Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Apr 16, 2005 12:44 PM

yet another bloody cast iron question

  • j

i know, i know. the cast iron questions are almost in the same league as the tipping questions. but i guess i'm just that inept in the kitchen, that the prior posts don't seem to be providing the answer.

bought a pan not too long ago. seasoned it by first cleaning it with some soap & warm water, drying it thoroughly, liberally spreading oil all over it, put in the oven for a coupla hours. when it came out, it had the look of a seasoned pan.

my problem is that every time i cook something like chicken or fish/scallops, it always seems to stick to the pan. so then i add more oil or butter, which seems to quickly vanish, leaving the pan dry, and then food sticks again. i thought it might be that i'm flipping the food too soon, so i tried holding out for longer. result was burnt food. now i'm really ticked off, b/c the pan ain't working, the food is screwed up, and there's a mess of food stuck to the pan that's an absolute pain in the ass to get off without scratching.

now i never want to use it. i'm scared to. i pull out the non-stick in attempt to sear foods which totally sucks, but is better than the aforementioned scenarios.

other important pieces of data: steaks have worked. bacon has worked, but i have a feeling that i haven't cooked enough bacon on it to really get a good season (maybe only once?). is it that the foods that are sticking are the ones with very little fat?

help me. i really want to use the cast iron. i want to be a part of all that fun.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Using oil would give it a sticky, tacky finish. Try cleaning it thoroughly, if you have a self cleaning oven run it through the cleaning cycle. Then get some lard and melt it in the pan, smear it around thoroughly and then put it in a low oven for an hour or so. Then drain out any extra lard, wipe it out again and put it back in the oven for another hour. Your pan should be ready to go. I clean mine and reseason mine in that manner every couple of years. I have also picked up really cruddy, caked on burned grease laden cast iron pans from thrift shops and burned them out in the self cleaning oven and then they reseasoned beautifully.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Candy

      jiggsly-wiggsly speaks sound advice. Use either lard or Crisco - your pan needs the kind of hard-binding fat that your arteries don't (just don't use butter!). What you're doing is not only filling the pan's pores, but creating a layer of polymerized molecules (what you get when you heat up saturated fats). I have a bunch of iron things that I can in fact use a bit of detergent on without hurting the seasoned surface at all - but it's taken a few years to get'em that way.

      1. re: Will Owen

        I have always used canola oil for seasoning. It works fine.

        Every time, after you use the pan, wash it with a stiff brush under hot water (no soap), then heat it up on the stove for a few minutes. Pour in about 1 tbsp of oil and spread it around with a paper towel. Let the heat stay on until it starts to smoke, then turn it off and let it cool. Wipe off excess oil with another paper towel before storing. Over the next few years, it'll get progressively better. Cooking bacon, cornbread, and anything deep fried in oil will substantially hasten the process.

        1. re: Caviar

          NO oil! Lard or shortening. It really makes a big difference. And turn your pan upside down in the oven, so any excess drips out. Just put a pan underneath to catch.

          1. re: Becca Porter

            I speak from personal experience using oil - my cast iron pans have a beautiful black very non-stick surface.

            I'm willing to entertain that lard or shortening could be "better" - but please explain what the difference is, and what problems you have with oil.

            1. re: Caviar

              I should clarify, also - I do the seasoning on the stovetop, not in the oven, so it gets substantially hotter. I can see how oil in the oven might just make a sitcky mess, but on the stovetop, it gets nice and black.

              1. re: Caviar

                I've experimented with a lot of different methods. What works by far the best for me is to get the piece hot, rub it down while hot with good, pure lard, put it upside down in a very hot oven (550), and cook it for a couple of hours. It's hard to handle the hot piece while greasing it, and it smokes like hell while it's cooking, but the method gives me a damned good result. In the final analysis, however, I think everyone should do what works best for him.


      2. re: Candy

        I hear you folks saying no oil, but have always used vege oil for seasoning cast iron, and have never had a problem. Technique the same as stated by others - wash in hot water, no detergent, and a stiff brush. I use a bamboo scrubber purchased from a Chinese supermarket.

        I too have a couple of cast iron pans that I bought at garage sales. They were rusty and crusty, but now cook and clean like a dream.

        1. re: judybird

          In my experience, the old ones are more forgiving and easier to season and reseason than the new Lodge pans.

      3. I've tried a lot of different seasoning methods, and haven't found any that give an instant, perfect surface. What seems to work for me is frying, frying some more, and frying again. Eventually the pan develops the glossy surface you want. Keep the soap out of it and it stays that way - forever.

        You can cut down on the sticking in the meanwhile by heating the pan before adding the oil, and heating the oil before adding the food. Boiling water and a metal or wooden spatula will help take off crusty bits, particularly if the pan is still hot. (Plate your food, wash the pan, *then* serve the food.) And I don't worry about scratching - it's not tin-lined copper, it's cast iron. It can take a beating.

        1. You probably are not getting the pan hot enough before adding the oil and then the food.

          And then leave the food alone! Do not poke or prod until the food forms a crust and, voila it "releases".

          1. Food tyrant is right about heating the pan well before adding any oil or food. Like you, I was not sure about cast iron pans until I was staying at a friend's house whose only decent pan was an old cast iron skillet - but it was great. So I got a creuset skillet which has taken me about 4 years to figure out, but now I use it for everything from pancakes to stirfry. Only thing I haven't cooked in it is fried eggs.