How to Season Pots and Pans
What exactly does it mean when cooks season pots and season pans? You may have heard that many chefs prefer a well-seasoned metal cooking vessel to a brand new one. A restaurant kitchen likely has some beaten up pots and pans with discoloration on them. Chefs and cooks are fond of these just the way they are. They have been “seasoned” over time with cooking fat and high heat.
This practice not only protects the surface of the pot or pan from deterioration, such as rust, it also imparts excellent flavor to dishes while using less fat because the seasoned coating is virtually non-stick. A natural non-stick pan has no harmful chemical treatments to prevent food from sticking. A seasoned pan is also easy to clean. Many cooks won’t allow their seasoned pans to be cleaned with soap. Let’s take a closer look at this practice of preserving pots and pans.
What Cookware can be Seasoned?
Mainly, you will want to season pots, season pans, and season woks. In some cultures, clay cookware is also seasoned. Commonly seasoned commercial cooking vessels include:
• Cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens
• Carbon steel sauté pans, paella pans, and woks
• Aluminum or coated tin cake and pizza pans
There are differing schools of thought on whether it is necessary to season pots and pans that are stainless steel. Stainless steel is naturally rust and corrosion resistant. In theory, the material would not need protection by seasoning. However, some cooks treat their stainless steel equipment similarly to carbon steel to ensure a non-stick surface.
What Types of Fat are Best for Seasoning?
Some form of fat is required to successfully season pots and season pans. There are several opinions on what is the best fat to use. Since the process occurs at high heat, it is best to use grease or oil that can tolerate a high smoke point, yet still penetrate the surface of the metal for a good seasoning. Another option is vegetable shortening, it is well priced, relatively tasteless, and can be frequently used.
Mediterranean style chefs are partial to using a low acid olive oil to season pans to make sure the flavors are true to the style of cooking. Coconut oil is a good choice to season pots when cooking tropical or Asian fare. Refined peanut oil has a high smoke point, as does avocado oil. It all depends on preference for flavor and the overall cost.
Methods of Seasoning Cookware
Before you season pots or season pans for the first time, be sure to clean the pot or pan thoroughly in hot soapy water to remove any machine oil, protective wax, or packaging residue. Rinse very well with clean hot water and then dry off the excess water.
There are two basic methods for properly preparing cookware. The first is using a very hot oven. This works best for cast iron, aluminum, and tin pots and pans. Start by preheating the oven to 400˚F. Place a foil-lined baking sheet on the lower rack of the hot oven. Coat the pan inside and out with the shortening or oil using a crumpled piece of clean paper towel. It is not necessary to coat the handle. Place the pan or skillet on the upper shelf of the oven and allow it to bake for approximately 50 minutes for a cast iron skillet and about 18 minutes for an aluminum or tin plate. Turn off the oven and allow the newly seasoned pan to cool enough to handle. Wipe the oil off of the still warm vessel with clean paper towels.
The second method is on the range top over a hot burner. This seasoning method works nicely with carbon steel cookware and woks, as well as broader pots that might not fit in an oven. Place the clean cookware on the burner turned to medium-high heat until it starts to smoke. Using tongs, dip a wad of paper towel in oil or shortening and evenly coat the inside of the pan. Turn the heat to high and allow the fat to melt completely. Again, it will smoke, so be sure the kitchen is well ventilated. Remove the hot, newly seasoned pan from the burner and allow it to cool slightly but not entirely. Wipe it clean with another paper towel to remove the excess oil.
Taking Care of Seasoned Cookware
Once the pots and pans have been seasoned, they will continue to take on more flavors and become better protected as they are used. As mentioned before, many cooks do not ever wash these pans. The best way to care for a seasoned pot or pan is to wipe it clean under running water using a soft cloth or sponge to remove any residue. Cleaning seasoned pots and pans is easiest while they are still warm.
After the pan has been wiped clean, dry it off and place a thin layer of oil or fat on the interior. Place the lightly oiled vessel back into a hot oven or on top of a hot burner until it warms up. Wipe off any excess oil with a paper towel. If food has become stuck to the pan surface, add a bit of table salt to the oil and wipe it down. The salt will help loosen the food particles without removing the protective layer.
If your cookware does need to be cleaned using soap and a scrubbing pad to remove burned on food, this is okay. Before utilizing your cooking utensil again, make sure to season the pots and pans by using the direction in the section on Methods of Seasoning Cookware.
It’s recommended that seasoned pots and pans be stored either stacked on top of each other. If storing in contact with other materials, place a piece of paper towel beneath and inside the pan to prevent the protective layer from being disturbed or tainted.
For more information, or to purchase cookware of your own, please visit the Midway Restaurant Supply to learn more about our wide selection of cookware and other commercial kitchen products!
Midway is a growing supplier of commercial food service equipment and small wares. We provide commercial cooking equipment, refrigeration, ice machines and small wares from the top manufacturers in the industry to Tyler and surrounding areas. We strive to be your single source provider for all your restaurant equipment and commercial kitchen designs at competitive prices. No matter what you’re looking for, Midway has the equipment and supplies to accommodate your needs! For more details on what we have to offer, we invite you to check out our clean and well-stocked showroom. Our friendly staff will answer any questions you may have and provide you with a pleasant shopping experience! For more information, send us an email or call us at (903) 707-8949! Midway is your Tyler restaurant supply store!