Building a low or non-stick surface can take time, and will continue to get better with appropriate care and continued use. It can take a little bit of getting used to but you'll soon develop your own flow. Don't expect the immediate slipperiness of synthetic non sticks. Seasoned iron is superior in every important way: health and sustainability and performance.
Seasoned iron will rarely look visually perfect on the cooking surface, and will continue to evolve and change depending on what, and how, you’re cooking. Don’t worry about how it looks – it’s all about performance! Whilst your seasoning is still young, cook with plenty of fats and oils, and lower your heat - our pans are so much more conductive than disposable 'non-stick' pans!
Seasoning is simply layers of oil that is baked onto the pan, through a process called polymerisation. Over time, this builds to form a natural, easy-release cooking surface that continues to get better with use. This ‘build-your-own’ seasoning is the only way to achieve a natural, non-toxic, non-stick surface that is forever renewable.
Seasoning is not compulsory, though we do recommend it for all over corrosion protection, and to build your non stick surface. Our AUS-ION™ Satin pans come lightly preseasoned, though we do recommend additional at-home seasoning. Our AUS-ION™ Raw pans come coated in a light layer of beeswax - the beeswax will need to be removed prior to use. Some people choose to just let their seasoning build naturally through cooking with fats and oils, though if you're new to cooking with iron, we do recommend following our seasoning instructions for best results. How much or little seasoning you choose to do is completely up to you!
We recommend rice bran oil for best results, though any cooking oil or fat with a high smoke point can work well, such as grapeseed oil, flaxseed oil, canola oil, lard etc. Olive oil is not good for seasoning due to its low smoke point.
You can use whatever oil you choose to cook with.
Flaky seasoning is an indication of a weak seasoning foundation. There are a number of factors that can cause this: too much oil used in the initial oven seasoning; pans not left in oven long enough (1.5-2 hours) and at the correct temp (250C); not allowing pans to cool between seasoning layers; cooking acidic foods or boiling liquids; scrubbing seasoning off after use or cleaning with detergents.
The beauty of seasoned iron is it’s forever renewable so can be easily remedied. First off, you'll want to give it a good scrub back to remove all the lumpy/flaky bits using steel wool/scourer/fine sandpaper - whatever does the trick. Don't worry about scrubbing the whole pan back - just focus on the flaking/lumpy bits.
Then, just follow up with a few quick stovetop seasons to build your seasoning back up. Follow our seasoning instructions here.
Sticky seasoning is usually a sign of excess oil built up on your pan. To remedy, place your pan upside down (ideally on the top rack) and bake at 250 degrees celcius for 90 minutes. And remember, less is more when it comes to oil application!
It can take some time to build a non-stick surface through seasoning, but it is very achievable - as has been done by cooks all over the world for hundreds of years (it’s not something we invented). Iron is so much more conductive than synthetic, disposable pans so it can take a period of adjustment. Be patient - it’s worth it! Better performance, non toxic, healthy and sustainable.
There are a number of variables which can affect your how your pan and seasoning is performing as outlined below, but it usually comes down to two key factors: heat control and fats.
Here are the most common reasons food may stick:
If you’ve had a thorough read through all of our instructions and are still struggling, please send us an email, explaining the issues you’re having, along with some photos, and we’d be happy to guide you through it: firstname.lastname@example.org
Don't worry if your pan doesn't look perfectly black and shiny. Whilst a shiny black patina is achievable through continued seasoning and maintenance, it's really not necessary! In reality, pans will often be patchy. Your seasoning will continue to change and evolve depending on what/how you cook. Don't worry about how they look, our pans are built for performance! Here's a photo of our founder Mark Henry's workhorse pans. They may not look 'pretty', but they still perform excellently!
Iron rusts because of a chemical reaction known as oxidation. When iron is exposed to moisture or oxygen, oxidation occurs. In order to avoid rust, ensure your pan is well seasoned all over (through oven seasoning) and keep your pan dry when not in use.
Iron is susceptible to rust, especially if not sufficiently seasoned, has been left sitting unused for long periods of time (particularly in humid climates), or not dried properly after use. But don’t worry, it’s only superficial rust and easy to fix!
To remedy, simply scrub off the rust with a scrubbing brush/steel wool/fine sandpaper. Using baking soda or vinegar may help with stubborn rust. Follow up with further seasoning to ensure your pan has a good base to protect from corrosion, and make sure you dry your pan thoroughly after each use – ideally on a warm stovetop.
Rough patches are carbonised food which act like velcro to food. The surface must be smooth. Use a strong scraper to remove and smooth the surface, then follow up with a quick stove top season or just continue cooking with fats and oils and let is build naturally.
There are a few things that can strip seasoning; most commonly the culprit is cooking acidic foods and/or liquid boiling - like tomatoes or tomato-based dishes, stews, curries, soups. Another culprit can be soaps or detergents.
We understand how disappointing it can be after all that hard work building it up, but the beauty of seasoned iron is it’s forever renewable! Some more stovetop seasoning and cooking with plenty of fats and oils, should have you back to where you were in no time.
Whilst it’s perfectly normal and fine to cook liquids and acidic foods in your AUS-ION pans, best practice while the seasoning is young is to avoid them if you want to maintain your seasoning. If you’re wanting to cook crepes in the morning, and curry in the evening, it’d be best to consider two pans - one with solid seasoning for all things nonstick, and the other for everyday curries, sauces etc. We recommend our nöni™ range for acidic foods and liquid boiling as it does not require seasoning.
For our best practice iron care instructions, click here.
Black specks is most often caused by food left on the pan, or weak seasoning, caused either by not cleaning thoroughly (you may occasionally need to give the pan a light scrub) or applying oil to your pan once dry (in between cooks - this can weaken your seasoning).
To remedy, give your pan a good light scrub. This is not about removing seasoning, just the excess build up. You can scrub with a scourer or even consider using salt and a splash of oil. The salt acts as an exfoliant. Rinse under hot water, and repeat if necessary. From there with a quick stove top season or a good cook up using fats/oils will form a clean solid smooth surface.
Our pans are made from a single, uniform sheet of iron, and therefore not possible to have hot spots. What does vary greatly is the heat output of stove tops.
Make sure the element is well matched to the size of the pan, as a small burner with a large pan will result in a concentration of heat in the centre. Always begin with a low heat, to allow the pan time to heat slowly and disperse the heat, to achieve a more even heat.
There is no hard and fast rule about how many times a pan should be seasoned. We recommend at least one oven seasoning for all over corrosion protection (ideally a few more if you’re able), followed by some stove top seasoning to kick start your natural, non toxic, low stick surface. Cook with plenty of fats and oils, and avoid acidic foods while your seasoning is young, and your seasoning will continue to build and improve the overtime.
Some ‘seasoned’ iron cooks choose not to season at all, and just let it build up naturally through cooking. It’s really up to you!
Unlike synthetic non-stick coatings, you can use any utensils on our AUS-ION cookware! Metal, woods, plastic, silicon. You don’t need to worry about scratching a synthetic coating again.
There is no difference between our pans and all iron pans in terms of iron migration. They would all transfer similar amounts of iron under similar conditions. We’re not biochemists, but there have been quite detailed studies into the migration of iron from iron pans into food, and the effect is significant for bare iron with acidic foods, through to quite minimal for well-seasoned pans and fatty foods. We recommend further research for anyone who is in need of more iron, or looking to avoid it.
Preheat: Before food is placed in the pan, ensure it is preheated to the correct temperature (remember, you don’t need a high stovetop heat to get a hot iron pan, iron is very conductive). Many newcomers don't allow enough time for pan/oil to come up to heat, and this often causes sticking. After several generations of synthetic nonstick, most home cooks have been trained to use far too low a heat to properly sear meats, generally stewing the juices out at low temperature instead. Match your pan size to burner size as closely as possible. Avoid fast high power in small burners, especially induction, with pans of much larger base size: the concentration of heat in the centre can warp the pan unduly.
Meat: Meat tends to stick when the temperature of the pan is too low so a 'crust' is unable to form, and/or if meat is too cold (meat should always be brought to room temperature before frying). You don't need a high heat setting to get a hot pan. Choose a lower setting and wait a bit longer until you understand the relationship between your pan and the heat setting of your particular stove top. Our pans can handle hot temperatures, though it's important to let the pan slowly preheat as exposing a cold pan to high, instant heat can cause thermal shock.
Don't attempt to move the meat too quickly - let it form a crust. Give it a little jiggle with tongs when you think it might be ready, and if it moves easily you can then lift it to check properly. If it's still stuck firm, don't move it! All this becomes much more intuitive with practice.
Do it like the chefs: quickly sear room temperature meat to seal and brown (at which point the meat will naturally release from the pan when lifted), then transfer the pan to the oven to finish baking and retain the juices. A hot, well-seasoned pan doesn't need much oil, because it quickly caramelises and seals the surface. Coarse salt/pepper dry rub helps: see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ggiONseXig and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=987wOx8HXzo
Bacon: some bacon has a high sugar content and that's what causes gumming and sticking. Because iron cooking isn't so well known in Australia, there's lots of answers on USA forums and groups and one of the good answers we recommend is this: http://www.permies.com/t/12218/cooking/Cooking-bacon-cast-iron-skillet
Eggs: Conversely, eggs often stick when cooked at too high heat and/or for too long. Butter/oil should be used generously. Use a well-seasoned pan on low temperature for scrambled eggs and scrape around the whole pan gently toward the middle to avoid sticking and burning. See this video for the fail-safe scrambies formed-iron and cast iron method: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_5rdQjN0kg .
Potatoes: If your seasoning is young, it might struggle to manage starch without adding more fat. Potatoes sticking is fairly normal on iron unless it is very well seasoned/cooked on, more fat is used and/or very little starch is present. We do also have to resist moving our food too quickly and just allow the food to form a crust that releases the food from the pan.
If you get 'stuck' (so to speak), and still haven't found what you’re looking for, please email us for one-on-one help from our awesome Solid service team. email@example.com
Remember: Seasoned iron is forever renewable. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
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