Thursday, 18 October 2012

A bad workwoman and her tools

Years ago. Certainly more than seven anyway. I was given a Le Creuset griddle. I think it was a hint from the boyfriend at the time to cook more steak. More and better. I was very good at slightly pallid, overdone steak, but a trip to see my family in South Africa introduced me to properly hung, rare steak. Which I learned that I could happily eat day and night.

In order to rectify the pallid grey product from my kitchen the griddle came into play. Only I didn't know anything about cooking on cast iron or seasoning my pan. So, in a diversion from normal recipe/ cake based goodness I thought I'd just do a little post on how to take care of your cast iron cookware.

If like me (as it were) your cast iron emits clouds of smoke most everytime you try to cook with it: it needs to be seasoned, or re-seasoned.

Seasoning instructions - which is a recipe of types

Turn your oven onto either 50 degrees C or the self cleaning cycle. Line the bottom with a double layer of tin foil

With a piece of kitchen towel wipe down your griddle/ pan. Now, you need to use an oil that can stand high temperatures - so not olive, but either sunflower, vegetable, or even lard/ dripping - use more kitchen towel to wipe that over your pan in a thin layer.

Turn your pan upside down, put it on the oven shelf for half an hour, then turn the oven off and leave the pan in there overnight.

Repeat this process, night by night - three or four times. Your pan will then have a shiny black coating which basically makes it non stick. Heat your pan up and cook a steak - it won't stick, you'll get a lovely crust and it will taste fab.

Each time you use your pan, wipe it out with damp kitchen towel, make sure that there's no reside from whatever you've cooked left on. You can wash it briefly in the sink, but in my experience this means you need to repeat the seasoning once.

Over time you will need to re-season your pan, especially if you don't use it very often. Since I've started doing this my pan has just gone from strength to strength (if only the same could be said for my biceps). I use it more, now I don't risk setting off all the smoke alarms in the block every time it gets warm. And I no longer need to add fat to what I'm cooking as the pan now no longer needs it to remain non stick.

This would also work if you have a traditional cast iron wok.

I know this is a departure from normal posts, but I thought this would have been so useful if I could have read it when I got my griddle, so wanted to share.


Nick Fudge said...

This I've lifted from a good friend (Matt Queequeg you know who you are) on wok seasoning technique. It is complex but well worth it.

1) Scrub the pan using a steel wire scrubber, cold water (helps prevent flash rusting) to remove an existing rust spots and to clean the entire inside, outside and handles.
2) Rinse well in cold water and immediately pat dry with a bunch of paper towels (again to help prevent flash rust)
3) quickly transfer to the hob on a wok ring ideally and heat on a high heat until completely dry and the pan stops smoking.
4) repeat steps 1 -3 as debris are released from the pan by the heating process.
5) when drying with a paper towel you will notice that the surface of the pan yields black soot this is ok and is what makes the non stick patina stick so well when compared to carbon steel because the baked oil bonds to the reactive metal surface.
6) Pre heat the oven to 180C initially with the door half open for 5 mins (to dry the oven) and the close to reach temperature
7) whilst the pan is still warm from drying on the hob poor 1/2-1 tsp of oil into the it. The best oil is probably refined grapeseed oil, you ideally need an oil that has a high percentage of linoleic acid. This is the fat that oxidises and forms polymers readily when under heating/exposed to the air. Polymers are an essential part of the patina (its not simply carbon)that give it its varnish/adhesive. Ignore advice that suggests high polyunsaturated fat oils causes stickiness, stickiness it due to improper application not the oil. Grapeseed is the best oil for a patina.
8) Using a bunch of paper towels rub the oil thoroughly around the inside of the wok, dispense another 1/2-1 tsp on the outside and run again including the handles. Do not be tempted to use more oil, less is more in this instance.
9) Using a new (fresh) paper towel rub all the surface again to remove all the excess oil, the surface should go from a shiny wet look to a duller lustre. What you are after is a fine micro film of oil over the entire surface. this will create even non-sticky non-runny/streaky patina.
10) Bake in the oven upside down for 2 hours. This temperature is deliberately below the smoking point of oil to encourage polymerisation and adhesion to the wok surface without carbonisation. The time has to be long to complete this process.
11) After 2 hours repeat sections 7-9 and bake for a further hour this time at 230C (above the smoking point to encourage carbonisation).
12) repeat sections 7-9 and 11 another two times.
13) Place the pan on the hob and stir fry some spring onions and ginger using a non-drying oil (one low in polyunsaturated such as refined peanut or rapeseed)on a medium heat for about 20mins constantly turning around all inner surfaces of the pan. This is the "first fry" and removes and metallic/patina flavours and in turn adds ginger and spring onion notes.
14) wash in warm water (no soap) and wipe with sponge, rinse, dry with paper towels and complete the drying on a medium heat on the hob. Rub with peanut or rapeseed oil like in stages 7-9.

The pan is now ready to store and use. This is a long process but it is worth it as the finished result is extremely non stick and it much like having a wok that has a well developed patina by years of use. The result when cooking is a very pronounce "wok hay" flavour which I was skeptical that I would be able to taste the difference but it is significantly stronger compared to a carbon steel wok.

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