I bought a cast iron grill pan from a famous Swedish four-letter store. They suggested boiling milk with some vegetable oil before starting to use the grill.
Why is this necessary, and what's the difference from just washing it with water?
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I've never heard of milk being used to season a pan and so I am a little skeptical of it.
Pan seasoning is always done with fat that is heated until it polymerizes. This creates a very hard non-stick surface that makes cooking easier and protects the pan from rust.
See this question for more about how to season your pan:
See the article linked in one of the answers:
This process, while slightly more labor intensive, produces the best seasonings I've ever seen.
i had to do this when i bought a non-stick pan from the same place, and it didn't make an ounce of difference. if it's truly a cast-iron pan, there are much better places to get info on proper seasoning, like the links posted by Sobachatina, above. if it's a non-stick type coating, like the one i bought, just keep using it. it's gotten much better over time.
The milk-and-oil process isn't there to wash the pan, it's there to 'season' it. The seasoning process embeds oil in the pores of the metal, which increases its resistance to water - the last thing you want is a rusty pan (though a nice layer of black oxidation is a good thing).
You should avoid washing a cast iron pan with soap and water as it will remove the seasoning. Just give it a good wipe or go over it with a brush.