Growing up as a southern gal, there are lots of old rural mountain traditions that get passed down from generation to generation, one of them is our love for cooking in cast iron skillets. I have inherited a few skillets over the years from my great-grandparents, as well as buying a couple of my own that I wanted to leave for my children. A cast iron skillet, or any cast iron cooking vessel could turn out to be an heirloom, because they virtually last forever when cared for correctly.
I thought I'd share how I season my cast iron skillets today. All of my skillets are very old, so they are well seasoned, however, with normal every day cooking and cleaning, they need re-seasoned every once in a while. Seasoning your skillets provide that wonderful non-stick surface that turns out delicious food.
Cast iron cookware can be used on induction, ceramic, electric and gas cook top stoves, in your oven, on the grill, or even over the campfire. Do not use in the microwave. If you use them on a ceramic cook top, like I do, remember to never slide the skillet - always pick it straight up to avoid scratching the surface of your cook top.
The best seasoning for cast iron is plain old lard. I didn't have any lard on hand, but I could see that my favorite skillets were beginning to show signs of wear and I knew I needed to get them seasoned before using them again, so I substituted vegetable oil instead. You don't need globs of lard or oil - in my case, a nickel to quarter sized amount of oil coated each one well. Use a couple of paper towels to rub the oil over the inside of the skillet to coat well. Too much oil will cause a sticky mess. Make sure there is no excess oil pooled up and it is rubbed in well. Some old timers I know rub oil on the outside of the skillet as well, I don't do this step. I'm not worried about the outside of the skillet being non-stick, mine naturally blackens to a nice smooth surface on its own because I don't scrub the outside of the cast iron when I clean it.
I leave them in the oven for approximately 2 hours.
Here are a few tips about keeping your cast iron looking and of course functioning well -
*Do not put them into the dishwasher - trust me, they rust if washed in the dishwasher, plus, it strips all the seasoning off them.
*Avoid harsh soaps.
*Avoid using a wire or Brillo type pad on them, it will strip the seasoning. If something is stuck, soak the skillet and use a sponge with a scrubby side and then re-season it.
*If you see a little rust, don't throw out your skillet! Scrub the rust away and re-season it, it'll be good as new.
*After each washing, dry well and place a nickel sized drop of oil into the skillet and rub it in with a paper towel to keep it shiny and non-stick.
*These skillets are better and better as they age.
After a couple hours, turn off your oven and just let them cool while still inside. Remove them after they are completely cool and store them away in a dry place and enjoy a lifetime of cooking in cast iron.