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Mar 5, 2007 07:56 PM

Finish Peeling Off Cast Iron

Advice please. I just cooked a batch of chili in my Dutch oven and now my finish is flaking off. I do not have any metallic taste so luckily my chili is good (very good) and will not have to be tossed. Up until today I've only cooked meat in my Dutch Oven, either Pork or Beef roasts. Always very slow cooked, 200 degrees for 6 - 8 hours depending on the size of the roast. Then always cleaned it with just hot water and a plastic brush. My finish looked like it was ready for some chili, I had read all of the warning about acidic foods and thought the finish was sufficient.

My main question is do I have to strip all of the finish off or can I just oil the pan as is and re season the pot. I'd hate to lose the coating I've built up on the bottom of the DO. The flaking is only on the sides where it seems the seasoning is a lot thinner than the bottom, it is also only small pieces. The biggest part being about the size of a pea. I've only had this DO for about 1 year, it is an original finish Lodge 7 quart DO.

Any and all advice is appreciated.

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  1. If there was something thick enough to peel or flake off, yes, you need to burn or clean it all off, that wasn't seasoning, that was just gunk. Seasoning is not a visible layer of dried and burned oil, is a very thin almost "film" that basically just seals the pores in the iron. When you wipe your finger on the surface of seasoned cast iron, it should feel smooth and maybe barely greasy - not like it's got a layer of teflon or anything like that and it certainly shouldn't leave anything on your finger! After many years it will start to build up a bit, but even then when it gets bad, one does have to reseason.

    1. No need to strip it completely, especially if most of the finish is in good shape. But you should remove any loose stuff (gunk or carbon or whatever) with a brass brush or very coarse steel wool before reseasoning.

      1. -----

        I am trying to grasp what you reference as a "coating"? It doesn't sound like an enamel coating but rather the natural finish of your CI DO. Nor, at 200 degrees it doesn't sound like a carbonized layer either.

        Brine (salt) and acid (tomato) pockets in CI is rather what I am suspecting. Doing that over some years will shorten the life out of CI considerably. Also cooking brine and acidic foods can cancel out the metallic flavors. Bottom line here is not to cook Chili or tomato (acidic) dishes in CI for any extended amount of time. I have seen CI DO last only 10 years or so under those extended conditions as it literally knocked pea sized holes in the side of the DO. Use a crock or get yourself enameled CI DO when cooking that kind of food.


        1. Don't some cast iron pans have a factory coating that protects them until you season the pan?

          I haven't seasoned a pan from scratch in years, but I remember scrubbing and scrubbing and scrubbing to get that stuff off - it was a darker film on the inside and outside of the pan. I never bothered to scrub or season the outside of a pan, and I occasionally notice flakes on the "unscrubbed" side. Perhaps this is what you're seeing in your dutch oven?

          Or it could be some built-up gunk - I've got that in some of my pans as well. (I gotta get out the salt to scrub it away.) If so, it has probably been heated enough that it's harmless.


          P.S. I cook chili in my cast iron pan all the time. Yeah, it kinda eats into the seasoning, but I like the idea of getting a smidge more iron in my diet! So I alternate the chili-making with frying lots of bacon or salmon, and everything's copacetic.