Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Seasoning a Cast Iron Pot

Some cast iron pots that you buy come pre seasoned.

My set which includes the dutch oven has been pre seasoned and silly me, I forgot all about seasoning when I decided to use the mini cauldron for the first time... with disastrous results.

In more ways than one.  The handle broke the instant it came out of the oven.  What the....???

The inside was well and truly rusty once I cleaned out the iron tainted soup.  Historically the cast iron pots were responsible for topping up the iron intake in the populations perhaps less than ideal diet.  Not a bad thing really when you think about it.  But they did understand how to season their pans and would never have made the mistake I did.

So.  What is seasoning?  An unseasoned cast iron pan is prone to rust.  Food is inclined to stick to it and it can taint the food with a metallic taste (ask me how I know?)  The process of seasoning will give it a virtually non stick coating that protects the food from the 'raw' cast iron and also stops the food from sticking.  Minute traces of iron do still enter the food but nothing harmful.

and so.  How do you season a cast iron pan?  First you clean it with soapy water.  If it is already rusty then you need to scrub off the rust.

This is easily done with a raw potato cut in half and a handful of salt.  A little hard scouring and the rust comes right off.  Well normally this is very easy but the shape of my pot made it very tricky indeed.  This should be the only and the last time you ever use such a rough method to clean the pot.

After the pot is clean.  You must dry it thoroughly.  Once dry you coat it with an edible oil or lard and then you bake it in a hot oven.  The idea is... that the oil or lard (actually I think lard is best but all I had was olive oil) bakes on to the metal giving the pan a protective coat.  You are advised to cook bacon or fried food in the pan several times to increase this protective layer... only wiping the pan with kitchen roll or a dry cloth between uses.  Now this is fine if you are talking about a frying pan.  But this is a cauldron.... I was thinking of cooking stew or soup in it... not frying bacon.

Anyway.  The fire is lit.  The oven is hot.  The cauldron is coated in oil - both inside and out because I read somewhere that sealing the outside is also a good idea???? who knows????

Am I going to fry bacon in it tomorrow?

I don't know.  It was really hard to clean because of the shape of it and I scratched my hands and rubbed them with salt something terrible until I had to stop because of the stinging.

I am not convinced that it is clean enough.  I might bake it a few times with lard before I try putting food into it again.

There must be a way to protect it.  Macbeth's witches were stirring a potion intended for human consumption after all.  I can't believe any witch worth her salt would have tainted the batch by using a non seasoned cauldron!

Woman with hands stinging and red.  Man looking at the Ikea kitchen section online.

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