Cast iron griddle problems
I read a good number of threads here on cast iron maintenance, but I still can't seem to find an answer. I recently got a brand new cast iron griddle. It came pre-seasoned, and I just followed the instruction that came with it. In other words, I started off by boiling water in it, drying it, putting some oil in it, and then heating it back up.
Anyway, I've only cooked a few things in it, including chicken breasts (next to no fat), and a couple of steaks (decent amount of fat). The food came out great, but what got me worried was that I noticed that some discolouration/greying started to happen in a circular shape. That shape seemed to be directly in relation to the coil element of the cooktop. Is direct contact to extreme high heat bad for a new cast iron griddle?
Also, the way I've been cleaning it is to boil water in it, wash it out with more water, brush it, and repeat. Then I'd dry it on the stove or in the oven. Since the discolouration started to happen, I tried to put some more oil on it and bake it, but still no luck.
To make matters worse, I just happened to look at the bottom, and noticed rusting! How could this happen? It's only a couple of weeks old, and I've been making an effort to take care of it, never leaving it wet. Fortunately, I was able to get rid of it by scrubbing it with salt and paper towels.
Right now, my canola oil-coated (inside and out) griddle is baking in the oven at 500F.
PS - As much as I love those "grill marks," cleaning between the ridges is a huge pain! Hard to get into, and bits of paper towel tear off and get stuck.
Oops! You said you've been cleaning it by boiling water in it! Nope! Stop that! Not a good idea. Takes the seasoning right out of the pores of the cast iron.
After you cook on it, while it's still warm but cool enough to handle, run some water over it and scrub it with a bamboo or other natural fibre or stiff plastic brush - not metal! Don't worry about a paper towel being icky black. When you heat it to cook, the temperature will kill anything that might harm you. No cast iron pot has ever harmed generations of my family. Dry the cast iron over gentle heat on the stove.
I personally don't ever, ever use vegetable oils or non-stick sprays on my cast iron. They seem to bake on to a nasty, sticky coating. Whenever mine seem to need a little help, I fry up a pound or two of bacon and they get happy again.
Mostly, you are being impatient. As you said, your pan is only a few weeks old. Give it some time and you'll get the hang of this.
Some of my cast iron is decades old. Some belonged to my grandmother. I recently helped restore ancient cast iron, belonging to family members, that we retrieved from Katrina's floodwaters. It just takes time and patience.
Don't worry about rust on the outside; it isn't going to harm or weaken the pan.
Regarding the greying - if the seasoning gets too hot, it breaks down, leaving bare metal, or at least a thiner coating. I can think of two things to reduce this - less heat, and on going seasoning. Even with a pre-seasoned pan it takes a while to develop a really good coating.
Thanks, guys. It's a grill pan with ridges. I guess I'm not sure what the correct name is. Mary, the discoloured areas are actually doing the opposite of getting blacker, which is why I'm worried. Thanks for the tips on cleaning. I can't seem to wrap my head around the idea of "lightly" cleaning this thing. I mean, even after my cleaning process, I can still use a paper towel to wipe off a lot of black grease. Is this really normal!?
paulj, I have a feeling you are right. I made the pan scorching hot (the coil element would glow brightly!) for my steaks, so perhaps my pan wasn't yet ready for this. I guess I'm going to have to build my seasoning gradually with some bacon. Then it's back to steaks. :)
As for the rust, I'm just shocked that it developed despite my best efforts.
Your cast iron pan is supposed to "discolor." The longer you have it, and the more you use it, the blacker it will get. This is fine. Great for cooking.
I take it you have the grill pan with the ridges...this is a wonderful pan but it is a lot of trouble to clean. I soak it in hot water to loosen the accumulated bits of food and then pour kosher salt into the pan (still wet) and rub it ridge by ridge. This is not a pan you're going to use often. If you use it two meals in a row with similar food you could get away with not cleaning it so hard between uses.
Be sure you oil the top of the ridges or oil the food before grilling to prevent sticking and more work cleaning.
I love my cast iron skillet too.
It sounds to me like you may be cleaning it too aggressively. Cast iron seasoning is nothing more than filling the porous surface with carbonized (burned) oil and whatnot. One of my prized possessionis is my dad's iron skillet, the surface of which is deep ebony black with a bit of a gloss to it from decades of yummy stuff. I gave up trying to clean out the ridges of my griddle. Evolving discoloration is part of the deal with cast iron, think of it as an ongoing artwork. A little rust will hahppen from time to time if it is "hung up wet" I avoid this by drying well with a towel or just leaving the cleaned pan to rest on a warm burner.