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Jan 16, 2009 04:21 PM

Cast Iron seasoning peals everytime I make stroganoff (sp?)

I want to love my cast iron skillet. For the most part, I do. But my husband really loves beef stroganoff (sorry if I butchered the spelling). I try to make it at least once a month. When I make it, I use the cast iron lid and let the beef stew in beef broth for a few hours on the stove top. This must wear down the seasoning, b/c when I'm finished with the dish, I always have some seasoning that peels off.

I've had problems with my seasoning before. This is my first cast iron piece, but I've gotten recommendations from this site before. I also bought a book called "Cast Iron for Dummies." I've tried stuff that didn't work in the past, but a few months ago I stripped the thing down to the bare metal, sanded it down for any unseen rust (since someone said that it could be rust causing my problems). And I used peanut oil, baked at 350 degrees for 2 or 3 hours, and then I let the skillet cool down in the oven. I cooked lots of fatty foods and I even gained 10 lbs to prove it. Lots of bacon, lots of burgers, and steak. The seasoning seemed to be doing very well, and then I started making stroganoff again. Sure enough, I had peeling. I reseasoned, since there were spots that were peeled down to the bare metal. This happens every time I make stroganoff.

It seems to do the peeling around the rim, where the lid sets on the skillet, and on the sides closer to the top. Should the seasoning be doing this? I hear that I shouldn't have to reseason a skillet. Should I just leave it alone? But then the next time I make stroganoff, more will peel off, right?

I do not wash my skillet. Most things I can just wipe right out with a paper towel. If I make something saucy, then I just spray the skillet down with warm water with my sink sprayer, and then dry it with a paper towel, put it on the stove, warm it up, and then put a thin coat of oil or lard.

Do I have a defunctional skillet? How am I supposed to develop a fantastic seasoning if everytime I make this dish it flakes off? This is the only dish that I make that I use the lid. Is it b/c I use the lid and let it stew? There's alot of condensation going on in the pan at that time. Still, I would have figured that many before me have made stewed meals in their cast iron. Would they have to keep reseasoning?

I'm just frustrated.

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  1. This is just one person's opinion, although I've been cooking on cast iron for 30 years or so, but it just isn't the best for really wet dishes like soups, stews and sauces that need to be boiled or simmered for more than a few minutes. Your description of the problem and how you use your skillet are excellent, so here's my 2 cents:

    I'm not sure the 10 lbs was worth it, but you did an excellent job of the initial seasoning of the skillet. The problem is what happened after.

    You don't want to clean cast iron too much by using soap and/or harsh abrasives, but if you don't clean it enough, your seasoning layer will get too thick. And the outer layer will be mostly charcoal that will flake off into whatever you cook. You say the peeling starts near the rim and sides, which are the coolest parts of the skillet. Makes sense, as these are the coolest parts when you cook, so they may not be reaching the temperature you need to build up or maintain the seasoning, but the oil and other stuff that splashes up the sides does get hot enough to turn to a sort of weak charcoal/seasoning layer.

    I have two suggestions:

    1. Buy an enameled or clad stainless steel skillet for stroganoff and other wet dishes.

    2. Clean the skillet a bit more aggressively. If the seasoning on the bottom is not flaking, giving just the sides a few rubs with a brass brush or scotch brite should do it. Cleaning cast iron is an art, and there are several methods that work, including the one you use, but the sides are mostly not cooking surfaces, so it's no big deal if you overclean a bit, as long as you coat with oil or lard afterward to prevent rust.

    1. People tip toe around cast iron too much. You are not cleaning it thoroughly enough. Which is understandable given all the non sensical recommendations for cast iron care.

      Cast iron is great for simmering and slow cooking, dont listen to Zeldog. In fact Boston Baked Beans are traditionally cooked in cast iron.

      Cooking acidic tomato sauces in it can pick up iron into the dish, though it isnt anything to worry about. Not that this modern culture wont post dire warnings and fearmongering about it.

      Seasoning a pan isnt about creating a layer of gook on the surface of the cast iron, but rather having that gook in the micro cracks and crevices of the porous cast iron.


      1 Reply
      1. re: EscapeVelocity

        A nice description of what seasoning is, but I didn't say you shouldn't cook wet dishes in unlined cast iron.


      2. What you need to do, is get that sucker over to the sink with some Dawn dishwashing detergent and hot water, and scrub it vigorously with a steel or brash scrubby. Rinse it off, towel it dry, and sit it on the stove till the next morning. Then fry up some bacon in it the next morning....and do a quick light soap wash and rinse afterwards(no scrubby). Back in business!

        You need to think of seasoning a pan as a continuous process....not something that you do once and then never wash again. Cast iron isnt delicate.

        7 Replies
        1. re: EscapeVelocity

          If your cast iron seasoning is peeling, it means that your pan is not seasoned properly, it is merely not clean. Cast iron seasoning is not a coating, it is metal treating. Last night my wife and I made posole in my favorite skillet, a 15" cast iron. This was a true one pot meal. We started by browning the pork then added tomatoes, hominy, onions and spices, covered it and let it simmer for a good hour. There were no off flavors and clean-up was simply fill the skillet with warm water and use a stainless steel scratchpad to clean it out. Put the clean skillet on a hot burner and let it heat up until it is dry.

          1. re: powillie

            I'm sorry, but this really frustrates me. If it's not seasoned properly, then what did I do wrong? Please! Tell me. I want to know. I don't really understand how your post applies to me. If the seasoning flaked off with just a spritz of water, wouldn't more come off with a steel scratchpad? I stopped using abrasive stuff on it, after I unknowingly used the rough side of a scotchbrite sponge, and scrubbed the original Lodge Logic seasoning off. No soap was used when I did this. It was after my first time using the skillet that I did this, and that was the beginning of my woes. Since then it's been season...flake...season...flake....lye bath...season...flake...season...flake. Like I said, after the lye bath, I did a seasoning of peanut oil at 350 for 2 or 3 hours and then cool down. The pan was upside down, the layer of oil was thin, b/c I know that a thick layer will peel. I just don't know!! I feel like throwing the darn thing out. It doesn't peel for anything else, just stroganoff.

            1. re: amselby81

              I was given a 6" skillet that had been outside for years. It was muddy and rusty, and appeared beyond hope. I began it's salvation by using hot water, soap and a coarse metal scratch pad to get it as clean as I could. Next, I took it to the bench grinder and used a wire wheel to clean the metal further. This was followed by another cleaning with soap and hot water. I wiped it out and let it air dry. I then put it in the toaster oven at 400 for thirty minutes or more. I wanted the metal to get really hot all the way through so that it expanded and opened the pores of the metal. When the skillet was really hot, I took it out and poured a small amount of canola oil onto the cooking surface. I took a wadded-up paper towel and tongs to distribute the oil all over the surface of the skillet. I let it cool to room temperature, then I ran it under hot water and used the metal scratch pad to clean any residue. I repeated the heat treatment two more times and it was ready to go. The skillet has a rich black sheen and a smooth surface. To maintain, I use hot water and the same metal scratch pad. This has worked for me and I would hope that it would for someone else. Good luck.

              1. re: powillie

                I understand it's commonly written on the Internet (so it must be true) that the pores of the cast iron "open up" in an oven as cool as 350 to 400 degrees during the seasoning process and that this is the key to seasoning. But this makes no sense to me. The melting point of cast iron is something like 2500 degrees Fahrenheit. How can heating a pan up to it up to a fraction of that temperature influence the molecular structure enough to "open up its pores."

                I'm pretty sure what happens in seasoning is that the iron becomes hot enough only to enable applied fat to bond slightly to the metal. The does fill the pores and this makes the surface smoother in the process, but the pores don't have to "open up" for this to happen. They're already open.

                The cast iron is not like a human being at a spa sitting in a sauna to open their pores in anticipation of a facial and massage. Human skin pores and cast iron pores are not the same thing.

                I've seen from reading this board that there are very strong feelings with regard to seasoning cast iron and this is not to say to that the methods described here do not work. For the most part they do. But the concept of pores opening, closing and even "breathing" at 400 degrees is a bunch of hooey.

              2. re: amselby81

                Not sure why it peels for stroganoff only.

                If you do throw it out or decide to expand your cookware selection, I'd highly recommend you look into getting an enamel cast iron dutch oven.

                1. re: amselby81

                  I agree with powillie - seasoning is not a "coating." If stuff is flaking off into your food, you're not cleaning the pan deeply enough. We use the abrasive side of a scotch-brite pan every time when we clean ours, and pretty hard elbow grease when things are stuck. Rinse, air or paper towel dry and spray a light coating of spray-oil on it is all we need and it's good to go for whatever we cook in it next. You don't have to keep seasoning and seasoning it, maybe that's the problem, it's building up layers of oil on it that it doesn't need.

                  1. re: rockandroller1

                    I think you have nailed it. I scrub my cast iron every time I use it. If you leave bumpy bits of blackened, ex-food charcoal then those bits will reappear in your food at some time. Do you use tomato or vinegar in your stroganoff?

                    I also agree with EscapeVelocity. Don't pussyfoot around with cast iron. I use a stainless steel scrubber to clean mine. Lots of people will say wipe with a towel or you will lose the seasoning. Well I can tell you that it doesn't. I do it almost every day.

                    Consider seasoning at 500 - 550. You will get a more glass-like surface. And the BBQ is the best place to do it if you don't want to stink up the house. Remember that next time you fire it up. And if you use cast iron on the BBQ it makes it far easier to clean and a lot less flare ups.

            2. Cooking "wet" dishes in cast iron can be a challenge. A trouble spot of mine is where the surface of the liquid usually is -- all of my dutch ovens and my pan have a discernable "water line" where the seasoning is thinned out.

              First of all, don't give up! Chili, stews, beans, and even stroganoff are all naturals in cast iron.

              Second, no need to go extra greasy. Even with all that use, the sides most likely aren't getting hot enough long enough for those surfaces to build up additional seasoning. So all you really have on the sides is the initial seasoning layer. All that liquid, heat and steam soften it up -- it de-bonds from the iron and flakes off.

              Consider leaving the pan in your oven while baking -- no need to run the oven hours with nothing but an empty pan. The idea is to accumulate multiple thin layers of seasoning. My dutch ovens, which are more troublesome since more regularly use for stew or chili, get regularly tuned up with no-knead bread and popcorn.

              2 Replies
              1. re: MikeB3542

                Thank you. I'll try your advice about keeping it in the oven when baking. That sounds simple enough. :)

                1. re: amselby81

                  The truth of the matter is that cast iron is easy to use and clean. There is a bunch of superstitions surrrounding its seasoning and care. The fact of the matter is that normal use, is all you need to keep it seasoned and performing well. You dont need special seasoning sessions, avoiding washing, or any of that other crap....though it wont hurt it.

                  Dont believe the hype.

                  BTW, its ease of care is probably exactly why there are so many opinions on how to keep care of it, because it is so easy to care for and tough virtually anything is fine.

              2. My cast iron pans haven't been seasoned since I got them, probably 20 years ago. I just wipe them out with a scrubby sponge (no soap!!) under very hot water. The outside, and to some extend, the rim do have some chipping or peeling of the built up black varnish that seems to accumulate after the first 5 years or so, but never enough that bare metal is exposed underneath. The inside, especially the bottom, is a smooth satiny black miracle surface. We've made things like spaghetti sauces (acidic , simmering a long time) many times, and it's never done anything to the pan itself.