paulwheaton

cooking with cast iron

paulwheaton
September 20, 2006

I learned of gardenweb some time ago when somebody sent me this e-mail: "Just a quick note on your "Organic Lawn Care for the Cheap and Lazy" page. I found it since it is mentioned frequently on gardenweb.com forums...."

Well, I hope this is an okay thing to do ... I wrote another article. Kinda like that one. I have spent years on it and it still needs a bit of work. The driving force behind it is rather similar: something I'm keen on; something that can save the world if I post it; something where if I show it to experts, they will gladly point out where I need to learn more!

I call the article "using a cast iron skillet ain't so hard!" and it can be found at http://www.richsoil.com/castiron/

I hope you'll take a gander at it! Thanks!

Here is a link that might be useful: using a cast iron skillet ain't so hard!

Comments (83)

  • blondelle

    Has anyone been able to get a good patina on a Le Creuset skillet. The matte black enamel is still porous enough to allow some seasoning. I have a LC wok with that interior and I was able to season it, but the seasoning came off in spots. Anyone able to season the LC like raw cast iron?

  • danab_z9_la

    My go to skillet for scramble or fried eggs and pan broiled steaks is a Le Creuset No. 23 cm (9 inch). It had a near perfect non-stick patina when I purchased it several years ago at a local flea market. I bought it because of its extremely smooth surface (it's much smoother than a good quality Griswold) and it has relatively thin walls. It had lots of crude underneath the skillet so I didn't know the manufacturer. Only after I cleaned the outside crude did I see it was a Le Creuset and it was bare metal. I thought that Le Creuset only made enameled cast iron.......go figure.

    Personally I do not want a patina to develop in my Le Creuset, Descoware, and other enameled vessels. But if you want a good patina to develop in your Le Creuset just keep using it cooking applications where high heat is involved with some oil/fat on the surface of the iron. Stewing or braising does little for patina development, while frying and searing food in it builds patina. If you are satisfied with the quality of the seasoning that you now have in your skillet, just keep using it and the voids where seasoning fell off will fill in over time.

    Has anyone else seen a bare metal Le Creuset skillet? Any info as to when these were produced?

    Dan

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  • kimba00

    Dan,

    I'm sure everyone has their own techniques for cast iron care. I believe Lodge co. and I have pretty much the same technique of seasoning, thus why they recommend not using detergents. The best way I have found to create and maintain a seasoning for cast iron pan is to use it repeatedly, and to either wipe the surface clean with a paper towel, leaving a thin residue the fat that was used in the cooking behind, -or- washing with detergent and then re-applying fat or oil to the pan once dry. The detergent doesn't taint the black seasoning, but it does strip the oil and what it doesn't strip, will be tainted unless you rinse very well and then re-apply new oil or fat to the pan once dry. I think it's more work to use detergent on your pans because of this extra step, however it is necessary sometimes to strip the oil from the pan like when you've fried fish and onions and you don't want that lingering on the pan surface when you pull it out the next morning to fry French toast :-)

    I agree that one would never season an enameled surface. It is unnecessary since it is already non-stick. I love my enameled Le Creuset sauté pan. It's perfect to use for recipes that contain citric acid (tomatoes etc) since it is non-reactive. I have found that as long as you never use abrasive sponges (you know, those "green destroyers") or scrub the surface of your enameled cookware, it will be non-stick indefinitely. The problem is, once someone etches the surface, the pan becomes a sticky mess which will require more scrubbing with each use, and unlike raw cast iron, there's no fixin' it from there.

    I recall seeing a non-enameled iron Le Creuset fry pan on ebay about a year ago, but the seller was in England. I wonder if this was something produced strictly in Europe.

  • danab_z9_la

    Paul,

    Following are my answers to your questions:

    **You mention that the polymer formed depends on the type of metal. Does that mean there can be only one layer of polymer (seasoning)?**

    No.the "rate" at which polymers form is affected by the catalyst effects of any bare metal or metal traces that it contacts. Some metals catalyze polymer reactions more so than other metalsfor example bare metal stainless steel polymerizes oils quicker than cast iron when both are at the same temperature. However, polymers can form even on glass... it just takes a little longer. The type polymer formed (sticky or hard) is mostly controlled by heat exposure and the type of oil used. The higher the unsaturates in the oil the more material is available for the polymer reactions. The higher the condradson carbon residue content of the oil, the higher the potential for elemental carbon lay down into the patina matrixhow much lay down actually occurs is dependant on the seasoning temperature. To favor carbon lay down, heat the vessel to the smoke point of the seasoning oil.

    **For the sticky stage: should I tell folks (in my article) that if you get something sticky, you need to do it over? Because the oxygen has probably already set in and rancidity has begun? Or, is this something that can be mended?**

    No need to do it over unless the seasoning is very thick, cracked, flaky, or uneven. You can avoid "sticky" by seasoning at a higher temperature. Some people dont mind sticky its OK with the way they cook. Not everyone needs non-stick.

    **You mentioned that you would provide a recipe for seasoning cast iron. I now suspect that you have multiple recipes - different oils/fats may require different times and temperatures?**

    Yes, I use different techniques and procedures for seasoning. I will post my approach to seasoning when I get a chance. Some of the vessels that I season are very large and will not fit in an oven or even in a very large BBQ pit. I developed a procedure where I use a propane blow torch to season these large pots. Too, with many of the vessels that people bring to me for seasoning, we want to put a good patina on the vessel as quickly as possible so that they can begin using it right away. It would take me a long time to season a wash pot/cauldron if I followed some of the procedures that I have seen. Once you understand the seasoning mechanics its easy to speed up the process.

    I will also post how I clean my cast iron. IMLO many users have non-stick patina failure simply because they do not clean their cast iron properlyof course not everyone needs or wants a good "non-stick" patina. However; if you want non-stick just keep in mind that if water touched your iron when you used it or when you cleaned it, it is very VERY important than you HEAT the vessel hot enough to completely vaporize all water from the iron before re-oiling and storage.

    Many cooks skip this heating step and just air or towel dry. IMO mere wiping with a towel is not dry enough!!! Cast iron and its patina surface is porous enough to hold traces of water.even when it looks and feels dry. If these traces of water are not completely removed by HEAT, what can happen is this trace water will react with iron to form microscopic flaky rust. This rust as it forms greatly EXPANDS IN VOLUME (as all rust does) to where the patina itself is compromised (lifted, pitted, or cracked).

    **I am willing to change my article to take out the stuff about the soap. Can you help me to understand how soap is okay in cast iron? My current understanding of soap is that it helps connect water to fat/oil so that oils can be rinsed away. Of course, there is a bit of a chemical bond there, right? Would the polymerized oil/fat have all of its bonding bits occupied and can, therefore, not bond to soap like the non-polymerized oil/fat does? **

    I think I have answered this question in my earlier posts. Soaps and detergents do not remove or interact with PROPERLY seasoned cast iron. To anyone claiming to detect a soapy residue after cleaning, I would suggest either (1) the pan was not properly cleaned or (2) The patina has been significantly compromised and the pan needs re-seasoning.

    Regarding the cleaning mechanisms you eluded to..Soaps clean by acting as an emulsifier which then allows oil and water to mix to the extent where oily grime can be rinsed away. One of the downsides of using soaps is that it first must react with the hardness in the water (mostly calcium, magnesium, and iron) before it is effective. The end product of this reaction with water hardness is what we call scum..the same stuff that forms in your bathtub.


    Detergents on the other hand work by lowering the surface tension of water making it such that the water can interact with the oily grime. Ever put some ground black pepper grind into a bowl of water then put a drop of detergent in it??? The reaction you see when you do this occurs because the detergent lowers the surface tension between the water and the black pepper.

    **Another question for you Dan: You mention that there are two parts to creating a seasoning layer. You mention the second part a little in your first post in this thread .... would you season a pan in the oven, then put down a thin layer of grease and heat it to the smoke point, and then repeat a few times? Or is this done at the same time in the oven? **

    Paul, in your article you discuss your belief that "a well seasoned pan will have dozens of very thin, very hard layers...so many that the pan will appear black instead of the silvery gray of the raw cast iron". I am 100% in agreement with this statement. Seasoning is not a one step process; its multilayered and an on going process. We can control the type of patina that develops on our pans by changes in the procedure that we use in cleaning and seasoning them.

    **Is the initial seasoning layer kinda sticky, but it is the carbon layer that is actually slick? **

    The type of seasoning that develops on your cast iron is dependent on both the type of cooking that you do, and how you clean and season your pan. "Sticky" occurs at low temperature while "slick" occurs at higher temperatures.

    **Can soap remove the carbon layer?**

    No.

    **Can a plastic scrubber remove either layer?**

    No.


    Finally, if you are satisfied with the patina that has developed on your pans..........just keep on doing what you have been doing. However, if you are not satisfied with your patina be open to changes in your cleaning and seasoning procedures. I know my procedures have changed over the years and I'm still learning.

    Sorry I took so long to get to your questions.

    Dan

  • awm03

    Guess I won't be getting a polished skillet from WagnerWare:
    "This email is to inform you that we are unfortunately out of stock of the item you ordered (#1060).
    We anticipate this item being unavailable for an extended period of time."

    Wonder if they're out of business...

  • dmlove

    Thanks for posting that, awm. Have you decided what you'll get instead? I'm no aficionado -- I've never owned a cast iron pan. I guess I'll just pick up a Lodge one, since I can get it at my local market.

  • awm03

    No, I haven't decided on an alternative, dmlove. Looked at Lodge at Wal-mart: it's very rough, & I thought the handle edges were a little sharp. Didn't see anything in a sweep of the local thrift shops & antique stores. Guess I'll haunt eBay for awhile & see if anything turns up.

  • homey_bird

    Hi folks,

    I posted the same question on "Le Creuset" thread and thought I would post it here as well.

    I am planning on buying a grilling (panini) set. I have no prior experience in cooking with cast iron skillet, except for a Wok, which has quite thin walls compared to the typical skillets.

    Therefore I was wondering: pure cast iron cookware/grill sets can be found for as little as $20.00 to Le Creuset ($150.00 in Macy's). Is there a specific reason why people buy Le Creuset? Is that *ONLY* because it is enameled and therefore more chemically stable?

    Someone on a thread commented about Le Creuset being heavy. Frankly, I am worried that too heavy skillets/pans might give me a fractured wrist, and therefore am surprised that so much importance is given to thickness. Then I wonder, is thicker always better? Or is there an optimum thickness beyond which it does not matter for CI cookware?

    Thanks in advance for all the responses!

  • danab_z9_la

    homey,

    I have purchased and cooked with many cast iron vessels over the years.....skillets, grills, woks,dutch ovens, bean pots, large washpots/cauldrons, gypsy pots, etc. Hands down the ones with thinner walls are much better than similar items with thick walls........better for several reasons. 1) the vessel is lighter in weight 2) the response time to changes in burner heat level is quicker 3) the vessel generally develops and holds seasoning better and most importantly 4) the quality of the casting is generally much much better.......both the metallurgy and the casting technique itself is much better with thin walled cast iron.

    Most would agree that Griswold and Le Creuset vessels are quality cast iron products. Take a look at how thin the walls are of any Le Creuset cast iron dutch oven.......Le Creuset can produce vessels with walls that are this thin only because they have a superior metallurgy in their cast iron formula and they have mastered the casting technique. Their products are smoother because they use a better grade of sand in their casting molds. Too, quality manufactures like Le Creuset, old Wagner,and Griswold machine polish the cooking surface...another procedure that adds to the cost of their product. On the other hand, less reputable manufacutres (China and Taiwan) try to overcome their poor quality cast iron by making the product thicker. They know too well that if they tried to make their vessels thinner they would all crack because of the inferior manufacturing techniues used.

    If you can.......examine an old Griswold skillet. It will have thin walls making it lighter than a comparable sized skillet of today. If you find one that has been cleaned and is not pitted...pass your fingers across the cooking surface and it will feel as smooth as glass or silk. Pass your fingers across a modern day Lodge skillet and it will be rough....because they used coarse sand in the molding process and they do not machine polish the surface.

    If non stick cooking is important to you......look for a smooth surfaced iron vessel. If you only plan to use it for frying chicken or fish for example, the Lodge product will work great for you.

    When I shop for cast iron outside of the quality brand names I look specifically for thin walled and smooth finish. There are many no-named brand cast iron vessels that are available at flea markets and garage sales that are excellent for cooking.

    If you see a cast iron item on ebay that appeals to you, ask the following questions of the seller. 1) have any repairs been made on this item......don't buy repaired items 2) are there any cracks......don't buy cracked 3) Is the cooking surface smooth and silky and free of pits....important for non-stick cooking.

    Be cautious when purchasing any used cast iron that has been coated with oil.......some oil is good to prevent rust. However, many vendors will use oil to cover up bad cases of rust and surface flaws.

    Hope this helps.

    Dan

  • dmlove

    Dan, thanks for that excellent post. I do have one follow-up question, though. You said that if you're only planning to use the pan for frying chicken or fish, the Lodge will be fine. What types of uses is the rougher, thicker Lodge pan NOT as good for, that a thinner, smoother pan will be better for? I really have no particular plans for my to-be-acquired pan other than the occasional chicken breast or steak, so I wondered what else I'd be using it for and whether I should wait for a good smooth/thin pan vs. getting a Lodge pan at a local store.

  • homey_bird

    Dan, that post really cleared up all my doubts. Thanks a lot!

  • danab_z9_la

    dmlo

    I have three skillets, which I work to keep a non-stick seasoning on them. I use them for frying eggs, scrambled eggs, pan broiling steaks, shrimp/crab/or crawfish patties, potato patties, crab cakes, omelets, pancakes, and skillet toast. IMO you cant beat eggs fried in cast iron.

    Here in South Louisiana we use cast iron for Blackening and Bronzing fish. I posted this technique over on the Cooking forum the other day and have included the link below. The recipe I posted for bronzing calls for cooking in a non-stick skillet or anodized grill pan. My go to pan for bronzing is one of my Griswold skillets. Since cast iron holds its temperature at a steady level for a long time..it produces a superior crust on the bronzed fish.and its non-stick properties make for turning over the fish fillet easy without it breaking up. Too, bronzing fish in cast iron pan will leave a good fond for making the gravy or sauce to pour over rice or pasta.

    Now Lodge is good quality and can develop the non-stick propertyit just takes a lot longer to get there and to maintain.

    Hope this helps,
    Dan

  • dmlove

    Thanks Dan - your posts have really helped. Now I just have to go shopping!

  • awm03

    OK. Made my first-ever eBay purchases yesterday and ended up with 3 Griswold pans: a #10 fry pan, a #3 fry pan, and a #8 chicken fryer. Hope they're in as good a shape as they appeared to be in the photos (fingers crossed...).

    1. Debating cleaning methods: self-cleaning oven method would be easy, and my oven could use a cleaning too. But one web site recommended against this method as it could warp a large pan. An eBay cast iron dealer uses the lye method which results in *exquisitely* beautiful pans, but I'm scared of lye. And how would I dispose of it safely? We have a septic system. Oven cleaner presents the same disposal problem. Hmmm....

    2. Now here's a real newbie question: when I season my newly cleaned cast iron pans with Crisco heated to the smoke point, would it make a difference if I use convection or a regular oven?

    3. Finally, are those silicone mitts effective for hot hot cast iron handles?

  • awm03

    The #10 & #3 frying pans arrived today. They are nicer than I imagined: smooth inside & out, nicely finished, well balanced (for a heavy pan), just two specks of rust, probably clean enough to use but I'll run them through the cleaning cycle anyway. I even think they're pretty!

  • bean_counter_z4

    If you have rust on a pan, I don't know why you would put it thru the self-cleaning cycle of your oven. I personally would not do that. Rust will come off when rubbed with steel wool. That should also take off anything else adhering to your pan. Here are my thoughts on the subject of cast iron care. If they didn't have a procedure 50 or 100 years ago, don't use it now. We have become so very modern in our thinking, we feel we just have to use an automatic dishwasher or the self-cleaning cycle or some super chemical cleaner on everything. Ask yourself, what did great-grandma do? That's just my HO and everyone else may disagree.

  • awm03

    "If you have rust on a pan, I don't know why you would put it thru the self-cleaning cycle of your oven"

    To remove the cooked-on, carbonized stuff on the pan. There isn't much of it, but seems like starting with a completely clean pan would ensure consistent seasoning. In researching this over the internet, the self-cleaning oven method seems to be efficient & safe as long as the pan is warmed up before hand.

    I'm reluctant to use steel wool -- don't want to scratch the pan's smooth surface. I plan to try Bar Keeper's Friend & a microfiber cloth to remove the rust spots. The oxalic acid in BKF should attack the rust sufficiently.

    Why would a self-cleaning oven be any worse than throwing a pan into a fire like they did 100 years ago (and some do today)?

    I probably inherited my practicality from my great-grandma, in which case, she would've approved of the simplicity and efficiency of the self-cleaning oven vs. scrubbing/scratching the heck out of a beautiful piece of cast iron. :)

  • dmlove

    awm, how about some pictures? Did you get the pans through an auction, or from an ebay store? Do you mind telling me what you ended up paying?

  • dmlove

    Sorry, another question. Could someone tell me what the number designations mean on the Griswold skillets?

  • kimba00

    dmlove,

    The numbers are the fry pan sizes in inches. I'm also curious as to what was paid for the pans. Awm03 will you share with us? I'm guessing the #10 was about $40?

  • dmlove

    kimba, so a no. 3 is 3 inches in diameter? What do you do with a 3" diameter pan (one fried egg maybe)?

  • awm03

    The numbers are a mold number (709 J, for example) and the manufacturer's size number. The #10 pan does have a 10" bottom diameter, but the #3 pan has a 5" bottom diameter. I paid $19 for the pans (the only bidder), and it was about $16 for shipping. I have chicken fryer on the way that was $34 (6 bids) $11 for shipping.

    Using Bar Keepers Friend & a microfiber cloth to remove the small rust spots worked well! Wonder how it would do for more severe rust? I'm eager to get the plans cleaned & seasoned, but will have to put that off until late in the weekend.

  • kimba00

    Yes, I wasn't considering the condition with my estimate, but yes, if there was rust, the pans do not fetch as much. You still did good!

  • awm03

    The pans did look a little orange in the photos, like they might have some light rust to deal with. But when I got them, really, there were just 3 specks of rust on them. Still, even if they're specks, the rust needs to go. The Bar Keepers Friend & microfiber cloth cleaned up the big pan so well that I'm debating whether to strip it in the oven. But I might as well start from scratch by getting it down to the bare metal. The little pan definitely needs to be stripped. It has a ring of carbonized gunk in it.

  • danab_z9_la

    awm,

    You made a great deal!

    If the large pan were mine, I wouldn't strip it. Based on your description, the little pan needs it as you have surmised.....the seasoning it too uneven.

    FYI, the reason the pan looked orange in the ebay picture is because of the lighting used to take the picture. I too have purchased many items on ebay that looked rusty but were not. If the pan would have been oiled before the picture was taken, it would not have this orange hue....it would look black. But black can cover up rust too. That's why it's important to ask questions of the seller before bidding. Believe me many stayed away from bidding on these items simply because they THOUGHT that these pans were rusty. Take a look at the number of views in the auction and you will see what I mean.

    For seasoning in the oven, I would suggest you keep
    the convection fan OFF.

    For cleaning in the oven, I would suggest that you keep the convection fan ON........if the oven manufacturer allows the fan to be on during the cleaning cycle. After cleaning in the oven some ash material will remain that usually can be easily removed with BKF. For stubborn rust or stains, I usually use an abrasive nylon polishing wheel on an electric drill.....really quite simple to do. I'll give the part number and source when I post my cleaning and seasoning procedures. This wheel will restore the cooking finish to a mirror like finish rather quickly.

    Congrats on your purchase. You will love cooking in your pans!!!

    Dan

  • awm03

    Thanks, Dam, I appreciate the info. A nylon polishing wheel -- now there's a good idea!

    Interesting your post about ebay. The black oily pans made me wonder if they'd been doctored for their photo shoot. I'd rather bid on the not-so-black, unoiled pans.

  • awm03

    The 10" Griswold chicken fryer came today. Oooh, I think this is going to be my favorite pan... Good size, weight, balance, and the higher sides are nice for cooking a variety of things.

  • cpovey

    I have to respectfully disagree about hte 'never use soap' information.

    Yes, some people can get away with this, but occasional use of soap prevents any left-over grease/oil from going rancid. Not good.

    Seasoning cast iron (or plain steel) builds up a layer of carbon, not grease, on the pan. The carbon is what makes the pan stick-resistant.

    As to the referred site, there is a lot of opinion and a lack of facts in it. in my opinion.

  • bl_fathauer_sbcglobal_net

    Dan,
    Would you please post your full seasoning advice. I spent about 4 hours working on 6 cast iron pans--4 from grandma, 1 new Lodge, and a garage sale dutch oven. I used bacon grease instead of vegetable oil--I found this suggestion today on another site after being totally frustrated with following the Lodge instructions 5 times on the Lodge pan. However, the site said to use bacon grease and heat 2 hours at 250-300. I chose 255 for 2 hours and now the perfectly seasoned grandma pans (they had white mold type residue, no rust and smooth as silk cooking surface) has the same sticky residue as what I keep getting on my Lodge skillet. I read the smoke point link noted above but didn't see bacon on there. I can use Crisco instead, but I'd love to know your full recommendation for seasoning. I used soap and a plastic brush and have some of that residue off the antique ones, but am still frustrated with my lodge skillet and the dutch oven. Thanks for all your posts and advice--I am at my wits end!

  • danab_z9_la

    NPGI,

    I'm having problems with Internet explorer on my computer and can't seem to get around a major freezing screen problem. For now here's a quick GENERAL procedure

    Although I prefer lard, bacon grease or Crisco is fine. Your problem is: you're not heating your pans hot enough. You need to heat them UP TO the point of where you see them smoke.....don't heat too much past this point. Make sure you only have a LIGHT coating of oil on the pan.....no puddles allowed. Do this coating/baking multiple times until the pan is evenly coated with carbon black.

    Then you need to bond it tightly together with the polymer reactions. You do this by coating the pan inside and out with VEGETABLE oil (preferable oil which was used to fry potatoes or fish). Apply a very THIN coating of oil and bake in the oven slightly BELOW the smoke point of the vegetable oil.......say around 450 degrees. Bake it until the coating feels dry and not sticky. Do this multiple times as well.......the more the better.

    Keep in mind that seasoning is not a one step process; rather, it is a continuous and on-going process. The final seasoning that develops on your pans is controlled by the oil that your use, what/how you cook, and how you clean your pans.

    After you clean up your pans just make sure you heat it on a burner to remove all traces of water.....towel dry is not good enough.......DO NOT SKIP THIS IMPORTANT STEP!!!!!! While the pan is still hot spray it with PAM and wipe all of the excess PAM off with a wad of paper towels. Note: wipe it with purchased lard (definitely not bacon grease) or Crisco if you will not be using your pan for an extended period of time.

    E-mail me if you have further questions......my e-mail seems to be working most of the time without the screen freezing up. Got my fingers crossed that this message will post when I hit the submit button.

    Dan

  • simonaa

    Hi Dan,

    I enjoyed your postings as I recently purchased two Lodge iron skillets. I followed your seasoning technique as the first time I cooked with the "preseasoned" skillets my french fries sticked like crazy leaving me angry...the only thing is that after seasoning the skillets on the outdoor gas grill it left me with a shiny black coating ( similar to Tfal)...however whenever I wipe the skillets I get this black dust, residuu...is carbon I think...I didnt cook yet...I am kinda afraid.
    Do you think I overseasoned them? I appreciate any advise you could give me. Tks

  • danab_z9_la

    You have to be very careful when heating cast iron on an outdoor grill. Because you don't know the precise temperature of the cast iron, you can easily overheat the metal to where you will actually burn the patina off of the skillet. Cast iron can take the heat, but the patina will start to disintegrate if you heat much past the smoke point of the seasoning oil. Ovens work better because of better heat control. Grills can work too, but you have to be very careful not to heat too long or too hot. It is very easy to completely ruin the seasoning on a pan heated on a gas grill.

    Lodge preseasons its cast iron by spraying it with oil and heating the pan just past the smoke point of the oil. This process lays down a carbon rich patina which is well bonded to the bare metal. What you now need is to bond it tightly together with the polymer reactions. You do this by coating the pan inside and out with VEGETABLE oil (preferably oil which was used to fry potatoes or fish). Apply a very THIN coating of oil and bake in the oven slightly BELOW the smoke point of the vegetable oil.......say around 450 degrees. Bake it until the coating feels dry and not sticky. Do this multiple times as well.......the more the better.

    After seasoning, make sure you NEVER leave a puddle or thick coating of vegetable oil to remain in your seasoned pan. Vegetable oil can go rancid and/or leave behind a very sticky coating that's very difficult to remove. Pam, purchased lard, or Crisco all work fine for coating seasoned pans....there too make sure you only have a very THIN coating of oil.

    Dan

  • simonaa

    Dan,

    Tks for the info, should I recoat it? Or should I get rid of the patina to the bare metal and start over? I wonder if vigurous scrubbing would get rid of the black dust on the pans? Also what do you think of grapeseed oil for seasoning? I heard it has a high smoking point.

  • danab_z9_la

    If your pan is evenly coated with black pre-seasoning I wouldn't burn it off and start over. Grape-seed oil is a vegetable-like oil. I've never used it for seasoning but from what I've read it seems to polymerize easily....because its high in unsaturated fats. I've purchased a can of grape-seed oil and hazelnut oil yesterday to try them out for seasoning some of my new pans. I will be experimenting with different oils and fats to see how they affect the seasoning process. I'm curious that way.

    Don't worry too much about choice of oil.......almost any oil will work. Some oil types will work FASTER than others.....that's why I suggested after laying down a carbon rich layer on your skillet using Crisco or Lard heating to the smoke point that you follow that up with Vegetable oil heated to BELOW the smoke point.

    Lodge already preseasoned your skillet for you and put a good carbon rich coating on the pan for you. As you use your pan, its seasoning will get better and better. Since you purchased a Lodge product the casting is rough and will take longer to get to a good non-stick patina than other pans. You can speed the process up by multiple bakings using vegetable oil as suggested above.

    The fastest way to get to a non-stick patina on a Lodge product is to use it to make a cajun roux. Cajun rouxs are made using equal volumes of AP flour and oil and stirring contstantly until the flour attains a dark color. The roux making process occurs at a temperature near the smoke point of the oil and takes place in a very carbon rich environment because of the flour......polymerization reactions will occur on the surface of the iron when making roux. In the process of making the roux, the small voids which exists on the cooking surface of all new Lodge products get filled with patina rather quickly. You can speed up your patina making process by making several rouxs in your pan.

    Seasoning a cast iron pan is not rocket science; however, a little science knowledge can be used to better season a pan. The type patina that develops on your pans is a function of the type of oil you use, the temperature that you heat it to, and how you clean your pans.

    As you read my posts, keep in mind that I am a retired chemist. My technical background causes me to choose my words very carefully whenever I write about procedures. Whenever I suggest a temperature or oil type, it is suggested for a very specific reason. Pay particular attention to any words that I capitalize. I hope I am helpful in these posts and not making a very simple process seem complicated.

    Dan

  • jennytekno

    Hopefully this won't post twice. I've had the hardest time getting this posted as I wasn't already a member, rather found this thread through a google search. To get straight to my point this time, I've heard (somewhere ) that you shouldn't use cast iron on a smooth top stove as it will ruin "it". I assume "it" is the stove. Has anyone heard this and is there any truth to it? Now that I know how to properly season my pans, I'd love to try using them again.

  • danab_z9_la

    There is a wealth of good information covering many topics to be found over the entire Garden Web site. Do a search on this "Cookware" forum site and you find lots of information regarding your question. As an example, see the link below for one thread discussing your concern.

    Dan

  • dmlove

    Dan, I'd like to try your cajun roux method of seasoning my pre-seasoned Lodge skillet. Can you give me more specific instructions -- is it JUST equal parts oil and flour? And how do I know what is "near" the smoking point of the oil? Once it's there, how long do I keep cooking it? Should I use this method in conjunction with the oil/oven method?

  • dmlove

    How often should one "season" a cast iron pan (the whole oil in the oven routine that is)?

  • danab_z9_la

    DM, I generally "season" my cast iron until it is "cured". Cured means its surface has been seasoned several times and has developed sufficient patina where the pan is no longer reactive. A cured pan does not need to be coated with oil for storage because sufficient seasoning layers are on the pan surface which provides sufficient protection.

    Paul, as I indicated in an earlier post in this thread I would be cleaning and seasoning several pieces of cast iron using different oils and oil blends. After seasoning six vintage cast iron vessels, I must concur with you that GRAPE SEED oil is a wonderful oil for seasoning. It is much better than most other oils and fats that I have used.

    I used grape seed oil (in the vegetable oil classification) to season an old Griswold #43 (9 inch) chef skillet after completely removing the old seasoning on the cooking surface. The surface is now shiny-black, hard, and super slick....perfect for eggs. I still have quite a few more vintage items to clean and season and expect to take pictures to document for later postings under separate threads.

    If anyone has access to Alcor MCCR test equipment and would like to collaborate with me for a possible publication on The Proper Cleaning and Seasoning of Cast Iron, please contact me by e-mail. Chemists and/or lab techs familiar with Petroleum refining quality control testing may have access to this type analyzer.

    Dan

  • trivetman

    Is there a good way to maintain the underside of cast iron cookware?

    My cast irons all show bare metal and rust on the underside of the pans. I don't know if this is because I didn't think about seasoning this part of the pan in the first place, or if any seasoning that was there would have been "burnt" off by the high heat of the burner.

  • danab_z9_la

    Yes the underside can be seasoned. However, it is a little bit harder to maintain that seasoning on the outside if you are cooking over a hot campfire. To remove surface rust from the bottom side of your cast iron pan use Bar-Keeper's-Friend and a stiff brush. This should remove all traces of rust. If it doesn't, rinse the pan real well with hot water then use a new Brillo pad to remove that remaining rust. DO NOT USE a Brillo pad with BKF.

    After cleaning your cast iron, rub it with a very thin coat of Crisco both inside and outside and heat as directed above to reseason it.

    After you have seasoned your pan properly at a high temperature. It is equally important that you "clean" your pans properly after each use. Don't short cut this important step. Here's a good cleaning procedure that awm03 uses........

    "When cleaning up, I wash with soapy water & the scrub side of a sponge, making sure all the food is removed. I always set the pan on a low burner to dry thoroughly. I rub a bit of Crisco in it with a paper towel, then rub the pan with a dry paper towel to remove as much Crisco as possible. I turn the heat up to medium until the remaining oil starts to smoke, then I turn the heat off. When cool, I store the pan with a paper towel in it so other pans stacked in it don't chip the seasoning."

    When you season cast iron at a high temperature it is perfectly OK to wash your pan with soap when and if needed. Soap is not always needed as in when you fry a batch of french fries or fish. But by all means don't be afraid to use it. Keep in mind that if you exactly follow the cleaning procedure quoted above, each time you clean your pans you will be adding another thin layer of seasoning to your pan. The patina will get better and better( both inside and outside of your pane) each time that you use it and each time that you clean it.

    Dan.

  • greenturtle36

    I'm very passionate about cast iron cookware, and cooking in it.

    I started a blog a couple of months ago, with reviews on different cast iron pieces I find on the internet as well as what I cook in my cast iron from day to day.

    http://ramblingsoncastiron.blogspot.com

  • alexrander

    I have 3+ questions. In the 2 part method for seasoning, I'm not sure which comes first, do you put a polyunsaturated oil (like grapeseed oil) on the bare pan at 450 degrees for an hour (below smoke point) and then later add the crisco or lard or other oil and bake it till it smokes or is it the other way around?

    2nd question. If I have tiny dark streaks left on the sides of the pan, is that because I used too much oil/lard?

    O.K. I have a third question... Can grapeseed oil be used for both parts of the seasoning? And Dan mentioned using oil that had been used to fry potatoes or fish, is this for the first layer against the bare pan, of for the 'top' layer ?

  • shadoway_windstream_net

    I dug two old "dinner kettles", as we call them, out of one of my out buildings today. They belonged to my great-grandfather and handed down thru each generation. My dad had stored them in the shed many years ago and they are in remarkably good condition with very minimal rust spotting on the interior and light rust and black charring on the outside. I want to clean them up and cook in them over open flame. I was looking for other opnions on how best to clean and season them as they are too large to fit in an oven or such. One is 18" id and the other is 21" id.
    I have enjoyed reading the posts.
    Thanks,
    Steve

  • danab_z9_la

    Here's how I season my large Jambalaya pots (AKA wash kettles, gypsy pots, hog pots).......some as large as 30 gallons. Clean the interior with Bar Keeper's Friend followed by a second water washing with Liquid detergent then a good rinsing. DO NOT skip this important step.

    Then warm your pot over an outdoor burner using a small flame. Then intent is to "warm" your pot on the bottom and sides and completely dry it. Allow your pot to slowly get HOT. Put a little lard (or Crisco shortening) in the pot and when it is melted.....CAREFULLY smear it completely around the pot....both inside and outside......using a wad of paper towels. Wipe off all excess lard....no puddles allowed. You only want a "thin" coating of lard. THIN is important. Then using a PROPANE torch heat the pot "evenly" and completely around it. After it gets hot all over....start working the torch in smaller areas...heating that "small area" to the smoking point of the lard. As you do this, you will see it turn black. Don't heat any longer after it turns black....move your torch to another adjacent area and repeat. Continue to keep your pot hot by heating completely around it with your torch....then focus on a smaller area again. Do not let your pot overheat in any one area to the point of where the seasoning flakes (or burns) off. It is important that you do not burn off the seasoning that you just laid down. The more you do this....the better the seasoning layers will develop.

    FYI, on a very large pot I use the kind of propane torch that they sell at Harbor Freight for de-icing driveway or for burning grass. For smaller pots I use a smaller propane soldering torch.

    To prevent future rust in storage and to help further develop its good seasoning layer. Coat the interior and exterior of your pot lightly with some melted lard (purchased stuff...not bacon fat). NEVER EVER coat your pot with regular cooking oil as IT WILL eventually get sticky, gummy, and go rancid. There is nothing worst than that rancid taste in your cooked food. You can prevent this from ever happening by simply using either Crisco shortening or purchased Lard for coating your pot between use.

    ......grapeseed oil is highly recommended for indoor oven seasoning (less smoking).

    Best of luck to you in your outdoor cooking adventures.

    Dan
    Semper Fi-cus

  • Martiabr

    I just recieved some Cast Iron Pans from a family friend. However; I have found through someones stupidity, that instead of seasoning the pans correctly and sanding off the rust they simply used stove paint to paint over it. i have sanded the pans down to the bare metal and am starting all over again. As i have removed the paint and old layers of petina I have found two of the pans to be very pitted. I just don't know if they will be safe to use. does anyone have any ideas or imput about this?

  • Lars

    Last week-end Kevin bought a cast iron griddle/grill at Kohls because he had thirty Kohls dollars that were going to expire if he didn't use them, and so with other discounts, it was almost free. Now I need to season it, and I thought there might be special instructions for something that is reversible, but I only plan to use the griddle side. I need it for pancakes, especially potato pancakes because they are difficult to turn in a pan with high sides like my cast iron skillet. I was going to get a comal, but they were out of those, and this was the last reversible griddle they had left. I think it is discontinued now as well.

    Anyway, I wanted to bring this thread back to the top, and this time I will make sure to make a word document and save all of the important information here. It's been a while since I bought anything cast iron, since I stocked up on it long, long ago, and I still have all of it!

    If anyone has anything to add concerning reversible griddles/grills, I would like to see it. We've been having coastal fog lately (so-called "June Gloom") and so the house has remained cool. The outdoor orchids are happy because the sun is filtered and they will not get burned. I'll have to bring some of them in when it gets sunny again. Anyway, I won't have to worry about heating up the house by cranking up the oven.

    Lars

  • cooksnsews

    Hi Lars, there have been many helpful threads on Cast Iron care and use here on GW over the years, and here is the procedure I've gleaned from them about seasoning new CI:

    First, wash in soapy water, and dry well, to remove any manufacturing finishes, or any other guck your griddle may have picked up before its purchase. Then coat with a very thin layer of high-smoke-point oil. I use grapeseed oil, spread with a pad of paper toweling. You can coat both sides of your griddle - the ridged side as well as the smooth side. Place in a 450F oven for about an hour. Let cool, then repeat the oiling and oven-ing. If the surface is at all sticky, then you either didn't cook it hot enough, or long enough. Three of four cycles should get you a smooth hard season.

    I never use the ridged side of my so-called reversible griddle - I presume any seasoning on that side has long cooked off due to contact with gas flames. Just be sure to preheat the griddle before putting any food on it. And maybe, preheat slowly - someone posted on another thread recently about breaking her vintage Griswold griddle by cranking the heat under it too suddenly.

  • irjowo99

    Bought a cheap, light, beat up and pockmarked cast iron pan at the thrift store.

    I cleaned and have tried seasoning it with crisco/veg oil in the oven and on the gas stove. I got a nice smooth coat on the stove, but when cooking stuff gets stuck to it and the coat wears off. Wondered if you had thoughts about whether it's hopeless or maybe I just need more layers/more heat?

  • Lars

    I pulled up this thread because I bought another cast iron griddle/grill, and this time I bought the one in the image I linked to before. That was not the griddle that Kevin bought at Kohl's - the one he bought was by Bobby Flay, and I have hated it from Day One because it has "handles" on opposing corners, which prevent it from sitting flat on the burners, and so it always wobbles. The wobble would be worse if I ever used the grill side, but I wanted it for the griddle side only. I have outdoor grills for grilling, as well as square grill pans that I like better. Anyway, the Bobby Flay griddle was at least preseasoned, but the new one is not. So I searched for this thread to remind me how to season cast iron properly. The new griddle that I bought does not wobble, and if necessary, I can use both griddles if I ever make pancakes for a crowd. The good thing about the BF griddle was that it was cheap - the new one cost twice as much, but I think it is worth it, even though I do not like the grill side - ridges are too low.

    Lars

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