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Jan 6, 2008 07:34 PM

Cast Iron Seasoning Woes

I recently bought several pieces of lodge cast iron. I have eliminated nonstick from the kitchen and am trying to find the best alternative to replace them. From my research, it seems that cast iron skillets should be a good replacement for my frying pans (I also got some le creuset buffet casseroles, dutch ovens and some calphalon tri-ply sauce pans).

Initially I used the seasoning technique of coating the pan with crisco and placing upside down in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour. I did not apply it thinly and had a fairly bump texture (ontop of lodge's already bumpy texture). It was also quite sticky when rubbing my fingers on it. It worked ok but not as slick as nonstick and some things like eggs and boca burgers (both items I cook often) would stick.

Through my research I found this post:

acmorris' post caught my eye and made sense to me. So I did another seasoning layer and put it in the oven for 550 until the smoking stopped. When I used the pan, all of my seasoning crumbled onto my item I was cooking and upon washing it, all of the seasoning layers washed away!

Well I figured it was because of my half hearted approach so I stripped my pans back down to the iron and started over precisely as acmorris suggested. I applied thin layers of olive oil and cooked each layer through the smoking and then after 5 layers, I cooked for 4 more hours. This took me all weekend! And stunk the house up no doubt.

Well I went to cook with my pan this morning and my burger stuck horribly (yes a boca burger and it stuck way worse than my original sloppy seasoning job did). And again, all of the seasoning is just wiping away.

I am so upset. I really want to love these pans. I'm a stubborn person and am willing to give this a true try, but I don't know where else to go. I've read many seasoning suggestions and it seems like the people who know what they are talking about, say to cook it to past the smoking point and I did it with horrible results.

Any advice?

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  1. Sorry to hear about your problems. We have all been there.

    You may be facing another round of seasoning. I have used Crisco and it works pretty well. That being said, I would not use olive oil to season. I would buy a small package of lard and use that. It will probably be the only time you use it but it is worth the small cost.

    You may be able to get by by frying lots of bacon for a while.

    Also, I season my pans in my grill outdoors. That helps some with the smell.

    I know how disillusioning it can be. Been there. But I now have over thirty pieces of cast iron and its been worth it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Jimmy Buffet

      Hmmm so it could be my choice in fat? I'm feeling like I overcooked it or why else would it wipe away?

      The first time I did the high heat - cook it past smoking - I used crisco and that is when I had major flaking and wipe-away seasoning. So I'm thinking it's definitely at least partly the high heat over-cooking.

    2. I know that I am never going to have seasoned cast iron pieces in my kitchen. Two reasons:

      1) I've tried to season and the nonstick effects are not good enough to avoid use of fat.

      2) My man simply cannot and will not tolerate a greasy/dirty pan. If you run your finger over it and there's any residue at all, he scrubs it again. We cooked breakfast at my mother's and he scrubbed down to the iron on my mom's 40 year-old skillet.

      The new nonstick stuff is non-toxic and works so well that we don't have to use oil or butter (though we often do for taste). I'm happy with that.

      3 Replies
      1. re: mojoeater

        I don't plan on going back to nonstick. I don't believe that it is non-toxic and don't want to take the chance with my kids' longterm health. I'm a paranoid person who tries to stay away from chemicals and even medicines unless absolutely necessary. It seems that some people can get cast iron to work and I desparately want to be one of them!!

        1. re: warneral

          i agree with you about chemicals! and as for cast iron, i'm so so happy with the pre-seasoned Lodge pans, wok and griddle I purchased. I bought a vat of cheaper olive oil at Costco and use this (instead of the very expensive cold pressed extra virgin organic olive oil that i use for salads) when i re-season pans. The key is to simply scrub with a scrub brush and water when the pan cools down - they take a paper towel and swab the pan with oil - heat it a bit and put it away.

          I keep my pans oily - and the surface is absolutely wonderful! It took about five "cooking sessions" to get the seasoning of these pre-seasoned pans just right - plus when the pots were new, I took every opportunity to oil and heat them. Now they are beautiful!!

          Even fried eggs do not stick! Scrambled eggs stick a little but scrub out in a few seconds. Remember the key - oil and heat the pan after cleaning - then keep the pan oily - and don't marry a man who can't tolerate cast iron pots with a bit of a "shine" to them:) enjoy!

          1. re: dsarah3


            If you ever see this: A) do you season the entire surface of the pans or just the cooking surface and B) do you ever find that the coating becomes a little sticky overnight (while not in use), not that it affects the sticking of food, but just that it gains an annoying layer of "stick" when you're handling it?

            I've been using some spray-on Canola Oil after cleaning. I clean the pan with hot water and some scrubbing, then dry it, then heat it on the stove top, then wipe it down with a light coat of the Canola Oil. But on my dutch oven and recently on my skillet, there's been a stickiness to it after it's sat around for a day that is annoying me and I'm wondering what it may be that I'm doing differently.

      2. just wanted to thank you both for your replies - I appreciate the discussion.

        1. First: clean the heck out of whatever you're planning to season. Wire brush, steel wool, lots of soap and water. Follow with a really good rinse.

          As soon as you're done cleaning the pan, put it on your biggest burner, on the highest heat until it gets as hot as it can get, and leave it for 5 or 10 minutes. Chances are it'll smoke, which means the oil that was in the pores (that a scrubbing can't get to) will have carbonized and burned away.

          Then, wash the pan again as before. *Now* you have a good clean base ready for seasoning.

          To season, 550 degrees is way too hot. 400 to 425. Put it this way... you know those hard to scrub off black spots on your cake pans? That's what you want, and I'm sure you got them from cooking things between 325 and 425 degrees.

          Crisco, schmisco. Use butter, bacon fat, or lard. Vegetable oils (like Crisco) don't season well. And make sure you use only the barest amount of oil. For your 'base coat', dip a paper towel in your grease and wipe it on, then use a second paper towel and lightly wipe most of the grease back off. Put it in a 350-400 degree oven *right side up* for 30 minutes, then turn the oven off. Keep it in the oven, with the door closed so it cools down slowly, for an hour. Repeat once or twice more.

          About smoke: If you see a faint wisp of smoke, turn the heat off or down! Technically, you want to hold the temperature just barely above the smoke point until the volatailes in the oil have burned off and the oil carbonizes. You should be using so little grease that the smoking should only last a minute or two at most, and you should barely be able to tell it's smoking.

          It's like this: If you looked at the surface of your cast iron through a microscope, you'd see lots of pits and potholes. Like a badly potholed road. Now imagine that potholed road after a rain. The potholes are full of water, and if it froze it'd be smooth. The difference is, the grease will shrink as the volaitiles are driven off and the hydrocarbons are broken down. So it takes multiple seasonings to fill in the 'potholes'. Also, if you use too much heat, the oil 'stiffens' up quickly, but the gases can't escape from the surface by migrating through the grease layer, so they build up between the grease and metal, keeping the microscopic bits of carbon from adhering well to the metal. That's also why you want to use really thin layers of grease, as the thinner the grease, the easier for the gases to exit.

          I keep reading instructions here and everywhere that tell people to season their pans upside down. That's a crutch because too many people dump too much grease in the pans so they can get a really thick layer of seasoning all at once. If you wipe the grease on with a paper towel, and then wipe the excess off with another paper towel, you should wind up with only grease left in the pits, and none on the high points, so there should be no need to turn it upside down, as there shouldn't be that much grease in the pan for a bare seasoning. Also, keeping the pan right side up encourages the grease to go to the bottom of the pits, instead of the tops of the peaks which is what upside down seasoning does.

          So, in a nutshell:
          3.Clean again
          4.Wipe grease on
          5.Wipe grease off
          6.Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.
          7.Turn oven off and let the pan cool in the closed oven until room temp (about an hour)
          Repeat 4-7 one or two more times.

          Continued normal use will slowly add to the base seasoning layer. The instructions above are only for the *initial* seasoning.

          4 Replies
          1. re: ThreeGigs

            Thank you very much! I will try this. Off to get some lard :)

            1. re: ThreeGigs

              I read all of all the info and comments, however, haven't seen anything that pertains
              to my problem. I Bought a Beautiful Sante red enam. from Tuesday Morning on sale...have finally figured out it is black enamel inside...thought it looked strange. So many of you say it
              won't stick...well first thing I cooked after intial lite wash and rinse was, lite olive oil, and then pork chops..after I washed and dried notice lite white stains, kinda like a glass left on coffee table...I oiled the pan and put the lid on and figured it would be ok..but after 10 uses, and always I'm oiling first, and cooking, then wash, dry and oil again...treating like an unseasoned
              pan..I'm gettin sticking, made hamburgers and had to scrape with plastic spatula...if I dont
              dry right away it trys to rust some...whats going on?? There is a small portion that is kinda "oil burnt" on the cake pan...wonder should I just go ahead and keep going here, trying to get a "season" on my enamel pan...little crazy, dontcha think...have used nylon scrubby to try to get that little bit of 'burnt oil' off but afraid to rub to hard...whats up with this...I love this pan but am wishing I new it was enam. inside cause I don't think I would have tried this...thought you all said it doesnt stick...and Im trying to season an enamel pan>>>thanks for all the advice...great posts everyone...very useful for the pan I'll season that I found at the
              good will for 5 dollars...dutch oven with a lid that has the nipples...

              1. re: ThreeGigs

                Loved the help for the initinial seasoning, but what about after each use, how to season??

                Thank for the clear clear help... now just finish and you have made my year...................

                1. re: sandi2908

                  You should not have to season the pan after each use. if it's seasoned well, you should be able to wipe it clean and put it away.

                  Some people wipe oil on the pan after cleaning it don't think this is necessary if you put it away dry and store it in a dry place and just turns it into a dust magnet.

              2. You said above: "It seems that some people can get cast iron to work and I desparately want to be one of them!!"
                Guess what? All those people have something you may be missing. Patience. Rome wasn't built in a day and I don't care what anybody says, there are NO shortcuts to seasoning cast iron.
                You spent a couple of days trying to accomplish what only use will do for cast iron. You hurried through it and when it didn't work, you stripped it all the way down and started over. Hurried through it again and then couldn't figure out why it wasn't like the teflon you hate.
                I'll bet you even tried to cook that Boca Burger with no fat in the pan, didn't you? I wouldn't try that with my well-seasoned, beloved skillets. Of course it's going to stick. It ain't teflon.
                Now, Oh Stubborn One, go buy some bacon and start cooking. Use your cast iron. Use olive oil or something when you do. It will just take time. In a few weeks, things will start looking up.
                Time. Patience. Bacon.

                12 Replies
                1. re: MakingSense

                  It's true I'm not patient. But I have spent over two weeks doing lots of different techniques including bacon for my family (but only twice). And while I realize it takes people years to get a good seasoning layer I have also read many websites where folks have gotten a good base seasoning layer by doing various initial seasoning techniques. This is what I am trying to achieve.

                  I cook my boca burger with a thin layer of fat but it hasn't worked since my original seasoning layer. I stripped it down because it was all flaking off not because I was in a hurry. It was flaking off because I thought I was doing something to help the seasoing but it didn't.

                  Regarding cooking lots of bacon, that really isn't an option. I am watching my weight and bacon is not part of my diet. I can add oil to cooking but am hoping to get to a point where just a small amount of oil is needed. I have read that actual initial seasoning methods have worked for people - not just cooking to season over time and that they *can* cook with little amounts of oil.

                  There really is no need to patronize me. I may be a little impatient, but I am willing to do what it takes to make these pans work (well besides cooking bacon).

                  1. re: warneral

                    I apologize if you took that as patronizing as it wasn't meant that way at all. I was feeling some sympathy for you as I wrote it.
                    So many posts like your have appeared lately. Cast iron is as easy as falling off a log if you've been using it all your life, but many newbies seem to believe that they can buy it "preseasoned" or season it quickly and the pan will be as non-stick as teflon. It rarely lives up to that expectation. When that doesn't happen, and Grandma isn't around to help, it is confusing. Look at all the conflicting advice you're getting. The only consistent one is patience.
                    Seasoning is an "organic" process. Even an heirloom pan changes constantly. I've got one now that's starting to flake and drive me crazy. Another has a few bumpy spots. Both of those will change and return to their former "perfect" selves before I know it. One of those skillets is at least 60 years old. A lot different than 2 weeks. Bacon has been cooked more than twice.
                    I might not agree with those folks who say that they are getting a "good base seasoning" at internet speed. They might be happy with it but it might not be up to my standards. The last "pre-seasoned" Lodge I bought took me months to get happy with and I still consider it a work in progress.
                    Again, sorry. Just urging patience.

                    1. re: MakingSense

                      This post (and others in this thread) made me curious - while a lot of advice has been given on how to properly "break in" a skillet (even preseasoned), what's a good plan of attack for breaking in a dutch oven?

                      I recently got a lodge preseasoned skillet & dutch oven. I've been following the general "easing in the skillet for a while" plan but don't really know the best way to do the same for the dutch oven.

                      1. re: jgg13

                        I've had a cast iron dutch oven for more than 35 years and they are more of a problem because they're used less frequently. I gave it the usual initial seasoning and just keep using it. Its biggest enemy seems to be when I cook something with tomato so I make sure to get those dishes out of the pot as soon as they cool down. Also storing it too long between uses can cause a bit of a sour smell. The top has tiny spokes on the inside to redirect condensation down onto the food (like those expensive Staubs) and the water vapor plays hell with the seasoning so I sometimes get some rust there if I'm not careful.
                        It does does a fabulous job on braises and stews so I'm willing to baby that pot and lid. The best thing you can do is the same thing as with any other cast iron - use, use, use. Then clean and store properly.
                        I'd suggest things like small pork shoulders and stewing chickens. You can always cook bacon...

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          Drag out your propane tank & burner & set up in the backyard. Buy some good fresh pork fat. Render the pork fat over high heat in your new dutch oven, taking care to spoon the melted fat up onto the sides of the pot. When the fat is all melted, turn off the heat, let it cool, & strain into clean containers...voila, lard all ready for use. Meanwhile, rub some melted fat onto the outside of the pot, put the pan back onto the burner and heat it until the fat smokes away.

                          1. re: Hungry Celeste

                            I'd love to do that but I live in a high rise apt complex ... rendering lard isn't going to be in my future unless I really want to stink up the place :)

                          2. re: MakingSense

                            The lid on the Lodge also has the spikes on the lid, good point you make on watching out for that.

                            I sense some pulled pork in my future ....

                            1. re: MakingSense

                              I agree, the water on the lid definitely seems like it's going to eat up the seasoning on it.

                            2. re: jgg13

                              My advice is simple --don't use a non-enameled cast iron dutch oven for anything acidic until you've used it for several pot roasts , pork roasts, chicken-in-pot and similar meals. Once you've had a few cycles on use in that manner you move on to chili and soups, taking to care to note any break down in the seasoned surface. If it holds up it should be OK until/unless it gets over heated or improperly cleaned (house guest puts it in the dishwasher...).

                              The lower temperatures (compared to skillet use) make it far less likely to get over coated with flaky bumpy stuff.

                        2. re: MakingSense

                          Agree 100%. The Lodge is supposed to come 'pre seasoned', but the more you use it (assuming you treat it with care), the better it gets. I don't happen to clean mine with soap; just hot water and a scrub with coarse salt. Then dry and heat for a few minutes with some oil, rub off excess and am good to go.

                          The surface gets more and more like a non-stick over time (there are stories of cast iron that has been passed down for several generations). That being said, I don't think I would attempt to fry an egg sans oil.

                          1. re: MakingSense

                            Actually, there *is* a shortcut to a heavier seasoning.
                            As per my above post.
                            Oven at 325-350 (bit lower than the cool-down technique)
                            Wipe grease on and off.
                            Bake for an hour.
                            Take the hot pan out of the oven, wipe more grease on with a paper towel (remember, thin, thin, thin coat), put it back in the oven for another hour. Repeat.

                            You can build up a significant amount of seasoning this way, however because the pan isn't cooled between applications the seasoning won't be as durable as it would be were you to cool it back to room temp between seasonings.

                            There was also a radical method using sugar I read about and tried once or twice, but though the results looked good initially, the seasoning didn't hold up. For the curious, it was dissolve 1/4 cup of sugar in 1/4 cup distilled water (distilled was important). Pour into pan, put pan in oven at 450F (disclaimer... that temp may be wrong, going by memory here), use pennies or foil to level the pan... leveling is important otherwise the seasoning won't be even. After the water evaporated, the sugar carmelized then carbonized leaving a nice, smooth even surface in one step. The downside was the lack of durability, so I never bothered experimenting with it more than once or twice.

                            1. re: ThreeGigs

                              Sure, there's a shortcut to anything. But you get out of something what you put into it. See your own words for the results of your own shortcuts:

                              "seasoning won't be as durable...the results looked good initially, the seasoning didn't hold up...the downside was the lack of durability..."

                              I am sure that if someone could devise a method of seasoning cast iron in the microwave, a lot of people would be thrilled. Why do you think that Lodge has been so successful with "quote pre-seasoned unquote" cast iron? Everybody wants everything NOW. It's barely useable when it arrives but new users seem to think that it is the Instant Breakfast of Cast Iron.
                              You can give cast iron an initial seasoning but only TIME and USE do the proper job. Period. Amen.