HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >

help me troubleshoot my cast iron experience

a
aekap Jan 19, 2009 03:07 PM

After reading here (and on the cooks illustrated site) about how great cast iron is, and how much like nonstick it can be, I decided to take the plunge and buy a lodge cast iron skillet. I brought it home, oiled it up, preheated it, added some more oil, and tried to make pancakes. It was not successful to say the least- I've never seen anything stick like this. A huge mess.

Where did I go wrong? Does the pan just need to be seasoned some more before I can use it for something like pancakes, or is there some technique I am missing? Thanks!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. JoanN RE: aekap Jan 19, 2009 03:31 PM

    Yes, it needs more seasoning. Give it some more time before you try something like pancakes. Make bacon. Lots of bacon. Make fried chicken. Make fried anything. A really slick surface builds up with use, but it does take a while.

    1 Reply
    1. re: JoanN
      Davwud RE: JoanN Jan 20, 2009 05:53 PM

      I got a new pan in the summer. I've cooked breakfast with it almost every day since and it's just starting to get good.
      You can't cook too much bacon when it's new.
      And save the drippings to season with.

      Do not scrub too much. At least once a week I wipe it down with bacon drippings, turn the exhaust fan on and turn the heat on. I'll let it go about 10 minutes on medium heat.
      I also season it often in the oven.

      DT

    2. amyzan RE: aekap Jan 19, 2009 03:31 PM

      What you're describing (oiling, preheating, oiling again before cooking) isn't a seasoning process as I understand it. Seasoning involves heating the oiled pan in a preheated oven for an hour or so, then letting it cool completely and wiping it down before it's ready to use. http://www.chow.com/stories/10413

      Did you buy one of the Lodge preseasoned pans? I had nothing but headaches from mine for several years, until now it seems to manage allright with recipes that have a sustantial amount of fat (biscuits, pan frying.) It's possible they've improved the coating and you will have better luck with seasoning a preseasoned pan. Maybe other CH will have constructive suggestions if this is the kind of pan you purchased...

      13 Replies
      1. re: amyzan
        c
        chuckl RE: amyzan Jan 19, 2009 04:15 PM

        amyzan is correct, you didn't season it properly to begin with. My understanding is that to season it initially, you need to get it pretty hot in the oven so that its pores open up and the seasoning fills in the pores. Theres some debate about this, but I usually warm it on the stovetop, put some crisco on a paper towel and work it into the pan, inside and out. i then put it in the hot oven upside down with a cookie sheet under it to catch the dripping and let it sit in say a 350-400 degree oven for an hour or 2. you can also cook something else in the hot oven so that you're not feeling that you're wasting the hot oven.

        1. re: chuckl
          j
          jaykayen RE: chuckl Jan 19, 2009 08:04 PM

          what pores? how do they open up? iron atoms aren't going to be moving around (melted!) at 500 degrees in an oven.

          1. re: jaykayen
            HaagenDazs RE: jaykayen Jan 20, 2009 11:59 AM

            Atoms and molecules are always moving around and vibrating. Atoms don't necessarily move from place to place within a crystalline structure like cast iron, but in the simplest terms, electrons are in a constant state of motion moving around the nucleus.

            Molecules on the other hand are always vibrating and the faster they vibrate the hotter the pan. That's the basic principle of induction cooking.

            1. re: HaagenDazs
              p
              powillie RE: HaagenDazs Jan 20, 2009 07:29 PM

              I would like to add my beliefs on cast iron that is based on purely practical experience. Although a castiron skillet may appear to be a solid piece of metal, it is actually quite porous, much like a sponge. If you have the opportunity, closely examine a piece of broken castiron. The fracture will reveal the minute pores and crevices of the castiron. The 'as cast' surfaces will be pretty smooth. This would be the handle and outer surface of the skillet. The machined surfaces will be much smoother, this would be the cooking surface and sides of the skillet. Castiron expands when heated even at 400 to 500 degrees. This temperature will allow the skillet to expand, that is, the air pockets will become marginally larger while retaining the shape of the skillet without distortion. That is why I would heat a skillet to a temperature of 400-500 degrees for at least thirty minutes. This should allow the skillet to be a uniform temperature. Applying the oil at this temperature will allow the oil to penetrate the iron and begin the metal treating process. After the first application, I would clean the surface with hot water and a rough stainless steel scratch pad, use soap if necessary. There should be no sticky or oily residue. Repeat these steps until you are satisfied with the results, then critique it again and again. Good luck.

              1. re: powillie
                t
                taos RE: powillie Jan 27, 2009 12:10 AM

                Cast iron is porous, but heating to 300 degrees, even to 500 degrees does not change the porous nature. It does not cause the "pores to open up," despite the mythology surrounding seasoning to the contrary.

                The process of seasoning causes fat to semi-permanently adhere to the pores and other surfaces of the iron, therefore creating a smoother, slicker surface. Heat is necessary to create a sufficient layer of carbonization (that's what seasoning is), not for the iron to become any more porous than it already is. To change the physical nature of the cast iron itself in a way that makes the pores somehow "open up" would require getting the pan heated up near its melting point which is much hotter than 400 degrees. Even then, you'd have no better seasoning, you'd just have a lump of melted cast iron (and you'd probably burn your house down).

                1. re: taos
                  m
                  meetoo RE: taos Jan 28, 2009 01:33 PM

                  My experience with cast iron is also purely pragmatic. All I know is If you leave oil/fat in a pan for long enough at low, i,e., highly liquid, temperatures (or turn in up to low-medium and quickly turn it off ) and really let the oil sit in the warm pan for a prolonged period, like an hour, or repeat if you want a good head start, you can do pancakes right off the bat with no problem as long as the pan had a nice smooth clean metal finish to start with and you keep a greasy paper towel around to insure a thin film of oil between batches.

                  I call it priming the pan. I never understood why it was called seasoning anyway until I stumbled across an amazon post that claimed "THE WAY" is too have hard carbonized old oil stuck to the iron--which takes a good long time to develop properly. Carbonized oil will flake off unless the oil got a good chance to soak in while in liquid form first. Really it seems like this method is only reasonable if you use your pan say, exclusively for pancakes at a low temp. Come to think of it this is how my old aluminum plate waffle iron works... more or less... with a little cooking spray now and then. So it does seem to me there is more than one method that works, but it depends what you all use you iron pan for.

                  As far as iron being porous---I use the same treatment on my stainless steel cooking surface/ aluminum clad pans. It doesn't work quite as well as on iron so I have to assume that iron is somehow more porous.

                  I do agree that high temperatures are not going to work simply because at high temperatures the oil turns to glue before it can soak into the iron porous or not! A nice even low temperature and liquidy shortening with plenty of time is the way to go. On the other hand if you have grandma's old griddle and it's not going to be used for anything else but pancakes on the pancakes side and it looks like it's "seasoned," leave it intact and give it a shot. After all, it was good enough for grandma. If the seasoning is gooey and gross and the metal isn't smooth enough and someone else threw it out to the thrift store, it might be worth it to break out the drill sander and start over with fresh smooth metal.

                  1. re: meetoo
                    r
                    razkolnikov RE: meetoo Jan 28, 2009 04:05 PM

                    "As far as iron being porous---I use the same treatment on my stainless steel cooking surface/ aluminum clad pans. It doesn't work quite as well as on iron so I have to assume that iron is somehow more porous."

                    Uh ... I might be misreading you here, but stainless steel can't be seasoned. Is that what you mean by "same treatment"?

                    1. re: razkolnikov
                      r
                      rockfish42 RE: razkolnikov Jan 28, 2009 06:22 PM

                      Polymerized oil can stick to stainless steel, this is often the case after using my saute pan at higher temperatures. The reason cast iron can be seasoned is that the iron acts as a catalyst for the polymerization. Many people also season aluminum dutch ovens it just takes quite a bit longer for an appreciable layer to build up.

                      1. re: rockfish42
                        r
                        razkolnikov RE: rockfish42 Jan 28, 2009 07:37 PM

                        "Polymerized oil can stick to stainless steel, this is often the case after using my saute pan at higher temperatures."

                        Oh, no doubt -- we've all had to scrub (and scrub ... and scrub ...) that off our pans once in a while. It's just that it's not something that anyone strives for to "season" the pan.

                        "Many people also season aluminum dutch ovens it just takes quite a bit longer for an appreciable layer to build up."

                        Interesting -- didn't know that. Guess I've only ever encountered SS (with aluminum layers inside) and cast iron dutch ovens.

                      2. re: razkolnikov
                        m
                        meetoo RE: razkolnikov Jan 29, 2009 01:03 PM

                        READ THE WHOLE POST!

                        If you read my whole post you will notice I call what I do "priming" the pan. This may be mostly semantics but then I don't really advocate "carbonization" so maybe it's more than that.. My method is to give the oil some time to steep into the pan at low warm temperatures. I use stainless steel for braising this way and it reduces pan stick only slightly and all the nice sticky things get cooked off with liquid eventually anyway. I guess you were doing a quicky read but the point was, and even as you say stainless steel cannot be "seasoned" but any other name or activity, so that proves that iron has some porous qualities that stainless steel does not so iron is relatively "porous".

                        1. re: meetoo
                          r
                          razkolnikov RE: meetoo Jan 29, 2009 05:58 PM

                          Nah, read the whole post, but maybe it's just semantics. IMHO, letting oil warm up in the pan at low temperatures serves to HEAT the oil and pan to a temperature that minimizes sticking a bit, not to give the oil time to steep INTO the pan. Maybe I just misread you as saying that the oil somehow penetrates into the stainless steel. No harm done.

                      3. re: meetoo
                        t
                        taos RE: meetoo Jan 30, 2009 02:10 AM

                        Cast iron is porous. However the pores do not "open up" sitting in an oven at 350 degrees or even at 500 degrees, nor is opening up of the pores necessary for seasoning.

                        As I've said before, you're carbonizing fat onto the cast iron, not giving it a facial.

                        1. re: taos
                          m
                          meetoo RE: taos Jan 31, 2009 10:55 AM

                          I don't have the science to see exactly what is going on at the molecular level---all I know is low heat temp, iron, oil/fat, and time make non-stick happen. This may have more to do with the liquidity of the oil/fat at low warm temperatures, but since it works much better on iron than stainless, I am guessing that iron has some porous qualities. Heck I don't know. It might be some electronic bonding on the atomic level, after all heat/electricity is about shifting electron charges. All I know is this is what works.

          2. c
            CK8 RE: aekap Jan 19, 2009 03:55 PM

            It takes a lot of regular use before you're ready to try something like pancakes, unless you use a lot of fat in the pan. I've had a Lodge for years (well before pre-seasoning was an option) and love it, but I still don't use it for some tasks - frying eggs, for example.

            I don't know if this is SOP with cast iron, but I usually wipe a small amount of oil over the inside of the pan and heat it up on the stove after cleaning.

            4 Replies
            1. re: CK8
              j
              jeanmarieok RE: CK8 Jan 19, 2009 04:11 PM

              I also oil my pan after cleaning, but I have found solid shortening works much much better.

              I don't think I'd try pancakes or eggs, ever, without a lot of added oil. Cast iron, even really well seasoned, is just not that kind of non-stick.

              1. re: jeanmarieok
                t
                taos RE: jeanmarieok Jan 19, 2009 04:34 PM

                Everyone has an opinion on seasoning and care for cast iron. I usually don't oil mine after using because it usually just needs a quick wipe with scalding water. If it's super grimy, I'll scub it with some coarse salt and a nylon brush, then hang it from my pot rack. But if you do need oil, I wouldn't use cooking spray . Try something like a like coating of coconut oil. You want something that's stable and won't get rancid sitting on an exposed pan.

                1. re: jeanmarieok
                  c
                  Clarkafella RE: jeanmarieok Jan 19, 2009 09:01 PM

                  For whatever it's worth, eggs do just fine in a cast iron skillet if you cook the bacon in it first!

                  1. re: Clarkafella
                    rockandroller1 RE: Clarkafella Jan 20, 2009 04:28 AM

                    We use ours for eggs all the time, no bacon first. It's well seasoned and the eggs do not stick.

              2. kchurchill5 RE: aekap Jan 19, 2009 08:17 PM

                First for pancakes I use a non stick skillet. so much easier. However I love my cast iron pans for some things. And I don't know about the seasoning process. I just got a run of the mill cast iron pan and oiled it. The secrete is using it alot. I would never attempt pancakes even in mine which is 10 years old. My skillet is so much easier. The more you use your pan the better it gets. I don't know about proper seasoning. My grandma taught me and she just used it. Not some fancy seasoning method. Just wipe it with hot water and clean after each use. I lightly re oil just a bit and then time use it again. I have 5 pots and pans and they are all wonderful. I am sure they can all be used for pancakes or just about everything, but I use cast iron for some, non stick for others. I try to take the easy way out and not make things difficult.

                One thing, pan cornbread is great with a cast iron skillet.

                1. MikeB3542 RE: aekap Jan 19, 2009 10:26 PM

                  I am assuming you are using a pre-seasoned pan -- anything made by Lodge in the last few years will be pre-seasoned. Some folks will recommend scouring/burning off the pre-seasoning and re-seasoning. You could do that, but IMHO that is a waste. Just realize that the pre-seasoning is just a head start. You season the pan everytime you use it -- it is a never-ending process.

                  I really wish people who ought to know better would stop referring to cast iron as non-stick. It takes a bit of use to get cast iron to release food without using some oil or grease.

                  Cast iron suffers no fools. You have to play by its rules or it bites! Heat the pan gently -- low-medium to medium heat is about right. The pan is at the right temp when water droplets dance. OK, now add the oil. For some reason it makes a difference to add cold oil to a hot pan.

                  For pancakes, mop up the excess oil with a paper towel. After each round comes out, add a little more oil, mopping out the excess. You want the surface wet, but no discernable depth. Between the thin layer of grease in the pan and the fat in the batter (pancake batters are pretty rich with melted butter), pancakes should be a snap. Like most foods, pancakes will stick fast during most of the cooking process -- they will tend to release as they approach "doneness".

                  Oh yeah, have fun -- try not to get too frustrated. Cast iron is a joy to cook with, but takes patience.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: MikeB3542
                    JoanN RE: MikeB3542 Jan 20, 2009 04:33 AM

                    Curious why you think cast iron needs to be heated gently. Back in the day, I used to make Paul Prudhomme's blackened redfish. The first instruction is to heat the cast iron skillet over very high heat for at least 10 minutes until it is beyond smoking and white ash begins to appear in the bottom of the skillet. These days I make fish fillets by preheating the pan under the broiler for 15 minutes. I've had my cast iron skillets for more than 40 years and they must love this treatment 'cause they just keep getting better and better.

                    1. re: JoanN
                      MikeB3542 RE: JoanN Jan 20, 2009 07:24 AM

                      I suggested medium heat for the benefit of the cook rather than the cookware . Using low or medium heat makes it a lot easier to control, especially if you aren't accustomed to how your pan responds to various flame settings and foods. The OP was trying to make pancakes, which aren't so good blackened. ;-)

                      Even over lower heat settings it is remarkable how hot cast iron will get if you give it time. As a by-product, slower heating will ensure that the pan is heated more evenly.

                      There is a tendency to overshoot your target temperature with cast iron. It takes a while to heat up. So then you crank up the burner, and before you know it, it is way too hot. Now it takes forever to cool back down.

                      Cast iron does handle high heat really well -- I would have to say that you aren't going to damage a skillet in a residential range (or a commercial range, for that matter). Even if you decide to pick up a non-stick skillet or griddle for things like pancakes and eggs, keep some black iron around for searing and blackening fish, chicken, steaks, veggies, etc. (mpalmer6c's point)

                      1. re: MikeB3542
                        JoanN RE: MikeB3542 Jan 20, 2009 10:33 AM

                        Ah. I understand. Good points.

                  2. m
                    mpalmer6c RE: aekap Jan 19, 2009 11:13 PM

                    Why struggle with it? You can get a
                    Vollrath or other inexpensive non-stick pan
                    for eggs, pancakes and
                    the like. Use the cast iron for searing steaks,
                    blackened fish, etc.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: mpalmer6c
                      a
                      aekap RE: mpalmer6c Jan 20, 2009 03:33 AM

                      Thanks! Looks like I was expecting too much from it, at least at this point. (oh, fwiw, it was a pre-seasoned pan).

                      I just got rid of my nonstick skillet when the coating went bad, and was hoping to be done with teflon permanently. I have been debating between plain cast iron, enameled cast iron, and stainless steel, and decided to give the plain cast iron a try since it's so inexpensive (and usa-made- I'm trying to avoid cookware made in China). Does anyone have any experience with the enameled stuff?

                      1. re: aekap
                        karmalaw RE: aekap Jan 20, 2009 05:44 AM

                        give it some time.. I have a (now) well-seasoned cast iron griddle (round, 1 burner, handled flat-surface) that I love for making pancakes and arepas and tortillas and grilled cheese sandwiches. You'll get there! Once you do, you won't miss non-stick one iota. :) Oh, and I don't like the enameled at all for such things... I have exactly 1 enameled cast iron skillet (and, oddly it's a le creuset) and it gets far less use than my seasoned, non-enameled, ones. But the opposite is true for my dutch ovens -- I vastly prefer the enameled one.

                        1. re: aekap
                          m
                          moreana RE: aekap Jan 20, 2009 07:07 AM

                          I have a Le Creuset skillet and I love it but I've only had it for a week and haven't done things like pancakes. I always cook with some fat just like everything else. One of the biggest reasons why I like the enamel stuff better is just because I don't have to worry much about rusting, but chipping the ceramic enamel can be an issue waiting to happen.

                          I'm super happy with my All-Clad stainless steel too. I've got some various other brands like Calphalon, but those pans didn't compare to the All-Clad. I get some excellent browning, but for some stuff a cast iron or enameled cast iron is better.

                          Get rid of the teflon, and don't be afraid of using butter or olive oil, cast iron or not. Butter adds flavour and olive oil has some good benefits too. Just don't use a lot of it, a nice thin coating should do. If you're worried about the extra calories, just eat smaller portions and everything should equal out. :)

                          1. re: aekap
                            c
                            clark21482 RE: aekap Jan 24, 2009 05:06 AM

                            I had a similar thought in mind. We have an Analon cookware set that is about 10 years old. The omelette pan gets used to cook eggs at least twice every day. Now, in that 10 year period Myers replaced it for us. And it's due for replacement again due to the teflon coming off. Our first replacement experience was a few pieces, and the new ones had a coating that looked different. Right now I could send every piece back for replacement because the coating has come off somewhere on everyone of them. I will say Myers stands behind their stuff.

                            So I started on a trek to replace my non stick stuff. I bought a 11 3/4" black enamel Le Creuset skillet at my Le Creuset outlet store. I struggled with it and could not get it to work the way I wanted. Eggs stuck all the time. I usually use pre made egg whites and my wife uses eggs. I tried multiple types of oil, but no real good luck. Butter seemed to work ok.

                            So off to the Le Creuset store again. They have a pan that they call their omelette pan. It has the ability to double as a lid to one of their pots. It has the smoother sandy brown finish. I wanted to buy this originally but one of the girls at the store talked me in the direction of the rougher black enameled skillet. I brought the omelette pan home and had similar grief from it. I tried everything. I posted here with my experiences and one user solved my problem. He told me to use Pam. I was so conditioned to not using Pam with non stick that I never thought of it. I tried both pans and they worked great. I have had to modify the way I cook my eggs, but I must say that it is as close to a teflon coated pan for cooking eggs that I could ever expect. And I have removed a piece of teflon coated cookware from my life. Which was my original goal.

                            Others here have told me to stick with it. Le Creuset told me that the pan gets better with use. And I must say that they do. I just got done eating the egg I made on it while typing this. I had run out of Pam and used vegetable oil. The pan has not been cleaned yet from this weeks cooking of eggs, so it still had some other oil in it. I don't think the vegetable oil worked as good as the Pam. And Pam has canola oil in it, so I'll try that straight later.

                            I looked at the Lodge stuff myself, and after reading so much here I thought the enameled cast iron would be a better shot. And with some adjustment to my cooking style, and little bit of trial and tribulation I don't believe I would ever change from my Le Creuset pans.

                        2. c
                          chuckl RE: aekap Jan 20, 2009 07:48 AM

                          New Pans

                          1. Heat the oven to 250o - 300o
                          2. Coat the pan with lard or bacon grease. Don't use a liquid vegetable oil because it will leave a sticky surface and the pan will not be properly seasoned.
                          3. Put the pan in the oven. In 15 minutes, remove the pan & pour out any excess grease. Place the pan back in the oven and bake for 2 hours.

                          Repeating this process several times is recommended as it will help create a stronger "seasoning" bond.

                          Also, when you put the pan into service, it is recommended to use it initially for foods high in fat, such as bacon or foods cooked with fat, because the grease from these foods will help strengthen the seasoning.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: chuckl
                            HaagenDazs RE: chuckl Jan 20, 2009 10:23 AM

                            ~~"Repeating this process several times is recommended as it will help create a stronger "seasoning" bond."~~

                            Actually that's the absolute opposite of what you want to do. It will create a weaker bond because all your doing is baking on layers of oil/fat. Multiple, repetitive seasonings is probably the worst thing you can do to a cast iron because the seasoning will peel off much easier. True cast iron seasoning is not something that can be achieved in one afternoon.

                            1. re: HaagenDazs
                              c
                              chuckl RE: HaagenDazs Jan 20, 2009 11:15 AM

                              do you have a source for your information? I re-season mine from time to time and nothing has peeled off

                              1. re: chuckl
                                HaagenDazs RE: chuckl Jan 20, 2009 11:51 AM

                                I have no information from personal experience but I know from reading people's posts here that it is indeed a real problem. People have the mentality that if one attempt at seasoning is good, then 5 is better.

                                Part of the reason I responded to your post is because what you do may be perfectly fine, but your explanation isn't really clear. If you re-season "from time to time" while it may be wholly unnecessary, it might not cause much harm because you are actually cooking between seasoning episodes (I assume). But as I read your post, and you say to repeat the process over and over it automatically made me think of a person who posts here who actually did this. The situation was that this person purchased a brand new raw cast iron pan. They oiled it once and tossed it in the oven... no big deal. The problem arose though when they oiled the pan and baked it 5 or 6 more times. This was all in the span of one afternoon. Then they were surprised at the seasoning peeling off when they scrubbed the pan to clean it. The problem was that there was no real seasoning process to begin with, it was just several layers of burned oil on the pan giving it the appearance of a nice black, seasoned skillet.

                                You can keep baking oil on to your pan if you want to but in reality, the most durable, long lasting, heirloom-type pans are a result of one single seasoning followed by proper use. Not constant, accelerated "seasoning" over and over again.

                                1. re: HaagenDazs
                                  r
                                  rockfish42 RE: HaagenDazs Jan 27, 2009 11:16 PM

                                  If you actually fully polymerize the oil it shouldn't have this problem, this requires taking the oil to the smoke point in say a 500 degree oven letting it go for approx 2 hours and then letting it cool completely before doing another layer. I've seen a benefit to doing his 2-3 times over a couple of days.

                                  1. re: rockfish42
                                    m
                                    meetoo RE: rockfish42 Jan 31, 2009 11:06 AM

                                    Polymerize! Good new word. That's that plastic goo that the oil becomes at high temperatures that I can't stand in my pans. Its fine on the outside of a pan-- I just don't like it on the cooking surface. That actually works for you? I find it just tends to mess up the cooking surface. Not as slippery or stick free. If I burn an iron pan, I will actually scrub it down and start over. Plus, I hate stinking up my kitchen with smoke. No fan. Old house. Smoking oil is poison and all those nice solvent type chemicals, the slippery stuff thats in WD--40 that even cooking oil has some of is really what soaks into metal and is what evaporates first in a burn, i.e., smoking fat. I never smoke fat. Tastes nasty, smells worse.

                                    1. re: meetoo
                                      Davwud RE: meetoo Feb 2, 2009 01:09 PM

                                      Are you saying you don't season your cast iron pan??

                                      You can do it on the grill outside.

                                      DT

                                      1. re: meetoo
                                        r
                                        rockfish42 RE: meetoo Feb 2, 2009 04:53 PM

                                        The goo you're referring to is what happens if the oil isn't fully polymerized, or the coating is too thick. The low temp method works, I'm just impatient and find that my method works faster to get the surface I want.

                            2. amyzan RE: aekap Jan 20, 2009 08:55 AM

                              Aekap, I wouldn't give up on the Lodge preseasoned skillet entirely. Just know you're going to have to work with it. I'd recommend doing the seasoning process in the chow article I linked, and preheating the pan with oil in it each time you use it. If you are conscientious about keeping it oiled and seasoned, you should be able to get it to where it's your go to pan.

                              I'm lucky enough to have my grandmother's cast iron skillets and griddle, and use them for much of my cooking. I understand the desire to get away from nonstick and pans made in China. I have only one nonstick pan left as well as a really large nonstick griddle necessary for certain situations (which of course, I can't come up with an example of right now.) I try to avoid them as much as possible, and the cast iron works better for most everything once you get it smooth and seasoned.

                              1. KaimukiMan RE: aekap Jan 20, 2009 02:26 PM

                                My grandmother had a cast iron pan, she used to cook crepes in. between each crepe she would wipe the pan with an oiled or greaed paper towel, then put in the batter. The batter would stick for a minute or so, then release. And grandma was of the school that crepes should never be allowed to brown. Of course that pan had 30 or 40 years of use at that point, im sure some of the earlier attempts were not quite so successful.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: KaimukiMan
                                  c
                                  chuckl RE: KaimukiMan Jan 20, 2009 05:11 PM

                                  i think that once it's seasoned, the best thing to do is use it often, especially with fatty food, like bacon. I have no problem reseasoning it if I feel as if it's losing its nonstickiness

                                2. ITry RE: aekap Jan 20, 2009 05:33 PM

                                  I fought the same battles that you and other posters have battled. I finally found a method that works flawlessly for me. I inherited my Lodge CI skillet from my grandmother, I have no idea how old it is. Over the years I've tried to use it, with no luck and much frustration. I finally started from scratch and stripped all the old seasoning off. I read as much as I could from various sources online. I liked what the folks at the Griswold/Wagner website had to offer. The guys area seriously into their CI. So, following their stripping instructions, I finally had a CI pan that was ready to season. I followed their instructions and the ones on Lodges web site to the letters. They both used similar process's. After my CI pan was seasoned, I started frying chicken, frying bacon (a lot of bacon! I was on Atkins) and so on. Still, food would stick more than I wanted it to. I finally hit upon the idea of what I call double prepping the pan. First, I warm it up, I never use more than medium heat. I've got a cheap ass stove, so make adjustments. After it's a little warm, I spread on a then layer of Crisco, I mean real thin. The pan continues to heat until ready to cook on. The oil is smoking just a little. If I'm making scrambled eggs, I prep them while the pan is warming up, then when it's ready to go, I slide in a little butter, melt it, then pour in the eggs. My eggs don't stick anymore. I use this method for fried eggs as well. Funny thing, I was talking to my mom over Christmas and she indicated that that's how she always did it too! So I'm not as clever as I thought I was. Anyhow, bottom line is, try it, it might work for you too. BTW, I never ever let soap touch my pan, I clean it while it's still warm, and spread a thin layer of Crisco on it afterwards. If I made pancakes on it ( and I do) I'd probably add a little butter between each batch, keeping a little freshly melted butter between each round.
                                  Hope this helps!

                                  1. greglor RE: aekap Jan 21, 2009 09:40 AM

                                    Seasoning a pan is no fun. Just use the pan for bacon until you've made a few batches of bacon. Only clean it with water (no soap) and dry it well after use. After a few batches of bacon, then move on to stuff like pancakes. And if you ever need to "re-season", just make bacon!

                                    1. m
                                      meetoo RE: aekap Jan 22, 2009 10:46 AM

                                      I love iron pans. i like an iron pan with a nice smooth, slick surface and have bought used ones at the thrift store and ground down the old "seasoning" and any roughness on the surface with a drill mounted sander.

                                      The trick to "seasoning", or "priming the pan," as I call it, is low temperature and time for the oil to bond or sink into the iron at these low temperatures. Heating the oil too hot just turns the oil to glue, or a plastic like coating that can and will flake off. Mostly though, this hard glue-plastic stuff is just not a good stick-free surface. Only slick slidey oil on a smooth surface is stick-free. (Think of your car engine!) I like to put a thin coat of vegetable oil or spray on the pan turn the heat on the burner on low for a little while, five minutes maybe, and then just turn it off and let it sit. I do the low-temp oil treatment to some degree before every time I fry or at least if the pan has been thoroughly cleaned lately, and I like it much better than teflon.

                                      I will clean a sticky pan with steel wool, a rough nylon scrubby, even soapy steel wool. Basically do what you have to do to get the pan smooth-- stripping away as little of the oil as is possible or reasonable, but don't worry about it if you've had a burn or just used your pan for some more messy and/or high-temp type process--iron is forgiving. If the pan really gets stripped just dry the clean pan over a burner and then apply a thin layer of oil before putting it away.

                                      My mother just bought a new iron griddle that seems to be coated with some toxic paint. I would bring it back but my mother bought it. I will make a seperate post to address this problem.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: meetoo
                                        PegS RE: meetoo Jan 22, 2009 11:14 AM

                                        eBay is your friend. I have two cast iron pans I bought years ago at a flea market. I don't know how old they are, but they were certainly well-used, black, and practically non-stick. For cleaning I actually use a copper scrub to *lightly* rub off any sticky bits, and sometimes will even throw in some detergent, but it's usually no more than a swirl, a quick rub, and then back on the stove for drying. I will swipe some oil on the pan if it looks like the coating needs it, which is probably every 5 times or so. I use the same method for my beloved wok.

                                        1. re: meetoo
                                          MikeB3542 RE: meetoo Jan 22, 2009 11:20 AM

                                          "My mother just bought a new iron griddle that seems to be coated with some toxic paint. I would bring it back but my mother bought it. I will make a seperate post to address this problem."

                                          Was it pre-seasoned? The Lodge castings are generally excellent, and the pre-seasoning (now standard) produces a finish that is darn near what you are trying to end up with. (It lacks maturity, but looks great, and lets you cook right out of the box).

                                          Not sure what other manufacturers are doing, but many seem to have a nasty matte lamp black finish. I don't think it is paint, and pretty sure it isn't toxic. You could overlook, but the casting are usually really bad, too.

                                          1. re: MikeB3542
                                            m
                                            meetoo RE: MikeB3542 Jan 31, 2009 11:15 AM

                                            Remarkably, the casting is pretty smooth on this and it is a ridged griddle for meat. It really stinks toxic to me when heated, but as I have lots of allergies, and I may be more sensitive. I am thinking of throwing it in an outdoor fire when weather permits and just burning it all off. I think these coatings are just to keep the iron from rusting in shipping, but I wish they would just use oil or wax. Most of this stuff probably comes from China by sea and salt air could be an issue even in a shipping container. (Another thing I would never do to an iron griddle is rub salt in it. Maybe on an aluminum griddle that could be done.)

                                        2. c
                                          citizenconn RE: aekap Jan 23, 2009 07:56 AM

                                          I used Lodge & Griswold cast iron for a number of years, but over the past couple of years I've replaced all of my traditional casti iron skillets and ovens with enameled ones and I would not go back for indoor use. Le Creuset ovens can be gotten for much cheaper than retail with patience on eBay. Lodge also makes a nice 11" enameled cast iron skillet that I like very much. And cleanup and care is much easier than with a traiditonal cast iron pan. I think it sears just as well as my traditional pans did and with a little cold butter or oil in a hot pan my pancakes don't stick. I bought my Lodge enameled skillet at Target for $34.

                                          Lodge also makes an enalmeled 6 qt dutch oven (in 4 colors to match the skillets) and the lid from it fits the skillet.

                                          If you feel you want to stick with traditional cast iron I'd recommend trying to find an older Griswold pan on eBay rather than using Lodge. My Griswold pans have much smoother inside bottoms than the newer Lodge pans do and I've had less problems with things sticking in them. Hope this helps.

                                          1. t
                                            thebeans RE: aekap Jan 27, 2009 08:16 AM

                                            OK, I've read through all these posts and one thing seems to be missing. Proper directions for seasoning before first use. Yes, really good seasoning is something that builds up over time but you have to start somewhere. The one thing missing from most of the seasoning instructions is that it must be done at a VERY high temperature. Seasoning is not a build up of layers of oil. It is a buildup of carbon. In order to properly season for first use, you need to literally burn a layer of oil onto the CI surface. This is best done when the weather is good enough to vent your kitchen well because it produces smoke and fumes as the oil carbonizes. Start by wiping on a generous layer of oil such as Crisco or plain vegetable oil. Turn your oven on to the very highest temperature it has. Place the pan in the oven and leave it for a minimum of 2 hrs. Turn off the oven but don't open it. Let the pan cool in the oven for an hour or more until it is cool enough to handle. Take it out and inspect it. You should have a very slick and fairly smooth black surface of carbonized oil. Now use the pan for fatty foods for a while to allow more buildup to occur. The pan will get better and better with use and you should have no peeling as long as you don't scrub too hard or scrape too hard with steel utensils. Again the key to seasoning for first use is HIGH heat in the oven for at least 2 hrs. If you don't use high heat or don't heat long enough you are just making a layer of sticky oil on the pan that will easily scrape off. Hope this helps some CI virgins and others with CI seasoning issues.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: thebeans
                                              todao RE: thebeans Jan 27, 2009 10:04 AM

                                              Here's a resource that'll tell you everything you need to know, from an expert, on the subject.
                                              http://papadutch.home.comcast.net/~pa...
                                              I realize he speaks to Cast Iron Dutch Ovens, but the same principals apply.

                                              1. re: thebeans
                                                t
                                                taos RE: thebeans Jan 27, 2009 07:45 PM

                                                Yup. That's the technique I use.

                                                As I said before the bunk about the pores opening up is just bunk. Get the pan hot enough to burn the fat onto the iron and that's seasoning. I like coconut oil myself. I used to put my oven at 500 degrees but it melted the plastic knobs a bit so last time I had to season a pan I tried 450 degrees and found it worked just as well.

                                              2. Zeldog RE: aekap Jan 27, 2009 06:15 PM

                                                A lively conversation, but seems to me the problem is not the seasoning of the skillet, so count me out of that debate. I suspect the problem is the temperature of the oil. You can make pancakes on a non-non-stick surface and they will not stick if the oil is hot enough. And they will create a mess if the oil is not hot enough. Believe me. I worked as a short order cook many decades ago and made many hundreds (thousands?) of pancakes using plain aluminum skillets.

                                                Personally, I don't use cast iron for pancakes. For pancakes you want a skillet that heats up quickly, like aluminum. And cast iron is too heavy to flip.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Zeldog
                                                  Whosyerkitty RE: Zeldog Jan 31, 2009 06:04 PM

                                                  I'm not using non stick anymore. I have heard too many things about the chemicals. I am lucky to have inherited CI pans and I love them.I make eggs, creamed base sauces and even thing that require lots of liquid in them.

                                                  I am also bad to them in other ways. I will soak them, scrub them, use soap leave, them overnight and all other kinds of nasty things. They love me anyway. I ALWAYS ALWAYS dry them on a flame and when I treat them, I find it easier to oil them and keep them on a LOW flame for awhile. But keep an eye on them. I have never really had to break one in as mine are old old old, but once you get them to the point you want them, you will LOVE them, too.

                                                2. l
                                                  larrydude RE: aekap Feb 3, 2009 04:56 AM

                                                  After you season it in the oven, get some frozen hash browns and cook 1 evryday with breakfast. there is a small amount of oil in them and the directions are to heat at 450 degrees for 10 min. turn and cook for another 10. Take the skillet out of the oven, wai 5-10 mins and fry some bacon. It will get noticibly better every morning. I had some flaking with one of mine before I knew what I was doing. This method repaired the seasoning in a matter of about 5 days and my skillet has never been better. Using it is the best way. I bake calfouti and beer bread regularly and use them everyday. I have a Lodge combo cooker which is a deep skillet and a shallow one that can be used as a lid to make a dutch oven. too heavy for the wife. I got a lighter set and use them daily to season for her.
                                                  Bake and fry only for a while and you shouldn't have a problem.

                                                  8 Replies
                                                  1. re: larrydude
                                                    c
                                                    chuckl RE: larrydude Feb 3, 2009 09:45 AM

                                                    do you think that seasoning with high heat is beneficial?

                                                    1. re: chuckl
                                                      l
                                                      larrydude RE: chuckl Feb 9, 2009 06:33 PM

                                                      I have never intenionally seasoned at that heat. I think using cast iron is the best way to season. The more I use it the better it gets. This has repaired some of my seasoning. I do think that baking and using the heat helps bond it more. Just my experience though....

                                                      1. re: larrydude
                                                        c
                                                        chuckl RE: larrydude Feb 9, 2009 06:36 PM

                                                        my own experience would seem to bear that out too, if i feel like a cast iron pan is losing its seasoning, i'll cook something fatty like bacon in it a few times. I've heard frying chicken is good too. Thanks for sharing your experience

                                                        1. re: chuckl
                                                          MikeB3542 RE: chuckl Feb 9, 2009 07:39 PM

                                                          Strongly recommend anybody with questions about seasoning cast iron, or curious about what can and can't be cooked in cast iron. check out the International Dutch Oven Society (www.idos.com). Those folks have taken it to the next level -- for them, black iron is anything but a black art! Or see if there is a DOG (Dutch Oven Gathering) near you, and experience it yourself.

                                                          1. re: MikeB3542
                                                            d
                                                            daff0dyl RE: MikeB3542 Feb 10, 2009 05:57 AM

                                                            I have a question please as I'm very confused LOL
                                                            I got a cast iron pan for X-mas, pre-seasoned supposedly.
                                                            I have been using it once or twice a week. In the beginning it was great. I'd cook bacon or steak and it would never stick. After each use, I'd wipe it down, add vegetable oil and place in oven for 30-60 min at 350. Then I read that it needs to be in oven at 500, that 300 is too low so I started doing that. The pan is now sticking so I have no choice but to scrub it. I bought a nylon scrubber and gently go at it to remove the stuck particles of food, then take a paper towel with hot water and run it over until the paper towel is no longer dirty. I add oil, a good amount and back in the oven it goes. I did that last night and left it in there. Just checked on it this morning and the center of the pan is peeling, badly, the size of an egg; a big chunk.
                                                            I'm ready to attack it and make it better but really, after reading everyehwere on the net, there seems to be so many different opinions on this subject that I dont know what to do. Maybe throw it out and buy a new one? My questions are: a) Am I trying to season too often? b) am I using the right oil? c) Is the oven on too high? d) do you think I just got a bad pan and need to retry with a new one?
                                                            Thanks

                                                            1. re: daff0dyl
                                                              MikeB3542 RE: daff0dyl Feb 10, 2009 06:55 AM

                                                              Me thinks that the pan is getting a little too much TLC and oil. Just to restate, go to www.idos.com and peruse the forums.

                                                              a) Not necessary to re-season unless your seasoning layer is really worn off. Best way to maintain seasoning is to use the pan, a lot. Use it for lots of different things, not just bacon and greasy stuff.

                                                              Unless you need to blacken something, keep the heat medium or lower (you will be surprised at how the heat builds up in the pan if you give it time). Until your pan gets really good, always plan on using a little oil or fat to cook with The pan should be hot (drops of water dancing) before adding your oil.

                                                              After clean-up, all that should be necessary is to dry the pan thoroughly pop on the stovetop. Wipe the inside lightly with oil, and heat the pan until you get whisps of smoke. Use a paper towel and wipe out excess oil. Too much oil will just turn gummy and won't adhere well to the pan. That extra oil will go rancid if you don't use the pan regularly (yuck!

                                                              )

                                                              The pan, when you put it away should be slick, but your hands shouldn't be greasy after handling.

                                                              b) Just about any fat (other than butter) will do. Some folks are fond of solid fats like Crisco and lard, others go with peanut, soybean, corn or canola. I've even heard of folks who use olive oil. Some say that spray-on oils like PAM are bad -- I have had no problems (it is all I use on my waffle irons).

                                                              Different fats smoke and burn at different temps -- adjust your oven temp to keep the fumes down (or do as I do, and season on the grill, outside.)

                                                              Butter is not a good choice for seasoning -- it contains water and other stuff that will scorch and be unhelpful -- but is fine to cook with.

                                                              c) Some folks like to season at higher temps, but 300-350 is probably just fine. If you do season at high temps (450-500), stick with peanut or canola oil, since these oils handle high temps better. There is a long discussion in the idos.com forums

                                                              d.) All in all, your pan is probably just fine. Cast iron is not really high maintenance, but the routine is different from what you do with everything else.

                                                              A properly seasoned pan will not always have that lovely black satin look -- that takes awhile to develop. Until then, don't be alarmed if your pan goes through some ugly phases where the finish is splotchy.

                                                              Best of luck.

                                                              1. re: MikeB3542
                                                                d
                                                                daff0dyl RE: MikeB3542 Feb 10, 2009 08:37 AM

                                                                Thank you for the info.
                                                                Now to get rid of that peeling layer, how should I proceed?

                                                                1. re: daff0dyl
                                                                  MikeB3542 RE: daff0dyl Feb 10, 2009 11:04 AM

                                                                  Just scrub it off with a plastic scrubby in hot soapy water. The loose stuff will come off; the stuff that is OK will be OK. Then re-season. Your pan will look splotchy (home-grown seasoning starts out as a sort of honey color) and that's OK.

                                                  2. cobrapc RE: aekap Feb 11, 2009 03:59 PM

                                                    You went the wrong way buying new skillets. Yard sales, flea markets, and Ebay. It takes time to get a skillet just right, and when you get it there, never wash it. I love my skillets, Oswald, Wagner, and even my no name. When you can fry potatoes without them sticking you're there! Good luck.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: cobrapc
                                                      c
                                                      Clarkafella RE: cobrapc Feb 11, 2009 04:18 PM

                                                      I guess everyone might have different opinions about this, but the most well seasoned iron skillet that I have ever used belongs to my mother-in-law. And she washes it with soap and water every time she uses it, and has been doing that for over 50 years! I guess that it is so slick from use that there are no "pores" or anything for soap to get in to. I'm getting her to leave it to me in her will!

                                                      1. re: Clarkafella
                                                        r
                                                        rockfish42 RE: Clarkafella Feb 11, 2009 04:48 PM

                                                        Soap won't remove actual seasoning, it'd be like trying to clean the polymerized oil from your oven with it. It will destroy an incomplete seasoning and strip any surface oil off the cookware. The stipulation not to use soap comes from when soap was homemade with lye+fat, and an incomplete saponification reaction will leave some lye in the soap resulting in something rather caustic. I follow the middle ground of washing with hot water and a soft brush, followed by a dry on the stove and a really light oiling.

                                                    Show Hidden Posts