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Sep 22, 2006 05:09 PM

Help me not to hate my cast iron cookware

I was just reading posts about cast iron cookware. I bought three skillets of varying sizes and have used them about one hundred times and I hate them. They stick all the time and I have seasoned them many many times. I use Crisco and season them for an hour at a time and now and again they won't stick for the first use, and then they stick again. I also can't even get scrambled egg off them and after they are seasoned, some of the cooked-in lumpy food seems to remain under the shiny black surface. I use a mild abrasive and have also tried putting salt in them and "cooking" them to remove the food.
I am ready to go to a tall building in order to throw them off, but I really want to continue using them. I also read that you can't cook tomatoes in them (so I stopped) or liquids, like stews, so I really baby them. Just so's you know, the food doesn't burn in them, it sticks and then TRIES to burn.
Please help me, as I want to love all three of them!

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  1. Don't know what you m ean by using crisco and seasoning for an hour at a time. Most of m y cast iron is old- belonged to my grandmother! But I did buy one large skillet. FOr the first month, I only cooked bacon in it. That was it! I wash it using hot water, and make sure to dry it completely before storing. food doesn't stick- I sue it for frying, roasting, baking and sauteeing. Love them.

    1. How are you seasoning your skillets? Crisco leaves a tackiness on the surface. Try painting them all over, inside and out, with a good high-temperature vegetable oil - peanut works well - and heating them in an oven. Get the temperature up to about 400 F for 1 hour, turn the oven off and let them cool down in the oven. That gives them the basic coating.

      If you want to seal the surface really well, after the first treatment, pour some oil into the pan to a depth of about 1/8 inch, and heat it to sizzling on the stove. Turn off, allow to cool down. Wipe out oil. Repeat. You'll see the surface begin to turn brown and eventually black.

      Only use them to cook in oil until you get a nice sealed surface. After it's black and smooth you can cook anything you like in them.

      I clean mine with simple soap and water. Do not scrub or use anything harsh or all your seasoning will have to be repeated. My mother had a wok that was decades old which was perfectly nonstick. I have skillets that are 20+ years old and still work beautifully, not quite as nonstick as teflon but pretty close.

      3 Replies
      1. re: cheryl_h

        No, no oil. Oil leaves a sticky yellow residue. Get some cheap partially hydrogenated lard or as someone else suggested cooking bacon in them. Frying chicken is good to but no oil, not even good olive oil.

        1. re: Candy

          Candy is oh-so-right (a frequent occurence). DON'T use liquid veg oils to season cast iron. DO use hydrogenated veg oils like crisco or hydrogenated (shelf-stable) lard. You DO need to heat those skillets for longer than an hour at a low temp; try 2 to 2.5 hours at 200 degrees. Put the skillet upside down on the oven rack, and place a baking pan underneath to catch drips & prevent smoking.

          As for cleaning, you can use soap & a scrubber if your pan is REALLY well seasoned. And you can use soap/scrubber even if it isn't well seasoned, you'll just need to re-season on a regular basis.

          One caveat: if you're hyper-sensitive about the amount of butter/oil in your cooking, then cast iron perhaps isn't for you. I find that CI pans need a little more lubrication for sautes than your run-of-the-mill hard anodized or (of course) non stick surfaces.

          1. re: Hungry Celeste

            I don't know if crisco or hydrogenated lard works better, but I've been seasoning cast iron skillets and woks with liquid vegetable oil for years and never had any problem.

      2. Cook2day,

        I just finished seasoning a cast iron wok, using the instructions provided by Le Creuset. Following are the instructions, I think they would translate to other cast iron cookware

        Seasoning the Wok:

        First was the wok in hot soapy water and scrub gently to remove any manufacturing residue. Dry thouroughly. Place it empty on a medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil and rub this all over the inner surface. Continue heating for 10-15 minutes and then wipe off the excess oil with absorbent kitchen paper. Cool, and then repeat again with more oil. Wipe again and cool. The wok is ready for use.

        Once seasoned, the wok should not be scrubbed or washed in hot soapy water - otherwise the process will need repeating. Generally, if it is rinsed under hot running water while still warm, any residue will be removed and harsher treatment will not be necessary.

        If light scouring is needed, a Chinese bamboo cleaning brush or washing up brush may be used.

        After cleaning, dry thouroughly by standing over a low heat for a few minutes. Store in a dry place.

        I hope this helps.


        1. Stick with it. I have made the same mistakes but now have about 18 pieces of cast iron. Once you season it, cook high fat things in it a few times...

          1. One of the things that I learned from my cast iron is to allow foods to cook to the proper level before attempting to move them. For example, browning meat in cast iron really illustrates the need to let a proper crust form before it will release cleanly. A preparation that I LOVE my nine-inch pan for is tarte tatin. There is a foolproof recipe that you can find in "Baking Illustrated" as well as some of their collections. If there one recipe that will convince you to keep these pieces around, it's this one.

            My cast iron pieces are not everyday items. But when they're called into service, there is nothing that can do the job like they can.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Ernie Diamond

              Tarte tatin is the one thing I use my cast iron pan for.