and an equal amount of salt. Using your sponge or stiff brush and a little bit of elbow grease, scrub the pan in the problem areas with the salt mixture. Wipe away any salt with a clean towel.

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Pour a small amount of oil in the pan and spread the oil on all surfaces of the cast iron, including the outside and the handle. Coat the entire pan in a thin, even layer of oil and wipe away any excess oil. Place your oiled cast iron face down in oven and “bake” it for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, turn off oven and leave iron inside until it comes down to room temperature. When it is cool enough to handle, give your iron a final wipe with a clean rag and it is ready for use.

If seasoned properly, your iron will have a shiny patina and its texture will be comparatively smoother. If not, perform the seasoning process again. 3-4 repeated processes usually revive worn and scorned iron.

Avoid using soap or cooking anything really acidic on your cast iron. Both will eventually break down the seasoning you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Never put anything cold in a boiling-lava-hot cast iron. It’ll crack and break, just like your heart when it finally happens.

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