Have you ever wondered if you can use butter to season your cast iron cookware?
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the advantages and disadvantages of seasoning with butter, as well as provide step-by-step instructions and tips to make the process easier. Let’s dive in!
- Seasoning cast iron with butter is possible, but it has a lower smoke point compared to oils commonly used for cast iron seasoning.
- To season with butter, ensure the pan is clean and dry, apply a thin and even layer of butter, and heat the pan on low heat until the butter disappears completely.
- Butter creates a barrier between food and the pan, making it non-stick and easier to clean.
- Butter has an acceptable smoke point for low to medium heat cooking, making it suitable for searing meat and frying eggs. Consider using clarified butter since it will have a higher smoke point.
- However, there are disadvantages to seasoning with butter, including its higher cost, lower melting point, potential odor residue, and less effectiveness as a non-stick agent compared to other oils.
Can you season cast iron with butter?
While many people use vegetable oils or shortening to season cast iron, it is possible to season cast iron with butter. However, butter has a lower smoke point compared to oils like vegetable oil or canola oil, which are commonly recommended for cast iron seasoning. The smoke point is the temperature at which an oil starts to smoke and break down, and when seasoning cast iron, you want to use an oil that can withstand high temperatures.
How to season cast iron with butter without burning it
Seasoning your cast iron skillet is a must. If you do decide to use butter instead of oil, there are some particular steps that you do have to follow.
- Preheat your oven: Preheat your oven to a low temperature, around 250 degrees Fahrenheit, to ensure controlled heating.
- Clean and dry the pan: Make sure the cast iron pan is clean and completely dry before applying butter. Remove any residue or food particles.
- Apply a thin layer of butter (preferably clarified butter): Use a paper towel or cloth to apply a very thin layer of butter to the entire surface of the pan, including the cooking surface, bottom, and handle. Ensure the layer is even and thin to avoid burning.
- Avoid the pan bottom: Do not coat the bottom of the pan with butter, as it can easily burn when heated on the stovetop.
- Heat on low heat: Place the cast iron pan on the stovetop over low heat. Heat it slowly and gradually, allowing the butter to melt and spread evenly across the pan.
- Monitor the butter: Keep an eye on the butter as it heats. If you notice it starting to smoke or brown too quickly, reduce the heat further to prevent burning.
- Disappearing butter: Heat the pan until the layer of butter disappears completely, indicating that it has been absorbed into the pores of the cast iron. This usually takes around 5 to 10 minutes.
- Repeat if desired: If you want a more robust seasoning, you can repeat the process by applying another thin layer of butter and heating it again.
- Let it cool: Once the seasoning process is complete, remove the cast iron pan from the heat and allow it to cool completely before handling it. This ensures the seasoning sets properly.
How to make clarified butter
The smoke point of butter is determined by its milk solids and moisture content. To increase the smoke point of butter, you can clarify it or use clarified butter (also known as ghee). Clarified butter has a higher smoke point and is more suitable for high-heat cooking. Here’s how you can make clarified butter:
- Start with unsalted butter: Use unsalted butter as it contains less moisture and will yield better results.
- Melt the butter: Place the desired amount of unsalted butter in a saucepan or small pot. Heat it over low heat until the butter melts completely.
- Skim off the foam: As the butter melts, you will see a foamy layer forming on the surface. Use a spoon or skimmer to skim off this foam gently. Discard the foam.
- Separate the milk solids: Once the foam is removed, you will notice milk solids settling at the bottom of the pot. Carefully pour the clarified butter into a separate container, leaving behind the milk solids.
- Strain if necessary: If you want a completely clear and pure clarified butter, you can strain it through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth to remove any remaining solids.
- Allow it to cool: Let the clarified butter cool at room temperature. It will solidify but remain spreadable.
What are the advantages of seasoning cast iron with butter?
When you season your cast iron with butter, it creates a barrier between the food and the pan.
This means that the food you’re cooking won’t stick to the pan, and it will be easier to clean.
The advantage of this is that it’ll also help keep your food and other kitchen objects from damaging your pan.
Butter can also act as a lubricant, which helps when you’re cooking something that would often stick to the pan if you didn’t use plenty of oil.
Because of the way butter creates an active barrier between the foods you cook and the raw surface of your cast iron, it makes it easier for you to avoid any rust or grease that might be on your pan from long exposure to water and food.
In addition, butter has an acceptable smoke point, which means that it can be used at low to medium temperatures without breaking down in any way.
This makes it perfect for searing meat or frying eggs in a pan.
What are the disadvantages of seasoning cast iron with butter?
The disadvantages of seasoning cast iron with butter include the following:
First, it’s a lot more expensive than vegetable oil. Now, the cost of using butter to season your cast iron isn’t going to empty your bank account or anything like that, but I still feel like it’s important to state that butter does cost more than oil.
Second, butter has a much lower melting point than vegetable oil. In fact, the average stick of butter has a smoke point of around 302 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit lower than your typical oil variation.
That means that when you’re cooking with your newly butter-seasoned cast iron, there’s a chance that if it gets hot enough, the butter layer could burn. This is especially true if you’re using the pan on high heat.
Third, while butter smells delicious while cooking in cast iron pans—and tastes delicious when added to finished dishes—it can leave behind an odor that lingers on the surface of your cast iron pan after you’ve cooked with it (even after washing).
It is not as effective a nonstick agent as other oils, and it can leave behind a residue that might interfere with proper seasoning.
Butter has a higher water content than most oils, which can make it less nonstick and cause rusting if it isn’t seasoned and dried properly.
How often should you re-season a cast-iron skillet with butter?
It is recommended to re-season a cast iron skillet with butter once to three times per year, depending on how the skillet is used.
However, it all depends on how often you use your cast iron. If you’re only using your cast iron once a week, then three seasons a year with butter will be just fine.
But if you use it far more often than usual, reapplying a new coat of butter is a safe bet.
Reapply the coating if you accidentally scratch off some of the coatings with a metal utensil or cookware.
The seasoning helps protect the food from coming into contact with metal.
Butter does not damage or harm cast iron cookware, so it can be used instead of other types of fat or oils when seasoning.
Additionally, since cast iron skillets don’t need to be re-seasoned as often as other pans, applying butter for seasoning will not make the skillet better or worse than before.
When deciding whether or not to re-season your cast iron, take a long, hard look at the inner surface of the iron. Well-seasoned cast iron will have a dull but shiny luster to it.
Tips to make seasoning with butter easier
Preheat your oven
Preheating your oven is going to help ensure that the oven is ready to go and ready to heat the pan. With butter, your main issue is going to be that it butter does tend to burn much faster than oil does.
This also means that you are going to need to make sure that the temperature at which you are heating your oven is lower than it would be with an oil seasoning.
Heat your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, and ensure that the oven is fully preheated before you add your pan.
Dry the pan thoroughly
You also want to make sure that your pan is very dry before you put any butter on it.
If there is water between the butter and the pan, it will not create the right coating, and it will not season your pan correctly.
Apply a thin layer of butter all over the body.
You want to then put a very thin layer of butter all over the pan—on the cooking surface, the bottom, and the handle.
You want to ensure that the layer is very thin; any excess butter will burn. You also want to make sure that it is even.
You want to make sure that the layer is even to ensure that no part is going to burn while the rest of the pan is fine.
Bake your cast iron pan upside down in the oven for one hour.
Bake your cast iron pan upside down with another pan under it for about an hour.
You want to make sure that you do not cook it for too long, as the butter can burn.
You want to avoid leaving your pan in the oven for too long, as this can cause it to burn and taste like burnt butter.
Let it cool for at least 30 minutes.
Before you handle the pan, you need to let it cool for at least 30 minutes.
You do not need to try to handle a cast-iron pan that is hot and that has been in the oven, as you can burn yourself very badly.
Allowing the pan to cool completely will also help you ensure that the seasoning is on and has fully absorbed into the pan.
What temperature should you heat your cast iron to when seasoning it with butter?
Ideally, it should be around 250 to 300 degrees to help season your pan with butter.
You should not exceed 350 degrees Fahrenheit, as that is the smoke point of butter, and you will end up with a pan that has burnt butter on it rather than a pan that has been seasoned properly.
Can you put butter-seasoned cast iron in the dishwasher?
You do not want to put any seasoned cast iron—or any cast iron, for that matter—in the dishwasher.
The main issue with this is that when you put your cast iron into the dishwasher and it has a seasoning, the dishwasher is going to take that seasoning off entirely.
Another issue is that when the cast iron heats up in the dishwasher, the soap can get into the pores of the pan.
You want to avoid putting any cast iron pans in the dishwasher, as it can also cause damage to the pan by means of temperature shock, where the pan goes from cold to hot very quickly.
How do you clean butter-seasoned cast iron?
If you are looking to clean your butter-seasoned pan, you want to only use warm, soapy water and clean the pan in the sink.
You need to avoid making the water too hot, and you also want to avoid scrubbing too hard.
When you do put your pan away, you need to ensure that you are making sure that you are drying your pan entirely before you put it away.
What’s the difference between butter and ghee for seasoning in cast iron?
- Ghee is made by heating butter and has a rich flavor and aroma.
- It has a higher smoke point than butter, so theoretically, it should last longer under higher temperatures than butter.
- Ghee has almost 50% saturated and only 5% polyunsaturated fat, which makes it a strong contender for seasoning cast iron meaning it’s more stable at higher temperatures.
- Butter is less stable and with enough heat, it can easily burn and deteriorate by converting into a brown color with a nutty flavor. If you heat it even further, it’s possible that it could lead to toxic, oxidized compounds.
- Butter is considered like any other regular dairy product. Ghee is made from clarified butter, which means the milk solids have been removed.
- Ghee has a higher smoke point (around 465 degrees Fahrenheit), meaning it can stay liquid at high temperatures and still be usable while butter is only about 302 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Ghee might also be a better option for people who are lactose or casein intolerant.
Can you mix butter and oil to season your cast iron?
You can mix butter and oil when seasoning your pan.
The thing that you do need to keep in mind, however, is that when you mix two fats to season a pan, you need to heat the pan to the temperature that the fat with the lowest smoke point has.
This means that you need to find out the smoke point of both fats.
If you are using butter, the smoke point is 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are using canola oil, the smoke point is about 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Though the oil will slightly raise the smoke point of the butter, you still need to follow the smoke point of the butter instead of the oil.
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