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Help me not to hate my cast iron cookware

c
cook2day Sep 22, 2006 05:09 PM

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!

  1. macca Sep 22, 2006 05:12 PM

    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. c
      cheryl_h Sep 22, 2006 05:59 PM

      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
        Candy Sep 23, 2006 01:07 AM

        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
          h
          Hungry Celeste Sep 26, 2006 05:18 PM

          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
            PBSF Sep 28, 2006 04:43 AM

            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. t
        The_Bayou Sep 22, 2006 06:08 PM

        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.

        Bayou

        1. j
          Jimmy Buffet Sep 22, 2006 06:11 PM

          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. Ernie Diamond Sep 22, 2006 06:54 PM

            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
              MMRuth Sep 22, 2006 06:55 PM

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

            2. i
              inmybackpages Sep 22, 2006 09:23 PM

              Tomatoes are fine in cast iron, I cooked them in it last night...the argument is that some of the iron will leach out into your food, but that shouldn't really be a problem...extra minerals!

              But yes, cooking lots and lots of things like bacon/sausage/other greasy foods helps a lot.

              One thing I've found really great is in searing meats, to heat the pan up to 400-500 in the oven, then take it out, put it on the stove, and throw your steak/fish/butterflied chicken in to sear it quickly on both sides and throw it back in the oven if you think it needs more cooking. This really seems to cook meat perfectly to my taste; gets the outside cooked quickly...

              1 Reply
              1. re: inmybackpages
                h
                Hungry Celeste Sep 26, 2006 05:20 PM

                I cook with tomatoes all the time in cast iron; chili, tomato sauce, etc. You do need to clean up promptly when cooking high-acid foods, as the cast iron surface will pit if you leave the dirty pan sitting around.

                Cast iron will turn peeled crawfish tails an unappetizing shade of greyish tan. Not a problem if they're in a thick sauce that camoflauges the color, but rather off-putting in a thin, light sauce.

              2. e
                EclecticEater Sep 23, 2006 12:43 AM

                So unburden your guilt and buy some Le Crueuset or an equivalent brand (I think Batali has some now and also Rachel Ray?) with the colorful enamel outside and black enamel inside and forget about seasoning, smeasoning, not washing with soap, and all that. They should do just as good a job making "fond" and blackening whatever you choose to use, and their handles will let you put them in the oven.

                1. v
                  verplanck Sep 23, 2006 01:15 AM

                  Definitely keep with it. Just sear with it until you have it broken down well. I haven't done eggs in mine yet, but doing steaks and bacon are fine.

                  Is steel wool good for scouring it out? I've done it a time or two, but is it too harsh? Otherwise, I just wet it and hit it with a scrubbie.

                  1. k
                    keencook1 Sep 26, 2006 05:07 PM

                    I love my cast iron. When finished cooking, wash with soap and water; no scouring should be necessary. I dry my pans either on a low burner or in the oven, to be sure they're dry before I put them away.

                    Frequently use them on the Weber grill; heat them hot hot in the oven, throw in the meat, and run like heck to the back porch (I have very good oven gloves).

                    1. s
                      slynnkiino Sep 26, 2006 05:29 PM

                      A large cast-iron skillet is great for stir-fry. Woks aren't shaped for home stoves, and cast iron gets super-hot and heats evenly. To minimize sticking, make sure the skillet is heated thoroughly before adding the food. I've heard letting meat sit out for a few minutes so it's not refrigerator-cold helps, too.

                      --sarah

                      http://www.avenuefood.com

                      1. d
                        dpastor Sep 28, 2006 01:35 AM

                        I don't think it is the seasoning, it is your cooking temp. Cast iron takes a much longer time to heat up than non-stick. If it is not hot enough, then food will stick. I don't recommend scrambled eggs in cast iron anyway. Stick with it, you will treasure those pans.

                        1. p
                          Procrastibaker Sep 28, 2006 01:03 PM

                          I don't know-- maybe y'all will find this unsanitary, but I really never use soap on my cast iron. I use a plastic scrubby and hot water and sometimes, if I've cooked something fatty (like bacon) I just wipe it out really well with a damp paper towel. I figure whatever minute amount of food is left on the surface has been cooked to oblivion. To me, usuing soap risks introducing off-flavors into the patina of the pan. If the pan does end up looking dry, though, I just wipe a tiny bit of whatever oil is at-hand on it and put it away. Interestingly, htough, I do find my lodge pre-seasoned which I bought new has taken seasoning much better than a very nice, but apt to rust, Griswold I was given as a gift. Wonder why? Ditto, though, on not doing eggs in the cast iron. After much thought on the subject, I just decided to buy one decent nonstick pan which I only use at relatively low heat for Swedish pancakes (not crepes- have a pan for that, but the Swedish pancakes are larger and super fragile) and eggs. As a side note, I'm not sure I agree on the cast iron as substitute for wok-- I have a flat-bottomed carbon steel wok that I use on my electric range and it works much better than cast iron both for heating quickly and for the shape needed to stir fry.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Procrastibaker
                            themis Sep 28, 2006 05:02 PM

                            Oh, I wouldn't dream of using soap on my cast iron, either. I scour with kosher salt and rinse with very hot water, nothing's ever stuck, no grease residue; just glossy black patina. What would be unsanitary? You heat the bejeezus out of those pans, anyway.

                            Maybe in twenty years I'll be less protective of the patina and think about using soap. Until then, I'm not going to chance ruining it.

                          2. j
                            julesrules Sep 28, 2006 05:05 PM

                            We've had ours (one good size skillet) for two years and just starting to really love it. I never did the intense in-the-oven season, basically we just kept using it for bacon and pork chops, and not washing it - sometimes it needs a wet cloth, but usually I use a paper towel. I also use a non-stick for eggs and sticky things like salmon cakes, but to sear a nice chop or steak the cast iron is the best.

                            1. 280 Ninth Sep 28, 2006 05:12 PM

                              Hi Cook2day,

                              It IS very frustrating to have stuff stick to your cast-iron skillets, since it takes forever to get it off! I've purchased and use three cast-iron skillets on a regular basis, and in addition, use a cast-iron grill pan.

                              The trick to using a cast-iron skillet is making sure the pan is properly heated BEFORE you start to cook anything in it. If you're placing items to cook in the skillet when the skillet is cold it's far more likely that the food will stick. As with many others in this post, I do enjoy using cast-iron, but you need to handle it well.

                              Hope this helps.

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