For camping and emergency gear, you can never have too many cast iron pans. Some of them come preseasoned, but factory finishes eventually strip. Whether you buy the pans unseasoned or preseasoned, it’s good to know how to season your cast iron pans so they can remain non-stick, easy to clean and stored for long periods of time without threat of rusting. A well-seasoned pan can give you a lifetime of faithful service.
Before you start, if your pan is used, scrub any rust and gunk out of it with fine steel wool. If that doesn’t work, stick it in your self-cleaning oven for the shortest time period and wipe clean. If you don’t have a self-cleaning oven, spray it with oven cleaner, stick it in a plastic bag overnight and wipe clean the next day.
The process of seasoning is pretty simple. First, spread oil or fat on the inside of your pans, not a lot, with a paper towel. There’s some debate as to what kind of coating to put on, particularly when you factor in the non-meat eaters who lobby for vegetable oil. What we have found, however, is that animal fat does the best job. So you could fry up a big batch of bacon (ooohhh, yeah…) and then leave the grease in there to harden and then spread around. Or, you could just grab some lard.
Set your oven for 450° and spread a sheet of aluminum foil on the lower shelf. Set the greased pan on the upper shelf upside-down, so the foil can catch the excess drips. It would probably be a good idea at this point to open the windows and turn on the exhaust fan, ’cause the place is gonna get smoky real soon. Bake the pan for 2 hours.
When the time is up, turn off the oven and leave the pan in there, leaving the oven door open a crack. The cast iron pan needs to cool slowly; a sudden change from hot to cool temperature might cause it to crack.
The end result should be a nice, even, black finish. You may have to do it a few times in a row to get the desired result.
DO NOT WASH! When the pan has cooled enough to handle, take it out and wipe it down with a kitchen “J-cloth” or sturdy paper towel, making sure it’s dry to prevent rusting. And for future cleaning, don’t scrub it too hard or you’ll ruin the finish– and don’t use soap or detergent! Just hot water and a plastic scrub brush should do the trick.
And that’s it! Over time you’ll want to repeat the seasoning process to keep your pans in prime shape, and you’ll find they cook more evenly and last longer than the other pots and pans.
Harbor Freight has an extremely affordable, quality 3-piece set of Cast Iron Frying Pans #44707, ready to go along on your family trips and excursions! They also have a nice 12″ Cast Iron Dutch Oven #44705 for your camping trip Mountain Man breakfasts, stews and cherry cobblers!