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Cast iron pans leaving black flakes on food

I have two cast iron pans with problems:

1) A pan I bought over the summer, pre-seasoned, with no visible damage to the finish whatsoever. I made a pineapple upside down cake in it and there were black flakes all over the fruit. Not pretty. I made potatoes in it, and they had black flakes. What is going on?

2) A pan without sides that is several years old, whose finish has large, visible flaking around the edges. I spoke to an employee at Lodge who said I can just apply oil and heat and the finish should be repaired, but it's not working. Do I need to do it many times? Or what? Please assist - -and am I doing something that is causing it to flake? I mostly use it for breads and don't wash with soap and leave it to rust or anything.

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  1. Maybe you need to wash it a little more, maybe it's burnt on food? I know they say not to wash it with soap, but I always use a tiny bit anyway. Mine are really old but they're smooth as silk.

    1. I agree with the first response from coll. The pans need to be washed more. Not necessarily scrubbed down to bare metal so that the all of the seasoning is removed, but enough to remove the residue that is remaining from previous contents. I find these black flakes on my grill pan more than my skillet because it is harder to clean and tends to be used at higher temperatures, even though both are very well seasoned. I think high heat and burned-on food, sauces or marinades seem to cause it. It can even be caused by the residual starch from potatoes. These seem to not come off with a "light wash with salt and water". You do need to use some soap and water after cooking on many occasions. It all has to do with what you have cooked in the pans previously. Try using a stiff wire brush on a dry pan to loosen the flakes before you cook (small grill brush works fine), and then coat with a little oil before cooking. The flakes are more likely to come off a dry pan than one that you have just scrubbed and is slightly damp, because the underlying seasoning will start causing the flakes to loosen and peel while further drying in your cabinet. I notice loose flakes on pans much more before I use them than after washing. If you do this just enough, you should then have removed the flakes (old food residue) but should still have a seasoned pan to go. No need to re-season unless you have removed so much of the top layer that the pan appears gray rather than black.

      No, I don't belong to the Temple of Not Washing Cast Iron, as there is something unappetizing about the remains of paneed redfish in my morning eggs. You can always add more oil and re-season if you think you have scrubbed off the seasoning.

      2 Replies
      1. re: RGC1982

        I've been wondering this too. Some things I make clean up nicely. But then I fried bacon in them (in an attempt to season them more). Made a mess on my pans! I was afraid to wash them too much, however. The whole point in buying and cooking the bacon was to season my pan :( I didn't even eat any since I"m on a weight loss program.

        1. re: warneral

          Bacon isn't really a good seasoner--it has too much sugar, which causes the burnt on sticky bits..You have to scrub, and that defeats the purpose. I find that frying potatoes for a long time (you don't have to eat them, if you don't want too. Potatoes are cheap) works much better and enhancing the seasoning.

      2. Sometimes you get carbon build up.

        I use cast iron in a restaurant situation so you can imagine the abuse mine take.

        I scrub them with coarse salt and steel wool ( the real coarse kind, not those soapy little brillo pads) real hard... get everything off.... and then reseason them. That solves the problem everytime. Never use soap in mine.

        1 Reply
        1. re: lebelage

          I agree. At least once a year, I scrub mine down and reseason. I have also resorted to scrubbing with baking soda in between too if something gets really stuck on.

        2. But the skillet is really clean. There's no old food residue. It's squeaky clean. I can't understand where the flakes are coming from!

          What about reseasoning a messed up old pan? And how can I prevent this from happening again, if I can successfully redo the finish.

          4 Replies
          1. re: brittle peanut

            So theres not a little shallow cavity that you can see that corresponds to the flakes?

            Odd... I have never seen this before.

            1. re: Jimmy Buffet

              Only in pan #2, the peeling one, which actually leaves fewer flakes than pan #1 (the skillet), which is NOT peeling. It's new.

              1. re: brittle peanut

                what brand of skillet is it? I had a real cheap one and it did nothing but flake also, and in the garbage it went. I also always use dish soap to clean my skillets and not a problem with the seasoning coming off, in fact, I haven't seasoned them for over 10 yrs. but when I do season, I always use lard, not bacon grease. I also put in oven to season, not on top of stove. I put in a 250 degree oven for like 5 or 6 hours and then just turn oven off and leave in till they cool down.

            2. re: brittle peanut

              It HAS to be residue, and that can take the form of flakes or carbon residue, as has been pointed out. If it is a real cast iron pan, i.e., not a "non-stick" grill pan, there is no coating to flake or peel, just the seasoning (oil) and food residue that has bonded to it in a way that is not easy to see. Like I said, look at the pan when it is dry and see if you can't get flakes off the pan with a stiff brush or other implement.

            3. I'm having this too on my small 8". I re-seasoned it by followign directions here that say to take it to 500 and cook for as long as it takes to stop smoking. I don't know but it seems that that same seasoning layer is what is flaking off now.