Caring for Cast-Iron Pans–Seasoning and Mythbusting

Filed under:Food,It's My Life — posted by Anwyn on May 20, 2008 @ 1:30 pm

Almost everywhere I look up information about caring for cast-iron pans, people are hollering at you not to put soap in your pans. They say in the most definite terms that this is extremely undesirable for your pans and will ruin the seasoning. This just isn’t true–I wash my pans with soap after every use, like my mother before me, and our pans are in perfect condition. Dish soap does not destroy the seasoning–it merely removes the layer of grease that you just cooked in, which is the point of washing something to begin with. As long as you oil the pan after every washing, at least for the first few months after the initial seasoning, you will build up a fine layer of season and your pan will last you indefinitely. You should see the way wash-water rolls off my most frequently used pan–the seasoning is almost waterproof at this point.

How do you get it seasoned like that in the first place? Easy: wipe it with a thin layer of lard or shortening (I use lard; I tried liquid vegetable oil the first time and it gummed up and I had to start over) and put it in the oven for an hour. Some people recommend an extremely high oven temp for this (450-500); others say 350 is fine. Both will work, but the key is a thin layer of grease–if the grease pools it will harden into a stubborn little nodule on your pan. Check the pan 20 minutes into the process and again at 40 (these times are for 350 degrees; if you use higher heat, check at shorter intervals), and if there are grease beads standing on it, wipe them away with a paper towel. Then, each time you cook in the pan, wash and thoroughly dry, then set the pan on a burner to heat for a couple minutes, put more lard or shortening in, wipe it all over the pan (again, thinly) and let the pan sit on the burner a couple more minutes, until the grease is very hot and well soaked into the pan. Turn the burner off, wipe pan with paper towel, and let it sit until cool. It’s okay if the pan remains slightly greasy to the touch.

For especially crusty, old, or rusty pans (or to clear off a botched seasoning job): I cleaned all the gunk of the ages off all my heirloom pans by putting them in the oven during a cleaning cycle–put the pans in the oven while cold, then turn on the cleaning cycle and leave them alone until many hours after the cycle is over, so that they cool gradually. Warning–some people say their pans have warped or cracked during this process, but mine withstood the heat and came out clean as a whistle–well, clean under the flaky ashy stuff, the remains of the formerly crusted-on stuff. From there, just wash, dry, and season. If they’re rusty, take some fine-grain sandpaper or a sanding sponge, sand on them for a bit, rub them with your seasoning medium, then wash with soap and dry thoroughly. Repeat sanding, oiling, and washing until rust-free. Then follow seasoning procedure outlined above.

This is what has worked like a charm for my pans–your mileage may vary.

Amen and Almost Amen

Filed under:It's My Life — posted by Anwyn @ 10:24 am

Mr. Sippican’s Top Ten Things Not to Do to Your House. I agree with all of them except #8 and #10:

10. Blue and Brown.
I’ve lived through this three times now. I’ve ripped all this stuff out twice with customers muttering “What were they thinking?” Powder Blue and Cocoa Brown DO NOT go together under any circumstances, anywhere. Except of course in every room on every show on television.

Chocolate brown and pale blue do go together decently well. Blue/brown overload is a different story.

8. Ceiling fans everywhere.
Do you all really think you live in Casablanca? If I go into another ranch house with a ceiling fan hanging down from a 7 foot 6 inch ceiling, I’m going to go postal. If I can’t stand up in the middle of the room without getting a bruise or a haircut, you’re doing it wrong. There is no stratification of air in a house. Doesn’t happen. You’re screwing a window boxfan sideways to your ceiling. Stop it. Your house has AC anyway. And you live in Wisconsin. Cut it out.

I do have a horrible stratification of air in my house–with a thermostat set to 71 degrees, the downstairs stays borderline cold and the upstairs stays borderline hot (or, in the winter, the downstairs stays borderline toasty and the upstairs stays borderline cold. Which is not so bad since I prefer to sleep with heavy covers). We’re looking at steps to fix this (I got tired of blocking the downstairs air vents with phone books to force more air upstairs), but meanwhile the ceiling fans in the bedrooms are highly efficient comfort-savers. And if you’d get a haircut from one of our ceiling fans, well … sorry, those of us who live here just aren’t that tall.

The morons who built our house with the sucky airflow also put the cooktop in the island, and like Mr. Sippican I hate hate hate it. We don’t even bother having seating on the other side of it.

A Quick Dancing Note

Filed under:Television — posted by Anwyn @ 7:21 am

Dancing with the Stars finals last night; results tonight. Kristi Yamaguchi for the win is nearly a foregone conclusion, but those have been upset before. We’ll see.

Their newest finals mechanism is a faceoff-style dance, in which one dance and one song are selected and each of the three couples dances one minute of it. It was entertaining and, as the judges remarked, definitely allowed them to see who’s the best, but it seems to build in a hefty amount of unfairness–as was pointed out right on the show, cha-cha-cha is so far away from being Jason’s best dance that you’d never know how he got to the finals if that dance was the only one of his that you saw. Shouldn’t the finals be the moment when the couples choose their strengths for themselves and bring out the very best they have, rather than dancing a preselected style that may set their opponents up to shine at their expense? Even Kristi has an Achilles heel–it was samba, but they’d never choose that dance for the finals because it’s a killer for everybody. So her weakness is off the table out of the gate.

They’ve tried a number of different finals styles, including having the judges pick which dance each couple would do. By far the fairest and leading to the most robust competition is allowing each couple to pick their own.

I May Be Dumb, but Amazon’s Rude

Filed under:Good Grief,Need a Good Editor?,Not Cool — posted by Anwyn @ 7:07 am

So I joined the Associates program, thinking to pick up a few cents here and there on people’s Amazon orders. I was aware there are no referral fees on items I buy myself, but stupidly overlooked this part:

This includes orders for customers, orders on behalf of customers, and orders for products to be used by you, your friends, your relatives, or your associates in any manner.

Okay, that’s pretty restricted–my mother almost never orders from Amazon because she doesn’t like wrestling with a click system rather than just picking what she wants and filling out an order form. She orders through Amazon specifically because I set up the portal on my blog–thus essentially referring a new customer to them, the ostensible purpose of the program–and her purchases don’t count because she’s my mother?

It’s understandable, if a bit narrow. But what really got my goat was the offensive and condescending expressions of the Amazon flunky who wrote back to my query about why there were several orders but no referral fees in my account. He accused me outright of ordering all the items myself, when actually some were ordered by my mother as aforementioned and some were ordered by Daddyman. He then snidely mentioned that Amazon is not running a “discount program” here. Yeah, no duh, moron.

And because their system is “proprietary,” he condescendingly declines to explain to me how they “know” I ordered the items myself. Hey, Sherlock? My mother has my same last name and Daddyman lives at my same address, though we aren’t married and thus aren’t even related. I pretty well grok on my own how you “deduced” these items were nefariously purchased by me. But you’re dead frackin’ wrong–I have zero interest in old episodes of Doctor Who.

So while I understand that you have to protect yourselves from being taken advantage of, and that orders from the same household should probably be restricted from the program, still, that’s not the same as me ordering them myself to try to hoodwink you. When you accuse people of that, you destroy a lot of goodwill and good faith. Yeah, it’s embarrassingly stupid of me not to have noticed the “relatives” part, but it’s offensively condescending for you to send a lengthy, rambling email accusing me of acting in bad faith instead of simply pointing out the problem and the restricted items. Thus my membership in the Associates program is finished. Hire some people who know how to respond to emails without acting like people who invite their friends and family to use their Amazon portal are deceptive little weasels who really are only after discounts for themselves.

image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace