Cast iron cookware is commonly found in Indian homes, often painstakingly preserved by our grandmothers and passed down the generations. You are likely to find a cast iron Kadai in your home too, but lately, they have been replaced by Teflon coated cookware or non-stick cookware in other materials such as aluminium.
Cast iron utensils have been used for the longest time for cooking all kinds of food due to their non-stick property, and hard and sturdy make. If you’re using one yourself, there’s a chance you may find that your cast iron cookware isn’t working as well. You aren’t getting the crisps, the food sticks and you have to scrape it off. Not a very pleasant cooking experience. But don’t throw it away just yet!
If you’re facing any of these issues, it has to be due to the cast iron cookware not being properly seasoned. Often when the cookware is new, unseasoned or is out of use for a while, it loses its cooking edge. Sometimes when they are not properly maintained they may also rust. Any and all these mean not so great cooking results you may be experiencing.
Maintenance is key to getting the best out of cast iron cookware. Apart from giving the utensil a long life, seasoning is essentially required to give your cookware the very property it is best known for. If you have been using Cast Iron Cookware or have bought some recently, how to maintain it – for long life and excellent function – is definitely worth your time! So let’s equip you with all the things you need to know about seasoning your cookware. But before that, let’s understand the science of seasoning.
What is seasoning? And why season?
You may have noticed that the cast iron cookware, if they are in use and are not rusted, have a smooth and shiny black surface. This is the seasoning – a seamless layer on the surface that makes the cookware non-stick and ideal for cooking (This is much like the Teflon or non-stick coating on utensils). Unseasoned cast iron cookware has a slate grey colour and any food cooked in it will stick. But seasoned cast iron cookware will get you the crispiest dosas, pancakes, chilla and much more without sticking, thanks to the seasoning.
How does seasoning form on cast iron?
If you understand a little bit of chemistry: seasoning is a non-stick layer that forms on the cast-iron surface when heat causes fat to break down and polymerize. Heat changes the chemical properties of fat, resulting in the creation of polymers. As it cools down, these polymers bond to the surface of the utensil to form a non-stick layer which is basically a plastic-like layer, much like teflon.
The surface of cast iron utensils is porous and tends to absorb all the oil to form a non-stick surface. So, every time you are using the utensil you are actually seasoning it. In fact, the more you use it, the better it gets as the layers keep adding!
See it’s not at all difficult and not much of a hassle. All you gotta do is, do some seasoning one before you start using it (with the procedure mentioned below) and then keep it in use.
How to season?
As you may have figured by now, all you need for seasoning your cast iron cookware is Oil and heat. You are only required to rub some oil and give the utensil some heat to achieve the smooth shiny non-stick finish you need!
Wash and clean the utensil to free the surface of any dirt, dust or gunk. If you are using an old utensil that may have been out of use, you need to remove the layer of rust that may have developed from the surface before you start to season it.
To get rid of rust, you can scour to remove the rust. Or you can also do it by mixing salt and oil and scrubbing it onto the surface. Then dip the utensil in hot water to clean it. Alternatively, you can also dip the utensil in a mixture of water and white vinegar (in equal amounts) and allow it to soak for about two hours. This will help dissolve the rust which you shall be able to later scrape off gently.
Once the utensil is washed and cleaned, dry it thoroughly. Now we can start the actual seasoning process. For this, take oil and apply a thin layer of it all over the cast iron surface.
You can choose canola, soybean, flaxseed, sesame, sunflower or any other vegetable oil for the purpose. Among these, flaxseed oil is a prefered option because it hardens and forms a long-lasting non-stick layer.
Make sure to wipe off any excess using a paper towel. Now the next step is to heat it. So heat the utensil over medium heat on a stove. The utensil will start to smoke, add a little more oil and spread it with the help of a paper towel to form a thin even layer. Repeat the process 2-3 times and then leave the utensil to cool. Then add a final layer of oil and it’s ready to be used for cooking.
Wasn’t it simple? Seasoning your cast iron cookware is so simple. Maintaining cast iron is difficult – is a myth. In fact, after the initial seasoning, maintenance is quite simply cooking in it.
Cast iron cookware is a naturally treated non-stick ware, you don’t need to buy non-stick cookware that wears off, cast iron utensils replenish themselves as you cook and are also safe. And the occasional seasoning is all they may need for maintenance. Find a complete range of cast iron utensils including cast iron kadai, Dosa Tawa, skillet, tadka ladle and many more handmade by skilled artisans of Thenkasi.