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Help, please

Last night, I prepared salmon in my Lodge (pre-seasoned) cast iron skillet. I browned it on the stove, and then finished it off in the oven.
Now, the skillet smells of fish. I washed it out last night (without soap) and dried it in the oven.
Any thoughts on how to get the fish smell out of the skillet?
Thanks so much.

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  1. The salmon oil has "seasoned" into the iron. I would now use this pan exclusively for seafood. One option maybe to use a wire brush and wear down the inside of the pan thereby "removing" the seasoning.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Lenox637

      This is going way overboard Lenox. A cast iron pan used exclusively for fish? No way. Use a wire brush and rip off the seasoning? Settle down...

      bxgirl, just cook something in the pan that has strong flavors and can help mask the potential fishy flavor that MIGHT carry over into your next dish. My guess from experience is that it won't. Try cooking some ground beef for tacos or even searing a steak. If your finished dish ends up tasting like fish, I'll be absolutely and completely surprised.

      1. re: HaagenDazs

        What about cooking some onions in it?

        And, btw, would sprinkling some baking soda (without water for obvious reasons) and leaving it there for a little while do anything good re the odors or bad to the CI?

    2. Try putting a little oil in the pan heating and then adding salt and then scour.

      1. What I'd do is leave it for the moment. Then, before you use it next time, wash well with soap and then cook as normal. Preferably something like a steak or chops that require high heat. I bet that would get rid of any remaining fish smell.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Kagey

          NEVER use soap on your cast iron and don't wire brush it. If you think the fish odor is bad, wait until you get the soap flavors in your food. You might try wiping it out with straight lemon juice. If that doesn't do the job well enough, try heating it, adding a bit of oil and with the oil very warm (but not hot enough to burn your fingers) dump in enough coarse salt to cover the bottom with a thick layer and use a paper towel or rag to scrub it with the salt, then discard the salt. (See mongaine's comment)
          If, for some reason, you find you still have an unpleasant odor, try frying some potatoes in the pan. Last resort, strip it in the proper manner using Byron's method (http://papadutch.home.comcast.net/~pa...) and re-season.

          1. re: todao

            I sometimes (not always) use a bit of soap. My pan is very well seasoned and it's no catastrophe. Never had a problem with soap taste in my food because I actually rinse the pan!

            1. re: Kagey

              I always use soap to clean my cast iron. It gets all the food aromas out and it doesn't affect the seasoning one iota. I've been doing it forever. I find that there is almost a fetishism about cast iron seasoning. It's not a holy object; it's a pan you use to cook. Wash it and get on with it!

              1. re: roxlet

                Another with the soap, my pan works just fine and it doesn't affect the seasoning.

        2. Scour with salt and fresh lemon juice (I know, lemon is an acid and will remove some of the seasoning, but it also removes strong smells).

          Rinse, heat on stove until dry, brush on oil.

          Our 4 pans are ancient and have been used on and in and for everything, and don't impart smells or unwanted flavours.

          Good luck!

          1. I woul;d totally use soap on it, just don't use "flavored" soap. Use something plain, scrub it with lots and lots of hot water, and then heat more clean water in the pan on the stove, so the rest of the oils rise out into the water.
            Then re-season the pan.
            By the way, I have three cast iron pans, two of which I rescued from someone's trash because they were encased in rust. I revived them by cleaning off rust, rubbing them with vegetable oil, and heating them (right side up) in a low oven so the oil was absorbed into the bottom of the pan. I never have problems with them.

            I also have a giant enameled cast iron pan my mother bought for me somewhere, which is great too!

            8 Replies
            1. re: somervilleoldtimer

              I agree - soap is completely fine. There are some who freak out when they hear the words cast iron used next to soap and their hair starts falling out and they start crying, etc... it's sad ;-) but in reality a little soap on your cast iron won't hurt a thing. It helps get rid of things like fishy smells and overly greasy messes. Just don't let the pan soak in the soapy water.

              For those that have never used soap on your pan, good for you. But in the event you ever get a drop into "The Precious" it will be ok, I promise.

              1. re: HaagenDazs

                wow this is a lot of conflicting info. I just got my cast iron skillet for xmas (sounds like it was a popular gift this year).

                BXgirl: please let me know what you do (that works) as I am sure I will encounter the same issue at some point.

                If it was me, I would try cooking something else first....my thought was Bacon, if it is inedible who cares. surely if anything can de-stink it, this would.

                perhaps it will smell but maybe it won't transfer to the food? and if this method does not work, you can move onto more extreme solutions.

                just throwing this out there...what about vinegar? will that stay around too?

                1. re: cleopatra999

                  Do not use vinegar in a new cast iron pan. There's lots of good info out there, but be aware of how you need to treat your pan.

                2. re: HaagenDazs

                  does washing w/soap and water keep cast iron pieces from looking/feeling "gunky"? i threw away a couple of pans/pots that my husband had when we moved in together b/c they felt so dirty. i just didn't want to cook w/them. i'm thinking of getting a small dutch oven to make no-knead bread. but i'm hesitant to get another pan that has to be seasoned and maintained like this.

                  1. re: clsm

                    Sure - I'm not exactly sure what you're getting at, but a wash with soap will certainly cut the grease. It's not something you want to do every day, but soap and water will not hurt cast iron as long as it is rinsed and dried appropriately.

                    If you're referring to the fact that some cast iron can truly get lots and lots of build-up, well then a little soap will not magically remove that. It can help prevent it over time maybe, but I can't imagine throwing out these pans for any reason.

                    Literally, unless they are flattened by a truck wheel or something else that renders the pan completely unusable, cast iron is always salvageable. I can only hope that your husband's pans were not handed down from his grandparents for instance! It would be a shame to throw away family heirlooms like that.

                    You don't need to get a cast iron pot to make no-knead bread. If you have oven safe stainless steel pots, that will work just fine. In any situation you can get an enameled cast iron pot like a Staub.


                    1. re: HaagenDazs

                      There only two times that I have ever given up on old cast iron.

                      One is crappy cast iron. Some of the cheap stuff, made from poor quality pig iron (just an metal-casting expression that has nothing to do with oinkers,) have a rough surface to begin with. From the original casting process. They're also likely to have cast-in hot spots where the iron wasn't poured evenly. They never seem to get an even seasoned surface. Ever. We bought some of these at auction and ended up pitching them after about two years of frustration.

                      The other is cast iron that has rusted out. My brother bought an old warehouse and we found tons (literally) of very old cast iron which we thought was a real treasure trove. Problem was that the rust had pitted most of it and the pitting was too deep to even sand-blast out.
                      Scrap metal.
                      Light rust can be dealt with but sometimes it's too far gone.

                      1. re: HaagenDazs

                        Cast iron can get gunky during the seasoning process if oil is too thick or pan doesn't get hot enough long enough. It also happens during use, especially in the corners and sides which don't get as hot as the bottom. I think it happens to some degree to most folks -- eventually you bite the bullet, strip the pan and reseason.

                        Gunky pans not only are gross to work with, but they attract dust and dirt like a magnet. More seriously, the gunk can get rancid, which will give your pan and anything you cook in it, a very funky and unpleasant aroma and flavor.

                        I have not had a real gunk problem with my fry pan, waffle irons, or stove top Dutch oven -- they get used too often. On the other hand, my camp ovens are used less frequently, so this can be a struggle with those pieces.

                        Minor gunk shouldn't require full-blown reseasoning. Start with hot soap and water, and a plastic scrubby. Rinse well then get the pan nice and hot all over -- use a 300-350F oven or covered gas grill set on medium. This will liquify most of the gunk which you can wipe out with a paper towel. Apply a very light coat of oil all over and pop back in the oven for an hour.

                        I love my five-quart Lodge for no-knead bread, but I have gotten great results with a covered Corningware casserole dish, camp ovens (outside with charcoal briquettes for fuel) and a pair of stoneware loaf pans (one was turned over on top to make a sort of cloche). The keys are the cover to keep the moisture in and the thermal mass of the cast iron or ceramic.

                        1. re: MikeB3542

                          Thanks for the helpful replies.
                          No, the cast iron pieces were not family heirloom pieces. But I do wish I had known how to clean and re-season them. Now I know better!

                          Mike - when you say "apply a very light coat ... all over" - do you mean the outside as well? This was my problem with the old pans I tossed - they were gunky on the outside. Your description of the problems I had was accurate!

                          I've tried making the no-knead bread in my Le Creuset 5.5 qt dutch oven and in my All-Clad stainless steel 4 qt. I much preferred the crackly crust on the LC version. I'd like to get a small cast iron dutch oven (that won't break the bank - so Lodge is a good idea) for baking bread. I like the shape of the bread in a smaller vessel. Lodge's 5 quart is a little wider than desired, and the 3 qt enameled is too short.

                3. Thank you all for the great suggestions.
                  I did heat oil in it, and then scrubbed with coarse salt, and I think it is much better. I also like the suggestion of heating onions in it, as I love love the smell of caramelized onions, and the taste. That will be the next thing I do in the skillet, and hopefully that yummy onion-smell will replace the faint, fishy smell.
                  I did learn a very good lesson, though, and that is not to use the cast iiron for fish!!!
                  Thanks, again.

                  1. Scrubbing with baking soda should take the odor right out. I cooked crab in a huge aluminum stock pot about a week ago, pulled out the pot to use again and gagged at the crab smell. The pot had been cleaned, but the soap used obviously didn't touch the odor. I tried soap and water again, to no avail, and finally made a paste of baking soda and water and scrubbed it furiously. Worked like a charm.

                    1. Yes. Use soap. This is the perfect example of why I will never be a convert to the the "no soap on cast iron" religion. A little soap and water will fix it, and the seasoning shouldn't disappear unless you take a Brillo pad to it. Just wipe with a sponge and rinse thoroughly. At the worst case, the next time you fry something, the seasoning should be restored. I use soap on my Lodge ALL THE TIME and the seasoning is great. It just takes a little more time to get established. It is not a big deal to re-season the pan if that it what it requires, and hell would have to freeze over before I would dedicate this pan to seafood exclusively. Maybe the problem with the anti-soap crowd has to do with not rinsing properly, who knows. I have heard it for years, know and love people who really believe this, but just don't get it. Who wants fish smell on their bacon the next morning? Yuck.

                      1. My husband's idea, after hearing my interpretation of the post, was to heat up the pan until it's glowing red. If there's any smell or lingering taste afterwards (and you haven't burnt down your kitchen), your cast iron pan should be odorless.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Caralien

                          Your husband is on the right track, but it doesn't hvae to be glowing red. I have stripped my cast iron by just putting in the oven on self clean cycle for about 1 1/2 hours and then resseason

                        2. Drying it in the oven serves no purpose. Just wipe dry with white paper towels. Or if you don't want to touch it, set it on a warm stove burner for about 5 seconds to evaporate any excess moisture.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: taos

                            Yes, that's actually really important. Don't worry to much about getting soap into it, but make sure it's really dry after you wash it. We dry ours on the stove on low heat until all the water droplets have dried up. Yes, sometimes we give it a minute or two too long, but no harm done.

                          2. My experience is that cast iron really has only two serious flavor issues. The first is a metallic taste from rust (easily avoided by keeping it dry, adequately seasoning, avoiding strongly acidic foods, and cleaning promptly). The second is rancidity (avoided by using your cast iron frequently and being very spare with your seasoning oil).

                            Provided that you don't re-use the oil, strong food flavors tend to mellow out -- the same pan that you use for onions and fish fry works fine with pineapple upside down cake.

                            If it really reeks, a little dish soap really, truly will not hurt your pan. You will need to dry it off, heat it up on the stove and give it a schmear of oil afterwards.

                            1. Another follow-up...
                              I made a steak in the cast iron skillet tonight. There was no smell of fish while it was cooking, and no smell (or taste) of fish on the steak. The skillet seems to be as good as new.
                              I guess heating the skillet on the stove with some oil, and then scrubbing it with salt, as monganie suggested, did the trick.
                              Thank you all for the responses.

                              10 Replies
                              1. re: bxgirl

                                glad to hear it. considering the outcome was the effort worth cooking the fish in there? I am wondering whether to use mine for fish. It did not seem that hard for you to clean it (but I only read about, did not actually do it!)

                                1. re: cleopatra999

                                  I will not prepare fish in it again. No. It wasn't a lot of effort to clean the pan (with the heated oil, and then salt scrub) but it was not worth the aggravation.
                                  I only used the pan because I started the fish on the stove, and then placed it in the oven, so I thought cast iron would be the best pan for both kinds of heat.
                                  Interestingly, my husband made his steak in the broiler, and his was done quite a bit before mine, (which was done in the cast iron skillet) and I like mine more rare than he does.
                                  I'm just not loving the cast iron as much as the raves on CH led me to me think I would.

                                  1. re: bxgirl

                                    I have only had 2 meals with it, one was a dessert that was a disaster the other was a chicken that we over cooked, but I think that was our fault not the pans.

                                    I will keep trying. My hubby made breakfast this am, and I was scolding him for not using the pan for it ;)

                                    1. re: bxgirl

                                      < "I'm just not loving the cast iron as much as the raves on CH led me to me think I would."

                                      That's the difference between you and your cast iron and me and my cast iron.
                                      You bought a new Lodge skillet based on "raves" and expected something wonderful.
                                      It's disappointing you.
                                      I grew up with Mama's cast iron and always knew exactly what to expect from an old friend. It has some limitations but I learned what to do and what not to do from the time I was a little girl.
                                      When I acquire a new piece, I welcome it into the family like the old ones and it fits right in pretty quickly.

                                      There is NO way to hurry the seasoning process. Don't believe anybody who tells you otherwise.
                                      Lodge says that its pans are "preseasoned" but that's a joke. They only give you a running start but you still have to do the work.
                                      You can do all the greasing and heating in the oven that you want. Some of that actually sets you back by building up the coating too quickly.
                                      The ONLY way to get a pan properly seasoned is to use it, use it, use it.
                                      TIME. Only time will season a pan.
                                      That's a hard concept for today's folks who want to take everything out of the box, plug it in and GO.
                                      Keep using your skillet.

                                      I wash mine - all of them, including the ones from my grandmother that must be 100 years old - with dishwashing detergent.
                                      Quickly. I don't let them soak. If they need a little soaking because I have gotten them really disgusting, I put plain water in them while we eat and then clean them after dinner.
                                      I use a stiff round plastic brush, a good scrub with a little DW detergent. Fifteen seconds at most. A quick rinse. Dry on the stovetop.
                                      My pans are slick and shiny as satin.
                                      If I've cooked something like cornbread, cake, potatoes, etc., that has dried them out a little, I wipe the surface with a little olive oil on a paper towel while it's still warm.
                                      That's it.
                                      Then I remember to cook bacon again very soon.

                                      This works.
                                      It has worked for 100 years for my grandmothers, my mother, me, my sister, my nieces, and my daughters.
                                      All of our cast iron is in great shape.
                                      After a bunch of it sat under 8 feet of Katrina's flood waters for close to a month, we retrieved the rusted heirloom cast iron, ran it through the self cleaning cycle of the oven, and started over.
                                      It's all back to normal.

                                      Stop worrying. Start cooking. Relax.
                                      That's the only way.
                                      You'll get used to it and your kids will take it for granted.
                                      Cast iron was always just "pots" to us.
                                      Once it becomes part of your life, you'll wonder why this was all so difficult.

                                        1. re: MakingSense

                                          That was great, makingsense. You are correct... I am not comfortable with it, as cast iron was not used in my house when I was growing up. I guess I need to relax, a bit, and, as you stated, remember that it is just a pot!!!

                                          1. re: MakingSense

                                            I got mine in the summer. I use it every day to make breakfast and it's just starting to get good.

                                            As for the fish issue. I wouldn't worry about it. I know that you've moved on but I would just continue to use it as needed. I season with bacon fat and get no discernable bacon flavour on anything. I wouldn't expect to get fish flavour on anything.
                                            What I would've done is told you to cook some bacon in it. Then some more bacon. Save the fat and maybe season it a couple times. I would in no way have scoured off what seasoning has built up. It only sets you back.


                                            1. re: Davwud

                                              I wonder if the Great Divide on success with cast iron is BACON.
                                              Anytime mine looks a little puny, as we say in the South, I cook a little bacon in it just as you do, and it snaps right back.
                                              Long before olive oil was imported into the US (or people could afford what used to be an expensive import) or vegetable oil was available, rendered pork fat was the cooking fat most commonly used in most of the US. It was there, you used it. Waste not, want not.

                                              The last pan I bought was a "preseasoned" Lodge and I kept cooking bacon in it until it was A-OK. No bacon flavor in even the most delicate fish or cakes. And no fish flavor in my scrambled eggs.

                                              1. re: MakingSense

                                                Is there anything bacon can't do???



                                                1. re: Davwud

                                                  I think the consensus seems to be (and my own experience would bear this out) that cast iron only gets better with constant use. We use at least one of our cast iron pans practically every day.

                                    2. Plus it add good iron to your diet!