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Mar 3, 2009 07:07 AM

Cast-iron skillet - inside walls are bumpy

So I'm hoping someone can help with an ongoing issue I'm having with my cast-iron skillet. I have a 12" Lodge Logic skillet that is in absolutely beautiful condition, but my 6.5" skillet, which I treat in a basically identical manner, has bumps all over the inside wall of the skillet. I've scrubbed it out before, but it has reappeared. Any idea what can be causing these? It's not really affecting the performance of the pan, but it is pretty unsightly, not to mention when I wipe the skillet with a paper towel it gets a little chewed up and leaves pieces of paper stuck to the inside.

Just as an FYI, my usual maintenance routine is cook, wipe the pan out immediately, eat my dinner, then rinse out, scrub away anything stuck on with kosher salt if necessary, put the pan back on the heat and wipe with a thin layer of vegetable oil when it's screaming hot again.

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  1. You may want to take a look at this (very extensive) post on the subject:

    1. I don't buy cast iron that isn't smooth. It just makes life easier. Try doing some fried food in your cast iron - it never fails to make a nice seasoned surface without all that oven nonsense. I am talking real frying - an inch or more of hot molten grease but not so much it will overflow the pan when you put in the food to fry. One piece at a time will keep it from boiling over.

      I only buy cast iron by Griswold/Erie PA. It isn't made any more, but you can find it in antique shops and flea markets. It is so smooth you could ice skate on it and light weight. It really shows how slip shod today's cast iron stuff is. Once you've seen it and touched it you'll understand. Once you'cve cooked with it --you'll never accept this Lodge and Wagner crap as legitimate cast iron cookware.

      10 Replies
      1. re: kayakado

        Curious what the OP means by "bumpy". Anything made by Lodge will have a fine pebbly texture -- this is natural, and really shouldn't be a problem. With any kind of use, this texture smooths way out.

        Lodge is hardly "crap" -- sure it would be nice if they offered a line of polished skillets, but my guess is that they just don't see the kind of demand that would justify the cost. Neither does their PRC competiton -- with their low-labor costs they could do it cheaply enough if they thought they could sell it.

        Sure you can get old Griswold and Wagner stuff that has the machined surfaces. Be fore-warned -- you will pay dearly for the genuine article. If you are getting a "deal" it is very likely a counterfeit.

        1. re: MikeB3542

          Hey - I mean lumps, the whole way around. Imagine if you turned a golf ball inside out - that's what the inner walls of the skillet look like. There are a couple spots where it has kind of flaked away, and I'm curious - should I try to scrape all of it off? I have made half-assed attempts with a spatula when it's hot - it'll take a lot more doing than just that to get that layer off, and I certainly don't want it to occur again if I go throught the trouble of getting rid of them.

          I use the pan constantly - probably 3-4 times a week, for about three years now - and the actual cooking surface is smooth and shiny and wonderful. The rest of my cast-iron is all in great condition too - it's just this little skillet that's experiencing this problem.

          1. re: MikeB3542

            Not necessarily so, Mike. I'm a recent Griswold convert--literally tossed my newer cast iron skillets in the Goodwill box!--and I'm finding good, 1920's Griswolds (those have a large logo on the bottom in block letters) for under $20....sometimes less. Just recently I've picked up 2 10" skillets for a total of $25, a VERY old 10" (from the 'teens) for $9, and am getting a 12" for $25 in the mail. You need to shop flea markets and yard sales, and learn how to get the "crud" and rust off the pans. I suggest you go to this wonderful blog where you can learn all about restoring and cooking in the fine, old polished cast iron: www.

            1. re: MikeB3542

              MikeB3542, I second Beckykeach's comment. In 1980, while my father was still alive and had in his possession the skillet that my mother used when I was I growing up, I purchased a then brand new Lodge cast iron griddle, to start my own tradition. For 29 years almost, I used that griddle religiously, seasoned it the way it was supposed to be seasoned, and in all those years of use, it never got quite right.

              A few months ago, I bought a beat-up circa 1940 Griswold (small logo: no collector value) skillet on eBay for $16, and as soon as I got it, put it through a cycle in our self-cleaning oven to get off whatever was on it. ("You don't know where it's been!") Then I just cooked on that griddle, usually just a couple fried eggs per session, with bacon grease and virgin sesame oil as the lubricants, alternating between the oils on alternate sessions, and taking care to wipe the pan down after each session. After half a dozen sessions, the griddle was perfect, the way I remembered my parents' old skillet, and I gave away the underachieving Lodge.

              Maybe in this case, the adage really is true: they don't make 'em like they used to. But you are right about being cautious about counterfeits. Learn what items the collectors value (e.g., "slant logo") and get the other stuff (e.g., small logo Erie), because it sells cheaply enough that it is not worth counterfeiting, and you will likely be buying the genuine article.

              1. re: Politeness

                Politeness - when you say the Lodge "never got quite right," what was the problem, exactly? And in what ways is the Griswold superior?

                I myself have a Lodge that I think might be underachieving, and this makes me wonder if I should start looking for vintage Griswolds on th' Bay.

                1. re: happy_c

                  In a nutshell, Griswold and Wagner went the extra step and machined the cooking surface of their skillets. The result is a near mirror polish. Suffice to say, this is nice. Unfortunately, they are no longer in business.

                  The "only" thing that Lodge does with their castings is shot blast (to clean off the sand from casting) and grind off burrs and sharp edges. As castings go, they really are excellent, but the surface retains the texture from the casting sand. (The sand is not there, but the impression that the sand made in the molt iron remains). Lodge is still open for business.

                  1. re: happy_c

                    happy_c, I see that MikeB3542 already has said much of what I would have replied had I replied first, so I shall just supplement his reply. Our Lodge (we bought it in 1980, remember) did have machining marks in the surface, but they were fairly coarse: coarse, that is, relative to the fine machining marks in the surface of the Griswold. In 1980, I assumed that, with time and repeated use, the action of the spatula on the surface of the Lodge, and the "filling in" of the grooves with seasoning, would result in a smooth surface like that in my mother's old skillet. But in 28½ years of fairly steady use, it just never happened: the surface in 2009 still had some resemblance to the surface of a vinyl LP record, and, even using oil, a fried egg never came quite cleanly off the surface.

                    Also, and I do not know how this cuts, the Griswold is a thinner casting than the Lodge. The Griswold is no lightweight, and still has considerable thermal mass, but the casting seems more refined and less chunky. Subjectively, this seems to make the heat distribution more even, but I may be deluded by cognitive dissonance in that respect.

                    If you read some of the fanboy sites for Griswold and Wagner, there is a lot of discussion of the "good iron" from around Erie, Pennsylvania, being part of the Griswold secret. While there are differences -- sometimes significant -- in the chemical impurities of cast iron according to where the iron ore was mined, I would be less skeptical of the "good iron" claims if they were tied to more objective data and specific non-iron components of the cast iron.

                    When all is said and done, however, when the sole criterion is aptitude as a tool for cooking, our ~1940 Griswold is vastly superior to our former ~1980 Lodge. If you do search eBay, and if the fanboys are right, the trick is to stay away from any "Griswold" cast ironware that does not have the word "Erie" embossed on the bottom; it's not hard to find "Erie" Griswold, as all of the "real" Griswold does have the magic word there, and it is plentiful and often inexpensive.

                    1. re: Politeness

                      Thanks for the detailed explanation. I wonder - do you notice that the older, smoother pan is any more or less likely to make food taste acidic? One disappointment for me is that pan sauces I make in the Lodge taste like nails; I wonder if a smoother surface and/or "good iron" would be any different.

                      1. re: happy_c

                        I've been using the really old, good stuff (Griswold, Wapak, Favorite Piqua) for about two months, now--I've bought 16 different skillets! It's addictive, once you see for yourself how much better they are--and I have to say that my sauces--at least roux-based ones like bechamel--are the best they've been. I tried deglazing in one of my good Griswolds and the wine did tend to mess up my seasoning a bit--I think it was just too new; I take all the old seasoning off the pans I find and reseason--but it didn't affect the taste of the sauce at all.

                        The "good ore" stories seem to abound. Apparently the good stuff--according to legend--was pretty much wiped out by the time WWII took its toll.

                        I was looking at a Lodge Logic (their flagship line) in the store, last week, and compared to the old stuff it was, honestly, total crap: twice as heavy and horribly scratchy and grainy. You'll NEVER be able to season a pan like that into submission, in my opinion. The Griswolds and Wapaks I've picked up have shiny, mirror-smooth surfaces and they're light and well-balanced.

                        By the way, you don't need to worry too much about counterfeit Griswolds as long as you buy the more common sizes of skillets, such as the #7, 8, and 9#s. They're very common--even the large logo; I wouldn't bother with the small ones, myself--and fairly cheap, even on Ebay. I suggest you check the User rating of the seller and see, too, if they sell a lot of cast iron. You usually can trust them. I've met quite a few of the Ebay sellers, in fact, now that I've joined the Wagner and Griswold Society. They are fanatics about honest representation on Ebay, and do their best to report frauds immediately.

            2. I have a small CI skillet that belonged to my father that is exactly like that. It's an embarrassment among my good CI collection. All the others appear perfectly seasoned except for this little Ugly Duckling which must be 60 or 70 years old.
              This skillet has been like this for as long as I can remember and Daddy (and Mama) used it pretty near every day. I got it after they died.
              I have tried to "fix" it as I am sure that you have tried to fix yours. Nothing seems to work and I hate to take off all the seasoning and start over from scratch because it works SO well. The bottom is fine. slick as a whistle.

              I finally came to the conclusion that I use it pretty much like they did - for quick things, like a couple of pieces of bacon or sausage for breakfast, a burger patty for lunch, a small chop for supper. Nothing is ever cooked more than for a couple of minutes.
              The grease spatters onto the sides of the pan, but never gets completely carbonized or whatever to become that nice slick, slowly-built-up seasoned layer. It stays as a collection of rough half-baked globs.
              Now, this was not why my parents died. (They were really old.) It ain't gonna kill me. I love that small skillet and use it all the time.
              If I really cared, I could put it into my self-cleaning oven which would remove everything and I could start all over again. I don't care. I think it would just get the same way again. The skillet works fine and was good enough for Mama and Daddy.
              It makes me happy. I'm leaving it as it is.

              2 Replies
              1. re: MakingSense

                "The grease spatters onto the sides of the pan, but never gets completely carbonized or whatever to become that nice slick, slowly-built-up seasoned layer. It stays as a collection of rough half-baked globs."

                MakingSense has got it right. Apparently, it also happens when you season a pan in the oven and don't wipe off the excess oil from time to time (per the excellent advice in the article linked to below).


                1. re: MakingSense

                  My cast irons look like they should be thrown out, however, I wouldn't trade them for anything. I use them for certain things and as ugly as they are the inside bottom, is as smooth as a baby's bottom. Also, my grandmothers so they are pretty darn old, she had them when she was 20-30 which makes them almost 70 yrs old. I've given up trying to make them look nice.

                2. In my spare time, I am a mechanic with some metal work experience, I see all these recommendation about getting an old skillet.. but I think one could easily sand with progressively finer grits until you achieve a mirror like finish - if you wish. I have done this with cast iron parts on a car. Maybe it's not practical for everyone.. but with all of these complains about pebbly finish.. just a thought..

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: CACook

                    I was thinking about using a power-sander. ow long would it take to sand it by hand do you think?

                    I saw a cast iron pan a couple of years back before I knew anything about them. it was about £10, but it had such a rough surface, you could probably smooth sandpaper on it!

                    1. re: Soop

                      You can use a power sander.. or my favorite tool is a 90 degree die grinder powered by air, with a 3" wheel, but any similar tool would work.. just don't take a grinding wheel to it. Usually the sand paper came in 80 grit and then 120. After sand paper there are 3 grade of 3M pads to get it polished. I got it all from an automotive "surface recondition" kit.

                      I had a pan that was rusting on the bottom and I used one of the 3M pads and it took all the rust off, mostly turned the iron silver with black bumps that I could not get to, if I were to start with a gritted sand paper It would have taken the bumps off and be completely silver.

                      I think it will take me a couple hours to get the cooking surface completely mirror polished, but I am not sure if I am going to do that much work to modify my cookware! Cooking eggs on cast iron would be the holy grail but that isn't my goal.

                      I have to wonder how it will cook if polished too much, it seems the seasoning will be much thinner and have less pores to grab onto.

                      1. re: CACook

                        "I have to wonder how it will cook if polished too much, it seems the seasoning will be much thinner and have less pores to grab onto."

                        Yeah, I was thinking just that. I have to say, there are 2 things that spring to mind:
                        1) if you could get it to a mirrored finish, it would probably be quite non-stick already
                        2) You might not be able to get it that far, as I think the casting process traps air bubbles in the metal. If you get it perfectly flat, there should be bubbles.

                        1. re: Soop

                          That does seem to be the case. I took a power-sander to my relatively new Lodge skillet and try as I could, there were always blemishes from the air bubbles in the metal.

                          Still, it was considerably smoother than the original finish and now seems to be seasoning nicely.

                          Was it worth the effort to sand? Yes, I think so. It didn't take too long and the pan performs much better now.

                          To the OP: I have a very old griswold as well. The inside surface have the same bumps, but I really don't mind since the cooking surface is super-smooth. I've accepted the bumps as part of the pan's character.

                  2. Grind the interior surface with a cordless drill with a small circular grinding pad attachment. Start with a course pad and proceed with a fine, then extra fine pad to finish. Clean. Re-season pan. Voila. Smooth as a babies bottom...