I’m kind of obsessed with cast iron. Even though my cast iron pans are heavy and large, I can mostly justify keeping what I have and occasionally adding to my collection even with very limited storage space because they’re functional, and they’re beautiful. Vintage cast iron is my guilty pleasure.
For the record, I believe I currently have 16 cast iron pans, pots, griddles, etc. in rotation. I bought three of them brand new (this, this, and this), four used ones were gifted to me, two skillets were Henry’s from way back when, one came from a thrift store, and six I bought at the Coburg Antique Fair on three separate occasions.
Henry and I cook with and bake in our cast iron pans constantly, especially our workhorse skillets. Generally speaking I don’t get too worked up about having a rigorous seasoning routine. I wash with hot water (no soap), scrub with a stiff bristle brush if necessary, and then dry over low heat on the stove. I used to add a couple drops of olive oil to the pan at the end, but now I have a new trick.
When I heat up the pan to dry it after washing, I rub it lightly with a block of solid beeswax, melting a thin layer of wax onto the iron. I got this idea after reading this blog post on the Kitchn about “greasing” baking sheets with beeswax, and it sounded like a pretty good idea. That, and I had a giant wheel of beeswax sitting around that I didn’t know what to do with.
Here are a few things I like about this beeswax seasoning…
It smells amazing. I had a friend come over for the first time a few weeks ago, and upon entering the house, she remarked, “It smells like a cabin in here.” I took the statement as a compliment and give partial credit to the lingering sweet beeswax aroma.
Beeswax is solid at room temperature, so once my pans cool off, they’re not greasy or sticky, and when I hang my pans on their hooks on the wall, I never get an oily smear on the wood paneling as I have in the past.
For me, beeswax is free, and we have a ton of it (at least enough for a second wheel as big as the one in this post). It’s also a natural substence that’s inert and perfectly edible but mostly tasteless in small quantities.
Though I’ve only been doing it for a couple months, seasoning my pans with beeswax seems to be working quite well. I especially like to use this technique on my yet-to-be-perfectly-seasoned popover pan because it seems to really give the it a non-stick quality. The only pan that doesn’t get a regular beeswax treatment is my small round griddle because we use it all the time to heat tortillas, and I’ve found I’m not a big fan of waxy tortillas. Otherwise, I haven’t noticed any strange flavors or texturs in the food that we’ve cooked in waxed pans.
Last week when I stopped by my mother in law’s house to pick up my kids who had been playing there for the afternoon, my mother in law told me she had something that I might want. It turned out that she found three cast iron pans in the basement of her church that nobody wanted, and she was going to donate them to a thrift store if I didn’t take them. There was one standard dutch oven, an extra deep fryer, and an absolutely huge-diameter skillet. These pans were nothing short of amazing, and even if I didn’t NEED them, I had to have them.
The new-to-me pans were a little crusty (though not majorly rusty), so I scrubbed them out with soap and hot water. I then brought them out to my barbecue and baked them on high for about an hour after rubbing them down with a generous coating of beeswax. The beeswax burned and smoked (the reason I did this outside) until the pans went from looking wet to being mostly dry. Now they’re in great shape and will be perfectly usable for many many years.
If you’re new to cast iron and/or don’t have easy, cheap access to beeswax, Lodge has some great tips about caring for cast iron pans here. If you’re up for it and want to give this beeswax method a try, I’d love to hear what you think. Leave your comments below. Happy cooking, friends!