Q: What does it mean to 'season' a frying pan? How is it done?
To season a frying pan means to treat it with oil so as to create a non-stick coating. This is usually done to cast iron pans. The oil fills any microscopic holes in the metal and then dries like a shellac, sealing the surface.
Since Teflon coated and hard-anodized aluminum pans are already non-stick, there is no need to season them. While some cooks season stainless steel pans, manufacturers generally do not feel it is necessary.
To season a pan, preheat your oven to 300°F (150°C). Preheat the pan on the stove top. When warm, coat the inside surfaces of the pan with vegetable oil or lard. I prefer vegetable oil for its higher smoke point, although some people claim that it leaves a sticky finish. Continue to heat just until you see ripples appear on the surface of the oil. At this point, pour off any excess oil, give it a quick wipe with a folded paper towel held in a pair of kitchen tongs, and then put the pan into the oven for 45 to 60 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool to room temperature.
Seasoned pans should not be washed in the dishwasher or scoured with abrasive cleaners or pads, as this will remove the coating. Wash in warm water with a small amount of dish soap and dry immediately.
Eventually the seasoning will wear off in areas. You can tell that this has happened because food will start to stick or rust spots will appear. When this happens, clean the pan well using a steel wool pad, and then re-season it.
Since writing this article, I found this item on the T-Fal USA website in their Q&A regarding non-stick cookware. In their "General Use and Care" manual for non-stick cookware, they suggest seasoning the pan when first purchased, after every 10 cycles, if washed in a dishwasher, and if "accidental overheating" occurs. DuPont, the manufacturer of Teflon non-stick coating says " We do not believe that seasoning the pan is necessary."