Seasoning cast iron is an age-old tradition that helps prevent rusting.
Rusting deteriorates the pan and is unpleasant to find in your food.
Cast iron is especially susceptible to rust and even drying it after washing is not enough. Any moisture in the environment puts your cast iron pan at risk.
Is Lard Good for Cast Iron Seasoning?
Lard is a good option for seasoning cast iron pans. It has a smoking point of 190 degrees Celcius (374 degrees F), which is better than options such as butter or olive oil.
To be honest, Lard is somewhere in the middle when it comes to choosing seasoning options for cast iron.
The best options usually are vegetable oil, flaxseed oil, or peanut butter oil. These oils have a higher smoking point than Lard and would better season your cast iron pan.
But if you don’t have any of these oils (or you have lard that you want to use up), it is perfectly good to be used for seasoning cast iron pans.
Steps for Seasoning Your Cast Iron Pan With Lard
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to season your cast iron pan with lard in six comprehensive steps:
- Scrub your Pan with Soap
A seasoned cast iron pan should be nowhere near soap. However, before you season your pan, it needs to be clean. No dirt, rust stains, or grease should be on the pan when you’re seasoning it.
To clean your cast iron pan to the required standard, you will need to use soap. If you do not clean the pan well enough, it will affect the formation of the carbonized patina.
Wash your pan in warm, soapy water with a stiff brush. Make sure to rinse it thoroughly afterward.
- Dry Out the Pan
You need to dry the freshly washed pan because of how lard interacts with water.
The two substances do not mix. If they meet each other on the pan, it will affect the seasoning process.
Use a paper towel or any other lint-free cloth to dry out your pan. Lint will come in between the pan and the oil, affecting the process.
You could also put the freshly washed pan on the cooker to dry it out. This step can be for extra precaution or, you could substitute the paper towels for it.
- Apply the Lard
Use a paper towel or lint-free cloth again for this step.
If the lard is a little hard, it would be great to soften it. Scoop out a small chunk and warm it in the microwave, or over a burner.
Alternatively, you could use liquid vegetable oil.
Use the paper towel or cloth to apply a thin layer of lard onto the pan. Thick layers drip and dirty the oven as you bake the pan.
Thicker layers also have no benefits to the seasoning process.
- Preheat the Oven and Place a Sheet of Aluminum Foil on the Bottom Rack
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about ten minutes.
As it heats, prepare a sheet of aluminum that can cover the bottom rack of your oven.
Once the preheating is done, place the sheet of aluminum on the bottom rack.
Important: Remember that the smoking point of Lard is 374 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that in case the temperature in the oven goes above this, there is a possibility that the lard would start burning. So make sure it’s lower so that Lard doesn’t burn
- Bake the Pan
Place the oiled pan at the center of the middle rack.
Make sure the pan is upside down so that the oil does not pool inside. This position will also allow excess oil to drain out of the pan.
Leave the oiled pan to bake for one hour. This is enough time for the patina to form and adhere to the iron.
- Cool the Pan in The Oven
After one hour, turn off the oven but leave the pan inside to cool. Let it cool for around 30 min.
Cooling the pan inside the oven gives the pan more time to cure and the patina to bind to the iron.
Doing this is also safe because cast iron retains a lot of heat. It will remain lethally hot for quite some time.
There would also be no place to put such a hot thing as it will burn surfaces.
The Science Behind Seasoning
Seasoning cast iron pans is based on the process of polymerization. When lard/oil undergoes this process on the surface of the pan, it is said to be carbonized.
Seasoning, then, is the process of baking carbonized oil into your cast iron pan through polymerization.
The surface of cast iron is highly porous, so it also makes food stick onto it more. The seasoning fills these holes with oil, then binds the oil to the iron.
This porosity of cast iron also means there is more surface area for the oil to secure itself on. This makes seasoning easier to do than on any other metal.
Another thing that makes seasoning crucial is cast iron’s heat retention. Once exposed to heat radiation, cast iron ‘holds’ on to the heat for a long time.
This heat retention offers a fantastic cooking experience because heat circulates throughout the pan. However, this also means it takes little skill to control the heat.
The moment the pan gets too hot, the food burns and sticks to the pan. This stickiness makes food harder to salvage. Seasoning your cast iron pan will help you control the heat better.
The more you cook in a seasoned cast iron pan, the thicker the patina gets. Therefore, seasoning increases the durability of your pan with every use.
Impressive, isn’t it? So, how do we maintain the seasoning of cast iron pans?
How to Maintain the Seasoning of Your Cast Iron Pan
As mentioned before, a seasoned cast iron pan has many benefits; but how should you maintain the seasoning?
The process takes a lot of energy, so frequent re-seasoning would be expensive and wasteful.
Luckily, you don’t need to keep repeating the process; you just need to maintain the seasoning.
The Simplest: Keep Cooking in It
When we said that maintenance would not be a problem, this is what we meant. The most important form of maintenance is simply to cook in your pan with oil as much as possible.
Each time you cook with oil, an additional layer of seasoning is formed. This reinforcement happens because cooking mimics the seasoning process.
This reinforcement is nothing compared to the initial seasoning and is also uneven. However, more and more cooking will eventually compensate for these weaknesses.
The other benefits that come with seasoning are also improved. The more you cook in your seasoned pan, the easier it is to clean and the fewer food sticks on it.
If your diet does not require you to use your pan at least twice a week, consider switching the microwave for the pan. This will also challenge you to add some flavor to leftovers.
Since the only cooking that counts is cooking that involves some oil, you can add some spices. This increased consumption of fried food can also prompt you to experiment with healthier oils.
Never Use Soap to Wash a Seasoned Cast Iron Pan
The science behind soap is primarily oil molecule removal. Dishwashing soaps are specially designed to remove soap from dishes.
Using soap on your seasoned cast iron pan will loosen the oil molecules bound to the porous cast-iron structure. This will not reverse the chemical binding, but it will weaken the patina.
Frequent weakening of the patina will eventually start affecting its functioning. There will be more food sticking to the pan and rust may even start forming.
The best way to wash a seasoned cast iron pan is to use a stiff-bristled brush under cool, running water.
It is best to do this while the pan is still hot; however, this creates harmful steam.
The next best thing to do is to let it cool down a little, then clean it while it is still warm. A rule of thumb would be to wait for 5-7 minutes, then drop a little water into the pan.
If it evaporates right away, it is still too hot. If it doesn’t sizzle at all, it is too cool. If it sizzles softly, then it’s just right.
Do Not Marinate Food in Your Seasoned Pan
Marination has ingredients such as vinegar and citrus fruit juice. All of these are highly acidic substances that break down the patina and damage it.
Even one session of marination will destroy the integrity of the patina and even cooking will not help. You may need to consider re-seasoning your pan following any marination.
It would also help to avoid using too many acidic substances as you cook in your pan. You can try the alternative of having the acidic ingredients as table-time embellishments.
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