I have purchased my first piece of cast-iron cookware. It's a 12" skillet I paid 3 dollars for at a garage sale the other day (talked the guy down from 5, slick Joe strikes again, heh-heh-heh!). The pan contained what appeared to be fossilized eggs and refried beans, which was my main point of focus during the course of our dickering.
So my odyssey to clean and season the sucker has begun. Cleaning was easy. I scrubbed with steel wool, washed with dish soap, dried with towel, put in oven for the full course of self cleaning, 4 hours. After an hour or so for the pan to cool, I removed it and duplicated the entire process only using 80 grit sandpaper this time. Repeated once more, again using sandpaper.
So now seasoning. Figuring out which method to use has been a thoroughly confusing process. There are more variations on what type of fat/oil/temp/time/number of repetitions than there are prairie dogs in Kansas. That's a lot, believe me. Rather than choose one combination I printed out a list of temperatures, times and oils and employed the time tested, tried and true good 'ol dartboard random selection method. In case you are curious, the winning combo was 450 degrees, filtered bacon grease and 1 hour, 3 applications. After sobering up, I decided that the best approach would be to go to consult with the company that produces the most frequently recommended product.
Thus my phone call to the Crisco questions/comments hotline. Maria was super friendly, very helpful. So, here's the scoop from Crisco: 1 thin layer of regular Crisco shortening (butter flavored apparently will leave an undesirable film and flavor), applied with a paper towel, 200 degrees for 4 to 6 hours. And that's it. 1 application.
It occurred to me while attempting to de-glaze my eyes reading about the scientific processes at work in seasoning that the smoke point was important. Basically, we want the oil to dry but to remain and in so doing produce what is essentialy a shellac on the pan, right? So allowing the lubricant to heat to the point of smoking seems a bad thing. Smoke is the byproduct of the lubricant burning, right? If it burns then some of it is being lost to combustion, floating out and making the house stinky. We're not forging some kind of metal here, we are hoping for a change in the composition of the lube.
There is also the consideration of flavor. After all, this is an implement for preparing food. I have read here and there that coconut oil, for example, will render a subtle flavoring to whatever is cooked in the vessel seasoned with it. Smoke, other than in ribs n' such, doesnt taste very good. This wholly un-scientific line of reasoning leads me to think that the lower temp approach endorsed by Crisco is sound and preferable to the higher temp approach. For what it's worth, the smoke temp of Crisco, according to lovely Maria, is 440 degrees. So 200 is well below the threshold for stinky smoky seasoning.
Now comes the time for decision. I'm going to use the Crisco method. However, I am going to do multiple applications. I'm going to aim for at least 5 and will update my posting with the results. I would like to get the thoughts/comments/suggestions of the highly learned culinary gastro-nauts of chowhound. so waddya say?
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