Casting the role of iron chef

They say when you purchase a cast iron pan you’re “getting into a lifelong relationship.” I’m not sure I can commit to that. I’ve grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle of cooking and sautéing with a few younger models.

Despite my cavalier ways, I buckled down and purchased my first cast iron pan, mostly to shut up friends that are aghast that I don’t yet own one. Plus, \with my children getting older and slightly more coordinated, I’m not having enough random heavy things being dropped on my toes.

Little did I know the preparation and care needed. I was informed of this by a mysterious older woman whose shop I found purely by accident. And by “accident” I mean “drug into against my will” after spending two hours doing taxes. Having resisted calling myself an “adult” for so long, I’m relatively certain going antiquing/knick-knacking after a morning of taxes pushes me solidly into Super Adult and I fear I may now have to start eating supper at 4 p.m. and yelling at kids to get off my lawn.

I approached the mysterious woman cautiously.

Me: “How much for this cast iron pan?”

Brumilda the Pankeeper: “The iron chooses the master, Mr. Potter. It’s not always clear why.”

She didn’t really say this, but it was the perfect opportunity to, which makes it even worse.

Me: “So, like, just rise it to get off all the spider poop it’s been collecting?

Brumilda: “You have to prepare it first.”

Me: “What does that mean?”

Brumilda (disappeared): “…”

Wife (noticing my shock): “She just bent down a second. She didn’t disappear. You have not been cursed.”

Me (grumbling): “I could’ve been cursed. I’m HERE.”

Brumilda: “Just look it up on the internet.”

Me (looking around): “Thanks. Also, how much is that life-sized multi-colored tin marlin?” I asked.

Brumilda: “Let me go ask.”

Wife (sighing): “She’s going to go ask her HUSBAND, not the marlin. And we’re not getting the marlin.”

After getting the pan home and breaking the bad news to my other cookware that I’m now taken, I began researching what I’d need to do before consummating the purchase. They call the process of preparing a cast iron pan “Seasoning” because it will take you no less than one full season to complete. Below are the steps to preparing your new (used) cast iron pan:

1. Wash the pan out thoroughly, removing the last bits of food and thoughts you have that this will be a quick process.

2. Apply a layer of fat-free oil all over the surface of the pan and also your body because you’re sexy and why not.

3. Set the pan aside for two days because you forgot why you set it aside for the hour you were instructed and now it’s too late to do the rest.

4. Place it (the pan, not your sexy, oily body) upside-down in a cold oven. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

5. Bake for one hour. Twerk for an additional 30 minutes or until your spouse carries you off to the bedroom.

6. Now is an excellent time to review your family fire procedure as the house will fill with a delightful layer of smoke, allowing you to also check the functionality of your smoke detectors.

7. Come back inside the house in an hour or day when the smoke has dissipated and enjoy the aroma of burnt oil we, as humans, simply love.

8. Turn off the oven and leave the pan inside until you remember it’s still in there when you try and bake a pizza two weeks later.

9. Remove the pan.

10. Apply burn ointment to your hand after quickly realizing you previously preheated the oven for the pizza and the cast iron is now a 350-degree lava circle.

11. Add a second layer of oil to the pan because the first go-around had been so fun and not at all time-consuming or annoying.  

12. Add a fourth layer of oil, but this must be the oil of a pregnant doe and ONLY to be applied during the winter solstice.

13. If you’ve been paying attention you’ll notice there was no third layer. But, if you were REALLY paying attention, you’ll have realized that there WAS a third layer, and that layer was your love.

14. Once the fourth layer is on, you’ll have to have it blessed, obviously, by a Jewish rabbi. With your blood relatives sitting in a semi-circle, place the pan on the golden alter of Anubi and begin humming the sacred ritual chant of Lepus. Warning! If the chant gets too loud you’ll need to have Jamie Lee Curtis wipe it down with a moist pancake and start over.

15. At this point if you own a cat and its going absolutely nuts and licking the air constantly like a snake. This is perfectly normal and a sign the seasoning process is taking proper effect.  

16. Place the pan back into the oven so it can once again get familiar with its surroundings and judge your income and the fact that you’ve never cleaned your oven out since you installed it.

After you’ve followed these easy steps it’s time to COOK WITH YOUR CAST IRON!

Once you’re ready to cook with the pan, your first step is to place a separate pan on the adjacent burner. This will be your “cooking” pan. Your cast iron pan is only for show.

Of course, when you store you now-seasoned pan, you’ll need to have already built your custom Clean Room (not provided), maintained at a strict 64-degrees and six percent humidity or less. If you own a pet, you’ll obviously need to get rid of it.

Cast iron is a great material, provided 1) you have a free week to season it and 2) you never want to actually cook with it.


Kelly Van De Walle can be reached at vandkel@hotmail.com or via fanning out his smoke-filled house for 16 days. Follow Kelly on Twitter @pancake_bunny so you can help him understand how to work a forklift in order to get the four-ton pan from the stove to his cupboard.