_Seasoning And Curing Cast Iron

Serves: 5



Since Dutch oven cooking doesn't fall under the definition of an organized religion there is no one or organization capable of determining how many new converts there are to DO cooking. I myself know there are many for the simple fact of how many folks continually ask me how to season and care for their Dutch ovens and cast iron cookware! Curing and caring for a new DO or piece of cast iron cookware is really quite simple and shouldn't be viewed as a stumbling block by someone considering converting to cast iron cookware.

Of course most new cookware comes with directions from the manufacturer and who knows better than the folks who make the stuff. The methods I use to season and care for my cast iron collection are for the most part the manufacturers' directions put into my own words. Before attempting to season/cure a new piece of cast iron perhaps it will help some folks understand the process better by first discussing metallurgy. It may be hard to visualize but cast iron is porous. The black patina we associate with a well-cured Dutch oven or iron skillet results when organic matter, which in this case is an oil of some type, penetrates the pores of the iron, and then is heated to the point it carbonizes. Once a DO is cured initially it is ready to cook with. In reality every time a DO is used food particles and oil continue to buildup in the pores of the iron that results in the seasoning/cure improving. In a nutshell seasoning a Dutch oven is nothing more than applying a film of oil to the cast iron and then heating it to the point it carbonizes!

Cast iron cookware from the foundry is coated with wax/paraffin to keep rust from forming due to humidity. One needs to remove this wax coating so the oil can penetrate the pores of the iron. There are two methods to remove this wax prior to seasoning a new piece. If the piece does not feel waxy to the touch, the layer is light enough hot soapy water will remove it. On the other hand I've found that it works better to set a new piece that has a heavy wax layer on my camp stove or over charcoal and actually burn off this wax layer. As the piece heats up the wax/paraffin will begin to "smoke off". When smoke no longer is evident the cast iron is ready to cure.

Lodge Manufacturing recommends using a vegetable oil to season their cast iron cookware but it's my guess that over time bacon grease and lard have been used as much as anything. The most recent twist in seasoning cast iron cookware is a palm oil based conditioner marketed by Camp Chef. The advantage of this product is if someone gets carried away and uses too much it does not become rancid over time. Rather than pour oil into a new Dutch oven and smear it around I prefer to soak a clean shop rag with the oil and then wipe the entire DO including the lid inside and out applying a very thin film of oil. A uniform thin film of oil is the key to properly curing your new Dutch.

The next step is to apply enough heat to carbonize the oil that will turn the iron from a battleship gray color to a shiny black. Here again it's a matter of personal preference whether you use the oven, a gas grill, or charcoal. When the iron gets hot enough for the oil to begin to carbonize it begins to smoke. Rather than listen to the smoke detector in the kitchen I usually cure a new piece of cast iron outside on my charcoal grill using about 3-4 pounds of briquets. If you do use your oven it will take about an hour at 425°F. Check periodically and you'll see the cast iron turn from battleship gray to amber yellow and then a shiny black. At this point using heavy leather welding gloves I wipe a second thin film of oil on the hot cast iron that quickly smokes off. After the piece cools I rinse it out with hot water before cooking in it.

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