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Food & Drink

How To Season A Cast Iron Pan

Seasoning a cast iron pan is simply cleaning out the pores of the metal and sealing them back up with a coat of fresh oil. Chef Scott Swartz of The Culinary Institute of America starts by getting his pan hot. You really want a lot of heat to coax open the pores, so don't be afraid to heat the pan until it's smoking. He covers the bottom of the pan with kosher salt, then pours in a bit of oil. (Don't use anything expensive -- the oil isn't for flavor, just for lubrication.) He takes a clean rag and rubs the salt and oil all over the inside of the pan, creating a natural abrasive that removes old fat, dirt, and rust. You'll see the rag and the salt change color as they pick up these impurities. Once the pan is clean, turn off the heat and wipe out the salt and oil mixture. Pour in a small amount of oil, then wipe the oil around the pan with a clean rag. You don't need to wash the pan after this -- you can now use it to cook. Swartz says he does this procedure every time he cooks with his cast iron cookware to keep it in good working order.

For 60 years, The Culinary Institute of America has been setting the standard for excellence in professional culinary education. In this video series, experienced chefs and educators show you how to tackle essential cooking techniques.

Hi, I'm Chef Scott Swartz from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: how to season a cast iron pan.

When you're seasoning a cast iron pan, the first thing you need to do is get your pan hot, so let's start heating up the pan. What does seasoning mean? It means cleaning out the pores of the metal. Cast iron is a living metal. It's got pores; when we heat it up, those pores open. We have to clean out those pores, and fill them in with a little bit of oil.

So what do we need? We need a cast iron pan getting nice and hot - we want it pretty much as hot as we can. Even if it's a little bit smoking, that's okay. We want a coarse salt. In this case we'll use kosher salt, because it's an inexpensive coarse salt; it would be a waste of sea salt. So we'll just cover the bottom with a little kosher salt. The only other ingredient we need in this is a little bit of oil. What kind of oil? An inexpensive oil: again, this is about cleaning; it's a waste of good olive oil. So I'll pour in a little bit of oil. Now all I need is a rag.

I'll bunch up my rag a little bit, and I take it and I scrub the salt and the oil into the pores of the pan. What I'm really doing is creating a natural abrasive with salt and oil. What you'll see is that those few little rust spots and dirty spots in my pan are going to come clean. If it doesn't seem like it's clean enough, just scrub it a little harder.

Now I can shut off my heat and finish the scrubbing. How do I know I have really cleaned it? I can see the color change in my salt, and the color change in my rag. This is all the dirt and fat and everything else that was in there - even rust. Then I simply take the salt and the oil, and wipe it out of the pan. At this point I'll switch and take a clean side of my rag to wipe out the rest of it.

At this point my cast iron pan is clean. I don't need to put it in water; I just need to put a thin layer of fresh oil on it, and it's seasoned. So I pour a little bit of oil back in it, take my rag and wipe it one more time, and you can see by that beautiful shine that my cast iron pan is properly seasoned. This is ready to go.

I always do this when I finish cooking in it, immediately, so the pan won't rust and it's ready to go the next time - and it's easy to clean.

And that's how you season a cast iron pan.