Creating healthier dishes for your restaurant can start with your commercial cookware. A piece of cookware that has been properly seasoned will have a natural non-stick finish that negates the need for added oil or butter during the cooking process. Most cookware does not come pre-seasoned, so this is something you will need to do before you use your pots and pans for the first time. You will also need to re-season your pans occasionally to ensure that they maintain their non-stick finish.
You can season your pans in one of two ways, either using the range or the oven. Using the range will take less time, but both methods will produce the same end result. So before we get to the proper way to season your pans, first you need to make sure that your pan is completely clean and void of any packaging oils or food residue. For a cast iron pan you will want to use a scrubbing pad of some kind to ensure that the surface of the pan is completely clean and smooth. For stainless steel and aluminum cookware you shouldn’t use anything beyond a soft cloth or towel for cleaning.
Wash your cookware in hot, soapy water, then rinse and dry with a soft towel. Allow your pan to air dry for several minutes to ensure that it is completely dry. You can also place your cookware in a warm oven to speed up the drying process.
Next you will want to choose the type of oil or fat you will use to season your pan. You will want to choose a cooking oil or fat with a high heat tolerance. Olive oil and butter smoke at a relatively low temperature, so those are two substances that you will want to avoid. Oils such as peanut, canola or grapeseed have a high smoking point so any of these oils are a good choice. Cooking fats such as lard or vegetable shortening are also suitable options.
Many people choose to use the range when seasoning their cookware. Start with a cold pan, and pour about 1/8 inch of oil into the pan. Over time cookware can warp and cause high or low spots to form on the cooking surface, so double check to ensure that the entire cooking surface is coated in oil. Place the pan over moderate heat and remove the pan once the oil begins to smoke. Set the pan aside and allow it to cool completely. Once the pan is cool and safe to handle, use a clean cloth or paper towel to wipe any excess oil out of the pan. At this point your pan is seasoned and ready for use.
You can also use the oven to season your cookware. To do this, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Take your clean plan and fill it with oil, as we did above, or you can also coat the surface of the pan with lard or vegetable shortening. Place the oiled pan in the oven for about an hour. It’s also a good idea to place a baking sheet on the lower rack of the oven, to catch any oil or cooking fat that may drip. After one hour, remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool completely before you attempt to wipe out any excess oil or fat.
Once your cookware is properly seasoned, cleaning your pans should be relatively simple. The seasoned, non-stick surface will allow any food residue to easily rinse away with warm water and a soft cleaning cloth. Be cautious when using soaps, detergents or chemicals as they can remove the seasoning from the pan. Also, despite what many cookware manufacturers advertise, we do not recommend washing your cookware in the dishwasher. Dishwashing detergents may harm the finish of your pans, even causing some finishes to pit or rust.
If at anytime you start to notice that food is sticking to your seasoned cookware, it most likely means its time to re-season your pans. Be sure to wash your cookware with a mild soap or detergent to ensure they are thoroughly clean before your begin the re-seasoning process.