I've always had difficulty cooking with cast iron, so for a long time I haven't had any. Recently, a friend gave me several new Lodge cast iron pan, because he's convinced I will love them when I learn to use them properly, and I promised I will approach them with an open mind - indeed, I will try to like them
. As part of doing so, I'm trying to learn about the whole process of seasoning the pans and what has caused my problems in the past. I have three general questions, with my thoughts about each so you'll understand why I'm asking...
Question 1: What is seasoning, really?
Any discussion of cooking with cast iron always revolves around the seasoning of the pan. But, what is seasoning really? Lodge gives very clear directions involving coating the pan with melted crisco and then placing it in the oven for, I believe, an hour. I understand that coating the pan with liquid fat should leave a good layer of fat to prevent things from sticking, but what is the purpose of putting it in the oven for an hour? Does this somehow make the "seasoning" work better, or is it just to facilitate excess fat to drip off? If the latter, could we therefore regard this step as optional?
Question 2: Why did my eggs stick?
My primary experience that put me off the use of cast iron 20 years ago is that every time I tried to make eggs in it, they'd stick.
My mother and various friends would simply put some butter in the pan, melt it, add eggs, and they'd cook just fine and come out cleanly. However, every time I tried to do this, having seen it done probably hundreds of times, and using a well seasoned pan and plenty of butter (trust me, I use generous amounts of butter), my eggs would stick, and the owner of the pan would be upset with me for ruining the seasoning of their pan.
Does anybody have any clues as to why this might have happened? (I'm expecting that answers will be in the form of what I did wrong, so don't be afraid to criticize me here. I know it can be done right, I've seen it done, it's just that when I try to do it things go badly.) I'm not cooking any eggs in my new pans until I have a better understanding of this. (I have perfectly nice teflon coated steel pans for cooking my eggs so I'm in no rush.)
Question 3: Is seasoning really necessary?
This may shock cast iron aficionados, but my mother washed her two cast iron pans every day. With soap.
Yet, she had no problems cooking with her pans, and her food did not stick to them. Yes, I'm really very sure of these facts. This leads me to wonder: If you're cooking with an adequate amount of oil/grease/butter, is it really necessary that the pan be seasoned, or can it simply be kept dry when not in use, oiled up at cooking time, washed and dried afterward, and used normally? I'm not suggesting that it would be better to wash the pan daily with soap and use bare cast iron, I'm just questioning whether this can be done on occasion when necessary of if (and this point I can not honestly recall after nearly 30 years) my mother only got away with it by perhaps using stupidly large amounts of grease?
Thanks for any advice that anyone may be able to render regarding these three questions.