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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.

              1. I have a brand new iron skillit and I'm getting the black flakes. There is no way it is food. I'm thinking of returning it.

                1. I agree about under cleaning and maybe trying to rush the seasoning by baking on a heavy coat of bacon grease, or whatever. I would scrub it down with a steel scrubber and even use soap! until nothing comes off. Then heat it up on top of the stove (or in the oven) and coat it LIGHTLY with oil, wipe it with a paper towel. Repeat that process a number of times, while you continue to use the pan. The pan will stick a bit at first but eventually it will be fine.

                  Here's a good summary from Melinda Lee's website. Maybe there's something in here that will ring a bell with what you're doing wrong. You'll notice that the piece does NOT recommend using animal fats, but instead any kind of oil.


                  1. I'm glad to see other people have this problem.

                    I've gotten the new preseasoned skillet (#1 in my example) to stop releasing black flakes; I think this was a matter of food.

                    As to #2, it's still somewhat flaky. I've been trying to continuously scrape off any loose black flakes, clean the pan, and reseason, but it still looks a bit weird around the edges.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: brittle peanut

                      Brittle Peanut,

                      Could you expand on how you got #1 to stop flaking?

                      I purchased a "pre-seasoned" 11" skillet yesterday. I washed it thoroughly and reseasoned in the oven. I cooked an egg to test it and some pancakes this morning. The non-stick attributes are working well, but I did notice that the seasoning was coming up a bit.

                      I wonder if the "pre-seasoning" wasn't bonded that well and is coming up from the pan. I'm contemplating following lebelage's advice and using steel wool and starting over.


                      1. re: Chrysiptera

                        Hmm, I don't know. When I made a pineapple upside down cake in pan #1, it had black flakes all over it, but I was a bit indignant at the suggestion that I'd used a dirty pan -- but a good scrub later, I concluded that (oops) it wasn't as clean as I though -- now it doesn't leave the flakes. But I am really struggling to get the seasoning fully back on my old pan (#2). It just looks sort of peely all the time, and I have scrubbed/scraped/reseasoned. I don't know. I try not to think about it. Especially since all the peeling is around the very edge, and pancakes and things don't really touch that part when cooking.

                        1. re: brittle peanut

                          Thanks for the quick response..

                          I noticed even gun metal spots on the bottom of my pan, and I figured I should do something proactive. I took some steel wool and scrubbed the cooking surface of my pan as best I could. After 10 minutes of scrubbing the bottom was still mostly black but I had removed a fair portion of the carbon too. I was hoping to remove any carbon that hadn't bonded especially well.

                          I then reseasoned lightly with Crisco for 45 minutes at 500 degrees, twice. I noticed one thing significantly different than before. Previously when I took a paper towel to it, the towel would turn black rather quickly. After blasting the pan at 500 the paper doesn't seem to blacken. I am not sure what this means, but it is interesting. The small spots that were gunmetal grey are now a maple syrup color.

                          If my theory is sound, your #2 pan will continue to flake until you remove the carbon that isn't bonded well. Honestly, I wonder if one needs to get it down to bare metal in order to avoid this problem. For both our sakes lets hope not!


                    2. For No. 1, I suspect the pineapple's acidic juice damaged the seasoning and that's what's flaking. A peach upside tarte tatin did the same thing to one of my cast iron pans once. The only solution was to remove the rest of the old seasoning with a steel wool soap pad and begin the seasoning process all over again. Fifteen years' seasoning down the tube in under 60 minutes! The moral: don't use plain cast iron for this kind of dish.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: carswell

                        Wow. Well, happily, pan #1 is still going fine; the seasoning looks fine and haven't had any flakes. But there is quite a bit of extra goop on pan #2's outside edges including around the handle, while the flakes are still there about 1/2" from the edge. I think I'm going to have to work on pan #2 one of these days, even more than I have already.

                        And I have to say again -- I am greatly pleased by how long this topic has endured and how much great advice has been shared in this thread.

                      2. I don't know about your new pre-seasoned pan. I've wondered about those and I think after reading these comments maybe the pre-seasoned isn't the way to go. I had an old (20 year) pan that I had the same prob. as your having with pan #2. I did everything I could to get the black flakes off the edges and sides and got really tired of it. I took it to a shop and had it sand blasted. Then re-seasoned it a few times and it was great. I've been using it now for another 15 years and it's still just fine--nice and black and almost non-stick. It was a drastic action, but it worked. Don't know if you want to go that far, but it may be an option.

                        1. Conceptually, this doesn't make sense.. cast iron is a huge chunk of metal.. heating it to well well below the melting point and putting oily foods into it isn't going to cause metal to fracture off.... unless its rusting or has some sort of residue in it..

                          1. Apparently my brain has been pondering this question. It is possible that you've simply got this pan too hot and the carbon layer is burning off and flaking. 500 degrees is too high for seasoning, so that's one possibility. Try bringing it down to reasonably clean metal --no power tools, just a scrubby and hot water-- then dry thoroughly on the stove and re-season at 300 with a thin layer of veg oil.

                            1. Are these black bits are DANEROUS? I was told that burnt food can cause cancer; anyone here heard about that? I have gotten black bits on my food before from using cast iron. I just wash it and scrub with a light sponge. But it's the black carbon bits that I worry about and I wonder if it's bad for me...

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: phan1

                                charred food is said to cause cancer, mainly breast cancer, but i don't see why it wouldn't cause other cancers.

                                the black bits you see on cast iron pans are not burnt food. i just bought one and did as the label suggested: rinse and dry completely, but that wasn't enough, i got black bits and my eggs were not burnt. it's something from the pan coming off.

                                i'm going to do the suggestions in this thread as well as a bunch of other sites i've compiled info from, and see which is the common denominator. looks like 250-300 in the oven for an hour is the best way to go, according to what i've read, but i just bought mine so i have to clean it off first and put oil on it. i'm going to use coconut oil. i don't eat lard and i read that because it's saturated fat it's better. i read that vegetable oils (liquid oils) make the pans sticky.

                                we'll see what happens!

                              2. WTH? What brands are these pans which are flaking? Have you all talked with anyone at the companies involved? I'd return them. Try looking for a good older pan from the thrift store or swap meet.

                                I've had old oil build up on my non-preseasoned cast iron pans, but I burn it off over hot coals in the fireplace and reseason. Never had flakes appear in food.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: toodie jane

                                  This whole thread surprises me too. I've only used Griswolds and Lodge (which are being mentioned a lot here) and have never had a problem like this. Just bizarre. There shouldn't be anything to "flake" off.

                                2. i have the same problem but i bought a brand new pre-seasoned cast iron pan from Lodge and i had spots the first time i used it...

                                  i've been using virgin coconut oil to season it. i didn't remove any layer off of it before, i just washed it with soap and water and seasoned it with virgin coconut oil. i got little black specks on my eggs since the start. i find less carbon (i suppose) when i wash it, and then i put it on the stove top to dry it off and then put a thin layer of virgin coconut oil on it.

                                  i don't cook with vegetable oil, but perhaps i'll try lard. maybe the coconut oil isn't working or something.

                                  i've tried cleaning it with salt, it seems like a waste of time. all that effort and nothing really comes out of it...

                                  i guess maybe if the lard doesn't work the next thing i'll try is cleaning it with steel wool to remove the current seasoning and start over.

                                  this cast iron pan is a mystery to me. i want to master it as i find food tastes better in it (especially meat) but it's quite frustrating. :(

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: pinkskittles

                                    How to start over:
                                    Mr Shallots, unasked, decided that my well seasoned skillet had the potential to flake around the edges so (deep breath) took it to his metal shop and used a steel grinding wheel to remove the black finish.
                                    It took a while to restore the finish.
                                    But if the finish is pockmarked, a grinding wheel on a variable speed drill will clean it quickly.

                                  2. This is not rocket science. The black flakes are burnt food particles. De-glaze your pans with water and ordinary table salt after every use until you get used to what a well-seasoned pan should look and feel like.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Ambimom

                                      You're wrong. It's improperly bonded seasoning peeling off in little specks. I have this on my skillet. I'm guessing it's because the iron base itself isn't smooth enough to support a perfect seasoned surface, but I don't want to toss the whole skillet so I'm looking for another answer.

                                    2. According to Lodge's facebook page [link below]: they bake a thin film of vegetable oil on ALL their pans at the factory starting several years ago. It is their version of a non-stick surface. THIS IS THE COATING [BLACK SPECKS] THAT'S COMING OFF INTO EVERYONE'S FOOD!!! No, it wasn't people's own food, and NO they didn't scrub too hard.

                                      As dumb and counter-intuitive as it may be for LODGE to put a coating on their cast iron pans, they do it now at manufacturing. It's most likely arising out of the general public's demand for non-stick surfaces. But vegetable oil is inert so it's mostly harmless even though it comes off in your food. Poor marketing decisions made probably 10 yrs ago.

                                      All I did was make a phone call and talk to [them] instead of bickering with you guys about it. And as much as I bitched and moaned on the phone with them about how ridiculous it is to put any coating on an iron pan, especially a "non-stick" coating, they're obviously not going to change it.

                                      SOOO, for those like me who never asked for a coating, to remove it LODGE recommends baking the pan at 400F for 2hrs and it will come off [with some smoke] and then you [should] have "yur 'ol fashioned skillet like ya used to".

                                      Mine are both in the oven right now, and, yes, there was a bunch of smoke at about 20min, but it seems to be gone now. I'll post an update after they're done, cooled, re-seasoned, and got some more fresh eggs cooked on them. Hopefully to report, "speck-free".

                                      And for the record, you don't need to re-season your pans in the oven for 2hrs. You put it on the burner for 2min or so until it's way too hot to touch. Them kill the heat and let it sit. That temp is more than enough to drive any water molecules off the surface of the pan. Take it from a chemist. Obviously then still using a vegetable-based oil while pan is still warm as animal-based oil used after re-seasoning can go rancid and make the pan smell pretty foul. But whatever floats your boat...


                                      12 Replies
                                      1. re: conceive

                                        Thanks for the info, Conceive.

                                        "As dumb and counter-intuitive as it may be for LODGE to put a coating on their cast iron pans, they do it now at manufacturing. It's most likely arising out of the general public's demand for non-stick surfaces."

                                        I don't quite get why you're so offended by Lodge baking vegetable oil onto their pans. That's essentially what cast iron seasoning is. And yes, in fact, that seasoning surface on cast iron pans often leads to a surface that is relatively non-stick -- which is the main reason many people use cast iron in the first place.

                                        Lodge has been offering "preseasoned" pans for some years now -- if it wasn't oil of some sort, what did you think it was? If you have raw cast iron without a layer on it, it will tend to rust. (I speak from personal experience.) That's why people season cast iron -- and for that process, they use oils, like vegetable oil.

                                        Perhaps there's a flaw in the seasoning process at Lodge that is causing it to flake. If so, that may be something to complain about. But I don't get your criticism of the idea of coating cast iron in the first place... isn't that what everyone does with their cast iron pans?

                                        "SOOO, for those like me who never asked for a coating, to remove it LODGE recommends baking the pan at 400F for 2hrs and it will come off [with some smoke] and then you [should] have 'yur 'ol fashioned skillet like ya used to'."

                                        In other words, Lodge must have two steps to their preseasoning process? A vegetable oil layer and... something else? Because you'd probably have to get the pan up to 700-800F to burn the seasoning completely off the pan and down to raw cast iron.

                                        I'd be curious to know what the other layer of preseasoning at Lodge is done with, if not vegetable oil -- because whatever you did, you didn't burn off that whole layer to get an "ol' fashioned skillet."

                                        "Obviously then still using a vegetable-based oil while pan is still warm as animal-based oil used after re-seasoning can go rancid and make the pan smell pretty foul."

                                        So now you're starting to add a layer of vegetable oil back on after burning off a layer of the same stuff Lodge put on?

                                        I'm confused. But if it solves your black specks problem, I say go for it.

                                        1. re: athanasius

                                          What I read is to use 400F for for putting more seasoning on, but not taking it off.

                                          "Apply a thin, even coating of MELTED solid vegetable shortening (or cooking oil of your choice) to the cookware (inside and out).
                                          Place aluminum foil on the bottom rack of the oven to catch any dripping.
                                          Set oven temperature to 350 – 400 degrees F.
                                          Place cookware upside down on the top rack of the oven.
                                          Bake the cookware for at least one hour. After the hour, turn the oven off and let the cookware cool in the oven."

                                          Regarding taking the Lodge seasoning off, I used the self cleaning mode.

                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            CK -

                                            Have you found the Lodge seasoning to give you black flecks/flakes? The only Lodge pan I've bought in the past few years was a grill pan, and since I use it for searing at high temperature, it's hard to tell. I was given a few new Lodge things a decade or so ago, and they were preseasoned, but I never noticed any black flakes.

                                            Do you know what's going on here?

                                            1. re: athanasius


                                              I don't have a Lodge skillet, but I do have two Lodge Dutch Ovens. Yes, I have to say it is not abnormal to see the original preseasoning surface to fall off., but I think this is partially because they are Dutch Ovens where there is very little oil and a lot of water during normal cooking. My Calphalon cast iron skillet never (or very rarely) gave me any flakes, but then again it is a skillet.

                                              One of my Dutch Oven actually came with a bad seasoning surface. A bubble seasoning surface -- part of the seasoning was elevated from the cast iron. It has a diameter of a nickel coin and you can see it. There is nothing but air underneath it.

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                Hmm... interesting. Thanks for your thoughts. I did receive a Lodge dutch oven as a gift, and now that you mention it, I think I do remember a few black bits coming off, but only when I cooked chili in it -- I assumed it was the acidity of the tomato. I don't notice that anymore.

                                                By the way, I just noticed all of this info is readily available on Lodge's website:

                                                What type oil is used to season Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron?
                                                We use a proprietary soy-based vegetable oil to season our cookware. This oil has been Orthodox Union Kosher certified. The oil contains no animal fat or peanut oil. The seasoning is functional application and slight inconsistencies may appear in the seasoning finish. The inconsistencies will not affect cooking performance.

                                                There is an area of the cookware that does not seem to be seasoned and is beginning to flake. What is this and is it normal?
                                                The area of concern is most likely caused by a seasoning bubble. A seasoning bubble may appear during the seasoning process and is not a cause for concern. Additionally, flaking and slight discoloration or a rusty color may appear. The flaking is carbonized oil and the rusty color is the first layer of seasoning. Rubbing oil into this area will improve appearance and seasoning.

                                                1. re: athanasius


                                                  Hey, they also used the word seasoning bubbles.

                                                  "I do remember a few black bits coming off, but only when I cooked chili in it "

                                                  Yeah, I think the acidicity may have something to do with it, but also probably the lack of oil. Even in my Dutch Ovens, the flaking is not uniform. It never flakes at the bottom. It is always from the side. I assume this is because I often cook foods with oil in the Dutch Oven, so the bottom always see the oil, but then I would add water or any kind of liquid to according to the dish. So the side of the Dutch Oven only get to see very diluted oil.

                                                2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  I have come to believe I'd far prefer an unseasoned pan -- not b/c Lodge shouldn't coat it in oil/fat we'd coat it with anyway, but bc Lodge in my experience has done a poor job with the seasoning, leading to more work in the end for me (undoing the seasoning, then redoing it -- after I'd first tried to season over their unbenownst to me bad job). I have a number of Lodge pieces and several arrived with rust underneath the seasoning (which I didn't even realize in some cases until after trying to season over their seasoning), uneven seasoning, seasoning that hid pits I'd rather sand down, etc.

                                                  1. re: iyc_nyc

                                                    "...leading to more work in the end for me ..."

                                                    Agree. It is even more work to remove the factory seasoning, than putting new seasoing on.

                                          2. re: conceive

                                            <<SOOO, for those like me who never asked for a coating, to remove it LODGE recommends baking the pan at 400F for 2hrs and it will come off [with some smoke] and then you [should] have "yur 'ol fashioned skillet like ya used to".>>

                                            Don't get this.. I've heard at least several CH's on this board mention seasoning at 450-500F. How can they do this if Lodge's seasoning burns off at 400F?

                                            I'm more confused than ever.. wish someone could just all tell us the 'right' answer for pre-seasoning. With decades of collective experience under the belt, seems odd we can't agree on even the basics -- animal fats vs. vegetable oils, temperature, etc.

                                            1. re: iyc_nyc

                                              iyc_nyc -

                                              As I implied in my earlier post, I think something's off in Conceive's information. There's no way Lodge's seasoning burns off at 400F. I've had a relatively new preseasoned Lodge pan in the oven at 400F or above, and I certainly didn't end up with raw cast iron. It is, I suppose, possible that such heating might cause imperfect sections of Lodge's preseasoning to be more prone to flake off more quickly, rather than doing it gradually and causing flecks in food for a while... I don't know.

                                              If you want to burn off typical cast iron seasoning to get to raw iron, you need temperatures around 800F, not 400F.

                                              1. re: iyc_nyc

                                                The following care of a cast iron pan taught to me by my great-grandmother lo these many years ago. As to 'right', 'wrong' I don't know, but it has never failed me. I suspect partly there are many versions of the basics because the original seasoning and treatment was used with wood and coal fire stoves using what was readily available in that day, which was probably lard. Anyway, my grandmother's teaching:

                                                According to her, some pans came claiming to be pre-seasoned, but she would not trust this as you have no idea how clean they might be beforehand, nor what has happened to them in shipping or the shop.

                                                First scrub well. She used steel wool inside and out. Then you need to clean the pores by scalding it with boiling water.

                                                Next, coat it generously with good lard, which even by that time was hard to find. She'd have no truck with homogenized lard-like products from the grocery shelf. Good lard was the nice clean 'real' lard only available from a 'real' butcher. If this could not be procured, might as well use vegetable shortening, although this would create a more delicate finish which ought to be re-seasoned every year to eighteen months. Once the pan was coated well - you should see a light white film all over, inside and out - place the pan upside down on one oven rack in an oven pre-heated to 400 degrees. Cover a jelly roll pan with foil and place it on below on the other rack to catch any drips. Shut the oven and turn it to 350 degrees. After one hour, turn the oven off and leave the pan inside overnight to 'cure'.

                                                When you have used the pan, like anything else, it needs a proper wash. Never place any sort of soap directly into the pan. Place the hot pan into hot, soapy wash water and wash it thoroughly. Never touch the pan with steel wool or a heavy scrubby. The best scrubby for this type of pan is the old-fashioned cotton dish cloths she taught me to crochet from cotton yarn as it will scrub out stubborn food without damaging the seasoning. If there are no stubborn bits, just swish it out well with the cloth. After a good rinse in warm water, dry with a towel and place back on the burner. If it is an electric stove, residual heat should be enough, but a gas stove will need to be turned on low briefly as dampness can 'get down in the pan" and cause rust under the seasoning layer.

                                                The two of us cleaned and seasoned my two good cast iron skillets with good lard, and they have survived the raising of two children without requiring re-seasoning. I eventually received a third pan and treated it the same, save the use of vegetable shortening. That pan has always had a tendency to develop sticky spots around 1 year to 18 mo after the last seasoning, at which time I scrub it out again with the steel wool and season it again. If I had any idea where to get real lard, I would try it again, though I wonder if the fact this pan is lighter weight than my original pans figures in there anywhere.

                                                1. re: iyc_nyc

                                                  I cannot speak for others, but I burned my original seasoning surface by the self cleaning mode, which should be >600F. Now, is it possible to burn off at 400F? I think it will be difficult.