How to Season a Dutch Oven
The seasoning process is almost a mystical thing with some cast iron enthusiasts. If anything, it’s the one thing everyone will agree needs to exist. How you get it and the basic properties are shrouded in myth and science. The bare metal is porous and will stick to food unless it has some sort of barrier between the metal and the food. A seasoned pan has a stick-resistant coating created by polymerized oils and fats. Seasoning is the process by which a layer of animal fat or vegetable oil is applied and polymerized onto the cast iron over a period of time. The seasoning layer also protects the cookware from rusting and reduces foods interaction with the iron in the pan. Seasoning gives the cast iron a black coating and without it the cast iron has its natural grey metal look.
Seasoning is basically a carbonized layer of oil that has been sealed to the cast iron. It can be built up over time to make an almost non-stick finish on the cast iron. The exact process of how you get that layer on the cast iron differs between experts, enthusiasts and old housewives. What they all agree on is that that there must be heat involved and some sort of oil. What the temperature level of the heat, where you get the heat, what type of oil, and how much oil are all matters up for argument. The three elements necessary to seasoning are cleaning the metal, applying a thin coat of oil and heating the cast iron for a period of time.
Most modern cast iron is sold “pre-seasoned”. The manufacturer puts some oil on the cast iron while it was still hot at the factory. Mostly this provides a rust inhibitor for shipping and for the first few instances of cooking with the pan. Even with pre-seasoning, you will still want to add some additional protection through additional layers of oil. You can cook with a pre-seasoned pan straight from the box as long as you use extra oil to enhance the factory seasoning..
Seasoning Instructions from Lodge
- Wash the cookware with hot, soapy water and a stiff brush. (It is okay to use soap this time because you are preparing to re-season the cookware).
- Rinse and dry completely.
- Apply a very thin, even coating of MELTED solid vegetable shortening (or cooking oil of your choice) to the cookware inside and out. Too much oil will result in a sticky finish.
- Place aluminum foil on the bottom rack of the oven to catch any drips.
- Set oven temperature to 350 – 400 degrees F.
- Place cookware upside down on the top rack of the oven to prevent pooling.
- Bake the cookware for at least one hour. After the hour, turn the oven off and let the cookware cool in the oven.