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Dec 21, 2006 12:47 AM

Cast iron problems

Alright, I got a cast iron skillet from my mom a while ago, and I've been trying to get it seasoned and care for it properly. I have been using salt to scrub it, no soap. Rinse, dry, oil, paper towl under anything that goes on it, etc. All I've made so far was bacon, cornbread a few times, and an upside down cake. I just got a stiff-bristled brush to clean it, and the first time i used it it seemed to take off the seasoning that I'd been putting on it. Problem number 1.

I just cooked some potatoes in the skillet, with onion and garlic and olive oil. I let the pan heat up first (on medium), then the oil (a good amount) and let it heat up. Then the garlic, onions, and potatoes. The skillet basically developed a nice film on the bottom of burnt everything. I finished cooking, but I'm concerned about whether or not this is a question of poor seasoning or what. My skillet also seemed to heat unevenly, as I could see a clear outline of where the flame was hitting the pan where the food was burning first.

So basically, did I do something wrong? I'm also afraid to use the brush again for fear of removing any seasoning left on the skillet after this. Any answers you've got are appreciated. Help me, all-knowing Chowhound community!

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  1. Were you trying to cook on very high heat? Cast iron is slow to heat up, but holds its heat very well. I've not had anything burn. I use medium or medium-high heat. I have always washed my cast iron with soap and water, and so has my mom, which is where I learned it. Dry thoroughly -- on a very low burner, if you like. It has been a very long time since I seasoned a cast iron pan, but I think I mostly cooked a lot of bacon in it at first, and fried with oil.

    1. nope, i made sure to keep the heat to medium. i started trying to clean the skillet and the layer of crust on the bottom is much thicker than i thought it was. Also, the food tasted very metallic, which I thought was strange considering I didn't use anything acidic.

      maybe i'll just go back to cooking bacon and cornbread until... well, i don't know what. but i guess until it seems different.

      1. Did you toss the potatoes/onions/garlic as you were cooking them at the start? Coating the ingredients with the oil can be important to keep them from adhering to the pan and burning. Keep tossing them around during cooking. Also, garlic can be sticky if added early in the frying process. Easily goes way past a light saute and into sticky-burny mess, especially with cast iron, in my experience. I usually add it later in the cooking process.

        Don't know about the acidic taste - I'd be curious if anyone else does.

        Don't give up on your cast iron, though.

        1. Using "straight salt" to hand scrub cast iron in my opinion is just plain bad.

          Salt is an oxidizer and those meanies causes oxidation. And in only extreme cases will the oxidation become a rust layer and that is highly noticeable.

          Cast iron oxidation could be present whitish through a grayish in color, but for the most part we may not even notice it, but it is still present within the pores of the cast iron.

          Bacon and its "diluted" salts normally do not affect cast iron if we properly clean afterwards. The grease as it cooks tends to suspend (bring to the top) the damaging salt as well as block the oxidation process in a suffocating manor.

          So called breads or cakes made in cast iron may react as an acid producing item. Much of that depends on the recipe.

          Olive oil is one oil I refuse to use as I just despise its "motor oil" like taste. Perhaps I have no taste but that's me. ;-)

          If you can see a heat ring in any skillet the flame is to darn high. In the restaurant setting a infrared surface thermometer works like a charm.

          Like this >>>

          I think the bottom line here is that the seasoning isn't taking. The salt scrub doesn't help so try only a water clean. If it was my skilet, I would do a plain water - boil out (3 minute rolling boil) of the skilet and reseason it. I prefer lard to reseason cast iron

          1. Thanks for the advice. I did toss everything together in the oil right away. I think you're right on about adding the garlic later.

            I guess I'll need to keep the flame much lower. I did have it on medium, I thought that would be ok. This is like learning everything all over again.

            I did end up just boiling water and scrubbing the rest of the crud out, then reseasoning it with some bacon fat. The skillet has a dark half and a grey half, it's been like that since I started with it. I'll go back to working on it. I guess I'd better go back to just cooking bacon.

            And I still have the metallic taste in my mouth. Ick!

            1 Reply
            1. re: annimal

              >>>The skillet has a dark half and a grey half...

              Like it has been soaked? That may need to be corrected somehow. Do you know what may have been used.?

              And just how are you seasoning it?

              I do the old fashioned 300 degree for 2-4 hours oven bake method, once coated with lard. (Never use an oil or cheap shortenings as it can create a sticky sludge like coating)