Seasoning cast iron skillets helps prevent food from sticking to the pan. Seasoning is simply baking the skillet rubbed in oil or grease to create a protection layer on the outside. The process is very simple and is worth the time and effort. It also keeps the rust from returning after washing the iron pans.
The more you cook every day, the better your cooking techniques get. I had always preferred cooking in aluminum pans and pots until I got into baking and trying a no-knead bread recipe in a cast iron skillet. I fried a few steaks on cast iron pans in the past, but the food always stuck to the pan and tasted slightly burnt on the outside. It seemed like it was an impossible task to control the heat and master the skillet. When I noticed that some rust returned on the cast iron pan after I washed it, I asked one of the merchants at the local flea market how he kept his cast iron skillets so shiny black. This is what he told me:
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.
Step 2: Rub your cast iron pan all over with Crisco grease (every inch of the pan including the handle, the lid, inside and outside)
Step 3: Bake your cast iron pan upside down for 1 hour. Let it cool.
Surely, easy process. A few things to remember though before and after seasoning:
1. Wash with dish soap and dry your pan thoroughly before rubbing the grease.
2. Use cooking grease only, the one that is safe for food consumption. Crisco had always done a good job and seasoning usually lasted through dozens of uses. I heard others use vegetable oil and even bacon grease but I do not recommend it.
3. Plan to season your skillets ahead as the baking process will create a lot of fumes and smoke and ensure that you can ventilate your kitchen for at least 1 hour. Take your pets outside during that time, cover your aquarium with a towel or blanket, and never leave your oven on the "Cook Time" option unattended.
4. Season multiple cast iron pots at a time to save electricity but ensure that they are not stacked on top of each other so the heat may penetrate everywhere evenly.
5. Do not remove your pan from the oven immediately after the 60-minute mark as it may burn your hand even through several mittens. Let it cool with the oven door slightly open.
6. Once you start using your cast iron skillet, never wash it in the dishwasher or leave it soaking in the sink. It will start rusting.
7. NEVER use harsh chemicals like oven cleaner or Comet. Simply clean with a soapy sponge, not a wool pad, several times. Always dry with a towel and warm up for 2-3 minutes on a hot stove burner or inside the oven.
Quick dinner idea: best BBQ flavor sausage ever, sizzled in a cast iron pan and served on a bun with raw onions and potato wedges.