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Apr 11, 2009 01:29 PM

Problem cooking with cast iron skillet

I use a 12" cast iron skillet, lodge, on an electric stove. Every time I cook pancakes they are uneven all over and seem to take a longer than usual time to cook. This may be the case with other things that are cooked in it as well.

Is there something wrong with the pan? I use plenty of oil. I season it sometimes, but often will just remove the food and leave the seasoning on, instead of washing the pan.

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  1. It sounds to me as if the problem is with your burner. Perhaps the element is heating unevenly. Or perhaps you aren't turning the heat high enough to let the pan heat evenly and/or thoroughly.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Ashforth

      I don't know if it could be the burner, because the last place I stayed was electric and I had a similar result. However with my current burner, the oil always slides to one side of the pan.

      I usually heat the oil at medium-low.

      1. re: bugmenot

        "However with my current burner, the oil always slides to one side of the pan."
        it's got to be one of two things...

        - the burner is too small, causing the pan to list slightly to one side (most likely the heavier side with the handle - is that where the oil slides?)
        - the pan is warped

        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

          or the burner may not be seated correctly in the rim. Since the pan is sitting on the removable burner coil, how level it is depends on how level the coil is.

          Another thought - pancakes don't need a lot of oil. In fact if the pan is seasoned well enough, I pour in a bit of oil, and then wipe it out with a paper towel. If after several pancakes the pan looks dry, I wipe the pan with the oily towel. You are not trying to fry the pancakes.

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            Another possible problem is that the stove itself is not level.

      2. What's the diameter of the burner? My largest is 8". That means the two outer inches do not touch the burner. So of course they are going to be colder than the center. If you try to fit 3 pancakes in a skillet like this, the half over the burner cooks much faster. With something like french toast I can rotate the pieces a few times to even the cooking. For pancakes I've switched to using two smaller pans, each on a separate burner.

        I'm becoming a fan of carbon steel for pancakes, especially my 22cm French crepe pan, though an even cheaper Mexican steel comal works nearly as well (it doesn't have much a handle though).

        For searing meat, consider preheating your pan in the oven. It heat up much more evenly.

        2 Replies
          1. re: bugmenot

            That kind of burner often does not sit flat in the rim.

        1. I have had this same problem with cooking pancakes on the stove, no matter what pan I use. I resorted to getting a good electric griddle, which I use for pancakes, french toast, tortillas, and flat breads. Works much better than the stove, and since I have a larger surface area to cook on, I can make more pancakes and french toast in one shot than in a pan.

          1. A couple of possibilities. An eight inch electric range heating element should be sufficient to work with a 12" cast iron skillet. It's a combination I use every day. Your pan should contact the burner surface evenly, It should rest flat on the burner and be in physical contact with the entire surface of the burner. It takes time to bring a cast iron skillet up to temperature. The oil, which should be used only sparingly for pancakes, also needs time to reach cooking temperature, The proper setting for the burner will vary from stove to stove and from burner to burner. One eight inch burner on a given stove will function differently than an eight burner on another stove. If the oil in your pan runs to one side either your stove isn't level or your burner is damaged or improperly seated in its drip pan. The heat output of electric range burners can deminish over time and you may be working with a bad heating element. I'm always troubled when someone says they "wash" their cast iron skillets but I doubt that has anything to do with the problem you describe,

            1. The last time I cooked with the combination mentioned was many years ago. On that stove, there were two elements to the burner that came on differently depending on the heating selection dialed. Anything that turns off one of the elements is going to exacerbate the uneven cooking characteristics of cast.