How To Build A Surface On A Cast Iron Frying Pan


Years ago, when I was but a wee laddie, I used to go salmon fishing with a family friend. He and I would spend several days a week during the summer months staying in his travel trailer on various salmon fishing rivers in Nova Scotia.

He was a pretty good ‘camp cook’ and generally he looked after the meals on our trips, probably because at that point all I could “cook” was Alphabets and toast and perhaps my own goose, which was cooked many times over my life, but I am digressing….

Because I was more the meal “patron” than the meal “provider” my job would be to clean up after supper, wash the dishes etc.

Among the cooking utensils, and one that was often used, was a cast iron frying pan, or as some would say, a cast iron skillet.

He was pretty proud of that skillet, and used it with great delight whenever supper required frying, which, as in most fishing camps frequented by men, is frequent to say the least.

Well one night I took the unprecedented step of washing the cast iron frying pan, with soap and water and a brillo pad or some such pot scrubber.

My mentor was….well….I guess “aghast” would be the most appropriate way to describe his reaction to my recently washed frying pan.

“You don’t wash a cast iron frying pan like that!” he said, “Good God, that will spoil it.”

I gave him my best pathetic look, and a “huh?” prompting him to explain to me the intricacies of cleaning a cast iron skillet.

Turns out you don’t wash a cast iron frying pan, at least not the way you wash other pots and pans. You “season” a cast iron frying pan. Yes, frying pans should be seasoned to get the best cooking and eating experience.

A cast iron frying pan is a bit of a work of art. Something to behold, to create, to build over years like the painting on the ceiling of the Cistine Chapel. There…I have compared the painting on the Cistine Chapel to a cast iron frying pan….

How To Wash A Cast Iron Frying Pan

It takes time to develop an iron frying pan into a beautiful non-stick frying surface and that is done by allowing the natural oils to build up in the pan over time.

The only washing should be with some paper towel which is used to clean and shine the frying pan without removing the essential oils and fats. Those oils and fats build up over time and create a lovely shiny surface that resists food sticking and imparts a delicious flavor to whatever is fried.

Uh-huh….well you live and learn. I’m not sure this is going to be an easy sell around here as Wendy is a big believer in soap and water, not essential oils and old cooking fat being rubbed into our frying pans, but then again, I can be convincing, after all, I did convince her to move in with me….

Besides, I have never been completely convinced that teflon coated frying pans are a good idea because I really don’t know what “teflon” is, nor am I convinced it doesn’t get into the foods we cook, particularly when the frying pan starts to show scratches on the cooking surface where the teflon has been scratched off with spatulas etc.

If you have a cast iron skillet at the camp or at home, I suggest you use it in place of the coated pans we’ve all come to love, just forget about sticking it in the sink to wash with soap and water.

How To Build A Surface On A Cast Iron Frying Pan

Here is a link that explains the proper way to season a cast iron skillet. How To Build A Surface On A Cast Iron Frying Pan

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