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Jul 1, 2008 11:49 AM

Cast Iron cookware...

I have an old cast iron skillet I would like to love, but am very frustrated with it. I know you need to season it and I have read how to do that. However, my question is this: mine does not have a smooth is "pocked" and not smooth at all. Is it restoreable? I have recently bought a cast iron dutch oven and used it once and managed to create the same surface on it. Yikes. I am trying to get away from my teflon addiction.

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  1. Cast Iron is weird to clean... If you use dish soap you take off the seasoning and if you let it air dry it rusts... clean it by wiping out anything left loose in the pan fill it with water to where the food residue is then boil the crap out of it... scraping as it's boiling... when it feels smooth, dump the water out and wipe it out... then put it back on the stove to dry the water off, wipe it with peanut oil, and let it cool and put it away.

    2 Replies
    1. re: pejoe

      I would never boil water in a cast iron skillet or pan. If it needs cleaning that won't come off with a paper towel once the pan has cooled - just put some more oil in and turn the fire back on and let the stubborn "baked on" crappola bake off with the extra oil. Boiling water will just help to remove seasoning and is ill-advised, in my opinion. After the "new" oil has reheated, I don't hesitate to use a spatula to scrape it up after the stubborn stuff is saturated with oil. Spatulas will not hurt a cast iron skillet - it's made out of iron!!

      I generally put my cast iron skillets in the oven at least once a week when I'm cooking something unrelated - like cookies, brownies, or a braise. I never let my skillets "dry out". They always have a "sheen" from oil. I use Canola as that is the cheapest, high-smokepoint oil available right now.

      As for the original question, if you are looking for cast iron to be able to handle an over-easy egg, or an omelette, or flaky fish - that is a real challenge no matter how seasoned a cast iron pan is - as those type chores are still best handled in a non-stick pan (at least for us mortals - ha).

      And.. while we're on the subject - although I've not seen any "authoritative" person say so, I don't cook tomato-based liquids in cast iron skillets/dutch ovens. I just have a "feeling" that either the tomato sauce is hurting the seasoning (and at least will effect the future taste from that pan for a few uses after a tomato use), or the pan is even leeching into the tomato sauce.

      Hope these thoughts help.

      1. re: pejoe

        That's odd that you need to do this. I've been cooking in cast iron just about every day for the past year and a half (since I got back in touch with my "roots") and never had to...If anything's really stuck, I just place the pan in the sink and run in HOT (not cold! Thermal shock) water while I eat. (in other words, not so long as to rust it; long enough to de-crud) then scrub with a plastic Tuffie and rinse. OR, if necessary, I pour off the water, add a bit of oil and kosher salt, and scrub with a paper towel.

        That's all it's taken to get anything I've cooked (including scrambled eggs) off in a jiffy. Then, I dry with a (cheapo; reserved for cast iron as it might get stained) towel, place on the burner on low for as long as it takes me to get some olive oil or PAM out of the cabinet, and rub or spray lightly and wipe down with part of a paper towel (yes, I'm a towel tearer ;-) and it's done!

      2. Amy, you might want to do a search here on "cast iron seasoning", etc. Tons of info. You can beat the addiction but it does take a bit of a different approach and patience. Good luck!

        3 Replies
        1. re: Jimmy Buffet

          I've wondered about the "pocked" surface too. I have an old cast iron pan that is smooth and very non-stick, but I bought one of those "pre-seasoned" dutch ovens, and have never gotten it nice and smooth, even though I have tried re-seasoning it. I actually prefer the old ones you have to season yourself.

          1. re: Hansel

            When properly seasoned, the pebbly surface of Lodge pans works just as well as the machined surface of older cookware. Pre-seasoning is just a start; keep working on it.

            Alton Brown's Good Eats has a new episode called 'Good Dutch', which covers seasoning, as well as the use of Dutch Ovens with coals.

            1. re: Hansel

              Unless you sand or "machine" the new stuff you'll never get the same finish as the old, because they were all polished before leaving the factory. Nobody seems to do that anymore.

          2. I clean my well seasoned cast iron cook ware with salt, and only salt. I heat the pan slightly (so I can still handle it comfortably) and dump in enough coarse salt to cover the bottom. Then, using a couple of sheets of paper towel, I rub the salt over the cooking surfaces until the pan surfaces are smooth, the wipe the surface with cooking oil on a paper towel to finish the job. If I am fortunate to find a good quality cast iron pan at a yard sale etc. (not all cast iron cook ware is the same - some of it is pretty poor quality) and I find it hasn't been properly cared for I use coarse salt and an oscillating sander with a padded disk to shine it up before taking it back through the seasoning process.

            2 Replies
            1. re: todao

              You can also calls the Lodge customer service number and see if they have any suggestions for you. I assume your old skillet is a Lodge? They can probably still help if it's not.

              1. re: sandih

                A lot of the old ones made in the USA don't have a manufacturer's name. They were, at one time, a rather generic product.

                The question in this case is, what does 'pocked' mean? Cast iron is made with compressed sand molds. Some makers machine the inside surface, others leave it as is. Is that the case here, or is the 'pocking' a result of wear, rust, or a corrosive substance. The sand casting surface can be cleaned and reseasoned. The pits from other causes may be too deep.

                Another possibility is that the surface is burnt food, not the bare metal. That can be cleaned. I wonder if the OP has a friend who could tell the difference; maybe someone mechanically inclined.

            2. Cast iron is VERY restorable and very hard to hurt. I have pieces I scavanged from the dump when working in recycling one had actually been half buried in the dirt outdoors for quite awhile. VERY rusty. The other was a bit rusty..and just arrived in a truck full of garbage. One was an odd square skillet,the other an oval griddle. I used a wire brush on a power drill and sandpaper to get the worst rust + crud off. I boiled some water in each, rubbed good with the heavy duty blue scotchbrite, and Joy, rinsed, oiled with corn oil and heated a while. All fixed.

              ALL the advice here is good..and in 40 years with Iron..I've done each,but as a skillet ages,it builds up a "permanent" seasoning of sorts. Then you can do the salt + paper towel, or regular soap and hot water. If you wash off most of the residual oil,you dry by heating on the stove till dry,and then lightly oil. Not too much pampering.

              my griddle is for pancakes and such so generally the no soap method is good. I have a deep 9" I often use as a casserole and it gets scraped with a steel spat,soaked a bit, soap,scrub,etc,but dried hot + oiled.

              A pampered "fry only and salt rub" skillet can build up a nice natural "no stick" from bonded carbon and a film of oil molecules,but I still want skillets that I can do ANYTHING too and with....and I have that too.

              Cast Iron stuff from yard sales is better than new. Really. The "experianced" skillet gets cured/seasoned almost unavoidably by just being used. When about 10 years old is when they really hit their prime.

              1. There's a reason you often find cast iron in estate sales or at Goodwill....because it's durable and it is NOT as fussy as people like to portray it. It drives me crazy when people insist the only decent cast iron is the stuff made at the the turn of the century. Not true. The modern stuff is just as durable and just as un-fussy.

                Yes, the older cast iron came out of the factory smooth, but the so-called "pock-marks" or "craggy" surfaces on the modern cast iron disappears after use. The more you use it, the smoother it becomes.....I know because I use cast iron every single day. Right now my pans (after about three years) are as smooth as a baby's bottom. They are well-seasoned and as non-stick as can be.

                You CERTAINLY CAN boil water in cast iron. I do it frequently. You just can't leave cast iron to soak in water. Water will bring rust. I often de-glaze with water, but as soon as I am finished, I pour out the liquid and wipe the pan dry.

                My pans are quite well-seasoned now so I rarely have food residue, but if I do, I will either wipe it with a rag soaked in hot water or use a paste of salt and water and wipe clean.

                Oh, btw, once your pans are well-seasoned and non-stick, an occasional can of tomato sauce will do no harm. Just don't let it simmer for hours and wipe the pan dry immediately after cooking.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Ambimom

                  ". It drives me crazy when people insist the only decent cast iron is the stuff made at the the turn of the century. Not true. The modern stuff is just as durable and just as un-fussy."

                  Well, that's sort of a straw man because I don't see anyone saying it ISN'T "durable and unfussy." What most ARE saying is that the vintage stuff is smoother, more finely cast, and often much, much lighter.

                  1. re: Beckyleach

                    Beckyleach: "What most ARE saying is that the vintage stuff is smoother, more finely cast, and often much, much lighter."

                    Actually, it is not the age so much as the specific maker. Almost all new cast iron seen in North American kitchen stores these days is made by or for Lodge, and Lodge is in the "not polish" thicker profile casting camp.

                    But there remain some makers outside of North America which continue to make light(er) weight, more polished cast iron. Nambutetsu from the Morioka area of Japan; and cast iron cookware from Høyang-Polaris of Norway and from Hackman of Finland, the latter two both of the iittala group (division of Fiskars), are still finely crafted. (There were reports a year ago that Høyang-Polaris was ceasing production at one of its Norwegian factories, but the iittala group continues to list it as available.)

                    1. re: Politeness

                      That's interesting, and thanks for elucidating. I admit I was referring to only U.S. made cast iron, as I never see much of that high end imported around my neck of the woods. If it's imported around here, it's of the Paul Dean/ Made In China exploding variety. :-D

                    2. re: Beckyleach


                      I like to think today cast iron cookware are more manly. :) Heavy and unpolish, yet tough and unapologietic.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Well, with my arthritic wrists, I'm afraid it's TOO much man for me. <eg>