Using cast iron cookware is a great way to add the supportive energy of iron to your diet. I don't know about you, but I've been using cast iron pans for most of my life. One of the things I inherited from my husband's family was an old cast iron fying pan, still just as lovely and useful as the day it was first seasoned.
And, no, I don't mean with salt. And I have to laugh, because I know you all know that seasoning a cast iron pan is not done with spices. I've received a lot of advice over the years about how to season cast iron, most of those insisting that animal fats are the best way to season cast iron cookware.
That option has always been a definite 'no' for me, so I looked for other options. Back in my younger days I used solid vegetable shortening to do that. But I've found a healthier option.
First, let's talk about why cast iron needs to be seasoned.
Cast iron is by nature, porous. Seasoning with fat or oil seals the surface of the item and changes the color from the light gray of a newly-purchased pot or pan to the lovely dark brown or black that is what we expect when we think of cast iron cookware.
Seasoning a cast iron pot or pan is simple. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees farenheit. Place your cookware on a baking sheet and use paper towels to smear your chosen fat on all surfaces (inside and out) of your cookware. Leave it in the oven for an hour or so, then take it out and let it cool.
The seasoned coating will last a long time, years even, if you don't soak your cast iron in water to clean it. Though sme sources suggest that cleaning cast iron is a matter of wiping the surface, I'm not comfortable doing that, especially due to the fact that I make a lot of vegetable chili and stew so a more thorough cleaning is necessary.
So I use soap and water but I always dry the cookware thorougly and never put it away until it is completely dry. If you notice that the seasoned surface is beginning to wear away, with patches of light gray showing through, just reseason your items.
Even though vegetable shortening is vegan, it really isn't healthy. So I looked for a better option for seasoining my pans. An obvious choice is organic cocount oil, whichi is solid and has a creamy, easily spreadable texture at room temperature. An added bonus is the lovely coconut scent that wafts through the kitchen while the pan is seasoning.
There are other types of organic solid vegetable oils: Cocoa butter and organic vegetable shortening are a couple other options.
Mmmmmm, cocoa butter as a seasoning. Wouldn't that smell great?