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Seasoning cast iron: supposed to make a home uninhabitable?

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I recently purchased some Lodge preseasoned cast iron and read some advice that suggested I re-season it myself. I coated it inside and out with some grapeseed oil (high heat point, per the recommendation) and stuck it upside down into my hot (500ish) oven for nearly an hour. By that time, my apartment had completely filled with fumes and the smell was horrible, so I decided to take it out. I can't tell whether I did something wrong -- is this supposed to happen?? I now have a very dark pan, though the black covering doesn't appear to be uniform.

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  1. I think that you did just right.
    I would not worry. Yeah, you put grease in a HOT oven, it is going to smoke. The important thing is that you did not and can not(very easily)hurt the iron. Wipe it off real good and fry some bacon slowly. Eat the bacon and do it again. The more it is used,the better it gets. Learning the proper heat for what you are cooking is the trickiest part of cast iron. We use gas for cooking, and have learned that after the pan is hot, it stays there. My experience is to cut the heat down just a bit after you put the food that you are cooking in the pan. The cool food lowers the pan to a proper cooking temperature.
    It takes some time, but cast iron is the best way to cook and reheat a lot of foods.

    1. It doesn't happen if you follow the manufactuer's directions. Here's the site:

      http://www.lodgemfg.com/use-care-seas...

      1. Lesson learned - I ALWAYS season my cast iron in my grill... outside. Next time (if there is a next time) I strongly suggest you do the same.

        4 Replies
        1. re: HaagenDazs

          wow, really good idea! Just wondering though, did it pretty much eat up your whole gas tank and how long did you leave it on the grill to season? thanks

          1. re: geminigirl

            Really high heat is not necessary -- I run the burners on high until I peg the thermometer on my grill, then dial it back to low and put the pan on (upside down so that oil doesn't pool and create a gummy mess). Set on low, my grill can run for a really long time, so the hour or so it is on isn't a big deal. Make sure you get some of the oil all over the piece, not just the cooking surfaces -- the seasoning will keep the pan from rusting.

            You say you just use charcoal. No problem -- a charcoal grill with a cover (Webber) will work just fine. Just don't use lighter fluid or your pan will taste like lighter fluid a very long time. Chimney starters are the ticket -- they get your coals ready quicker and no nasty petro distillate after-taste. Arranging the coals around the piece instead of directly under, and letting the coals burn down to white ash will keep the piece from sooting up. One batch of coals should do the trick.

            You could multi-task I suppose: get a nice rub on a pork butt, wrap it up in foil and cook indirect, while you season your pan on the other side.The pork is going to be on for hours, so maybe an opportunity to touch up some other pieces where the seasoning is a little threadbare.

            1. re: geminigirl

              I use charcoal, myself, and I've never purchased a bottle of lighter fluid in the past 10+ years (chimney starter). One way to season your pan is to cook with it on the grill. Say you're doing... whatever, steaks, chicken, you name it. If you've got enough room, just put that oiled-up cast iron on the grill grates next to where you're cooking to heat up. When the protein or whatever you're cooking is done, slide the cast iron over the high heat and let it get hot.. then how about some cast iron sauteed onions and peppers?! Fajita night is a very, very good night to try this on! When you're done, you can leave the pan in the grill to cool down with the rest of it.

              Point is, whether or not you even cook in the pan during that first seasoning episode, you don't have to heat up your whole grill just to season your cast iron. While you've got the grill hot, why not actually cook on it too?

              1. re: HaagenDazs

                Great idea - i'm having another "duh" moment...I guess cause I never grew up with cast iron and this is a very new experience for me. I'm going to start asking around to see who uses cast iron and get myself invited over for dinner:)

          2. ""...and stuck it upside down into my hot (500ish) oven for nearly an hour.""

            IMHO, right side up with some/slight excess inside.

            Q: Why?
            A: Gravity!

            You do want to season the most important surface, of which is the inside. (Gravity- is your friend)

            Upside down can actually "strip the seasoning" off the pan. (Gravity- not your friend)

            My procedures- (+) partial to yours... Swirl for the first time at 15 minutes/second 15 paper towel wipe any excess, then to finish seasoning for 45 minutes. Total 1:15)

            15 Replies
            1. re: RShea78

              I agree with mpalmer, I use crisco to season cast iron, turn it upside down and put a cookie sheet underneath to catch whatever might drip. Never had a problem with smoke or smells

              1. re: RShea78

                Actually, there is good reason for turning your cast iron upside down like Lodge Cast Iron Manufacturers suggest (and instruct you to do) in their seasoning instructions. By turning your pan right side up, you can very easily get some pooling of the oil on the cooking surface. When the oil pools on the surface and you attempt to season, you don't get the desired "carbonization" of the oil onto the cooking surface - you get a tar-like, gummy, blister-like area that fairly easily wipes off when you clean the pan or cook with it. In turn, you end up with an unseasoned area that is more prone to rust. If you ever see a small circular or oval shape on your cast iron cooking surface that is lighter that the rest of the pan, then this is likely what has happened.

                It's not the end of the world, but I don't think you should instruct people to dump excess oil in their pans. Obviously you are wiping out the excess oil with paper towels after about 15 minutes but you can avoid that step by simply making sure all surfaces are well coated and then turning the pan over when placing it in the hot oven or grill.

                1. re: HaagenDazs

                  """carbonization"""

                  That is definitely an unwanted characteristic for seasoning cast iron. That would definitely have to be stripped off and reseasoned, as the process went way to far, causing a release of the fats/oils within the pores. That will result in what you- RE::: ""you ever see a small circular or oval shape on your cast iron"". Fats/oils have been released causing naked cast iron <blush>

                  "Deep Pore Polymerization" is what you really want, and that is what my process does. It is a family process going back at least 150 years. (except for the paper towel thing)

                  1. re: RShea78

                    Deep Pore Polymerization? So by seasoning you're creating longer chains of molecules? What is this specific method? Have you done Mass Spec. to determine you have, in fact, polymerized the carbon chains you've put into your skillet? I'm rather curious about this.

                    1. re: mateo21

                      Cute- Really Cute!

                      1. re: RShea78

                        I was being serious. Do you know that this is the process that is happening? Because that would be neat if you did. Alternatively, if you don't know what's going on, why reference polymerization, a specifc chemical process?

                        1. re: mateo21

                          I now have discovered my Uncle's terminology was flawed in his explanation the family's seasoning process. However, the black carbon soot layer is definitely one to avoid, and the pan must be upright. He even has granny mad this close to Christmas, since she dumped a fortune for him to get his Doctorate, and he cannot find the right term to use.

                          1. re: RShea78

                            If you're using a soft fat like lard, and too much of it pooling in the bottom, that's why (one) gets a soft soot layer. If you build up seasoning by smoking off THIN LAYERS of fat (and I prefer oil), using (oven or cooktop or rgrill) then you do want black carbon. Because when you actually USE the pan to grill something, anything that you haven't fully carbonized is just going to smoke and burn off anyways.

                            Sometimes it seems, Granny may not know best.

                            1. re: mlgb

                              ""Sometimes it seems, Granny may not know best.""

                              Don't let granny hear that! She is liable to pull your ear off! <jokingly>

                              Actually the instructions came from her Dad, my G-Grandfather. He was a blacksmith/cast iron fabricator by trade and did his own casting of cast iron. In his original home he made his own cast iron- stoves, sinks, bathtubs, steam radiators, butchering kettles, and many more items. His most scary item was a cast iron toilet. The side view resembled some prehistoric dinosaur head ready to eat you.

                              Unfortunately, he passed away when I was around 12, so I didn't get to fully understand him to appreciate his brilliance.

                              1. re: RShea78

                                Very cool! I hope the home is still standing.
                                My most useful (and ignored) Granny's advice:
                                "You can't cook from the living room".

                2. re: RShea78

                  Lodge, at least, *does* say to turn the pans upside down. News to me; I never do it, and I probably still won't, being of the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" school, and so far, right side up has worked for me.

                  But...when you stop to think about it, R, maybe it makes sense in one way: In most ovens, at least, the baking element is on the bottom of the oven. So in that case, you would be directing the heat to the cooking surface of the pan, which as you point out, is the main objective.

                  Re the temp discussion on the thread, Lodge also recommends 350-400 F. I don't go higher than 350, personally. Any fat or oil you introduce to the pan is going to have some moisture. General use instructions for CI tell us not to introduce it suddenly to high heat. I think the concerns about that would be increased with the moisture in the fat.

                  I dunno. To me, seasoning the pans is one of the least complicated and least confounding and mysterious tasks I do in my kitchen. Rub the oil in, rub it off, stick the pan in the oven, turn the oven on, set the timer so I don't even have to turn the oven off when it's done, and go away and talk to you guys on chowhound. ;-D

                  1. re: Steady Habits

                    ""Lodge, at least, *does* say to turn the pans upside down. News to me; I never do it, and I probably still won't, being of the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" school, and so far, right side up has worked for me.""

                    Manufacturers seldom go into details into the "whys and why not(s)" of procedures. For years metals or aluminum was a no-no in the microwave, for example. They would have to write a 500 page book to cover what is acceptable and what isn't.

                    1. re: RShea78

                      Very true, R. These days..I find they even forget to include in manuals and instructions some of the critical steps in a process...never mind the details.

                      But...if it's something important in the kitchen or re cooking, I usually can find some illumination on the matter in one of my more comprehensive cookbooks.

                      1. re: Steady Habits

                        I'd be willing to bet that if you ask around at the Lodge logistics labs ;-) they would tell you it's so the oil doesn't pool on any cooking surfaces and nothing more. That's why they tell you to place a baking sheet under the pan to catch any dripping oil/fat which would also negate any direct heat from the elements underneath.

                        1. re: HaagenDazs

                          ""That's why they tell you to place a baking sheet under the pan to catch any dripping oil/fat which would also negate any direct heat from the elements underneath.""

                          Fine if the baking sheets are the disposable type, otherwise there should be some law against baking sheet abuse. ;-)

                3. I do mine the same way you did, except I use lard instead of oil. Yes, at 500 degrees it will smoke like hell. I just turn on the exhaust fan and put up with it. This method produces the best result, from my experience.

                  Jim

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Jim Washburn

                    LIGHTLY coat your piece with oil or shortening

                    and

                    USE...YOUR...GRILLL...OUTSIDE (charcoal or gas, hardly makes a difference)

                  2. Sounds to me like what you did was just fine if you got smoke. Except that you didn't turn the exhaust on and open the (kitchen) door.

                    http://www.melindalee.com/Cast-Iron.html

                    1. Thanks for the information and advice! Sounds like this is relatively common. I definitely had to open all doors for hours to get the fumes out, though -- since I don't own a grill, I hope I won't have to go through this process very often!

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: Polina809

                        If it makes you feel better, I've had a preseasoned Lodge Skillet for about a year now and have only felt the need to season it myself twice, and those two times were right in the beginning - maybe the first two months. I think the key is to choose your foods wisely in the beginning to build up the non-stick qualities. I've found that cooking a half package of bacon does a lot more good for my skillet than oven-seasoning it. I suppose it also stinks up your apartment, but it least it smells like bacon and not smoking grease.

                        1. re: paraque

                          I am so glad that the 15 or so cast iron pots and pans (all sizes and shapes) in my kitchen were seasoned many years ago by my grandmother and her mother before. Some of these pans are a shiny black mirror like finish that nothing sticks to...

                          G.

                          1. re: legourmettv

                            Cast iron pans are truly amazing when they've been around for a few decades and seasoned well, aren't they, legourmet? I have two that have reached the stage you're describing. Super Glue wouldn't stick to them. My other CI pan is still in its adolescent stages, but I'm working on it. :-)

                        2. re: Polina809

                          I've had a lot of luck building up a finish on the cooktop.. I wipe a bit of the selected oil on the inside then toast some bread in the pan. The pan will smoke up and the bread will absorb any excess oil. Many (most) ovens vent into the kitchen, but especially if you have a gas cooktop it's likely to exhaust to the outside.

                          1. re: mlgb

                            Yes, I've heard of that, too, mlgb (except the bread is a new tip). I should try it because I'm betting it costs less to run one of my natural gas burners for an hour than it does that big old electricity hog oven.

                            1. re: Steady Habits

                              Using the cooktop takes minutes, not an hour. The cooktops get much hotter much faster than the ovens. Depending on what oil you use, you will turn the heat up enough to start the fat smoking, and when it stops (ie the carbonization is finished), you're done. I think the only reason to use the oven is when you're doing all sides of the pan, top-bottom-handle etc. You really don't need a good layer except on the cooking surface. The rest just needs enough to keep the rust out, and the factory-baked finish is okay for that.

                              1. re: mlgb

                                That's it? That's all you need to do, get it smoking? That's appealing.

                                Well...here's my question. Two of my pans are not preseasoned, they're from the pre-pre-seasoned era. So I wanted all surfaces seasoned. It seems to me, though, that if your process works on the inside, it would definitely work on the bottom and sides, wouldn't it? What about the handle?

                                I use olive oil. I've read that other oils are preferred, but it's what I have on hand besides Chili, sesame and walnut oil, and I'm not using those.

                                1. re: Steady Habits

                                  The inside sides get seasoned just fine using my method, the excess oil runs down to the (inside) bottom and then sopped up with the toast, which gets eaten. I don't see why the undersides couldn't be seasoned the same way, but I would use a light coating of oil. The worst that would happen is that you'd get some mess on the cooktop or it doesn't season evenly, but I wouldn't worry about it too much. You can always put it in the oven again.

                                  Actually I like a low-smoke point oil such as the unrefined peanut oil that I take off from my peanut butter. It's faster.

                          2. re: Polina809

                            I hope that now that your pan is seasoned, you are on to the next equally (more?) important point, which is not to use any soap when you clean it! Scrub out the ends of your food with a scrubby thing, but no soap! and then put the pan on the heat (right side up ) to dry out the bit of water that's left in the bottom. That's all there is! If you have kids, instruct them to not use soap. Otherwise you'll have to reseason, and we'll all have to go through this again.

                          3. I never use temps that high to season my pans. (Not saying that you did anything wrong, Polina; it's just not what I learned to do.) I spread a thin layer of oil over them, then wipe off the excess with a cheap white paper towel. I say "cheap" because I find the more premium paper towels tend to shed fibers a lot. Then I place them in the oven at between 300-350 F. I find it's ideal for me to leave them in for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. (However long it takes to completely bake the oil so there's no sticky residue.)

                            The only thing I notice at those temps is a slight odor at the beginning of the process but it goes away mid-cooking (uh, mid-seasoning).

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Steady Habits

                              Yep, I go the low temp, long time method, too. Gorgeous, shiny black.

                            2. so another question if I can piggy back here. is it necessary for me to season the outside and handle as well as the inside? and if yes, can I just shmear with the same stuff (crisco / lard) ? thanks

                              10 Replies
                              1. re: geminigirl

                                no, you only need to season the cooking surface. you can rub some on the inside walls of the pan, but I don't think it's really necessary. What you're trying to do is build up a smooth surface on the inside bottom of the pan where sticking is likely to occur

                                1. re: chuckl

                                  I'm afraid that's entirely incorrect. To properly season cast iron, you HAVE to season the entire pan, inside and out. The reason is quite simple: unseasoned cast iron rusts, and it does so with lightning speed, and food cooked in cast iron with even a speck of rust on it tastes awful.

                                  1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                    I completely agree - oil up the whole thing... Every possible nook and cranny. You do not want any exposed raw cast iron.

                                    1. re: HaagenDazs

                                      ok thanks, and any advantage to crisco vs lard vs xyz or is is pretty much personal preference? thansk

                                      1. re: geminigirl

                                        I've used both Crisco and peanut oil to good effect.

                                        1. re: geminigirl

                                          Yeah - there's no real difference. There are some people who say one type of oil/fat gets sticky when it comes out of the oven/grill, but I don't really find any advantage over one type or another. The only suggestion I can give is don't use something expensive.

                                          Seasoning is a long process and doesn't happen in just one afternoon. Some people THINK they can do it in one afternoon but it is entirely impossible. Don't try it. Your pan will not be 100% dark black after the initial seasoning. The first event provides a nice protective backdrop on which you can build upon through regular cooking.

                                          In other words, season it once in the grill or oven and then just start cooking with it and that will build up a seasoning naturally. Cook bacon, saute onions/vegetables, brown ground hamburger or sausage (but don't put any tomato sauce in it right away) and you will slowly built up a bullet proof seasoning. Stay away from things like eggs or really delicate fish until you get a nice black patina which usually indicates it has built up a nice non-stick finish.

                                          1. re: HaagenDazs

                                            thanks for the great tips, which of course brings up yet another question...I know for bacon . hamburger etc...I don't need to add oil before cooking, but how about theonions/veggies, etc...do they need any oil or this early in the process is my pan okay without it? thanks again, basically I need to just leave it on the stove as a reminder to myself to use it more often...

                                            1. re: geminigirl

                                              Anything without natural fat (onions, veg, etc.), you want to add a little something, yeah.

                                              1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                Correct. Even with hamburger and in some instances sausage, (depending on fat content) I would suggest adding a little oil just to get things going a little faster. Oil not only adds flavor (in some instances) but also accelerates the heat transfer between the pan and the food. Otherwise just treat the cast iron like a regular pan. It's not a self-sustaining, oil rich environment, you'll have to add the oil yourself as you cook - it won't come bubbling up out of the pan ;-).

                                                By the way, are you OK with the cleaning instructions? I suggest a rinse under HOT water and a simultaneous stiff plastic scrub brush. After you've scrubbed off all the food bits, wipe the pan off with a paper towel and then set the cast iron over medium heat for a couple minutes to make sure you've evaporated all the remaining water in/on the pan. This will go a long way to preventing rust and will strengthen the seasoning in the process. A smooth wipe of oil will prepare the pan for the next culinary adventure.

                                                1. re: HaagenDazs

                                                  Thanks so much for all the tips! and the cleaning instructions are a bonus, you probably figured i'd ask that one sooner or later:) I am putting all these tips / instructions into a word doc so I can print it out and put it in the kitchen! thanks again!

                                2. After much experimentation I've found that coating the entire pan inside and out lightly with Crisco, turning it upside down in a 500 degree oven for an hour is the ideal seasoning method. After an hour turn the oven off and let the pan sit in there until completely cool. Lodge may give lower temp recommendations specifically because this method has its drawbacks: 1) if your oven is not perfectly clean it will create smoke and strong odors and even if it is clean, it may do so. 2) depending on your oven, the outside of the oven gets very hot. However, this is a great seasoning method. Put a sheet of aluminum foil under the oven rack to catch any drippings.. Also, it helps to turn on a fan and open windows.

                                  1. Just one other thought about seasoning. Most of my experience comes from working with camp ovens. In the camp oven world, a lot of the more serious folks swear by Camp Chef Cast Iron Conditioner (I personally have not used.). You should be able to find it at an outdoor supply place like Cabelas or Gander Mountain. The oil they use resists becoming rancid, a big deal on pieces that you aren't using every day.

                                    1. 1st time i seasoned my pan i got some smoke in the kitchen. but with proper use i got it to become non-stick. bacon and pork back fat works well to seasoning it on the cooktop. here a picture of what my lodge looks like after 1 year of use.

                                       
                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: zathan

                                        I have actually pulled ruined (with thick coating of rust) pans out of the trash and rehabilitated them.

                                        1. re: rememberme

                                          ya just sand off the rust with sandpaper or steel wool and reseason!

                                      2. Just cook bacon in it . It'll get better as you use it.