Seasoning Cast Iron Outdoors
Cast iron pans and pots are great tools to have in the kitchen. When cared for properly cast iron has a non-stick surface and will last you a lifetime or longer, which is why I love cooking with it.
Cast iron pans are also ideal for cooking on a variety of surfaces. I use mine daily on our induction glass top hot plate, but I also use them at our camp on the wood stove. As well, cast iron can be used on gas burners, in the oven, in the BBQ and even over an open fire.
Since cast iron lasts for generations you can often find antique pans and crocks, but they may need a little sprucing up. Even a new cast iron skillet can benefit from a nice layer of seasoning.
What is Seasoning?
Seasoning is simply a layer of oil that has been baked into the surface of cast iron. When the layer of oil on the cast iron is heated the polymers in the oil form strong bonds with the metal which results in a black durable surface. The more you oil and heat your pan for regular cooking the seasoning improves.
When to Season Cast Iron
If the seasoning is flaking off and exposing the silver iron underneath you should apply a new layer.
When this begins to happen you will probably notice some black flakes in the food when you are cooking.
If you have cast iron with some rust it will need seasoning after the rust is removed.
Cast iron rusts very easily when it is wet, therefore it is very important to dry it thoroughly. To make sure it is completely dry put the cast iron pan back on the hot burner after washing.
Often new cast iron will say that it is pre-seasoned, however it will work better and be more durable if you give it another coat of seasoning.
What You Need to Season Cast Iron
- Heat source for baking- BBQ or oven that will reach 400˚F
- Fat for seasoning – Pork lard, beef tallow, coconut oil, or other vegetable oils. I chose to use lard.
- Time – About 1 hour per coat of seasoning
How to Season Cast Iron Outdoors
To begin wash your cast iron with soap and water. After cast iron has been seasoned you should never use soap to clean it, but before seasoning it is important to have a really clean surface for the oil to bake onto.
If your cast iron is rusted, first removed the rust then wash it. To remove the rust from my bean pot I used a steel wool scrub pad. You could also use a metal wire brush or a drill with a metal brush attachment.
Vinegar helps to soften the rust and can make cleaning easier. If your cast iron has a lot of rust, soaking it in a bucket of vinegar before scrubbing will make it come off easier.
Turn on on your BBQ to warm up. After your cast iron is clean put it in your BBQ for a minute to make sure it is dry. This also warms the cast iron and helps the lard melt and get into all the surface pores.
Take the pan out of the BBQ before it gets too hot to touch.
Take some lard, or whatever oil you are using, and spread it all over the pan. Make sure to get it into all the nooks and crannies.
Once you have a coat covering the pan take a lint free tea towel and gently wipe off any excess fat or oil.
The goal is to have a thin coat all over, if the oil is too thick it will smoke more and can end up being sticky. It is best to do multiple thin layers than one thick layer.
Put your pan into the BBQ and bake it for 1 hour at 400˚F.
It is important to put your cast iron in upside down so that any excess fat or oil does not accumulate in your pan and form a thick layer, but instead drips out.
After an hour has past turn off your BBQ and let the cast iron cookware cool down inside.
Once finished check the cast iron to see if the seasoning is as dark and thick as you want.
I ended up doing 3 rounds of greasing and baking to get enough seasoning on my pan and crock. However, if you have new cast iron and are just getting it ready to use one layer should be enough.
The goal is to have a dark shiny finish, if the finish is brown, grey or patchy you should repeat the process.
Why Season Outdoors
To keep your kitchen from getting smoky.
I initially chose to season my cast iron outside because I only have a toaster oven and my pan and pot do not fit inside.
After two coats of seasoning I was getting a little chilly outside and decided to do my last layer in my parents kitchen. After about 20 minutes I was smoking up the place and ran my pans back outside to the BBQ.
After my smoky experience seasoning in the oven, I highly recommend doing it outdoors.
Why I Use Lard
There are many different types of oils and fats that people use to season their cast iron, such as lard, tallow, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, olive oil (not extra virgin), or another oil you have.
I choose to use lard because it is a fat that I can buy locally. My husband and I hope to one day produce the majority of our food on our homestead, so I want to use a fat that we can make.
Currently, I buy lard from our local farmers market because we did not raise pigs this year. I prefer to use locally produced lard rather than an oil that was produced halfway around the world.
Buying local is a way to reduce my carbon footprint and live more sustainably. I know that lard is produced from pigs and that meat is often produced unsustainably but I am buying it from a small-scale local farmer who is making use of their pig fat that would otherwise go to waste.
I have read that there is a chance of the lard seasoning on cast iron going rancid if stored for a long time in a cupboard with poor air circulation. However, I have not heard of anyone having this experience, but it is good to be aware. That being said, animal fat was traditionally used to season cast iron for many generations and I have not had any problems with it.
Before and After
Here are the photos of my cast iron frying pan and crock before they were seasons.
And here are the same pan and pot after following the above steps for seasoning!
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Hey, I’m Maggie. I hope you will join me and my family in getting back to the land. Here you will learn about making things yourself, cooking homegrown food, and beginning a homesteading journey.