WHAT IS ‘SEASONING’?
To season (or blacken) a bakestone is to prepare it for its first use as a baking plate, you only need to do this once, subsequent (normal) use of a bakestone will add to this layer of seasoning. A metal bakestone developed quite literally from a stone used to bake on in the earliest forms of cooking and baking. The most common type of bakestone (before the late 1800s) was made from cast iron, then later (after the late 1800s) mild steel. Both of these metals, if not treated, will rust if left to the air (oxidation) and both of these metals, if not treated, will make any foods stick to them if cooked on. However, by applying a seasoning of fats and salts you both protect the metal from oxidation and make it non-stick.
Once seasoned a bakestone is a joy to cook and bake on: if you want to cook traditional recipes then you really should use a bakestone: even the best modern, non-stick, heavy based frying pans or skillet are not really up to the task – particularly in baking the authentic heavier doughs, of flat breads, cakes, drop scones and biscuits etc. A bakestone heats up quickly, radiates heat more evenly, and can sustain that heat at a constant temperature better than anything else in the modern kitchen.
NOTE: The seasoning does not add a ‘burnt’ or ‘salty’ taste to the cooking, far from it. Just like a sour-dough starter for bread, which has been kept for many generations, the seasoning on a bakestone improves with age, and anything baked on it draws some of its unique flavour into it. You can season it traditionally with lard, or if you are a vegetarian you can use vegetable oils.
TEMPERATURE: When you cook on a bakestone (after seasoning) the temperature/heat under the bakestone can be just low to medium, as for a modern frying pan etc., it take a little longer to heat up, but once it does it will sustain this temperature. And at these temperatures, when you put butter, lard, or vegetable oils on the bakestone to cook with, it will not smoke (only as per usual to a modern frying pan if it gets a little hot) – however when seasoning a bakestone for the first time you will need to exceed these normal cooking temperatures and get the bakestone quite hot to ‘burn’ into the metal the fats and salt – this is when it will smoke – and if it is not smoking a little bit, and the bake plate is not slowly turning black with a smooth coating, it is not hot enough.
How To Season Your Bakestone
- Once you have received one of our hand-made bakestones or griddles take it out of its packaging and clean the protective oil off the cooking surface thoroughly. Use an abrasive type soap pad to do this. The bakestone is then ready to be seasoned.
- Heat the bakestone and when quite hot, carefully rub a mix of fat or vegetable oil and salt thoroughly onto the surface. Use an oven glove to protect your hand from the heat and a thick cotton cloth for the rub, not a cloth from man-made fibres.
- The fat and salt will burn onto the steel and after about 20 minutes there will be a smooth coating on the bakestone. Rub it all over the baking surface. Keep adding more fat and more salt, (only about a tablespoon at a time) rub it in, allow it to ‘burn’ on and blacken. It will smoke, so have your extractor fan on full and/or the kitchen windows open – or season the bakestone outside on a BBQ or portable stove.
- It is actually the salt which burns into the metal as well as the fats, which creates the attractive black coating, so don’t forget to use plenty in the rub, and add a sprinkle over every so often as well.
- Allow the bakestone to cool naturally, then wash with warm water to remove the salt. From now on do not clean with any abrasive cleaning material as this will remove the smooth coating and the bakestone will have to be seasoned again.
- When you are ready to cook, wipe a little fat or oil onto the surface and cook on a low to moderate heat. After use, wash with warm soapy water, dry and store in a dry place. This is to stop rust marks appearing but if after a long storage they do, just clean off the bloom of rust and re-season if it needs it.
IMPORTANT SAFETY POINTS TO REMEMBER
Please remember in purchasing and using a bakestone you are stepping back in time. To season a bakestone you need to know two things: first, you will be burning lard (or vegetable oil) and salt into the metal at a high temperature, this creates some smoke; second, you will only need to do this once (before you use it for the first time) and it takes about 20 minutes. You can do this inside the kitchen with the windows open / the extractor fan on, or season the bakestone outside on a BBQ or portable camping stove.
The bakestone gets hot when you season it, therefore you need to wear an oven glove on both hands, one hand to hold the bakestone by the handle to stop it moving, (unless it is the heavier Welsh Bakestone) while the other hand to rubs the fat and salt into the hot plate. Seasoning a bakestone is not difficult, neither is it particularly dangerous, if you take care and take your time. People have been doing this for centuries.
Use a clean, thick, cotton cloth to rub the lard or vegetable oil and salt into the metal – not a cloth of man made fibres as they will melt, ruining the seasoning you are applying. By folding the thick cloth over several times it will also help insulate your hand (in the oven glove) against the heat.
Some of the oil or fat can drip off the bakestone on to the top of the oven, which will need cleaning off once you have finished, it cleans easily if cleaned off at once. However to avoid this you can either be careful to avoid spillage, by only using a little oil at a time, or season the bakestone outside on a BBQ or on a portable camping stove where any mess is not such of a problem.
BEFORE AND AFTER SEASONING
The above photo shows how the bakestone will arrive to you, (on the left) and how it will look after you have seasoned it (on the right). The natural ‘blackening’ or ‘seasoning’ of a bakestone gives it its tradtitional colour. Doing so will make the bakestone attractive, and almost indistinguishable from an antique bakstone made of cast iron.
You can decide to either season the bakestone inside the kitchen or take it outside and season it on a BBQ or a portable camping stove (a large stable portable stove which will not tip over).
BUYING A BAKESTONE FOR DECORATION
If you intend buying a bakestone for use in the kitchen we recommend seasoning it as above, however, some people like to buy two bakestones, one for use in the kitchen and one for use in the fireplace as traditional decoration. If the bakestone you are purchasing is purely for decoration then we recommend applying a mat black (water based) paint. This black paint will fully and permanently protect the bakestone against oxidation (rust) and make it look like the traditional colour; and if you change your mind, by using an abrasive cleaning cloth, you can easily remove the water based paint and then season it (as above) to cook and bake on.