HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >

Discussion

Seasoning Cast Iron WITHOUT Crisco?? [Moved from Home Cooking board]

I want to season some cast iron pans I have because even though I bought them "pre-seasoned", food still does not seem to cook right on the pan, and is sticking. After reading some articles on chowhound I think I know why. The Lodge brand does only part of the work, and I guess expects us to complete the seasoning process.

The Alton Brown site recomends using Crisco or some hydrogenated oil to season the pan with and warns not to use vegetable oil.

Cast iron pans have existed for a very long time and its hard for me to imagine the Old Pioneers in America using Crisco. They cooked on Cast iron pans; so I am sure there is a proper way to season them without using hydrogenated oils.

thanks
Desperately Seeking Seasoning

Madonna

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
Posting Guidelines | FAQs | Feedback
Cancel
  1. The preseasoned pans are great, it just helps the process. Still, you must season after each use. People have lots of different methods. I rinse out the pan (not a lot of scrubbing so as not to wreck the existing seasoning), put on a high flame until the water burns off. Then I spray with a nonstick cooking spray. You could also rub with oil.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Mandymac

      Odd. I inherited an ancient cast-iron frypan and have never had to re-season it.

      1. re: Mandymac

        Ooooh never use those sprays to season a pan. You will ruin it for sure. It is not the oil but the propellant in the spray. It will burn on a residue that is impossible to remove. Another no-no is vegetable oils esp. olive oil. They will leave a sticky film that will get rancid. A simple way is to use the pan for frying bacon. just keep doing it until you are satisfied. Lard, or other animal fat is good.

        1. re: Candy

          I ended up with a film on my wok. However, I thought it showed up after I used Crisco to rub it down before putting it away. After I noticed that, I started using vegetable oil.

          Should I not be rubbing it down at all? It's a Lodge wok, and I thought that's what the care instructions said to do.... I've been doing that to try to prevent rusting, as I live in a humid state and my house seems to be even wetter than the outdoors. :(

      2. Nor did they use refined vegetable oils. Bacon grease and lard would have been the main fat in pioneer days. So frying lots of bacon in your pan is one to build on the preseasoning.

        Sometime ago I bought a tub of 'organic' palm oil. It is solid like lard and Crisco, but 'legit' in some way or other. Anyways, it works well as a pan seasoning.

        I've used oil in the past, but it does seem to leave a thick sticky coating if used too generously.

        paulj

        1 Reply
        1. re: paulj

          Cooking with bacon is the best seasoning for a pan. Plus, when you're done - bacon!

        2. I second the lard/bacon concept. My grandmother says the best way to season cast iron pans is to fry chicken in them. We fry in a combination of vegetable oil and bacon drippings. I figure two or three batches of chicken would just about do the pans right. And you get to eat the chicken!

          1 Reply
          1. re: lupaglupa

            Just as lupaqlupa writes, the Lodge cast iron company recommends frying bacon (or any kind of animal fat) in the pan every at first (even with pre-seasoned pans) and every now and then thereafter to improve the surface patina -- i.e. to make it non-stick. The more you use the pan to cook oily/fatty things, the more non-stick it will become over time.

          2. Vegetable oils can easily leave a sticky residue instead of seasoning the pan. It's much easier to just use either coconut or palm oil, the latter available as Spectrum brand natural shortening.

            1. I don't know if this is proper or not, but after whatever seasoning ritual you go through, cook up a batch of pancakes in plenty of butter. The pan will be perfectly seasoned (and you'll have breakfast, too).

              2 Replies
              1. re: Bat Guano

                I am in the lard and bacon camp. Fried chicken is good too. I just never use oils, they can leave a really sticky residue. Oh and GASP! I wash my well seasoned pans with deteregent and water and dry over a low flame. If I think it could use a little help after washing I might add a little bacon grease swiped on lightly with a paper towel while it heats.

                1. re: Candy

                  Making a batch of fried chicken is, for me, the best way by far to re-season my favorite cast iron pans.

              2. thank you for all your helpful advice. Lard or bacon fat is not really option for me. But I will try cocunut or palm oil. Does anyone have a preference? Or do they work equally well? Should I just follow Alton's Brown's advice and use the exact same process but with the Cocunut oil vs. Crisco?

                What is the deal with the pancakes? Does the butter have enough fat to really coat the pan?

                I know Alton Brown warns against vegetable oils and I believe butter saying that it ruins the seasoning.

                thanks
                Madonna

                3 Replies
                1. re: madonna

                  Seasoning cast iron is a continual process. Some cooking and cleaning reduces the coating. Sometimes cooking itself is enough to build up the coating. Sometimes you need to take special steps.

                  At the least, after cleaning and drying the pan should get a thin coating of fat. For this I think oil is ok. I put a bit of fat in the pan (best warm) and spread it around with a paper towel, till the surface is uniformly shiny.

                  Heavier duty maintenance involves get the pan hot enough so the fat starts smoking. The melted solid fat is probably better for this.

                  Buildup of the coating during cooking can be uneven. If making pancakes, the corners that don't get any batter are more likely to develop a sticky coating. Frying bacon leaves charred meat bits that have to be soaked and washed off, partially offsetting the fat build up (but maybe my bacon is too lean).

                  paulj

                  1. re: madonna

                    I would go for the palm oil over the coconut myself, unless you happen to already have coconut oil. The palm oil is less likely to leave flavors, and the leftovers will be more widely applicable to cooking and baking. Yeah, follow the usual procedures.

                    I wash my pans only with hot water and a detergent free scrubbie, then dry them in a low oven, and reseason if necessary. I find it takes several months to develop a good seasoning, and it's a continual thing. A well cared for cast iron pan is a pleasure though, and worth the small amount of trouble.

                    1. re: madonna

                      I've recently been experimenting with sourdough, and although we had not been big pancake fans, we are crazy about our sourdough pancakes, as is the dog. I have owned the same cast iron pan for decades and find that it really doesn't need much fat for the pancakes. I use a pad of butter before the first pancake (which goes to the dog anyway because I'm still figuring out my pan temperature) and after that add no more butter for the remaining pancakes. It works very well, with no sticking, and the pancakes are terrific.

                    2. Madonna,

                      I'm about to re-season my cast-iron grill grates, and I'm going to use Crisco. I never use the stuff, but if it is effective, I'm going to use the tried and true. Since we don't actually eat the Crisco, it's not going to do any harm. It seems to me that it's a practicle, legitimate use for something that's not really part of a healthy diet.

                      1. I have never had a problem with the pre-seasoned pans. However, what you do cook in them needs to have some fat in it. You cannot cook an egg white alone in a cast iron pan and expect it not to stick. If the food has no fat, then you must put a little on the surface of the pan.

                        Having said that, you CAN use vegetable oil to season a cast iron pan. However, you cannot use corn or canola oil as they will leave a residue. I am not sure what is wrong with Crisco. The new formulation has no trans fats ....

                        Lard or bacon grease only works if they are PERECTLY clear.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: sallen

                          WHEN I BOUGHT MY FIRST LODGE COOKWARE BACK IN1989 IT WAS UNSEASONED. I USED CRISCO AND FOLLOWED THE INSTRUCTIONS THAT CAME ON THE TAGS ON THE HANDLES.(I STILL HAVE SOME OF THOSE TAGS) IT SMELLED UP THE WHOLE APARTMENT BUILDING BUT IT WORKED VERY WELL.

                          RECENTLY I ACCIDENTLY BURNED MY 12INCH PAN AND HAD TO RESEASON IT. I USED CANOLA OIL AND AGAIN HAD NO TROUBLE AND ALSO HAD NO SMELL.

                          1. re: RC801

                            If you don't fully polymerize the vegetable oils they can leave a gummy residue, I've used almost all fats vegetable animal or mineral with good results. Also turn off your capslock key.

                        2. I'm answering a number of posts in this reply.

                          You may want to get an 80 grit sand paper and scour the pot if it's new and unpolished, if you want to be 100% natural - use kosher salt. Your arms will appreciate the sand paper--much faster and less work. Unpolished is common with the brands you mentioned. Some brands also use a form of food wax for the initial season, nasty -- scrub it off. If you don't, you will notice over time that small chips appear that will be back filled with new carbon, giving a mottled texture. Think Waxed Paper (non stick), it doesn't adhere to metal, on the other hand, we've all scrubbed that brown goo from the bottom of pans (carbonized oil); and we know how well that adheres.

                          Once you are ready to season, wash the pan well with soap, dry it on a burner.

                          I've used cast iron for more almost 40 years, some of my cookware is twice as old as I am :)

                          There is contention all over the web about what to use for seasoning, truth is just about anything. Vegetable Oils, corn in particular aren't the greatest since they take much longer to fully carbonize. They will work just as good as any other, but need near double the time in the oven to develop. Don't worry about sticky residues, explained below. Any Oil you have on-hand will work, I'm partial to Olive Oil or Crisco/Animal Fats, in that order. Olive Oil is natural and has been around longer than cast iron cookware, it predates by 1200-1400 years. Olive oil is also naturally antibiotic. Do NOT use cooking sprays for this purpose.

                          Three reasons why pots come out sticky, and only three:
                          1. Oven temp too low.
                          2. Pan was not turned upside down so that puddles formed.
                          3. Not enough time was allowed for lubricant to complete the conversion to carbon.

                          Things you need:
                          1. Take your pick from, Natural Bristle Pastry Brush, Paper Towel, Cloth Towel/Rag
                          2. Cookie Sheet lined with foil placed on Bottom Rack of Oven or an Oven Liner
                          3. Open windows if your oven doesn't vent outside. Seasoning Cast Iron does generate smoke similar to a cooking in a dirty oven.

                          Turn on your oven to bake @ 500-550F

                          Lightly coat your cast iron with your selection of lubricant. Do not allow any puddles to remain. Place the pan(s) on the top rack (not on the foil) for a few hours upside down until no more odor/smoke comes off the pan when you check on it. This takes a few hours. Repeat process until you have a nice black carbon layer.

                          My usual on new or reseasoned cookware is 3-4 coats. Just until the pan turns carbon black or very near. If you can see a lot of color (grey, orange to brown etc), then the carbon layers aren't thick enough, reapply and bake it again. I just slide the rack out and brush on a new layer. Once you are satisfied, bake for an additional 3-4 hours to set the finish. Your cookware should be black or very near, glossy and not sticky or slimy. Your new seasoning can't be washed off, with the exception of using Lye. Avoid scrub pads of any kind for 3 months, use a vegetable brush if needed; at this point your cast iron will outlast your great-grand children.

                          You can test your new carbon layer by toasting bread with your pan. If it doesn't stick, nothing will. You can even try this with high end non-stick cookware and find that the cast iron fares much better with this test.

                          More about sticky pans: Your pan won't be sticky if the burn is complete. Sticky pots come from an incomplete burn of the oil layers. Rather than convert the oil to carbon, it's been rendered to tar. This is why some advocate not using vegetable oils (corn oil). Those oils have a high smoking point, and take longer to develop the carbon layer we are looking for. This can be fixed by baking your pan for several hours as described above. Dust, Lint, Food and all sorts of things will stick to your pans inside and out. Over time as the incomplete layers do carbonize; this debris will become part of your cookware's finish. I'm sure you've seen cast iron with bumpy areas, inside and/or out. Now you know what it is. Also, since this debris does settle into the glue like tarry oil, rinsing with water before use won't rinse it off. The only way to contend with this is to scrub down below where the offending material was introduced.

                          Lubricating cold cookware before you put it away: Not a good idea, never has been, never will be. Lubricants do evaporate, they become tarlike. Debris and food will stick to the pan over time and result in a finish that is not smooth. For those people that will disagree with me on this, ever notice what the pan feels like after it's sat for a few days? Sticky? The cookware gets quite enough oil to maintain the carbon layer from simple use. Once your base layer is on, the maintenance is a continual process as another user stated.

                          If you do a lot of no-fat cooking and the finish starts to turn grey, once it's dried on the burner, put two or three drops of oil in the pan and wipe it around with a paper towel/cloth. Let the pan heat up until it begins to smoke then remove from the heat.

                          Care - there's many opinions on this one as well. If you use the high-heat method to season, no amount of dish soap is going to wash it off. It will however remove the oils from the surface, and your seasoning will wear down over time; since there is no maintenance.

                          Water Only or Dish Soap is your personal choice, but if you do use soap, when the finish begins to grey just add a few drops of oil and smear it around, heat the pan and let it begin smoking, remove from heat.

                          Avoid using cooking sprays for cast iron maintenance. These evaporate very fast and will result in the cookware having a gummy texture; attracting all sorts of debris that will become permanent in the carbon layer once enough heat is used.

                          As for commentary about cooking eggs with no oil in cast iron, I do it all the time :) When that puppy's done, just slides right onto that toast!!

                          It does take 8-16 hours to season a new piece. The lower the smoking point of the lubricant, the shorter the time. Any method that doesn't result in your cookware turning black, will result in foods that stick and an overall displeasure with cast iron.

                          41 Replies
                          1. re: acmorris

                            wow.... of the dozens of posts on cast iron that has to be the best/most complete I have read. thanks for the thorough treatment.

                            1. re: acmorris

                              I think the key sentence in this whole detailed post is

                              <I've used cast iron for more almost 40 years, some of my cookware is twice as old as I am >

                              I'm spoiled by having my great aunt's and grandmother's pans. Nothing beats the finish you get from many years of steady use. All the techniques in the world can't duplicate it.

                              I have only one new pan - a two burner sized griddle. I never did anything special to season it (gasp!). I just oil it lightly each time I use it (for pancakes mostly) and then wipe all the excess oil off with a paper towel right away. It is beginning to get a very nice surface after ten years.

                              1. re: lupaglupa

                                "Nothing beats the finish you get from many years of steady use. All the techniques in the world can't duplicate it."

                                True.

                                The original poster hasn't that luxury since the cookware is new.

                                You can't duplicate years of use, BUT you also don't have to wait ten years either. Bottom line, you can wait 10 years like you have done for a piece that is "beginning to get a very nice surface" or you can season it and have a rock hard non-stick surface which requires very little if any oil. The benefit of doing so is that the peice is protected and durable. Waiting 10 years for a finish to develop is also allowing 10 years of the elements to work on the metal.

                                It just so happens a certain grandson brought me a piece for his camping trip next weekend. It's a Lodge that was preseasoned, new in the box. I did give a pre-soak in Lye to remove the pre-season, then scrubbed for maybe 5 minutes with 80 grit down to bare metal since there was some rust present.

                                Photo attached of finished piece. It's a two sided grill/griddle combo; and he won't need to oil it to make his pancakes :)

                                The glossy finish is how the piece will look by doing what I outlined above. It's enamel hard and not oily or greasy. This one was done with Olive Oil.

                                I may have him bring me one of these. The combo is interesting, and one I don't have.

                                For limited use items such as yours "for pancakes mostly" users choice. The original poster is obviously cooking more than that in his/her cast iron and came here seeking help. It certainly doesn't look like he/she wanted to wait ten years for the food sticking problem to resolve.

                                Please don't shoot down what you haven't tried. In your own words, you have one single piece, the rest of which other people did all the work on; you maintain the work they already did for you.

                                I think you help prove the point however, 10 hours of time to get the finish I posted is much better than waiting ten years and still needing to use oil for something like pancakes.

                                 
                                1. re: acmorris

                                  So sorry you took my post as an affront - it certainly wasn't intended that way. One reason I love cast iron is how wonderful it is after it ages and, as I said, I recognize that I'm spoiled not to have to season my pans. I did not suggest that your post be ignored (my "detailed" comment was meant to be a compliment - obviously a bit too subtle) and I did not suggest that my own experience with my pathetic pancake only pan be used as a model. There was no need for you to defend yourself or trash me.

                                  1. re: lupaglupa

                                    Your pancake pan may get it's feelings hurt if you call it pathetic :)

                                    They have emotions too you know.

                                    I did not take offense at your post, I replied to:
                                    "All the techniques in the world can't duplicate it."
                                    "I never did anything special to season it (gasp!)."

                                    We have managed to produce the most insightful thread on cast iron I have read to date :-)

                                    I did want to post a photo of the finish so that cast iron newbies can see what they should look like after carbonizing as described earlier. Your reply did provide the appropriate venue for doing so.

                                    You weren't trashed. Re-read the post, I only quoted words.

                                    Back to the topic, putting down a solid carbon layer is what the original poster needs in order to have the cookware perform as expected. Baking on the carbon has slowly been dying off as more commercially prepared items become available. It is my opinion that these items aren't altogether helpful to cast iron's image.

                                    Again to quote you "One reason I love cast iron is how wonderful it is after it ages" in comparison to the original posters problem with preseasoned cookware goes to show that sometimes the old way is better.

                                    I agree with you, I also feel that the inadequate preseasoning is doing a disservice to cast iron. People expect them to perform like a 100 year old pan. Baking on the carbon gets the performance they desire.

                                    I'm pleased with the dialogue, it's important for readers to see that there just isn't one single way to season cast iron.

                                    I think one other trend being bolstered by the manufacturers is the overall downward spiral in temperatures used for the initial season. I have seen these as low as 275F. No food grade lubricant smokes at that temperature, and precludes the formation of the carbon. What we end up with is a grey pan with a dehydrated oil layer, which will rehydrate when cooked on; no carbon will ever build up, not in this lifetime anyway.

                                    Now we are presented with preseasoned pans affording the buyer a way to avoid it altogether?

                                    The item I just did, new from the box with rust under the "preseasoning" further bolsters the argument of it being inadequate to begin with.

                                    Compliants about food sticking on preseasoned cookware are many, I've tried to cook on it even with excess amounts of oil, I'd at best describe the performance as horrid.

                                    Baking on the carbon as described is the only way to have new/reseasoned cast iron perform like older counterparts.

                                    No amount of cooking oil will replace this, which after reviewing the many threads on cast iron -- is the one thing they have in common. That is not an attack on your post, it's a widespread misconception anywhere you see discussions on cast iron. As you can see, mentioned earlier just in this thread -- frying pancakes in butter, copius amounts of oil to fry chicken, fry in a combination of vegetable oil and bacon drippings.

                                    It's just not necessary if we season correctly to begin with. My long posts address misconception and misinformation about the cookware and it's use, not the people behind the post.

                                    -Annabelle

                                    1. re: acmorris

                                      Thanks for your detailed post on seasoning cast iron! Very helpful! I sometimes find really nasty pieces of cast iron second- hand. Any help in getting them ino shape would be great!

                                      1. re: WCchopper

                                        If you have a few of these pieces you want to restore, make a new thread and I'll post my method of using Lye to strip them.

                                        1. re: acmorris

                                          New thread @ http://www.chowhound.com/topics/434986
                                          awaiting your expertise!

                                      2. re: acmorris

                                        acmorris,
                                        i found this blog from last year. i learned a few things from your post that i did not know - thanks. but why does it seem that bacon tends to have a tendency to stick more and leave more residue in even a well seasoned pan as compared to beef, hamburger, etc.

                                        1. re: acmorris

                                          Annabelle, your grill/griddle is gorgeous! Thanks for the photo. It definately helps to see what I should expect if done correctly. I'm preparing myself for this task. Too bad there's no place I can buy pans truly seasoned like yours are.

                                      3. re: acmorris

                                        The finish on that griddle looks great! I can see why you don't have anything stick to it.

                                        1. re: acmorris

                                          Do you have to season the outside as well? Thank you.

                                          1. re: suelp

                                            Yes, you do, although you don't have to season the outside as much as you need to on the inside. Fortunately, the seasoning that you give it by cooking on the inside of the pan kinda takes care of things naturally. It really is an elegant, do-able system.

                                      4. re: acmorris

                                        So for the sticky or gummy pan. Am I cleaning the gumminess off with steel wool or a vegtable brush? And then re-applying the crisco and baking? Or do you bake off the gumminess and then start the seasoning process again?

                                        1. re: acmorris

                                          Wow.

                                          Thank you all for helping to develop this topic - most especially Annabelle, whose method I used to season a couple of new cast iron pans I'd bought over the weekend just for experimentation. Of course, changed it up by using sesame oil, just because it was available to me. I've managed to develop 4 wonderfully stick-resistant layers of seasoning on the pans, and I've just about fallen in love with that rich, glossy black coating. I'm going to give one away, to my younger brother, as a present when I see him this weekend. I have no doubt he'll love it.

                                          1. re: acmorris

                                            What a great post. Well, It's been a good six months or so since you wrote that, so I'm not sure what the chances are that you'll see my reply--but you obviously have the dope on cast iron, so I've gotta try. :)

                                            My wife and I are neophytes to cast iron, but after reading so much wonderful stuff about it, we decided it was time to add some to our kitchen. We've bought several pieces in the store and ordered some online, and today I started the seasoning process of our new Lodge Logic 12" skillet (before discovering your post).

                                            We decided to use coconut butter (which advertises a lower smoke point that most oils), applying it with our hands/fingers to the cast iron utensils after warming them up in the oven a bit first (thus the butter turned to coconut oil as soon as it touched the iron). For the first layer, we put the skillet (and two other pieces we're seasoning simultaneously) in the oven, turned it up to 500 degrees, and let it smoke up the house (and we actually managed to do a surprisingly good job of ventilating the house during this time). Once I couldn't see any more smoke emanating from the oven, I turned it off to let it cool.

                                            That was earlier today. We're baking the second layer on in the exact same manner as the first while I type this. Now, when I took the cast iron out of the oven to apply the second layer, it felt just the slightest bit sticky to me. Maybe not so much sticky as the warm metal didn't want to let my fingers go as easily, as if there were an increase in friction. As I mentioned earlier, I cooked it until the smoke disappeared (which didn't take even an hour with coconut butter); however, I couldn't tell if the smell had gone away, because there was still some hanging around in the air from all the cooking. The iron looks fairly black. Do you think I didn't let it cook long enough?

                                            Also, you mentioned that "maintenance seasoning" is usually unnecessary as long as you are cooking foods in the skillet with some amount of fat/oil. What about for the outside of the cast iron (where food doesn't touch)? Is there any need to continuously season that?

                                            Thanks for all this wonderful info!

                                            1. re: Bombadillow

                                              I found this post a few months ago and followed it on my lodge pans and my seasoning totally flaked off during cooking and washing the first time. I stripped the pans and tried again following it to the T. I'm sure it works for some people, but for whatever reason, my seasoning just all flaked off again. I think that I overheated it to the point where it was coming close to ashes?

                                              I went back to a 350 1 hour seasoning (about 3 coats) and it is working alright for me. I'm trying to cook with them with oil as much as possible now to build up the seasoning.

                                              As far as the outside of the skillet, i wouldn't worry about that. As long as there is no iron showing (which would soon turn to rust) - that's all the seasoning you need.

                                              1. re: warneral

                                                Warneral,

                                                Thanks for the feedback. That's really too bad that the above method didn't work for you!

                                                There are one or two other ways I deviated from the above method: I didn't sand my cast iron down (read in another post on another site that a guy who usually sands his tried a very similar sans sanding (forgive the near pun), and beyond the bumps had the same results--non-stick, black and shiny), and I also didn't strip off the preseasoning Lodge put on. Because of this, I opted not to wash with soap, and instead just washed with hot water (as is recommended in Lodge's instructions).

                                                Because of the variations in my method, I suppose anything is possible (although hopefully no flakiness :)

                                                I'm about to put my fourth layer on. We'll probably bake it one last time for 3 - 4 hours (to set it) tomorrow.

                                                I did my first 2 layers at 500 degrees, turning off the oven shortly after smoke stopped (say, within ten minutes after smoke). It felt the tiniest bit sticky to me each time (as I mentioned in my previous post), so for the third layer I baked it at 525 for probably around twice the usual amount of cooking time. It felt just as sticky (which is to say, almost not at all), so I figure this must be the way it's supposed to feel.

                                                It looks pretty black at this stage, and minus a couple of imperfections (nicks, small smears of Lodge preseasoning, etc. from when we got the pan), looks fairly uniform. I'll post back to let you know how it turns out (and how well it cooks) after we're done. Some how I just don't think it will look anywhere near as good as Annabelle's grill (she must have the magic touch). As long as it works well, though, I'll be happy!

                                                1. re: warneral

                                                  My experience has, unfortunately, been similar to yours. After the four layers and the four hour baking at 525 degrees to set, the cast ironware looked nice and black with a tiny bit of a shine (difficult to make out on such a rough surface, though). In actuality, though, it looked just like some other cast ironware I'd used as guinea pigs, and I'd only given them one coat. Anyway, cooking seemed okay at first, and although I didn't much care for the rough surface, with a little olive oil the onions easily slid around the pan. Once I added the roasted garlic, though, the illusion ended. It began to stick everywhere. I added some thin, sliced cheese steak type meat, and that began picking up the stuck portions of garlic (which looked brown, not burned). Upon cleaning it, though, the skillet started turning VERY grey, revealing the cast iron beneath. Toweling it dry turned the towel black.

                                                  Now it's back to the drawing board. I think I'll strip them down and sand them this time. I'll also try lard instead of coconut butter/oil. This might take awhile, but I'll be sure to report back once I get some results.

                                                  1. re: Bombadillow

                                                    Oh man what a bummer! I was hoping it had worked for you b/c I know what a PITB it was to do (and what a stink it made in my house for weeks of trying different methods!).

                                                    That is exactly what happened when I cooked with it. I literally wiped away all of that work when I washed it after cooking.

                                                    I would suggest putting it/them in the self cleaning cycle and it will cook all off. That way you don't re-season over a bad coating which could keep flaking off.

                                                    Here is the thread I had started after my problems occurred. In the end I followed the lard/350 suggestion and did 2 or 3 coats. Now I just try to cook as much bacon and oil dishes as possible. I am on a diet (I've lost 28 pounds - 2 to go!) so I don't eat much fattening foods, so when I cook for the kids, I make the low fat sausages cooked in oil LOL. They could use a little fattening. Anyways, the last thing I've been doing which helps is after it is cleaned up I put it on the hot burner to dry off. Then I apply a thin coating of oil (safflower usually b/c I have expellar pressed safflower I've been cooking with) and cook it for a while right on the stove top. I'm REALLY loving my lodge cast iron pans :)

                                                    FYI I also have a few griswold/wagners that I bought on ebay in my search for a nonstick replacement. They have nice seasoning layers but they still stick too. I'm actually happier with my lodge which is not the usual review from cast iron users.

                                                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/476802

                                                    1. re: warneral

                                                      Yeah, it was a lot of work that we wiped away there. On the other hand, I'll probably take this opportunity to make them even better by sanding them first (of course, they'll only REALLY be better if the seasoning actually takes! :)

                                                      I'm very tempted to try the oven self-cleaning method. Lye just doesn't sound like a good idea with a little one running around (and I'm not sure I'd feel comfortable placing the trash can/bag of ironware and lye outside, either). However, there are a couple of potential issues that have been holding them up. Maybe you could give me some insight:

                                                      1) I'm pretty sure our manual says to remove the oven racks when setting the oven to self-clean. The problem is that our electric oven has a heating element on the bottom, so removing the racks would mean putting the cast iron directly on the heating element. I've got to assume that's a big no-no. Now, I've read that leaving the racks in is fine--that it just darkens them. Any idea if this is true?

                                                      2) This one also involves the heating element being on the bottom. I'm guessing that if the seasoning turns to ash, then a good deal of ash might fall upon the heating element. Would that be a problem? I'd hesitate to line one of the racks with foil because it might end up fusing to the rack or even bursting into flame.

                                                      One of the most frustrating parts about all this is that we need to redo at least 3 seasoning jobs from the ground up (and possibly as many as 5 if the "guinea pig" muffin pans end up ruined as well). I think we'll end up just redoing the 12" skillet until we finally get that one right, and then we'll try to repeat the process with the rest. I might leave one untouched grill pan as is, just to test out the Lodge preseasoning by itself.

                                                      I'll be sure to report back once we make some progress (or once we fail again :) First things first, though; gotta strip all the old stuff off!

                                                      1. re: Bombadillow

                                                        Yeah the lye concept concerned me too. Plus we're in wisconsin so it really would be difficult to do it outdoors.

                                                        I left the oven racks in. We have a 3yo higher end maytag model but I didn't care as I don't care for the stupid stove LOL. It hasn't hurt the racks at all. They are a little bit duller and perhaps they don't slide as well, but I honestly haven't noticed a change.

                                                        My oven doesn't have exposed heating elements so I can't tell you if the ash would cause a problem on the heating elements. I really doubt it though b/c the self cleaning oven creates ash on a dirty oven anyways.

                                                        Good luck to you! I think the best advice I received is to just do a simple pre-seasoning, and then do the real seasoning by cooking. When you cook with the muffin cups, make sure you grease them up real good for instance.

                                                        1. re: warneral

                                                          Thanks for easing my mind on the oven cleaning method of stripping down cast iron. We went ahead and did that, washed the pan once it had cooled, sanded the inside of it, washed it again and warmed it up.

                                                          As far as approaching seasoning this time, I focused a little more on a [very similar] method I read about on a different site before encountering the web page that I'm posting this message on. On the other site, the guy laid out his method and explained it in a way that really made sense to him.

                                                          First, he specifically use lard at the specific temperature of 500 degrees, heating it until after all the smoke went away. There was no particular reason he used lard other than that his grandparents used lard, and it worked wonderfully for them, so that's what he was going to use to. He recommended baking it at 500 degrees (which he's done himself) so you won't get any smoking later while cooking. This made a lot of sense to me--I've already copied down or linked to a number of cast iron recipes I want to try out that require the oven be set to 500 degrees. If the substance I'm using as seasoning turns to ash at that temperature, better to learn it now than in the middle of one of those recipes! If I season at 375 or so now, and everything turns out fine, what happens if it all falls apart the moment I actually COOK at 500?

                                                          Annabelle, on this page, also made a lot of sense when she outlined her steps. And, obviously, her method works for her. I think that there might be a couple of crucial differences between what she did and what I did, though. For one, she used olive oil. I used coconut butter. For another, she recommended a RANGE of temperatures (500 - 550, I think), and not a specific temperature. I don't know what temperature she used for her seasoning. 525 for coconut butter, however, seems to have been too hot, as it either turned the seasoning to ash or simply prevented it from fully bonding to the metal, as ThreeGigs described in the thread you linked me to.

                                                          This other guy on this other site (I think his name is Bob), however, has had good luck consistently with lard at 500. My oven's interpretation of 500 might not be the exact same as his, but hopefully it's close enough!

                                                          I combined Bob's method a bit with ThreeGigs. Bob didn't specify whether I should put the pan in right-side up or upside-down. I liked ThreeGig's rationale on putting it in right-side up, so I went with that. However, I decided against using paper towels as he suggested. Bob suggested applying the lard with your fingers, since fibers from towels/paper towels can get mixed in with the lard while seasoning and cause problems down the road. For the first layer, then, my wife applied the lard with her hands and I wiped the excess off with my clean hands. Note: there was very little excess, since using applying the lard to a warm pan turned the lard into liquid (very few "chunks" of lard were present on the pan, and they didn't start showing up until the pan had cooled a bit).

                                                          The second layer is baking right now. At this rate, I should be able to cook on it tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes!

                                                          By the way, thanks for sending me to that thread you created. As you can tell by this post, I found some valuable information there. I was surprised, however, at how some of the posters there nearly seemed to attack you just for wanting to season your cast iron! There seemed to be this pervading idea among those posters that you were in search of a "quick fix." These folks probably don't realize that we're getting these "quick fix" methods (quick actually require a bit of work) from pros who've been using cast iron for decades! The only idea here is to get a great initial seasoning--of course it will improve with use over the time. That's one of the reasons I'm so excited to have this cast iron! What other cookware actually gets BETTER with age?

                                                          1. re: Bombadillow

                                                            I definitely want to hear about your results on this method! I am really starting to love my cast iron more and more over the last couple of weeks. I can tell the finish is starting to become more nonstick. (I am still cooking microwaved boca burgers on the skillet almost daily to give it a seared finish and they have been coming out nicer and nicer). Yeah that thread was a bit of a downer but I did get some good advice in it so I'm guess I'm glad I posted it LOL.

                                                            Good luck. Hopefully soon you will be happy with your pans and won't have to spend the weekend smoking your house up ;) I think I spent 6 weeks smoking my house up! Bleck.

                                                          2. re: warneral

                                                            >> Yeah the lye concept concerned me too.

                                                            No need to worry. Lye + any grease thats on the pan = soap (basically, no pun intended and no lyeing...)

                                                            1. re: Jimmy Buffet

                                                              IIRC Lye is caustic. I'm not concerned about the safety of cooking on the pan, just with dealing with a caustic liquid with 2 little kids running around. The self cleaning oven method is so much easier :)

                                                              1. re: warneral

                                                                Okay! Sorry for the delay, but apart from all this seasoning, I've had a lot of other stuff on my plate (or on my skillet?) this week. First up: the revised method of seasoning at 500 degress with lard yielded the same results as Annabelle's method (it all washed off). I'm still trying to make sense of this. How does anyone cook a seared steak (for example) at 500 degrees if just trying to season my skillet at 500 wrecks the seasoning altogether? I'm thinking now that it's not turning to ash, but maybe it's just heating too QUICKLY. I believe ThreeGigs said something on your thread about heating seasoning too quickly resulting in the grease not bonding to the metal.

                                                                Anyhow, the great thing about cast iron is that even if the finish is bad, you can always start over. So, back in the oven cleaner it went! We ended up heating it, scrubbing it, heating it and scrbbing it some more, I think. Stuff kept wiping off of it, and we eventually pulled out the steel wool. Once we were satisifed (and once I was just tired of trying to scrub stuff of of it), we put another layer of lard on and put it in the oven right-side up at 350 for an hour and a half or so. It didn't turn black at all, but the grey did darken, it looked slicker, felt a tiny bit sticky and left a kind of rainbow look in the inside of the pan, much like what a puddle of motor oil collecting beneath a car looks like (without being black--just that colorful top layer).

                                                                We did another layer just like that, but put the pan upside down (I forgot to mention that some white spots appeared on the udnerside of the pan before, and we thought turning it upside down might prevent that from happening again (and it looks like that may have worked). The results of the second layer of seasoning were much like the first. Everything was a bit darker (still not close to black), and maybe a bit more rainbowy. It was still slick and a little sticky, but also shiny. We did sand (and use steel wool on) the inside of the inside of the pan pretty thoroughly, and that might partially explain why it looks different than the outside.

                                                                Well, after the second layer we decided to put it to the test. This evening I sprayed the inside of the pan with some canola oil and then proceeded to cook some cheesesteak-type meat in it (just what we'd used on an earlier, failed attempt to season the skillet). This actually worked out wonderfully. Tehre was virtually no sticking, and the meat turned out great. Just before I removed it from the pan, the oil and fat started getting harder, but probably because it was getting close to the point where it would burn/carmelize a bit. Oh, and clean up was a cinch.

                                                                Even though it works, we're still tempted to put at least one more layer on to seal the deal. And, of course, we're nervous about what might happen if we try to sear a steak at 500 on it.

                                                                In related news, we also started using a Lodge Logic square grill pan. We kept the preseasoning on and just started cooking. Clean up is far more difficult (a big part of the reason why is all those ridges), but it's getting slightly easier every time we use it. The finish in the center of the grill pan is a mixtur eof brown and grey now. I'm not sure why that's happening. Have you had a similar experience? What's your finish looking like?

                                                                I'll contionue to post updates!

                                                                1. re: Bombadillow

                                                                  Sounds good! Sounds pretty similar to what I did. At first it wasn't super non-stick but every time I use it it seems to get more and more slick.

                                                                  The color was kind of like that at first (I think I did 3 layers). The more I use it, the more it is getting more shiny, less bumpy (the spaces between the bumps are filling in with seasoning), and more dark. The center seems a bit more dark than the edges which makes sense b/c more cooking is happening in the center.

                                                                  Another thing I did was cook bacon in them a few times (I don't really eat it so I cooked it for family and friends - everyone loves bacon unless they are dieting or don't eat it for religious or ethical reasons in teh case of vegans).

                                                                  Another thing I think I already mentioned but after I clean it out (which I just wash with a sponge that has residual soap on it), I dry it out, put it on the burner and turn it back on, heat it up to evaporate the moisture, and then take a paper towl and wipe some more oil on it and let it cook til it gets hot and turn it off and leave it on the burner.

                                                                  I have one of those square lodge logic grill skillets and cleanup was a PITB. I really don't ever use it.

                                                                  1. re: warneral

                                                                    Here's a quick update: my wife wanted eggs today, and she surprised me by pulling out the Lodge skillet to cook them on. For those who are just tuning in, this skillet had two layers of seasoning on it, and we cooked on it once as a test run. I was a little leery of trying eggs, which I've read are cast iron's worst enemy (some folks outright say not to cook eggs on cast iron ever), but since I was determined to eventually have a finish that could handle eggs, I decided to give it a shot.

                                                                    So, I heated up the pan and sprayed on some canola oil. When I thought it was hot enough, I cracked two eggs over it. So far, so good. Of course, the real challenge would be in flipping them.

                                                                    After they'd cooked on the pan for awhile, I decided to see if I could move the eggs around a bit. To my surprise (and great delight), I could. I pushed them around and the slid about the pan with the greatest of ease. I flipped them once, flipped them twice, kept pushing them around, and they skimmed the surface like a hockey puck on ice. Nothing stuck at all!

                                                                    Needless to say, we won't be adding any more coats of full seasoning onto this skillet. It'll just be light maintenance seasoning from now on (which will probably be a light coat of lard allowed to smoke for about a minute on the stove, unless we can come up with something better). While I'm still nervous about eventually trying to sear steaks at 500 degrees on this thing, for right now I am one happy camper!

                                                                    BTW, don't be afraid to pull out your square grill skillet once in awhile. I agree that it can be a bit of a PITB to clean at first, but I can also say that it does get easier to clean each time you use it (as long as you're cooking stuff that leaks out a little fat, which you probably will be, considering it's a grill pan).

                                                                    1. re: Bombadillow

                                                                      great news! I've heard the secret to cooking eggs sans teflon is to let them warm up to room temperature. I have successfully made scrambled eggs in lecreuset doing that. I've been too afraid to try my cast iron though!

                                                                  2. re: Bombadillow

                                                                    "I'm thinking now that it's not turning to ash, but maybe it's just heating too QUICKLY."

                                                                    I know this is an old post, but I have an opinion on this for future viewers. I do believe that the surface fat has to be brought to the smoking point and exceed it for a time, but too quickly or too long can just reduce it to something that will just flake or wash off. This has happened to many posters who have followed various "good" methods very closely, so it can't be a coincidence.

                                                                    You want the thin layers to build up to basically one nice thick layer of solidsomethingthatusedtobeoilorfat. I hasten to add that you CANNOT START with one thick layer, or else you'll get a sludgy sticky layer which will make you have to start over; and thus it must be built up from extremely thin layers! I like one site's admonishment to put the oil on and then take a paper towel and take as much as you can right off to where it looks dry, leaving just the thinnest amount. This does work!

                                                                    Start the heating in a warm oven since you likely started at 200 to warm up and prepare the pan to be oiled, and bring it up to temp with prepared pan already inside. Do not leave it in too long! This will depend on the temp of the oven, the hotter the shorter the time. Rather than hours at 500 degrees, it would probably be more like 20 minutes. At 400, about 40 minutes. At 350, maybe an hour. Then just turn off the heat and let it sit tight. Over time and with layering you'll have the surface you desire.

                                                                    I just started the recovery of a newly acquired piece and right now after 2 layers it has a uniform gunmetal gray and somewhat brownish look to it. I could use it as is I suppose, but I'll keep going until it gets the nice even black finish I am looking for. Probably will need about 4-5 more layers.

                                                  2. re: acmorris

                                                    Great advice acmorris! Let me reiterate for those people who use non-stick vegetable sprays to season, as my mother used to say: "You're cutting off your nose to spite your face." You need to get the polymers to bond to the surface and sprays won't. As for me, I cook with either olive oil or canola oil so that's how my pans were seasoned. Alton Brown may like Crisco, but he also thinks sourdough bread is made with yeast.

                                                    1. re: Ambimom

                                                      I don't think the cast iron police will come after you for using olive or canola, but don't you find they leave the pan sticky? I cook with these oils a lot, but for actual seasoning, I have better luck with shortening, palm oil, and the like.

                                                      1. re: will47

                                                        Frankly, no. They are anything but. After heavy use for a couple of years, my pans are a pleasure....completely non-stick. I admit it did take me a long time to learn how to season and clean them properly until they achieved this wonderful state. I thought all I had to do was just wipe them with paper towels. And yes, they were sticky and it drove me nuts. I unknowingly was leaving cooking residue on them. Then I had an epiphany. Now I make sure to clean (deglaze with plain water) any food residue. It made all the difference. Sometimes, they just go back into the cupboard, other times I rub a little oil and re-heat before cooling and storing again. Using shortening, palm oil or bacon, etc. is not an option for me. The fats I use are the ones I season my cast iron with. I think it's all a matter of what works, works. This works for me.

                                                    2. re: acmorris

                                                      This is a great post. All you new or frustrated cast iron cooks need to take this info to heart.
                                                      I like to add one more note. The number 1 sin with cast iron, the use of metal spoons, knifes, spatulas,and metal scrub pads. they just kills the patina on the pan. Just think of using a teflon coated pan. Use wood or plastic, it saves pan maintenance down the road.

                                                      1. re: acmorris

                                                        These instructions and description are perfect.

                                                        I approached the seasoning of my cast iron with a lot of trial and error and this is exactly the approach I ended up using.

                                                        1. re: acmorris

                                                          Something NOT to do...I inherited a nasty, lumpy, sticky pan and put it in my self-cleaning oven which I believe runs to 900°F. The entire coating flaked away down to the manufacturer's stamp on the bottom of the pan which was indiscernible beforehand. It was actually quite beautiful. Well, the temperature at which cast iron begins to anneal (or re-crystalize) is about 1100°F. I believe I changed the basic characteristics of the metal in heating it to that high a temperature for 3 hours. The pan does not heat evenly, which is what cast iron is famous for, and there is one spot on the pan that just won't season. I recently moved and all my Calphalon pans mysteriously disappeared. I am left with this one cast iron skillet and a saucepan. Cooking has been a challenge. I have looked at all your good advice and will probably try everything. Thanks.

                                                          1. re: acmorris

                                                            I am trying the "acmorris" method on an older pan, I recently got from my Mom, it is probably around 50 years old. It had a very smooth cooking surface, but after using a few times and reading up on curing cast iron pans, I decided to try to re-season it for a couple of reasons:

                                                            1. The surface, whilc very smooth, was a very dull color, dark grey, not at all glossy.
                                                            2. After using I would clean with warm water/soap, then wipe dry with a peper towel - and usual notice a dark grey/silver residue on the paper towel

                                                            I did not give the pan a session in the "self cleaning" cycle to strip it, I basically just scruibbed it down pretty hard with a copper scouring pad and with plastic ones. My concern (which I will expand on farther down) is I may not have done enough to strip it.

                                                            I noticed after several session of scouring it that the grey/silver residue still came away on a paper towel when I wiped it down - in fact it was more noticeable than before. I am not sure if that signifies I did not strip it enough or not...

                                                            I then started the seasoning process - I dried the pan out in a 300 oven for about 15 minutes, then applied Crisco to the still warm pan. I applied the Crisoc all over the pan - all surfaces. Put it back in the now 500 oven, upside down with foil underneath. It started smoking fairly quickly, which I thinbk is OK and normal.

                                                            I took it out after about 30 minutes, and noticed to my alarm some rust-colored spots, particularly on the top edges of the pan rim. also on bottom of pan- was is that? I also noticed a kind of "stippled" pattern of shiny spots on the cooking surface -- I think what others have referred to as "leopard spots" which is a pretty good description.

                                                            I wiped off the rust colored spots -- they seemed kind of tarry but came of OK. I initially left the "leopard spots" alone, and put it back in oven. I later read that I (possibly) should have wiped the leopard spots smooth, which may have been the right idea, bacause after another hour or so when I tried to do that it appeared to late - the spots kind of seemed to have "baked" into the pan and I couldn't wipe them away. I am not sure if this really matters or not - any opinions? Cosmetically it doesn't look as nice, but I can put up with that if it doesn't affect the cooking performance...

                                                            My guess is that I may have applied a little bit too much Crisco initially, which may have caused it to pool into the "leopard spots" - I probably should have wiped it thinner before baking it.

                                                            I am going to apply another thin coat of Crisco and bake again, will see if that has another affect on spots.

                                                            1. re: pjdevitt

                                                              Yes, I'd say you had it on too thickly. I'm always remembering the old timer who wrote about seasoning by saying, "Wipe it almost all off. And then WIPE again."

                                                              The stippling/leopard spots will wear away eventually, or you can use a "Chore Boy" pad (I think that's what they're called; yellow on top; green scrubby on the bottom) to try and even things out a bit. When I first started seasoning cast iron I was anal about the spotting, because I was seeing so many pictures from collectors, on the forum I was frequenting, and they wanted PERFECT finishes.

                                                              But, really, it's just a "cosmetic" thing and now I don't worry as much. It makes seasoning a lot less dangerous, too <g> as I don't have to pull blazing hot iron out of an oven every ten to fifteen minutes for an hour!

                                                              If you want a darker black finish, next time, I've been told--and it seems to work, but could be my imagination--that "baking" the NAKED cast iron at 450 degrees for an hour or two, first, before applying oil (and, of course, letting it cool down quite a bit, too, before oiling up) will give you a darker finish.

                                                            2. re: acmorris

                                                              I know this is an old thread but I want to thank acmorris for his perfect instructions for seasoning cast iron. I had all but given up on using my skillet and dutch oven until I found this thread. I have seasoned my dutch oven only once so far and then needed it for a braise, it performed beautifully! I was able to wash it out with a vegi brush after 3 hours simmering a tomato based sauce, the hard finish was awesome and easy to clean.

                                                              I will put it through the process at least one more time because it does show a bit of grey. Thanks for teaching me why people like cast iron so much, I'm hooked now.

                                                              1. re: acmorris

                                                                Great post. Do wooden handles need to be removed when seasoning at 500°F? I would think it would char or burn at that temperature.

                                                              2. Camp-Chef makes a seasoning liquid "made from all-natural plant ingredients" although they are not listed.

                                                                http://www.iliveoutdoors.com/reviews/...

                                                                1. Sure, early man used rendered animal fat. You know why? Because that's what they had. Lard (an integral component of the best tamales and pie crusts) kept for ages and could be made at slaughter time. While it's been known for years that trans-fats like Crisco and other solid fats (e.g. margarine) are bad for you in the long run, you have to consider the effects of dosage vs. time. If you don't eat trans-fats on a regular bases, a few milligrams of residual Crisco isn't going to harm you. Also, when you consider the amount of fat you won't need when you use your well seasoned cast iron, the trade off is worth it.

                                                                  I've used liquid oils before and they usually leave a sticky finish. Maybe some exotic oil would work better, but unless you have a routine use for them, they'll just end up costing considerably more than a couple of teaspoons of Crisco.

                                                                  Good luck!

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: bkhuna

                                                                    True true.

                                                                    Not to mention that during the seasoning process, once the pan has been baked until no more smoke/odor is produced--there is no more fat, saturated, unsaturated, trans or otherwise. All that is left is carbon since it's been burned until it's pure black.

                                                                    There is no difference in any fat, lubricant, oil once it's been fully burned to carbon. The difference between them is the point in which they smoke and the time it takes to get to the carbon state.

                                                                    As bk wrote, if you season well -- the fat or oil you use is drastically minimized; with some foods completely omitted. You won't need it for non-stick purposes for the most part, you'll only use it to create crunch on items that are fried (potatoes, breaded fish, etc) or where you want to "brown/sear" (steak, chops, etc). Even grilling the most flaky of fish, two or three drops on a paper towel wiped across the grill is more than enough to release the food.

                                                                    1. re: acmorris

                                                                      acmorris: Thanks so much for your incredibly educational posts on this topic! You've helped me cook better, eat better. :)>

                                                                  2. I love to cook and I love my cast iron. We have @17 pieces, including a few lids. Some are heirlooms, others just old, and some new. I got a new dutch oven at a truckload sale for $20. It weighs 28#. How can they make it and ship it from China for that? Maybe that's why so many Chinese die in the mines. Some of these pans were made in Tennessee nearly 100 yrs. ago. Daniel Boone's dutch oven was worth about a year's wages when he died. My favorite pan is a carbon steel wok, and I treat it about the same as cast.
                                                                    Preseasoning is OK, it keeps the iron from rusting before you buy it. You need to wash a new pan with mild soap, rinse it well, and dry it. Then put it on the stove and warm it up to maybe 250. This opens the pores.
                                                                    Now wipe it with a good quality vegetable oil, top and bottom. Be careful, it's hot. Do not use lard, tallow, bar grease or animal fat. Use an oil with a high smoke point. Fats make a softer glaze which is easily scraped away during cleaning. Thin vegetable and nut oils that can really take the heat are best. I've used coconut butter, cold pressed corn oil, olive, etc. They're better than lard, but I still had to do too much seasoning. The cold-pressed corn is really thick, but if you let dry for a week it's good.
                                                                    The trick is to oil the pan lightly and then let it sit for a couple - few days until the oil drys up and starts to lacquer onto the iron. You can put it on papers or something to catch the drips. Leave it upside down . Do not wipe it again. If drips appear, just gob them up with a touch with paper towel. Don't touch the inside.
                                                                    When the bottom is tacky, it's ready for the fire. If it's all iron, and it will fit in your oven, crank the oven up to at least 425, 500 if you can. Take down the fire alarms and get out the extinguisher. Crank up the fan, too, cook that pan hot for up to an hour, or until it pretty near quits smokin'. Now you're about 1/3 of the way to a really fine surface. You've got a really good start, but you will have to repeat this several times before you build up the finish to the point where you can cook wet stuff in it without losing some of that beautiful stick-proof patina.
                                                                    To maintain the surface try not to use soap unless you really have to. Soap softens it. I use coarse salt and water. Try to never get the bottom of the pan wet, and to clean it while it’s still hot, but not too hot or water will crack it and scald you.
                                                                    If you oil the pan after you clean it you will soften the glaze unless you use it quickly.
                                                                    Then you will have to leave it to dry again and re-season it. But that's OK at first. Don't use sprays, they contain hexane gas, which is a very powerful solvent, and please don't mention hexane in a sentence next to one that contains the words "high flame."
                                                                    If you use soybean or peanut oil, you risk making your pans toxic to those allergic to those oils.
                                                                    Back in the day, I asked my father's mother, "Nana, why do your pans look like that?" She said, "What do you mean?" I said, "What's all that black stuff on the outside?" "You mean your mother's pans don't look like that?" she replied. I told her that they were all smooth, and she explained how all that black scaly crud on the outside of the pan was good for it and made it cook better because it spread the heat out more. She couldn't believe that Mom washed that off. A couple days later my mother questioned me because Nana had criticized her about it. Mom cooked like her mother, Grandma. They were all very good cooks, but on this point I must agree with Nana. My wok has a beautiful layer of burnt crud on the bottom.
                                                                    Here we have 3 kinds of pots, cast that stays inside, cast and the wok that go outside over an open fire, and stainless sauce pans, etc. The stuff that gets used over a wood fire or ashes gets soot all over the outside. If you oil it and heat it over the fire again it will make that burnt scaly crud. My dutch oven is too big for the oven, and has to be seasoned outside. Grills work well. Watch out for too much heat, it will burn the surface and crack the pan.
                                                                    Stainless is fine for water, but carbon steel and cast iron are the best. We have some teflon, it's toxic and short-lived. If you have any aluminum cookware do your brain a favor. Drive over it with your car and recycle it. They make titanium pans now, mostly for hikers. Very nice.
                                                                    Sunflower and safflower oils are good. I'm experimenting with hazelnut now. Just let the oil dry out before you cook the pan.

                                                                    Shark112

                                                                    1. I have bought the Lodge pre-seasoned pans and have been happy with them. They have a good base layer which keeps them from rusting for the most part, but really need a home seasoning or two before use. I bought an unseasoned pan that was covered with wax, what a mess! Smelled like crayon when placed in the oven and too much work to remove. So I was much happier with the pre-seasoned.
                                                                      I used peanut oil myself. Don't apply too heavy or there will be runs or bumps. The suggested temperature of 350 was too low and I had the problem with stickiness. I put it back in the oven and adjusted the oven temp until the pan just started to smoke. Leave it at that temp for a couple of hours before shutting it off and leave the pan in the oven to cool naturally. After two more cycles the skillet looked great and was ready to use. A few more cycles would make it even better; I was impatient and wanted to use it.
                                                                      It the old days they didn't have hydrogenated oils and their pans worked fine. Just adjust the temp for the oil being used and heat until its no longer sticky.

                                                                      1. acmorris,
                                                                        You're right.
                                                                        Mark

                                                                        1. one word- bacon, bacon and then more bacon!

                                                                          1. I have used veg oil, and some people who know what they're talking about will recommend it. There are people on both sides of the fence, so it's not like you have to follow Alton Brown's advice.

                                                                            But anyway, can you explain your objection to crisco more? You don't have to *cook* with it... just season it with shortening and then wipe it down with some after use. I seriously doubt a noticable amount will get in your food... you're just trying to build up a patina on the pan itself.

                                                                            I am vegetarian so don't use bacon or lard for obvious reasons, and I generally cook with vegetable oil. And you can season with veg (I'd use peanut or something) oil if you really must (in fact, the guy who gave me my first cast iron pan, a man who was far from a vegetarian, used vegetable oil). Palm or coconut oil (way more sat fat than veg oil but no trans fats) will probably be even better.

                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                            1. re: will47

                                                                              They wanted to use traditional methods to season is all.

                                                                              As for the "patina" finish, that is something new to this century. The term was coined by Lodge for cast iron that wasn't polished and had a mottled interior; the "LodgeIC" of that was to help with the consumer seasoning having more surface to cling to, recently that finish has been marketed as a way to improve the non-stick ability of cast iron.

                                                                              I'm just clarifying, because patina is actually a process of oxidation; not the gloss finish from newly seasoned cookware, or it's wore down matte counterpart.

                                                                              1. re: acmorris

                                                                                I don't think they're looking to use the traditional methods - as others have said, I think the traditional method would be lard / bacon fat / drippings / whatever, which the OP later stated is not an option.

                                                                                1. re: acmorris

                                                                                  Truly, you are the guru of cast iron cooking. I have number of pans varying from a new grill pan to very old ones, and I now see I have been improperly seasoning them; using vegetable oil (often spray) and an insufficiently high temp. They have a coating, but it is bumpy, has chips, and is sometimes sticky (I think from not using a high enough temp. as you say). No rust, however.

                                                                                  My questions are: how far down do I have to go to reseason these properly? Do I REALLY have to sand down to the bare iron with my arthritic hands, or just get a smoother finish? Or do I, God forbid, need to use lye.

                                                                                  Also: can I season the pans in the superhot oven when I set it to selfclean, thus doubling up and saving energy?

                                                                                  Thanks!

                                                                                  1. re: karenomara

                                                                                    No, no, No! Putting your pans in a self cleaning oven will UN-season them. See my post above somewhere.

                                                                                  2. re: acmorris

                                                                                    Two more questions: some people recommend letting the oiled pan sit for several days before seasoning in the oven, what do you think?

                                                                                    Also, I often cook at high temperatures, is this a problem? Some say it causes sticking and destroys the seasoning.

                                                                                    Thanks again.

                                                                                2. Bacon drippings.

                                                                                  DT

                                                                                  1. Seasoning cast iron.

                                                                                    To clarify:

                                                                                    First, “patina” is a term that has been used since ancient times and it can refer to several things. It is a layer of oxidation on the surface of a metal, or the layer of oil which forms on wood which is used (touched) for a long time. It is also the layer of oxidized oil which we are addressing now. We are trying to create a hard, durable, non-stick surface on our cast iron and carbon steel cookware. The word is Latin, the Romans used olive oil. I don’t know or care what Lodge called their stuff. On cast iron, oxidation is rust, which is our enemy. Maybe they refer to the seasoning? Did they intentionally rust their pans in order to “mottle” the finish before they were seasoned? That could work, it increases the surface area for the oil to stick to. Or were they just using a $50 word for “pre-seasoned?”

                                                                                    To remove old deposits a very good and organic solvent is Citra-Solv. Used full strength and allowed to sit for a few days it will soften any grease. A rotary brush in a drill works, and a brass wire brush won’t scratch the iron.

                                                                                    Second, the finish (a more general term) which we are trying to make is not pure carbon. It’s mostly carbon, but it is polymerized oil. That’s why different fats and oils produce different results. If you want pure carbon, crank up the heat really high and make graphite out of it. It turns to powder and you’re back to bare iron. That’s a good way to get lard off old pans so that you can start over and do it right. I’ve been experimenting for decades.
                                                                                    To remove old deposits a very good and organic solvent is Citra-Solv. Used full strength and allowed to sit for a few days it will soften any grease. A rotary brush in a drill works, and a brass wire brush won’t scratch the iron.
                                                                                    I don’t want to eat anything that has been cooked in burnt pig or cow fat.
                                                                                    You cannot get a surface as hard or as slick with lard as you can with safflower oil. Just let the oil dry before you season the piece. Safflower oil doesn’t even smoke until 510◦. So if you can’t crank your oven up to 550◦ you can’t get it to oxidize enough. Of course it will be sticky. Use your grill if you have to, it keeps all the smoke outside. Try it yourself. Crisco is OK. By the time it gets done smokin’ it’s all saturated and hydrogenated anyway.
                                                                                    If you want to cook with cast iron or high carbon steel at high temperatures, you have to use a pan seasoned with high temperature oil. It’s simple. Lard can’t take it, it will burn.
                                                                                    Don’t take my word for it, check out these sites:

                                                                                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patina
                                                                                    http://www.melindalee.com/Cast-Iron.html
                                                                                    http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/Collec...

                                                                                    Mark

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: shark112

                                                                                      Mark - your post made me think of something. Dan Abadie on this site

                                                                                      http://www.permies.com/bb/index.php?t...

                                                                                      recommends making Cajun roux as a way to season cast iron. (Equal amounts of flour and oil cooked until dark brown.)

                                                                                      I wonder what would happen if, instead of flour, one used graphite lubricant powder with the oil? LOL

                                                                                      I may be driven to it yet given the sticking problems I have on my several-week-old 12" Lodge skillet.

                                                                                    2. Now I want to buy one - any advice on brand, size, where to get it and how much I should pay?

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: itryalot

                                                                                        I recommend Lodge from Amazon. How many people are you feeding? 12" seems to be a good, standard size for many families, but I bought my sister a 15.5" because she's got two hungry boys and a hungry husband!

                                                                                      2. My best advice? To season a pan well, cook lots of things in them that don't need a nonstick-surface (i.e. no pancakes) as much as you can. That will build up a beautiful seasoning without you having to rub them down with oil all the time.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: sfumato

                                                                                          Like... BACON!

                                                                                        2. I have a question - the Lodge Logic lids for the Dutch Oven and Skillets apparently have small "spikes" to help with condensation. How would you season the lids properly? I imagine that you couldn't whipe Crisco into the places between the spikes. Can anyone confirm? Thanks!

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: paulmc

                                                                                            You can in fact wipe between the spikes, this shreds up paper towels so I'd suggest using either a clean lint free cloth or a heat proof pastry brush.

                                                                                          2. A related question: Occasionally I come across a recipe for a dessert that requires a cast-iron pan. Since my pans are now steeped in garlic/onion/meat flavor, I skip those recipes because I'm concerned that the savory flavors will transfer to a puffy pear/almond cake or whatever sweet the pan is being used for. Any tips?

                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                                                                              My observation is that flavors aren't as big of a deal as you might imagine -- they tend to mellow if anything.

                                                                                              Maybe run a batch of cornbread through to maybe absorb the off-flavor -- you will certainly learn whether you have a problem or not. Even if the flavor is strong, the cornbread should still taste fine, so no waste.

                                                                                              You could also line the inside of the pan with aluminum foil (we do that often with camp cobblers cooked in dutch ovens -- really makes clean up a snap.)

                                                                                              Worst case scenario: you will have to buy another cast iron pan. Fortunately the cost of a pan (new or used) is really reasonable, so no troubles.

                                                                                              1. re: MikeB3542

                                                                                                Great ideas! Thanks.

                                                                                              2. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                                                                                I've never had a problem, though I do rinse with hot water after each use

                                                                                              3. Everything I've read says that Carbon Steel = Cast iron when it comes to seasoning - so i hope this is the right place to ask for some advice.

                                                                                                I bought a DeBuyer Carbon Steel frying pan and tried to season it by baking it in the oven as recommended on this thread (used ground nut oil).

                                                                                                After the first hour i checked and though it was turning black - instead of a uniform black finish, it was almost as if the oil had carbonized in many little spots instead. No matter i thought, I'll apply another layer of oil and put it back in for another hour...

                                                                                                After that, the pan had turned blacker (which essentially meant that the number of black spots had doubled - still not a uniform finish). So i brushed on some more oil and put it back in for 2 hours. This time it looked very black , but again it wasn't a uniform 'satin' finish - you could see a dimpled effect from all the carbonized spots. It wasn't sticky though and cos it looked pretty black I thought that perhaps this pan could be declared "seasoned". I was wrong.

                                                                                                I let it cool, then put it on the hob and added a bit of cooking oil to try frying an egg. The egg bonded with the pan like a prodigal son returned from his travels. I scraped the egg out of the pan and spent a few minutes trying to remove this hellish culinary concrete that had just ruined my pan.

                                                                                                In the end it took very hot soapy water and steel wool to get the egg off, and this of course meant that i took much of the "black" off the pan exposing the grey steel underneath.

                                                                                                So, all in all - hugely disappointing. But where did i go wrong?
                                                                                                :
                                                                                                - Was the oven not hot enough (it was at 500ish)
                                                                                                - Was it not baked long enough between layers of oil
                                                                                                - Was the oil applied too thin (which maybe created the spots)
                                                                                                - Should i have kept applying more layers of oil and baking till i "did" get a satin finish.
                                                                                                - Did i use the wrong oil
                                                                                                - Are eggs and carbon steel pans just never meant to be!
                                                                                                :

                                                                                                After I've recovered from my severe bout of the seasoning blues - i'm gonna steel-wool the life out of the pan and start again - but would appreciate some pointers. Thanks

                                                                                                9 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: DeBuyerMan

                                                                                                  I suspect that you failed to remove all the varnish (or whatever it is they put on carbon steel pans to keep them from rusting in the store) before you started the seasoning process.

                                                                                                  That's what happened to me the first time I tried to season mine. I ended up doing as you plan - rubbing it down vigorously with steel wool and starting over - and was ultimately successful.

                                                                                                  BTW, instead of seasoning in the oven, I used the stovetop. I heated up the pan and rubbed lard onto it with a folded-up paper towel. It took a while, but I was very happy with the result - the originally steel-gray pan turned completely black with a nice copper-gold sheen.

                                                                                                  Hope this description helps. Good luck!

                                                                                                  1. re: tanuki soup

                                                                                                    Thanks for that Tanuki - when you did it on the stove top - how long did you let it heat?
                                                                                                    Did you wait for the smoke to disappear and then add another layer and repeat?
                                                                                                    Cheers!

                                                                                                    1. re: DeBuyerMan

                                                                                                      I put the pan on the stovetop, turned on the heat, waited for it to get up to "sizzling water droplets" temperature, dropped in a teaspoon or so of lard, and wiped it all around with a paper towel. I then let the pan sit on the stove for a few minutes while it smoked a bit and then let it cool off. As I recall, I repeated this process 3 or 4 times.

                                                                                                      What I like about the stovetop method is that you can see what is going on as it happens, so you can concentrate on problem areas and get a nice even result.

                                                                                                      PS. Before I had prepared the pan properly with steel wool and a lot of elbow grease, I saw little dots of black on the inside of the pan just as you described. Sort of like the lard didn't want to spread out but beaded up on the surface.

                                                                                                      PPS. I could tell when I had gotten the protective coating off because the metal surface was bright silver and then almost immediately developed a golden/bronze patina on exposure to water/air while washing.

                                                                                                      Good luck!

                                                                                                      1. re: tanuki soup

                                                                                                        Thanks guys. I scrubbed it down and tried seasoning on the stovetop. Got some Lard, got the pan hot and ....set off every fire alarm in the house.

                                                                                                        After a step-ladder, a sweeping brush and some panic, i disabled the alarms and kept vigil over the stovetop. I liked what i was seeing. The lard would smoke and then start distrubting unevenly, but at this point you could jump in and wipe around with a paper towel and it actually looked nice and smooth and shiny.

                                                                                                        When it would stop smoking, i'd put in another litle bit of lard and swab it around again. I did this about 4 times. The pan was looking black/bronze and very smooth to the touch. But stuff still sticks pretty bad to it. I wouldn't dare try an egg, but i tried a few chicken breasts and there was a lot of sticking.

                                                                                                        The only thing i might be doing wrong is not putting in enough lard and not really burning it on . What with all the swabbing, i was only ever smoking a very fine film onto the pan with each go. I guess i was trying to minimize the smoke, but maybe you have to burn the hell out of it??

                                                                                                        It's kind of frustrating. :(

                                                                                                        1. re: DeBuyerMan

                                                                                                          Thanks for posting the follow-up. It sounds like you've seasoned your pan successfully.

                                                                                                          From what you wrote, I wonder whether you might just need to slightly adjust your cooking methods (and expectations) when using carbon steel or cast iron. Of course, you need to use a reasonable amount of butter or oil, but the main thing I noticed when I made the switch was that, unlike non-stick pans, things will initially stick to the pan. If you panic and try to move them around, they will break up and make a big mess, but it you let them sit undisturbed for a minute or two, they will automatically release from the pan, revealing a nice browned, cooked surface. This "stick and release" cooking method was a real revelation to me. I think it is responsible for the wonderful flavor of food cooked in carbon steel or cast iron pans.

                                                                                                          Hope you find these comments helpful. Good luck!

                                                                                                          1. re: tanuki soup

                                                                                                            Cheers. You may be right. I did move the chicken around a lot.

                                                                                                            I'm happy to let a natural patina build up now so i might report back in a couple of weeks. Are you at a stage with your carbon-steel pan, where you can cook an egg without turning it into a Jackson Pollock piece?

                                                                                                            1. re: DeBuyerMan

                                                                                                              I have to confess that I always fry eggs on a big nonstick electric griddle. I basically use my carbon steel evasee like a flat-bottomed wok, mainly for stir-frying or browning meat, onions, and veggies on my induction cooktop. Good luck with your eggs!

                                                                                                  2. re: DeBuyerMan

                                                                                                    I rub the pan with a paper towel multiple times during seasoning (whether stove top or oven) to distribute the oil, and prevent (or at least reduce) this 'spotting'

                                                                                                    1. re: DeBuyerMan

                                                                                                      I would start off slow and cook some onions / green onions first, then maybe deep-fry or pan-fry some stuff.

                                                                                                      Avoid acidic foods for quite a while (tomatoes, beans, vinegar, etc.).

                                                                                                      Also, what I've heard, at least, is that carbon steel needs to be re-seasoned more often than cast iron, so if you don't use it a lot, you may need to re-season; the good thing is that it will pick up seasoning fast too.

                                                                                                      Agree with tanuki about both removing the varnish and seasoning on the stovetop. And like paulj says, make sure you use a paper towel or rag to redistribute the oil - otherwise it will collect in little spots sort of like the ones you describe, and season the pan unevenly.

                                                                                                      The good news is that even if you season it wrong, it's pretty easy to just scrub it well, and start over.

                                                                                                    2. Scrub it with kosher salt and a green Scotchbrite pad (or an old kitchen rag) to remove gunk after every use. Rinse very well. Spray or apply the oil of your choice, although animal fats do a better job of filling the pores. The salt will not ruin your pan, just rinse it well.

                                                                                                      This technique actually buffs down the casting, almost like sanding it, as there are two aspects to seasoning a pan - burnishing the cast iron and filling the pores with oil. As others have pointed out, animal fats do a better job of filling the pores but don't neglect the burnishing which used to be accomplished using burlap and salt.

                                                                                                      Most people who think their cast iron pans are performing well have never cooked with one that's been burnished over the years (unless they bought a vintage pan). The burnishing is a must to get the performance a pan is capable of delivering.

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: CharlieTheCook

                                                                                                        Older pans were machined smooth after being cast, rubbing salt against cast iron won't remove any metal.

                                                                                                      2. Okay, I got my first cast iron pieces ( 10.25 skillet and 3 quart dutch) and their Lodge pre-seasoned pieces. I need to find the best way to season considering I live in an apartment and CANNOT disable my fire alarms and I have no windows near the kitchen. Also, my choices for oil are either peanut and coconut--which I have both on hand.

                                                                                                        1. What temperatures and times should I aim form?
                                                                                                        2. Which oil would yield the best result - peanut or coconut?
                                                                                                        3. Would I be better served to try to season on stove top with continuous applications of the oil?

                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: cityhopper

                                                                                                          cityhopper, while acmorris's technique higher in this thread is Da Bomb, your smoke detector problem makes it impractical, so you may wish to try the lower temperature technique set out in detail here: http://naturalimport.com/care_for_cas...

                                                                                                          Note that the oil suggested at the linked page is untoasted sesame oil, not the peanut or coconut oils that you have on hand. Peanut oil requires a much higher heat to caramelize, and (without looking it up) I think that coconut oil does, too, so neither would be as successful at the lower heat suggested in the linked page.

                                                                                                          1. re: cityhopper

                                                                                                            If they're preseasoned your best bet is just to cook several batches of fatty food in them before using them for anything sticky/acidic/watery. Try roasting a chicken in them or baking bacon in them, give them a quick scrubbing with extremely hot water and scrape out anything that's left with a plastic scraper.

                                                                                                            1. re: rockfish42

                                                                                                              Thanks. I will try this along with Lodge's recommendation of "rinsing with hot water and then before cooking, apply vegetable oil to the cooking surface of your pan and pre-heat the pan slowly."

                                                                                                              Then I'll probably just fry some bacon in the skillet. Would I be okay deep frying in the dutch oven on first use?

                                                                                                              1. re: cityhopper

                                                                                                                Also, try drying the pan over heat for a minute or two, then apply a thin layer of shortening to the still warm pan with a paper towel, buff off any excess oil with a clean portion of the towel. That should avoid a lot of the rusting issues people seem to have, especially if you live someplace humid or near a marine environment.

                                                                                                          2. Wow, y'all, this has to be the most informative and comprehensive discussion on seasoning cast-iron cookware in history. :)

                                                                                                            I too live in a pad so was concerned about smoke alarm, etc. In fact, a friend was going to let me use the oven at his house next week!! But I couldn't wait that long so decided to do a compromise.

                                                                                                            Basically I used these instructions

                                                                                                            http://www.bakingillustrated.com/how_...

                                                                                                            but with a few revisions.

                                                                                                            I compromised on the temp, not doing Annabelle's 500 degrees but increasing it somewhat to 400. Crisco was my lubrication of choice, and it stopped smoking after about an hour and a half at the 400-degree temp. Opening the sliding glass door and kitchen window, running the ceiling fan and A/C seemed to help, but that first half hour was still eye-burning smoky. I recommend obtaining everything you need (drinks, snacks, etc.) from the kitchen before embarking on this.

                                                                                                            Before lubing it up, the heavy metal was washed with a mild solution of Dawn and very hot water and also scrubbed down all over with an SOS pad then dried thoroughly with a paper towel and then put into a 250-degree oven for a minutes. (This dries it and also opens up the pores.) Then while still warm I coated it with the Crisco. Then inverted onto the oven rack. An aluminum oven liner is at the bottom of the oven.

                                                                                                            After one treatment my new Lodge two-piece combo cooker is now a nice deep bronzy color, and I will keep treating it as directed until it's done (link above says about five times, but maybe less at the higher 400?).

                                                                                                            In keeping with the hot smoky theme, I watched "House of Wax" (Vincent Price, 1953) in the living room, which was a fun way to spend the two hours. ;) Next time maybe I will drink an ice-cold beer, which will make my eyes feel better.

                                                                                                            Anyway, I have a question for you guys, and especially for the experts Annabelle and Sharky if still around: Can you mix the fats? I.e. do one layer of Crisco then a second layer of something else, like olive oil? Annabelle's gorgeous noir gloss on that grill pan is to die for!! That's what I want. ;O

                                                                                                            12 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: ApartmentDweller

                                                                                                              Found this excellent info on caring for cast iron. (Check out his slick Griswold skillets.)

                                                                                                              http://www.richsoil.com/cast-iron.jsp

                                                                                                              This guy uses a little salt and pepper on his iron before cooking eggs and has no sticking. He doesn't mention temp of eggs....

                                                                                                              Love his metal spatula advice too.

                                                                                                              He also says that the "baking" method to season is completely unnecessary; just oil the thing up and use it!! However he has posted some great seasoning instructions.

                                                                                                              Mine had its fourth bake (with olive oil) yesterday at 400, then 450 for a bit. I am not happy. I think mine is "coated" rather than "seasoned." The olive oil finish doesn't look as good as the Crisco did either. <sigh> I don't know if I should strip it back down and start all over again or just keep going and bake the stuff on there.

                                                                                                              The "rich" guy (link above) says in those instructions to interrupt the process a few minutes into it to wipe away excess oil, then resume baking. I wish someone had told me that earlier, it may have prevented my "problem."

                                                                                                              One other mistake that I made was not preheating the oven first; I placed mine into a cold oven, which left bare places where the piece was lying on the oven rack. Live and learn....

                                                                                                              1. re: ApartmentDweller

                                                                                                                Oh, dear! Did you end up with "leopard spots"? Sometimes I get lazy (or scared; I have some burns for my effort) and try to skip the "wipe every 15" rule of good cast iron seasoning, and I almost always end up with these....

                                                                                                                Regular use over time *will* make them less obvious, but you might want to lightly scrub with a fine steel wool pad and reseason one more time, being sure to wipe as it cooks, this time.

                                                                                                                1. re: Beckyleach

                                                                                                                  Yes indeedy I did get the cat spots! Thanks for your input, Becky; it's good to know that it's not a big deal.

                                                                                                                  Since I have two pieces, one large and one small, I have decided to do the final bake as Annabelle suggested on the smaller one. The layers don't appear as thick as the larger piece. That way I can see if indeed it's messed up or not before I proceed to strip down (or bake) the larger piece.

                                                                                                                  The bottoms of my pieces look great; the gunky stuff is on the tops, particularly around the rims, no doubt because they were inverted. At any rate, the smaller one doesn't look bad at all so I am going to set it to see how it turns out.

                                                                                                                  After seeing so many beautiful vintage pieces I've decided my next CI will be Griswold. Got my eye on a drop biscuit pan (it's called something else but I can't remember what) and a muffin tin. Would snatch up a wedge cornbread pan, but I don't even know if they made those back then....

                                                                                                                  In fact, if I can find an old one that is comparable to this two-piece Lodge set that I bought I will dump it!!

                                                                                                                  1. re: ApartmentDweller

                                                                                                                    Just go to black iron dudes website and learn how to properly season and clean a pan.Everybody makes too big of a deal with this and trys to make things complicated.Clean a pan completely with oven cleaner or electrolysys tank steel scrubbys are too much work and leave a roughned seasoned left.a bare cast pan should be medium gray in color.

                                                                                                                    1. re: ApartmentDweller

                                                                                                                      I don't think they did. The cornbread wedge pans are from the '60's, initially. I got one off of Ebay and it's rather heavy and a bit grainy, even though it's 40 years old. But I'm spoiled rotten by my Griswold... <g> I have two Gris muffin pans (just the plain ones) and they are lovely.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Beckyleach

                                                                                                                        This is a query not a reply but I can't for the life of me find out how to post a question.
                                                                                                                        I have a newish Senior skillet from Ikea. It's enamel on the outside and has a wooden handle.
                                                                                                                        The instructions said to boil milk and oil---this produced a sticky mess. On this site I learned to clean it with kosher salt. And that I could put the skillet with WOODEN handle in the oven. The handle burned! But the pan did seem to be getting the required seasoning.
                                                                                                                        Now, however I've noted a little rusting around the rim. My question is do I have to remove all the seasoning or can I do just the edge and apply oil and reheat.
                                                                                                                        I don't want to use the oven because of the wooden handle.
                                                                                                                        I cannot get Crisco but can get bacon and lard.
                                                                                                                        I do not have a self cleaning oven.
                                                                                                                        Replies appreciated and advice on how to post a question.

                                                                                                                        1. re: sosona

                                                                                                                          mine is a query as well

                                                                                                                          my cast iron is peeling/flakes of metal?) :
                                                                                                                          after i SLOW cooked eggs in it, and they stuck, hence i scrubbed with an metal sponge ( the pan was oiled/ but not seasoned)
                                                                                                                          1. should i scrub more to get the iron peels off
                                                                                                                          2. i throw it away ( as not to eat metal peels in my food)
                                                                                                                          thanking in advance

                                                                                                                          1. re: divya

                                                                                                                            You won't come to any harm from accidentally ingesting either the flaking seasoning (which is what you're seeing) or even a little iron in the minute quantities that might "leach" into something you cook...in fact, it's good for you!

                                                                                                                            Your eggs stuck because you need to deeply and thoroughly season your pan before trying eggs in there, again...And even avoid eggs for a while till you've fried a few meals or baked something like cornbread in the pan a few times, as well.

                                                                                                                            As to cleaning, I find that when I DO goof and get food stuck on my cast iron, just a 10 minute soak in very hot water (no soap!) and then a scrub with a PLASTIC Tuffy pad, removes everything. Scrubbing with steel wool or a metal sponge will just remove your hard-earned seasoning.

                                                                                                                            1. re: divya

                                                                                                                              Oh, also, there's a remote possibility that your pan was pre-coated in something merely to protect the surface while it awaited purchase. IN that case, you should COMPLETELY scrub--with soap--the surface to remove the temporary protective coating, and then season at heat high enough to pass the smoke point of whatever oil you chose to use, for about an hour...

                                                                                                                              1. re: Beckyleach

                                                                                                                                thank you beckyleach

                                                                                                                            2. re: sosona

                                                                                                                              The senior pots have matte black enamel on the inside and don't really require seasoning. They don't get as nonstick as bare cast iron, but the inside will acquire some seasoning with use.

                                                                                                                              1. re: rockfish42

                                                                                                                                I'd be really surprised if the senior pans I bought have enamel on the inside since one of them has shown signs of rust and I've only used it 3-4 times. In any case i seasoned it inthe oven with veg. oil and have cooked in it with good results. Today I made grilled cheese sandwhichs with just a smear of olive oil in the skillet and fried breaded chicken breasts and neithr stuck. I'm very pleased. Thanks to all who replied and to previous blogs which gave me the incentive to persist.

                                                                                                                  2. So I've attempted the "acmorris" method with my favourite pan (maybe not the best idea) and I've become a little bit discouraged.

                                                                                                                    I thought I had a pretty good base layer from my 4 years of cooking on the pan, but by the descriptions people had posted in this thread I 'realised' that my pan wasn't performing as well as it could.

                                                                                                                    So what I did was not scrub the pan, coated it with a thing coat of canola/rapeseed oil, removed excess with a cloth and then baked in the oven upside-down at 500oF for ~3 hours. I then turned the oven off and let the pan cool over night.

                                                                                                                    The next day i removed the pan and to my mild horror noticed that essentially my original "base-layer" had simply turned to ash. With a bit of a rinse and scrub i was down to the bare iron. Not to be discouraged (4 years of cooking on the pan gone in 3 hours :() , I scrubbed with steel wool and tried again.

                                                                                                                    Same method, except this time I heated the pan until water-sizzle on top of the stove and then applied the oil. Rapeseed again. 3 hours at 500, let it cool and unfortunately it appears that all I was left with was ash, again!

                                                                                                                    I'm going to give it a third attempt, this time I'm attempting with coconut oil (since i ran out of canola). I'll post my results later, but if anyone has any input or advice that isn't already covered in the thread -- please let me know!

                                                                                                                    Cheers.

                                                                                                                    r.

                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: ryth

                                                                                                                      Try it at 450. I think you must be exceeding the smoke point of the canola oil by such an extent that you are, in effect, "stripping" your cast iron. You can clean old cast iron in a self-cleaning oven and end up with the same ashy residue.

                                                                                                                      I have seasoned at 500 but I didn't like the results as much as I got at 450-475, and that was using Crisco. I know one fellow who gets magnificent results using PAM at 550 degrees, but it's a very finicky process with a large margin of error (and danger of burns!).

                                                                                                                      As you can see from this chart, unrefined canola oil has a VERY low smoke point:

                                                                                                                      http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/Collec...

                                                                                                                      1. re: Beckyleach

                                                                                                                        I had bad luck with canola oil on my pan - too low and it's a sticky mess, too hot, it turns to ash. Crisco is my go to, but my base is mostly made of bacon grease.

                                                                                                                    2. Wow, there are sure a wide range of comments about this subject. I thought I'd give some of my experiences and thoughts.

                                                                                                                      I "season" my pan (or at least think about it), anytime I'm using the oven - whether baking cookies or braising something. If the project takes over an hour or so, I will wait until about an hour before end time and throw the skillet on the bottom shelf. I leave the pan in the oven after the oven is turned off and until the skillet is cool. BTW, I just take the skillet out of the cupboard and wipe some canola oil on it. If I see during the "baking" that any pools of oil are collecting, I remove the pan and wipe the pools up.

                                                                                                                      I don't see any need to put the pan in upside down. I only coat the surface. There isn't any problem with the surface being uneven, if the surface is only coated. I never let pools of oil collect in any perceived "low spots". I take the pan out and wipe them up.

                                                                                                                      If a pan is smoking, that is a warning that the oil in the pan is nearing its flash point. I suggest turning the heat DOWN. The flash points of most oils is in the area of 600-700 degrees and there is no need risking a fire just to season your pan. All I can say is that purposefully disconnecting smoke alarms is bizarre to me.

                                                                                                                      As for cleaning, I follow standard deglazing techniques and the pan ends up just fine 99% of the time. After finishing cooking, I turn the heat off - cast iron will keep its heat quite awhile. I then pour out all but a tablespoon or two of oil,. I then add anything from beer to wine to veg stock to Coke or 7up or whatever deglazing liquid you might have handy and deglaze - usually with a wooden spoon, but occasionally with a steel spatula (it won't hurt cast iron!). I then pour off all liquid and wipe the pan several times with paper towels until no more residue is on the towel. I then put a little Canola oil on a paper towel and spread all over the inside of the pan and stow it away.

                                                                                                                      When confronted with an absolute nasty situation, particularly where the pan has cooled. I will reheat the pan by adding oil, clean it as well as possible, and then use a pumice stone (a smaller version than is used in restaurants to clean restaurant grills.)

                                                                                                                      I would never season, or oil, the outside of a pan. I've had one too many grease fires in my life (actually only one). Putting oil on the outside of a pan just increases the chances of oil catching fire, especially with a gas stove, then "climbing" up and over the side of the pan and catching the oil inside the pan on fire - and adds nothing to the pan at all.

                                                                                                                      I never, ever, put water or soap and water inside a cast iron skillet (except in the context of stock or other cooking purposes). And would certainly never boil water in a cast iron skillet. I clean only by deglazing and then oiling and wiping with paper towels. Canola oil works fine for me.

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. re: Silver Bullet

                                                                                                                        <<<no need risking a fire just to season your pan. All I can say is that purposefully disconnecting smoke alarms is bizarre to me.>>>

                                                                                                                        I've never heard of anyone seasoning iron at 600 to 700 degrees!!! I do mine at 450; the most fanatic restorer I've ever known doesn't go about 550, so there's no fear of a "flash point." That said, however, you DO need to burn off the oil in the initial seasoning, or you'll have sticky gunk instead of a dry, black, carbonized seasoning. That's why I temporarily turn off the smoke alarms, because the short period when the oil is smoking sets them off (as does a dirty oven when baking bread, or even--occasionally--an aerosal spray of room freshener).

                                                                                                                        >>>don't see any need to put the pan in upside down. I only coat the surface. There isn't any problem with the surface being uneven, if the surface is only coated. I never let pools of oil collect in any perceived "low spots">>>>

                                                                                                                        Even though a pan is wiped REPEATEDLY, when seasoning at very high temps oil can, indeed, form globules that then burn on as little spots or stipples. That's why it's good to both invert the pan, AND wipe several times during the hour I season.

                                                                                                                      2. That is all I cook with. I use veg. oil when I deep fry. Alton Brown has some good tips not on cast iron. :)

                                                                                                                        1. Experiments in seasoning:

                                                                                                                          1. Used bacon fat.

                                                                                                                          2. Applied as many many thin smears to the surface of the pan on the stovetop, at a temperature that resulted in instant smoking. Reapply and reapply and . . . you get the idea.

                                                                                                                          3. Pan is large, same size as the large (electric, but coil, not flat) burner. Problem: Edges don't get hot enough. Solution: position pan so about one third is on that element, another third on the neighboring element (it happened to be a small one, doesn't matter.)

                                                                                                                          4. Jockey the dials of the two a touch up or down -- seems pretty sensitive -- to get about equal but not super smoking on both thirds of the pan. Rotate the pan about a quarter turn every five minutes, focusing on the heated two gores each time. Avoid the parts not directly heated: Too cold, they gunk instead of smoke. This is gonna take a while.

                                                                                                                          5. Do NOT do: Gee, there are so many variations/recommendations re oven-based seasoning, maybe I can finish this off there, get a really durable surface. Put final result in a 525 oven, left it there overnight.

                                                                                                                          Oops.

                                                                                                                          Next day, the carbon wiped off like lampblack, spatual scraped much of the rest away. So much for the theory that the final result of a well-seasoned pan is a pure carbon layer. Clearly, there are other components that were destroyed by the prolonged 525deg exposure.

                                                                                                                          Theory: When I'm applying the fat to the really hot surface -- I'm guessing it was much hotter than the oven temp used later -- the fat is"converted" to the needed "stuff" in a few seconds. In an oven, the heat is being applied to the fat per se (as well as the apparently lower-than-stove-top-temp of the pan). Very much like paint needing to dry as a thin coat, from the surface out, not as a thick coat dried externally with a heat gun, if the final coating is to be durable. All pans seasoned by use, of course, were heated and foodstuffs applied to them, not by hot foodstuffs applied to a cooler pan. At least that's my story (I am an engineer) and I'm sticking to it.

                                                                                                                          BTW: Had previously seasoned it, was working well until I decided to follow instructions on a package of bacon (after 40 years, why did I read them?): "Place bacon in a cold pan, then heat." No no no no. The non-fatty "liquids" seep out quickly, then form a sludge as the pan warms that sticks like glue and, if the pan is recently seasoned -- not a thick twenty year coating -- scraping that takes flecks off the seasoned surface, which detail offended my quest for perfection, which is why I started over.

                                                                                                                          Up to that point, all cooking sessions (in this and my ancient 8" pan) started with a quick wipe of the saved bacon fat. And so they will again.

                                                                                                                          BTW#2: Pan was a preseasoned Lodge. Except, to save production costs (I called them and checked), the bottom of Lodge pans are now left as cast, pebbled, not smooth. First attempt at easy-over eggs in that abomination was a disaster. Hunted around the web, found a recommendation for 60 grit sanding, made up a mandrel system for my 3/8" hand drill with the help of the folks at Home Depot, took about 30 minutes to get an edge-to-edge surface devoid of all but the three deepest tiniest pits.

                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: NeverLift

                                                                                                                            Sounds like you need to find some dry cured bacon, the stuff they sell at the supermarket that's been injected with brine ends up just weeping liquid all over the pan.

                                                                                                                            1. re: NeverLift

                                                                                                                              I pretty much observed the same thing. I've used the method acmorris described on my Le Creuset Wok and the result after many many hours in the oven is rather disappointing... after the process I ended up having a shiny black non-sticky surface... not for long, unfortunately.

                                                                                                                              However the the carbon layer simply fell off while cooking and even before I could only notice a minor improvement regarding burnt-in food.

                                                                                                                              I wonder if this is due to each layer not being baked long enough? I've left it in there for roughly 2 hours per layer (no more smoke, no odor) and I've done 8 of them. I skipped the sandpaper part because Le Creuset claims it has an "enamel finish (no seasoning required)" which is plain ridiculous.

                                                                                                                              Any help is much appreciated, I'd love to really use this thing prioperly,,,

                                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                              1. re: riplix

                                                                                                                                You're never going to get a proper non-stick layer of seasoning on an enameled iron le creuset. A good carbon steel wok will set you back 20-40 bucks. This is more informative than I have the time for.
                                                                                                                                http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/06/eq...

                                                                                                                            2. been using cast iron a very long time and my pans have never touched Crisco or any such oil...i use whatever oil (natural) I have available, but try not to use the expensive stuff of course. Pans work great!

                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: crowmuncher

                                                                                                                                im trying to season a blue steel using canola oil I look at my temp gun and it say Hi thats over 400*
                                                                                                                                I got to the point that it was smoking pretty good and almost drying so I keep adding some more oil. the pan start to get some brown on it but not all the surface is brown.
                                                                                                                                I guess im doing alright or should I keep doing the point of lots of smoke and keep adding some more oil as to not let it dry completely until I get the brown on all the surface?
                                                                                                                                thanks.

                                                                                                                                1. re: arevir

                                                                                                                                  Use bacon grease to season all CI. Lightly applied with a cloth or paper towel. Then bake at 400 for one hour. Do not remove the pan until the oven temp is all the way down. If you clean your pan with soap and water, make sure to dry over an open flame or in the oven after washing, to dry the pores of your CI properly. It really does help to prevent rust.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: arevir

                                                                                                                                    I wouldn't worry so much about the type of oil, but worry about getting *all* the visible oil off before you start baking it on. Otherwise, you'll get uneven grease buildup across the pan.