So I saw a "pre-seasoned" cast iron 10-inch skillet at Target for $20.. what on earth does this mean? I thought seasoning came from using over and over again and then you don't really wash it but rinse it off with a cloth... how would using a pre-seasoned cast iron skillet affect my cooking? The first thing that I would be making in it would be Tyler Florence's potatoe "pie" deal from his holiday dinner menu.
When you first buy a cast iron pan the very first thing you need to do is season it. You are correct that it continues to season as you cook in it, but the initial seasoning is done without cooking anything. A popular way to do your first seasoning is to preheat your over to 400 degrees or so. Wash your pan with soap and water and then dry it and get it warm in the oven or on the stove top. Wipe a thin film of Crisco over the entire surface inside and out then put in the over upside down for an hour. Turn off the oven after an hour and let it cool overnight. You pan is now seasoned. This is basically what cast iron companies do to pre-season the pans as well.
Katie... I dont have personal experience with the "pre seasoned" pans (all of mine are vintage restoration projects) but I think you can basically consider it a starting point. Before making a potato pie I would either go through the seasoning process anyway or at the very least fry up a pound of bacon or so. It will take you awhile to build up the lovely slick surface that makes CI so great. In the meantime use oil liberally. Use the pan often and treat it right and it will get there.
FYI If you were to buy an unseasoned CI skillet it would come covered in wax or some other rust inhibitor that you will need to remove before seasoning.
Seasoning basically means that you are heating up the pan to open the iron pores. You then add fat and let it cool. the pores constrict and trap the fat. The fat then becomes part of the pan. After repeated use, the seasoning (fat) builds up and creates a non stick surface as well as a barrier from acids that might eat away at the iron.
Cast iron in its raw state will rust and food would stick horribly to it. When the heated Iron and Fats come together they bond and create a black carbonized layer on the surface of the iron. This carbonized layer protects the iron from rusting and contributes to non stick quality of the pan. As you use the pan you add to this layer further protecting the iron and increasing the nonstickeyness. When you see a well used CI pan that black shiny surface is the "seasoning" a raw unseasoned pan will be a dull grey
Until recently, all cast-iron pans were purchased "unseasoned" and you had to go through the seasoning process before you could use it since it was the raw metal. "Pre-seasoned" pans have done the hard work for you and no pre-seasoning is necessary other than normal use and maintenance.
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So when a pan is seasoned it has a slick surface... hm.. maybe the manufacturers of the CI pan at target are lying :-P cause it is not slick. I will definitely go through seasoning myself anyhow just to make sure. :) can I use plain old butter?
Thanks so much for your responses and help everyone, I think I will pick it up tomorrow. Wanted to go today but the last winter storm of 08 has other plans for me today...
I don't recommend butter! I would use Crisco (the new no transfat stuff works fine) or even better Lard.... but if the lard grosses you out and you have something against crisco use an oil with a high smoke point... not olive... Canola is ok.
I use olive oil after cooking but seasoning with it has not worked out great. I have had the best luck with crisco and bacon fat.
If you google you will get lots of instructions. I am definitley not an expert but here is what I have learned so far.... keep the coating thin... better to do it a few times than gunk it up and get it sticky.... use high heat none of this 300 stuff crank it up! Let it go for long enough at least 3-4 hours
Dont expect perfection on the first go. Your seasoning will develop with continued use. The seasoning process is what makes the pan useable... use makes it great.