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New to Cast Iron...Need Help!

k
ktcolt Apr 30, 2007 11:30 AM

I have the Lodge USA 8CF pot with skillet that doubles as a top. They are both 10in in diameter. I bought them together as one item at a local TJ MAXX for $20. I have had them now for about 1 year and I initially brought them home and seasoned them with Crisco lard. I have never been satisfied with my season job as I see shiny spots and dull spots on the bottom inside of each of the pans. Isn't all supposed to be shiny after seasoning? Sooooooooo, I keep seasoning it. I do cook with it and after I am done I wash with a stiff scrub brush and hot water and then I wipe veggie oil or olive oil all over it. I store it in the drawer under the stove. It has a pebbly finish to it which is supposed to even out with seasoning...right? Nothing sticks to it when cooking but it just doesnt look or feel right, it has is slightly gummy or sticky feeling to the touch. Last night I read on this board, before joining that someone had the same problem and they re-seasoned with Canola oil at 500 for an hour. I happened to have Crisco Canola oil on hand and I did this as well. About half way into the hour my smoke alarm went off and the whole house filled with smoke. Determined to see the last half hour through I fanned all the smoke and let the pans finish the hour at 500 degrees and then let cool down overnight. When I took them out this morning I rinsed with hot water and paper towel dried off and they still dont look like all the pictures I see of this shiny finish. It is still slightly dry looking in places. So, here are my questions:

What am I doing wrong?
Is it ok to have the "dry" places amongst the shiny more seasoned looking spots?
Does the pebbly finish ever truly get smooth?
How do I get the sticky gummy places cleaned?

Thanks!

  1. n
    ngardet Apr 30, 2007 12:19 PM

    It's all normal. You will never achieve the perfect shiny seasoning. There will be build-up in some areas and that's fine. Eventually if there is too much of it you can scrub the pan back to the bare iron and re-season. But I wouldn't bother. You are doing just fine.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ngardet
      k
      ktcolt Apr 30, 2007 01:22 PM

      Thanks! I appreciate any input on this issue as it seems to bother me more than necessary. I guess cast iron is not for the perfectionist when it comes to seasoning? I love my pot and the lid which doubles as a skillet!

    2. k
      ktcolt Apr 30, 2007 05:51 PM

      Any other advice?!

      1. m
        mpalmer6c Apr 30, 2007 08:05 PM

        If there are no serious problems with food sticking, it doesn't seem like you have a problem. And I'm not at all sure you have to re-oil it after use. I have a decades old, inherited cast-iron pan, and all I do is scrub it out with hot water and put it back on the shelf. Works fine; no oil needed.

        11 Replies
        1. re: mpalmer6c
          Danimal n Hustler Apr 30, 2007 11:31 PM

          keep it dry at all times or it'll rust really fast... if you decide to wash it, dry immediately after washing.

          1. re: Danimal n Hustler
            k
            ktcolt May 1, 2007 10:53 AM

            Thanks for all the responses so far! But....

            -Is it ok to have the "dry" places amongst the shiny more seasoned looking spots?
            -Does the pebbly finish ever truly get smooth?
            -How do I get the sticky gummy places cleaned?

            Thanks!

            1. re: ktcolt
              r
              renov8r May 1, 2007 12:49 PM

              I would recommend against wiping the pan with any oil, and the olive oil specifically --it has a low smoke point, quickly becomes rancid when exposed to air/light, and is likely contributing to the gumminess.

              You cannot heat an oil to a temperature above its smoking without resulting in A LOT of smoke,as you've already found out...

              The oil with the highest smoking point is refined avocado oil at about 495.

              Crisco shortening is very different than Canola. I think that the mixture will also contribute to the gumminess.

              There is a huge amount of "lipid science" going on as the oil is baked -- the oil decomposes and the residue that is left behind contains the inert wax/lacquer that seals the cast iron. By mixing oils you make the process much more random.,.

              The "dry" spots may be indicators of a problem with the old seasoning/unclean pan OR it may be that is the only fully cured portion of the good seasoning.

              I guess the best question I could ask is how clean was the pan to begin with? New pans are typically coated with a heavy goo that is best cleaned off with SOS pads or similar. If the pan does not feel clean after the scouring you might need to switch to the heavy duty hardware store steel wool or even sandpaper. The pan has to be completely free from any coating/contaminants.

              Finally, the really "black as skillet" type seasoning may be best achieved by a campfire, as in the outdoors you won't have the oven filling with smoke. There are other thread that describe that in more detail...

              1. re: renov8r
                k
                ktcolt May 1, 2007 02:54 PM

                I bought the pans brand new from TJ MAXX...I am not sure about pre-existing coating and I did NOT scour beforehand with SOS or the like. I cleaned it with a nylon kitchen scrubbie and then lathered it up with Crisco. I have more often than not seasoned and re-seasoned with the Crisco...but I have a bottle of EVOO that sits a top my counter that I use to lightly grease with before putting away after use. How will I know the pan is rancid?

                1. re: ktcolt
                  r
                  renov8r May 1, 2007 09:19 PM

                  The goo that they coat onto the pans at the factory is a packing wax/oil. It will prevent rust in shipping but is unsuitable for any kind of cooking. I \t has to be scoured off. I supppose a lot of elbow grease and a nylon pad would get it off, but an SOS pad is so much more thorough that I can't think of any reason not to use it...

                  Extra virgon olive oil is they wrong think to try and build up a coating on a cast iron pan. It has far too much 'fruit" in it and will get rancid. Rancid oil will have a distinct off smell -- it has a kind of unpleasant sourness to it.

                  Criso generally will stay fresher longer, but it too has problems when trying to build a coating on cast iron.

                  The refined liquid oils (avacado, soy,corn in decreasing order of smoke point) work best for me, though I have used lard too. A nice highly processed tub of pure pork fat works well to season a pan, but unless I have something else to do with the rest of the lard I hate to have the stuff...

                  cayjohn has some good point below

                  1. re: renov8r
                    k
                    ktcolt May 1, 2007 10:06 PM

                    Ok, great info from all!! Would you guys think I should SOS down the the bare bones and start over the seasoning process since I do rub down after each use with EVOO?

              2. re: ktcolt
                n
                ngardet May 1, 2007 12:53 PM

                - Yes.
                - Over a long period of time, I am talking years.
                - Don't clean them, they will either cook off or become embedded in the pan and make it really non-stick.
                Bottom line, keep it dry and scrub and re-season only if it is rusty.

                1. re: ktcolt
                  cayjohan May 1, 2007 01:17 PM

                  The "dry" looking areas will diminish as you use the pan - Use is the best thing in seasoning, really. Enjoy the pan.

                  Don't worry about "pebbly" - have you ever felt a non stick pan? Rather pebbly, isn't it? If your food isn't sticking, the pan's a success.

                  To minimize gumminess, clean with a bit of coarse salt and a paper towel. It scrubs off the gumminess without being too abrasive on the built-up seasoning.

                  Harold McGee cites soy and corn oils as being prone to polymerizing, so you may want to use those oils as you are building up your seasoned surface.

                  renov8r suggests not wiping the pan with oil, but I do - after a scrub with salt and a rub-down, I wipe with oil and warm the pan just until the smoke point, then wipe again, cool and put away. I've ended up with cast iron and carbon steel pans that seem more non-stick than "non-stick."

                  1. re: cayjohan
                    r
                    renov8r May 1, 2007 02:38 PM

                    Your warming (if if is to the smoke point I'd call that heating...) is helping to set the oil, and the wipe out makes sure that so little oil is left that there far less oil to spoil.

                    The tough thing to judge with the "pebbly" surface is that without knowing/seeing if it started out that way or if it is because of a problem.

                    It is true that the most currently manufactured non-stick pans are using a roughened surface. They grit blast the unfinished pans to give a surface that has distinct high spot and low spots. This helps to prevent wear from leaving a big uniform scar in the pan and generally gives the non-stick a longer life. I don't think this would really have the same effect on the seasoning of a cast iron skillet, as the build up the the seasoning layer is not done in a controlled way...

                    1. re: renov8r
                      cayjohan May 1, 2007 04:49 PM

                      renov8r - yep, I was careless with the warming v. heating language. Mea culpa.

                      But in re: the pebbly, I'm curious why this is bad? I've been using carbon steel and cast iron for many years. (I will admit that the pebbly texture does not figure in as much with the cast iron as with the steel. ) It seems, in my experience, that when I use more acidic ingredients in the pan, that some of the built-up seasoning may be eaten away. The way of things <shrug>. I still continue to use my salt scrub and re-oiling method. Results in pebbliness some of the time, sometimes not. But why is this a problem? I defer to you, as I have never had adverse results with this. What are the relative benefits of avoiding the pebbliness and not oiling after each use? I love my pans, and anything I can do to improve them is A-OK with me.

                      1. re: cayjohan
                        r
                        renov8r May 1, 2007 09:30 PM

                        The reason that the pebbliness is bad is that tends to pop off. If this happens in small bits to browned meat, no big deal. If it happens in eggs or pan gravy it looks much worse and can taste bad too. If it happens in acid sauce you might really discolor the sauce and even pick up tastes of the exposed iron. Yuck!

                        There are some great tips below from rg -- hot water is very good in getting remains of cooking out, Drying over heat drives off moisture and no moisture == no rust.

                        Never use any of that lecithin spray as it is gets gummy as anything!

                        That really dark carmel brown is the color that most of my cast iron skillets are, except for the really old one from my grandma's farm, which is black as coal...

            2. r
              rg3825 May 1, 2007 07:34 PM

              As for cleaning.

              Cast iron is my first and last love. My care of it simple. I have come to believe strongly in this vital corner-stone: lard. Please do not confuse "crisco lard" with what I am referring to. I have a small plastic tub dedicated to perfect pan protection. Immediately after use - preferably while pan is still hot - scrub pan vigorously with scalding water and a wire brush (inside and out). I don't use soap so I act while the grease is loose in the pan. Tepid water lets it solidify. From the sink it goes directly back on the stove with the gas on high. As soon as the last bit of moisture has sizzled from the pan I use a paper towel to coat the pan with lard (inside and out and handle). Coat it as you might grease a baking sheet. Hang it hot. They clean so quickly and easily that the extra drying/sealing step is not a burden.

              As for first time curing - or second - or third.

              Again - Scrub pan vigorously with scalding water and a wire brush (inside and out). I don't use soap. Do it till it’s not sticky or rusty. Dry as before. Coat with lard as before - maybe a smidge thicker. Place upside down in middle rack of 350 degree oven for two hours. Place Al foil on bottom rack to catch drips. Allow to cool. Now follow complete instructions for cleaning. Lastly and perhaps bestly - fry up a pound of bacon with your skillet at med to med-high. Cook the whole pound before straining and reserving the bacon grease. Tomorrow morning use a tablespoon of that grease for the flawless fried eggs you’ll cook with your skillet. In the mean time, follow once more the cleaning routine.

              Misc.

              I did have a skillet require curing twice. It was salvaged from a Georgia crawl space.

              Black is not necessarily what you are going for. On newer pieces a dark caramel can be preferable.

              I’m with you on the sticky! I don’t tolerate it! Run from anyone who recommends spray oils.

              On oil temp: Lard’s smoke point falls kinda in the middle at around 370. I have experimented over the years with grape seed, safflower, peanut, olive, almond, vegetable shortening, and others. If I had to choose a second favorite it would be vegetable shortening which smokes at even a lower point. The texture, viscosity and residue of any oil is dependant upon far more than smoke point.

              I use a brush instead of a stainless scrubber ball to keep my hands out of the scalding water.

              500 degrees is well over the smoke point of most every oil used for cooking. Knowing smoke points of the oils in your kitchen can be eye opening in many situations.

              16 Replies
              1. re: rg3825
                k
                ktcolt May 1, 2007 08:08 PM

                Please recap or explain what kind of lard you use or recommend?!

                1. re: ktcolt
                  jword2001 May 1, 2007 09:05 PM

                  Simply put lard is rendered pork fat,or cooking the fat until it releases the oil,or lard, i grew up on a farm,and this was a several time a year event for us when we butchered, it's a messy ,and smelly process,but the pure fresh lard(unused portions we kept in the freezer for later use) is wonderful stuff for things such as fried chicken,which my grandmother did in her cast iron skillet,she would wash it out after every use,and dry,then coat with lard,as for the folks that say never wash them,well she did it before ,and after each use,and it would still build a "cure "if you will, and to remedy that,at least once every winter after a particularly large fire she would throw it into the coals,burning everything off of it,then wash it,and recoat with lard...i have had fried chicken from coast to coast,and hands down hers was the best,so what she did to her cast skillet must have worked.

                  1. re: ktcolt
                    h
                    Hungry Celeste May 2, 2007 03:06 PM

                    I don't use lard, as it can become rancid, even in small amounts on a pan. Crisco is neutral in flavor, can stand a high temp, and doesn't get sticky. Never grease your pan with a liquid oil, as they are the culprits in your stickiness problem. Re: the pebbly finish, if it is thick enough to flake off, then it's burned food, not "seasoning". Scrub the hell out of the pan and re-season. Nothing should ever flake off from the surface of a properly seasoned pan.

                    1. re: Hungry Celeste
                      k
                      ktcolt May 2, 2007 03:13 PM

                      Nothing flakes off the pan...the pebbly finish is how the pan came prior to seasoning...but I keep hearing about the "mirror finish" and I dont have that due to this pebbly finish. Nothing flakes or sticks...but by no means is there a mirror finish. Is it the Lodge brand?

                      1. re: ktcolt
                        h
                        Hungry Celeste May 3, 2007 06:53 AM

                        Your pebbly original finish will fill in, over time, with the built-up carbon of 1,000 meals. That patina isn't instant, you have to work at it. Keep on frying bacon, chicken, or similar high-fat foods, and you'll speed up the process a little.

                  2. re: rg3825
                    B747crew May 1, 2007 10:56 PM

                    Thank God someone knows how to work with cast Iron.... My grandmother did it exactly this way for as long as she was alive .... when you WANT fried eggs and bacon thats what you WANT.... lard cured cast iron and bacon grease basted eggs was the secret to the breakfast. ( That with biscuits REAL butter and home made jam ) I defy anyone to match that with non stick skillets. Heck you cooked your corn bread in the same frying pan in the oven... Now thats eatin.

                    1. re: rg3825
                      k
                      ktcolt May 2, 2007 09:45 AM

                      Hi...You said:

                      Please do not confuse "crisco lard" with what I am referring to. I have a small plastic tub dedicated to perfect pan protection.

                      What is in your small plastic tub?!

                      Thanks!

                      1. re: ktcolt
                        r
                        rg3825 May 2, 2007 03:24 PM

                        On Lard:

                        To me lard is oil from an animal. It is the oil vegetarians are looking to avoid. It is what vegetable shortening was invented to replace. It is snow white and solid like shortening. Most recipes calling for shortening originally used lard. Pie crust is an excellent example - also many biscuit, cake, deep-frying and bread recipes. I’ll bet an unrevised edition of “the Joy of Cooking” shows lard many times in ingredient lists. Over my life it has fallen further and further out of favor.

                        Finding it is more difficult than it used to be. Many grocery chains still have it. I find it always on the bottom shelf with the other oils and shortenings - one brand to choose from. Two sizes - one pound block (like butter) wrapped in wax paper or huge plastic tub. It is plenty cheap. The small size is all you need.

                        While white bread America has slowly shunned this oil, the rest of the world still embraces its strengths. Lard is why your refried beans have never quite compared with the Mexican place down the street. That said, if it’s not at your store check the ethnic section - or the store catering to your areas growing ethnic community (often that store is Wal-Mart[boo]) or head down to a Mexican or Aisan market.

                        I keep about a third of a pound of lard in a small Tupperware convenient to my pans. Hint: keep it in a blob in the middle of your container. It will stay solid but can get messy if in contact with the rim and lid.

                        1. re: rg3825
                          k
                          ktcolt May 2, 2007 03:56 PM

                          Ok, great! Is the Crisco shortening I have used in the past causing the sticky residue that is tacky to the touch? I will look for something that says "Lard" and not shortening next time I am at the store!

                          Thanks!

                          1. re: ktcolt
                            h
                            Hungry Celeste May 3, 2007 06:56 AM

                            If the fat is solid at room temp, it probably won't leave a sticky residue. If it is liquid at room temp, don't use it for seasoning.

                          2. re: rg3825
                            h
                            Hungry Celeste May 3, 2007 06:55 AM

                            Note: the "bucket lard" is a hydrogenated product. It is the worst of all fats...both full of saturated fats & trans-fats (from the hydrogenization). Look for "good" leaf lard (non-hydrogenated) in the cold cases at your supermarket...or render it yourself.

                            1. re: Hungry Celeste
                              r
                              rg3825 May 3, 2007 11:32 AM

                              Oooo... Interesting about the 2 types of lard. I will pursue. Does the non-hydrogenated product spoil faster? Is that perhaps why I have not encountered it going rancid? I look forward to new experimentation. Thanks!

                              1. re: rg3825
                                h
                                Hungry Celeste May 3, 2007 11:44 AM

                                Non-hydro will eventually spoil, that's why it is kept cold. The hydrogenated bucket stuff keeps forever, just like Crisco (hydrogenated veg oil).

                              2. re: Hungry Celeste
                                k
                                ktcolt May 3, 2007 11:37 AM

                                What is "leaf" lard? Do you have a brand name to recommend? I was thinking of just grabbing a brick of lard from the mexican food ethnic isle? Yes...No?

                                1. re: ktcolt
                                  h
                                  Hungry Celeste May 3, 2007 11:54 AM

                                  Leaf lard refers to the fat found around a pig's kidneys; you heat it long & slow to render it & strain for impurities. You can also render other hog fats, but the leaf lard is the best/most neutrally flavored. Buy it from a good butcher who is cutting up whole hogs, or ask for it at your local farmer's market among the meat purveyors.

                            2. re: ktcolt
                              jword2001 May 2, 2007 03:56 PM

                              here is a little more info http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lard

                          3. macca May 3, 2007 07:31 AM

                            Iffood does not stick when you are cooking, you are fine. If you want to reseason, you can put the pan into the oven and put your oven on the clean cycle. Then rinse and dry well. To season- just cook lots and lots of bacon!! I have some pans from my grandmother- and also have newer ones. When I first got my extra large skillet, I only used it for bacon for the first 4 or 5 times. Now it is great- this weekend I cooked my roast beef inn one, and then made the gravy as the roast rested.

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