An increasing number of Jews in America are keeping kosher kitchens today, as well as, millions of vegetarians and vegans, who don’t eat meat. Using cast iron cookware in the home for people who have these dietary restrictions is a problem, since many cast iron skillets, pans or pots are pre-seasoned in the factory with lard or non-Kosher certified fats.
In this article, you will learn how to purchase cast iron cookware that is either Kosher certified, seasoned with vegetable oils, or how to re-season your new cast iron cookware to meet your dietary restrictions if you are a vegetarian or vegan.
If you buy bare cast iron skillets, which is cast iron cookware that has not yet seasoned, then your cast iron cookware is kosher. You just need to wash it in warm soapy water before the first use.
To ensure your new cast iron skillet remains kosher, use kosher-certified oil when you season your cast iron skillet. Enameled cast iron already has a non-stick coating once the frit is baked onto the bare cast iron, so there is no need to season your enameled cast iron cookware. Also, heating an enameled cast iron skillet in an oven at the extreme temperatures needed to bake the fat onto a bare cast iron surface can damage the enameled coating.
It can be a bit difficult to purchase Pre-seasoned cast iron skillets for a kosher home. Many of the pre-seasoned cast iron cookware has non-kosher shortening derived from pig fat as the agent for seasoning the cast iron skillet cooking surface to make it non-stick.
Some other manufacturers, such as Lodge Cast Iron, which is the leading US manufacturer of cast iron cookware, used to use Kosher-certified oil in the seasoning process. They now use non-kosher soy-based vegetable oil to season their cast iron skillets in the factory. Lodge has removed all indication on their website denoting their cast iron cookware is Kosher certified.
When you bought your Lodge Logic pre-seasoned cast iron skillet, if it stated “kosher certified oil” on the packaging, then you know kosher certified oil was used in the pre-seasoning process in the factory, and you have kosher cast iron cookware.
Lodge Mfg. no longer uses Kosher oil for seasoning, but still uses vegetable oil. While this is a problem for people who keep kosher, the oil is still generally acceptable for vegetarians and vegans.
If there is no “Kosher certified oil” notation on the packaging that kosher-certified oil was used in the seasoning process, then your cast iron skillet is not kosher.
The good news is, you don’t have to return it to the store or throw it out. You can remove the seasoning that is on the cast iron, kasher your skillet using a hot flame or by dunking in a pot of boiling water, and then re-season your cast iron again using kosher-certified oil. The challenge is removing the baked on fat. The fat will wear off on its own with use, which is why cast iron cookware needs to be seasoned 2-3 times per year, but if it is a new pre-seasoned skillet, wash it several times with hot soapy water to wash away the baked on oil.
If you bought a Lodge Logic Pre-Seasoned cast iron skillet after they stopped using kosher oil for seasoning, or it is a seasoned cast iron skillet from another manufacturer, here is the process to make your cast iron cookware kosher.
Rabbi Diana Villa at Schecter Institute, gives the following instructions for kashering a cast iron skillet I recommend you consult your rabbi on their prescribed process for kashering cookware.
You need to heat the cookware until it is red hot. This can be done by putting it in an oven that can reach approximately 800 ° F. You can also wash it several times in hot soapy water, which will eventually wear the seasoning off as well, but if you have a kosher kitchen, it is prohibited from cleaning a non-kosher pan in your sink, and burying the pan won’t work here, since the seasoning was applied with heat.
Some rabbis may allow you to use a blow torch to kasher your cast iron skillet and remove the seasoning. You should consult your rabbi to see if they follow this tradition (minhag).
Once the oil has been fully removed and your skillet has been kashered, then you can follow the simple process to season your cast iron cookware, so you can be sure you now have a kosher cast iron skillet.