My cast iron pan – the one my mother gave me when I got married – is in some kind of adolescent stage. And adolescence is by definition awkward. Most of the time, this dear pan show signs of maturity and the ability to handle pressure. Other times, it just gets stinky and a little clingy. My parents and sister have these beautifully seasoned pans that give me envy. Granted, I spent a couple years avoiding the pan – and then a couple years torturing it with soap and water. My biggest struggle is the sticky grime that develops after things like eggs, fish or items that just don’t develop their own oil.
Now, I’ve started using a new method of seasoning it after every use (and sometimes before) and I’ve seen a huge improvement. I can finally use my pan numerous times per day!First, in a hot pan, scrape up all the loose bits and wipe out any excess food. I keep bacon fat, ham fat or other remnants of fat in the freezer or refrigerator.
When I need to clean out the pan, I cut off a few small chunks and drop them in the hot pan. Let the fat render, on medium to medium hot.Using the hot oil and fat, scrape all around the pan – pulling up all the sticky bits. I scrape until the pan feels smooth and clean. Then let the pan cool… the fat will solid up again and become opaque. I scrape out the excess fat, but I leave some in the pan – that’s the whole point of seasoning. If it’s not terribly dirty, I retain the bit of excess fat, especially if I’m going to cook again later, just to wipe out the pan with. But sometimes the fat is just full of carbonated black flecks – or smells of salmon or curry – so I just toss it. And then the pan is ready for the next meal – even eggs!