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How do you get a nice black patina on a cast iron skillet by seasoning?

I bought a 10 inch Lodge cast iron skillet the other day and I've been trying to season it, but I can't really get a nice black patina. Based on some previous postings on chowhound, I first washed the inside with some soap and scrubbed a bit. I could tell that some of the preseasoning was being washed off and the iron was being exposed. I then started scouring the inside with 100 grit sandpaper. More iron was being exposed, but it wasn't completely bare. I washed the skillet again and heated it on the stovetop to dry. I then added a light layer of extra virgin olive oil and baked it upside down in a 550F oven for several hours. I've been adding new layers of oil and baking for a few hours for the last 2 days. I've probably add about 8 layers. It's still going.

I checked this morning and the surface is shiny and not sticky, but it's still kind of brown. Through the surface, I can still see the iron that I had previously exposed by scouring.

Anybody have any suggestions?

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  1. It's going to take some time to build up the seasoning. Try cooking on it & forgetting about the soap and water! If it needs to be "cleaned" just use salt and oil in a warm pan - rub it around with a paper towel or cloth.

    1. Suggestions for what? What are you trying to achieve by not following the manufacturer's directions?

      1. For new cast iron I scrub off the pre-seasoning as good as I can
        The pour in 1/8 inch cooking oil of any kind
        Heat on low low flame for an hour or two
        Every ten minutes swab some of that oil onto the sides for seasoning
        Use a balled up newspaper for that
        Let sit overnight for more oil penetration
        Next day dump remaining oil and wipe clean with newspaper

        Unfortunately deeper seasoning only takes place by cooking with it now
        So use it
        Do not clean with water
        Keep it away from water!!!
        Wipe clean with balled up newspaper
        Sorry but newspaper is what you have to use until seasoning builds up
        Brown paper shopping bags and clean rags can also be used. Old towel is very good

        1. Also.....
          Animal fats will season cast iron quicker than sautéing vegetables
          Thus, cooking hamburgers, bacon, chicken is helpful

          Bacon grease is excellent
          Cook just bacon in it and let the grease sit overnight
          Next day heat up the cast iron and let grease cook in even more --say 30 minutes
          Drain out all the hot grease and wipe clean with balled up newspapers

          Sorry but no soap and water until seasoning gets set in
          Even then never ever scrub clean with a metal pad under soap and water and dry it off immediately. Use plastic scubbing pad

          Drying it off--- I would use an old towel dedicated for this purpose and don't use it on any other cooking pot

          3 Replies
          1. re: gafferx

            It's listed out on the Lodge website.

              1. re: gafferx

                With the arrival of some brand new cast-iron in the place I cooked while in university, we went the bacon route. Cooked up a lot of bacon, served some, froze the rest. Used the rendered fat the next day to fry chicken. And that was that, those pans were all set. Pretty far from my normal fare, though.

                Incidentally, we got the new cast iron because someone spent hours scrubbing all the old seasoning off the old ones. Then left them to dry with water in them. It still boggles the mind.

              2. I'm shocked by some of this! I can't imagine why you would want to take the pre-seasoning off or why you would use sandpaper on a new cast iron pan; I don't think either of these actions is ever justified. In my experience olive oil becomes sticky; peanut or safflower oil is what I use. Don't use soap, but please do use water: it's impossible to get off stuck-on food otherwise. After every use, I boil water in the pan, let it cool slightly, rinse it off under the sink, scrub it with a stiff brush, dry it with a towel, and lightly oil it with peanut oil. This maintains a nice non-stick surface, and with use, over time it will become black.

                6 Replies
                1. re: dtbarber

                  I wonder if you followed the directions that acmorris suggested in another thread. Here's the thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/433869
                  She/he seemed to have a very logical and scientific understanding as to what happens in the seasoning process, and talked about using olive oil at a high temp to season. I tried his/her suggestions with olive oil, and my seasoning began to flake off. I read that a couple others had the same problem. It's funny that acmorris doesn't post much, anymore, isn't it?

                  Anyway, I scrubbed that flaky seasoning off, and started over again. I used lard, and I baked it at 400 degrees, for an hour to hour and a half, and then let it cool. It was still brown, and I didn't know that it was okay, so I kept putting more layers on it. I now know that it's alright for the pan to be brown, at first. The more you use it, the better you patina will get. It will gradually get darker the more you use it.

                  I think that b/c I put too many layers on it, that it's beginning to flake off again, but only in the areas where there was excess oil while seasoning, so it's not too bad. I'm continuing to use it, and I think it'll get better. When I used the olive oil/high temp method the seasoning began to flake all over, and it was just not doable. It was as if the seasoning had become ash.

                  If you have to do it again, only put one layers of seasoning on. It won't be very nonstick at first, so you'll want to cook fattier foods on it, or foods that fry in alot of oil. Each time you use it, it will be reseasoning itself, and the seasoning will get better. Eventually, you'll have a nice patina, and the skillet will be pretty nonstick. After you achieve the nice patina, you can cook almost anything in it.

                  1. re: dtbarber


                    People take the pre-seasoning off by hook or by crook because it is petroleum based oil. Seen as not being healthy. So the idea is get rid of all that and get animal and plant based fats into the iron to season

                    1. re: gafferx

                      But this isn't true of Lodge pans, is it? They claim their pre-seasoning is soy based:

                      I assumed we were talking about these pans because they're the only ones I've ever bought new! Lodge only sells pre-seasoned cast iron these days, and I've never done more to a new pan than wash it with soap and water (the only time I use soap).

                      Most seasoning will start to flake when the pan is heated dry to a high enough heat, in which case you definitely need to scrub the pan well and re-season; so I feel your pain, amselby81. All I can say to acmorris is that olive oil has left my pans sticky, but peanut oil has never failed me. Lard and bacon grease are also excellent options, as you observe.

                      1. re: dtbarber

                        But this isn't true of Lodge pans, is it? They claim their pre-seasoning is soy based:

                        This was unheard of years ago. The seasoning was petroleum based and that was that

                    2. re: dtbarber

                      I sand new pans. It gives a better finish. I don't set about taking off the pre-seasoning but much comes off.

                      I then wipe the pan down with oil (olive or similar... I don't have a wide variety of oils on hand) and heat. I keep it wiped down and heated for a while and then use. I do that in the oven if I can but stove top is fine too.

                      The last pan I bought was a smallish lodge a few weeks ago. After sanding and stove-top seasoning it now has a grayish brown patina... no bright metal showing but the seasoning is pretty thin in places.

                      How does it work? Well, a few days ago I went to fry an egg and forgot to oil the pan. Realized my mistake just as I dumped the egg from its shell... but it fried just fine. No sticking, no mess, it cooked perfectly, flipped perfectly, and came out of the pan perfectly.

                      I normally add a bit of cooking spray if I'm cooking lean foods. After a while the patina builds up but the pan does NOT need to be black to work properly.

                      1. re: dtbarber

                        I'm amazed, too. With a new Lodge all you need to do is wash it out with hot water only and then start cooking. All there is to it. It gradually darkens with use.

                        1. re: mlgb

                          Maybe if you go to an Army-Navy store that sells Lodge pans, they might still have some of the unseasoned ones so you don't have to scrape off the other non-stick finish.

                          1. re: sandih

                            I know this is a "Lazarus Thread" - but anyone unhappy with Lodge pre-seasoning can start fresh by simply running the pan through an oven's self-cleaning cycle. The pans will emerge dull gray ready for seasoning. I've done this with 25-30 pans - Wagner, Griswold, Lodge, Birmingham S&R, and no-names. Have never once had a single problem.

                        2. I have an annoying problem with my cast iron that nobody else reports. I use a Lodge 12" skillet and have a smooth top electric range; the "large" heating elements on my range are approximately 9" across. This obviously makes a very large hot spot in my skillet - in fact the hot spot isn't the problem, because the middle gets to the temperature that I want. The problem is the cold spots around the edge. I really have what ammounts to a flattened wok with predictable temperature gradients.

                          Anyways, why is this a problem? Because I have a big beautiful cast iron pan that is jet black, mirror polished, non-stick in the middle, surrounded by a ring of dull, grey, sticky bare iron. The edges simply don't get up to temperature well enough to season properly. It is seasoned "enough" that the metal is protected and I don't have to worry about rust, but it just looks sad.

                          I can't change the range because it's in a rented house. I'm moving in December and my new condo will have a gas range, so I'm hoping that my Lodge will even itself out.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Zedeff

                            Have you tried seasoning it in the oven?

                            1. re: jlbwendt

                              Yep. The whole skillet is seasoned "enough" so that it's protected. But seasoning is kind of like painting in layers, right? Even if I put it in the oven now, the middle of the skillet will always have more layers due to stove-top work. It doesn't bother me, it just looks funny.

                              1. re: Zedeff

                                It sounds to me like your pan isn't getting evenly preheated. I'd try a couple of things to solve it. First, I'd preheat it slowly on the stovetop at a lower temperature. This should allow the pan to preheat evenly, then when you're ready to cook, turn the heat up to your cooking temperature. Or, preheat the pan in the oven and then take it out and use it on the stovetop.

                                I always preheat my griddle in the oven and then transfer it to the stovetop. That way I don't get hot spots over the burners. I can also use a lower temperature on the stovetop because I'm not trying to use the burners to heat the pan or griddle up.

                            2. re: Zedeff

                              When using my 12 inch Lodge, I will cook with the skillet lopsided on the burner and then on my next cook, I'll use the opposite side. This seems to even out the black patina buildup you desire.

                            3. Honestly I didn't develop a reliable patina for years. I mean a patina that never goes away, and show dry spots. In the past I made southern fried chicken often and left the pan in an my cold oven to cool off, and cleaned it with dry paper towels until amost clean and then a damp cloth till all clean. I have a 25 year old pan that looks like black marble. Its my favorite for pancakes.

                              1. Try heating it up over your cooktop until it stops smoking. It sounds to me like you're not getting high enough heat for long enough to fully carbonize the oil that you're using.

                                It isn't necessary to use evoo, it's just going to turn to carbon anyways.

                                1. I've not read down through all of the posts, but I'll share what I do and I do get a beautiful black durable surface every time. And they'll look like you've used them for decades.

                                  First, I only use Crisco to season, not oil. Turn the oven on to 500 degrees. Take your skillet or whatever piece you are seasoning and put it on a warm stove eye just enough to warm it a bit. Then using an old pastry brush, brush on some Crisco onto the warmed iron. Use the barest amount you can put on (almost using a dry brush method) and still get some coverage. Due to the warmed iron, it should melt right away. Do all surfaces of the iron that way and then put into the warming oven, upside down, on the oven rack. Leave it for two hours at 500 degrees. There will be some smoke at first but nothing too terrible. After two hours, turn the oven off and let the iron cool down as the oven cools. I actually do this two or three times in succession taking the iron out of the oven when it's still a bit warm to start the process all over again.

                                  If you do this, you'll have a beautiful black surface that you'll never have to baby or worry about. It will be completely non-stick from day one, too. And if you've cooked something that you need to use a bit of soap to clean out, it won't harm the surface. Just rinse it well, dry, and warm it on the stovetop a bit to make sure all the surface moisture is gone before putting it away.

                                  They should look like these in my photo.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Leepa

                                    zedeff, I honestly don't know about your skillet. It would seem that you should have, at least, the initial seasoning around the edges. It shouldn't be bare looking, unless you washed the initial seasoning away. Or did the seasoning flake off around the edges? I've had that happen, but I found out that it was because the initial seasoning wasn't complete, and so it just came off. But if your initial seasoning was a good one, then it should still be there if you haven't washed it, meaning that it wouldn't be as dark as the center, but not bare.