How to Season a Cast Iron, Carbon Steel or Spun Iron Pan

It is crucial to note that cast iron, carbon or mild steel, aluminium and spun iron pans require proper care and seasoning to perform at their best.

This process may take some getting used to, but the results are well worth the effort. Essentially, seasoning refers to creating a protective barrier on the cooking surface of the pan that will eventually turn into a non-stick layer.

This may not be as perfect as a non-stick pan, but it comes close and is a tried and true method used long before non-stick pans were invented.

These pans have recently seen a revival due to their durability and ability to retain heat, resulting in perfectly seared food.

Another added bonus is their compatibility with various cooking methods, such as induction hobs and open barbecues.

However, to maintain their effectiveness, these pans should not be cleaned with soap or put in the dishwasher, as the detergent can damage the seasoning layer.

Also, it is important to keep them dry to avoid rust.

This article provides instructions for initial seasoning and regular cleaning of pans.

If a pan is pre-seasoned, initial seasoning may not be necessary, but it still recommended for optimal results.

This process takes approximately 15 minutes or, for a more hands-off approach, an hour.

If the pan becomes rusty or loses its stick-resistance due to incorrect cleaning methods, it can be re-seasoned using the methods described below.

These pans are designed to last a lifetime with proper care.

Which Pans Need Initial Seasoning?

Initial Seasoning

To season your pan, you can use either the hob or oven method.

If using the oven, ensure that the pan's handle is oven-safe.

For pans with wooden handles, such as some Netherton Foundry Pans, it is necessary to season them on the hob as their handles are not suitable for the oven.

When using the hob method, follow these steps:

  1. If your pan is not pre-seasoned, wash it with warm water and washing-up liquid. This is acceptable as the pan will be re-seasoned and any beeswax coating will be removed, especially in the case of De Buyer carbon steel pans.
  2. If your pan is already pre-seasoned, you can simply rinse it and skip the soap.
  3. Dry the pan with a towel and put it on low heat to dry thoroughly.
  4. Then, add enough vegetable or other high-burning oil to cover the base of the pan by about 1/2 cm, as well as a few tablespoons of salt and peel from two potatoes (this helps pull any remaining impurities from the pan’s surface).
  5. Raise the heat to medium and using cooking tongs, occasionally move the peel around the pan and up the sides to the rim, for 8 to 10 minutes (the pan will turn brown).
  6. Discard the contents, allow pan to cool, then wipe with paper towels.

Your pan is now pre-seasoned. It won’t be perfectly easy-release the first time – this takes time and use – but it kick-starts the process.

After each use, follow the instructions under the next section, titled ‘Regular Cleaning’.

To properly season your pan in the oven, follow these instructions. This method is suitable for use with Netherton Foundry pans without wood handles.

  1. Begin by preheating your oven to 220°C.
  2. Rinse the pan with warm water and washing-up liquid (or simply rinse if the pan is already pre-seasoned).
  3. Dry the pan with a towel and place it over low heat for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat and pour a thin layer of high-burning vegetable oil into the pan, using kitchen roll or a tea towel to evenly spread it on both the inside and outside.
  5. Be sure to use only enough oil to cover the bottom, as any excess may result in sticky patches.
  6. Place the pan in the oven and leave it there for one hour.
  7. Turn off the heat and leave the pan in the oven until it has cooled completely.
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Regular Cleaning

For a thorough clean after use, simply use warm water on your cast iron, carbon steel, or spun pan.

To enhance the cleaning process, we recommend adding bicarbonate of soda while the pan is still hot.

If you discover stubborn residue, try adding water and using a wooden spoon to remove it while heating the pan.

Afterwards, rinse with warm water and create a paste with just enough bicarbonate of soda.

Use a gentle brush or sponge to scrub the pan clean (ensure that the brush or sponge is free of any residual soap from other pans).

Dry thoroughly before storing.

For an additional patina boost (optional but beneficial), heat the pan over low heat and add a small amount of high-burning vegetable oil, then wipe off any excess and store.

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Tips for Cooking & Care.

  • To ensure the development of a strong patina on your pan, use oil when cooking with an iron or carbon steel pan until you are confident in its durability.
  • It is important to only use oils with high burn points, such as rapeseed, groundnut, and vegetable oil, as low burn oils like extra virgin olive or sesame oil can damage the pan.
  • Avoid using abrasive scrubbers, such as steel wool, and instead opt for a lighter-weight bristle brush or kitchen towel.
  • It is also best to avoid soaking the pan, as this can cause oxidation and require re-seasoning.
  • Always make sure the pan is completely dry before storing, and for thorough dryness, heat it on the hob or in the oven.
  • In case the patina is accidentally removed, simply wipe the pan with a thin coat of oil and cook it over high heat until it darkens.
  • Keep in mind that cooking acidic foods like tomatoes, white wine, and citrus may cause the appearance of white stains, especially on pans that have yet to build a strong patina. If this occurs, the pan should be seasoned again.
  • Your pan’s patina gets stronger and more hardy with every use, so don’t think you’ll be seasoning and re-seasoning your pan constantly.
  • The absolute best way to ensure a good patina on your pan is to cook in it.

Easy, right?