Cast Iron Confusion
This is driving me crazy. Whether it's seasoning or stripping, there doesn't seem to be a generally accepted method of caring for cast iron. I have read many discussions here on CHOW along with other sites, and I have a Lodge manual with instructions. The methods vary greatly.
I got a Lodge preseasoned dutch oven about a month ago, and while it has turned out some very tasty dishes, I can't help but want to huck it out my front door... I won't though, I'm gonna figure this process out.
The preseasoning was less than impressive, with a strange sticky layer on top of the lid and areas of light rust inside the pot. I burned all the preseasoning off by cranking my oven up to about 600F and leaving the dutch oven in there for a few hours. I have read this is a no-no, but I have also read it works great. Well... It worked. All seasoning and rust turned to black dust and I was left with a bare grey dutch oven. Since then, I have been through three seasoning processes, with a grand total of about tweleve coatings of shortening or oil applied.
1st attempt -- Lodge method - Vegetable shortening at 350F for one hour.
This worked, but after about two uses of the dutch oven, the seasoning was disappearing from inside the pot.
2nd attempt -- Lodge method x 3
Multiple layers, same result.
3rd attempt -- Suggestions from CHOW discussion - "Seasoning Cast Iron Without Crisco" -http://www.chowhound.com/topics/433869
I found acmorris's posts to be the most convincing, and followed the seasoning suggestions in his/her post. I used olive oil and cranked the oven to 550F and left the dutch oven in for three hours. The dutch oven was still grey afterwords, so I repeated the process about seven more times until it was black and glossy. Mission accomplished!! Or so I thought. The glossy black coating began chipping away, and has continued to do so.
Like I said, this is driving me crazy. I'm now going to roast all the remaining seasoning off and go for lucky seasoning process #4. I have to admit though, being forced to constantly leave my smoke filled apartment has made me more productive over the last week.
Soooooo, what to do... Vegetable shortening, olive oil, lard, canola, bacon grease... How to choose. What temp? I'v seen suggestions from 220F to 550F. How long?
Please help me out folks. We need to come to a consensus on these things for all of our good, and to spare my dutch oven an unnecessary flight to the parking lot.
Thanks in advance!
Well, I seem to have finally gotten it right. I did some serious stripping of the dutch oven. I used some Easy Off oven cleaner as well as Barkeepers Friend. It's amazing how quickly rust forms on stripped cast iron. It became a speed test between the scrubbing/rinsing and the oil application.
I applied a layer of crisco vegetable shortening and placed in the oven at 400F for a little less than 2 hrs, then did three layers of lard at 400F for about the same time for each application. I also fried a bunch of bacon in-between a couple of the lard layers. It's almost black now and has a great glossy-ness to it. I'm also happy that the seasoning layer is solid. The pre-seasoning that came on could be scratched of by my fingernails. It's like I have a nice lard enamel now. When I have rinsed it, water beads up on top of the seasoning. Finally... Success!!!
Some advice to those with seasoning troubles... It seems that going with a set time in the oven is not the way to go. Wait until no smoke is being generated, then either turn off the oven, or apply more oil/lard. I was attempting to use specific instructions reguarding time and temp, but it seems to be something you need to get a feel for.
As to how I 'treat' my pans after use:
- wash with hot water and perhaps a bit a baking soda to scrub, if needed
- heat the washed and dried pan on the stove top to really make sure it is dry
- rub with a tiny bit of oil before putting back into the cabinet
Since I have two pans, I use one for sweet (pancakes, cornbread) and the other for savory (meat, seafood, onions, garlic, etc...).
bacon can be made in either one!
Usually, after each use I put a little oil and some coarse salt in my pans and rub them with a paper towel. Rust spots take some extra rubbing, but once you get the pan well seasoned, rust won't be a problem (although if you don't use them regularly, even well seasoned pans will rust). For the OP, I think any of the methods you mention will work, but rather than burning off all the old seasoning and starting over, try rubbing out just the spots where the seasoning has failed, keep the pans oiled, and keep cooking. Until you've developed a good patina, frying is better than any cooking method using liquid, and definitely avoid tomatoes or other acidic liquids.
I too was all over the place when I first got mine. I checked Chowhound, the Lodge website, other cookware sites, asked people I met, etc. Nothing seemed to work, my cast iron just didn't seem to be getting any shinier.
Finally, one magical day, I realized I could fry an egg on it. This was years after I bought it. I think the trick is to not obsess, but to cook a LOT in it, and often. And by a lot I mean a lot of fried chicken and bacon.
Now, I just rinse it in hot water while scrubbing with a wooden spoon, then towel dry. If it looks like it needs it, I heat over low heat and rub some vegetable oil into it. I do also scrub it with a sponge if I've cooked fish in it, because that's the one smell that really sticks. On those times, I definitely recoat with oil and I try to make sure the next thing I cook is good and fatty.
After seasoning, I let the dutch oven cool in the oven... Maybe I should apply a light coating following seasoning??
I have been cooking roasts in it primarily... Chuck roast, pork butt.
I clean it with hot water and a hardly abrasive spronge. Then towel dry and place on low heat stovetop.
Ultimately, I think a well season cast iron pan can only be achieved through many years of use!
I have two: one from my grandmother that is so perfectly seasoned it is almost nonstick and one that I bought myself about 6 or 8 years ago from lodge. The newer one is still not where I would like it to be after many recommended seasoning and then use of about once a week.