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Jul 10, 2009 11:22 AM

trying to season cast iron - whitish gray "spatter"?

I know there are loads of threads on seasoning cast iron but I couldn't find one that addressed this issue. So please forgive and/or kindly direct me to one that's appropriate!

I just got a 11 3/4" wagner ware skillet off ebay and had a false start seasoning it yesterday. Per one of the many internet guides to seasoning cast iron, I washed it, heated it with a little oil, and then baked it at 500 F upside down with thin coat of olive oil for 1 hr (there was smoking, and then it went away). This left a greyish sort of spattery stain around the middle the cooking surface (not at the edges) and a few glassy black beads around the rim of the skillet. Also on the cooking surface were black spots that looked sort of like seasoned surface but they were very small and scattered.

Today (per this blog's advice I tried baking it with thin coat of oil at about 250. The blog author recommends this treatment for smooth cast iron like wagner and griswold. Upon removal my pan looked more shiny.

However, I went away for an hour and forgot that the oven was still on! I just pulled out the poor thing and there is now the same greyish white spatter but this time around the perimeter of the cooking surface, not the center. So my questions are: have I totally screwed up seasoning the pan, and if so, do I have to scrub it down to bare iron again and start over, or can I continue to season and cover up the mistakes?

I have used another smaller pan for 2 years so I know what a properly seasoned pan looks like, and this isn't it. I also know that especially in the early stages it will only be good for certain applications--not looking for non-stick here. Thanks chows!

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  1. that happens to me when the heat is too high. It also is more likely to happen when using a vegetable (or olive) oil instead of lard.

    also, going at it twice in two days is just too much. You're trying to do too much at once. IMO, and there are a LOT of opinions about cast iron, you're doing everything wrong. I would just not worry about seasoning it unless it were naked iron.

    My advice is to load up your pan with bacon and put it in the oven at 400. Cook until done, then drain and wipe out your pan.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jaykayen

      Thanks, so you are also suggesting that I don't need to remove whatever stuff is already on the pan. Yes, there are way too many opinions. My sense was that the 250F temp was working better for my pan, though.

    2. You don't mention whether you stripped it before you began the process? At this stage I think I'd take some steel wool and scrub it down fully and start over - better now than to try to scrub off even more layers later. Once scrubbed down, start over but I wouldn't use olive oil. I'd use lard for seasoning.

      1 Reply
      1. re: knet

        Yes, it was already stripped down when I received it. Should I still strip it down again?

      2. I would. Hard to know what's going on with the spatter you describe but anything that is looking wrong in my mind would be reason to start over properly.

        1. First of all, relax. Without seeing the splatter, it is hard to figure out what it is, but I think it may be leftover soap scum. My guess is that before it was sold, someone washed it with soap and water in the "stripping" process. Not to worry. If I were you, I'd get a brillo pad and scour the whole pan top and bottom, dry it thoroughly and then scrape it with some steel wool or a wire brush. Then I'd season it with some oil. I know people swear by Crisco and lard, but I've seasoned all of mine with plain old vegetable oil and they are plenty slick. It's up to you. Whatever you feel most comfortable using. Just remember, even though you have a vintage pan, your seasoning is starting from scratch once you wash and scrape it down. It takes time to build up that surface. Each time you use it, make sure to clean it thoroughly with hot water (no soap), dry it, and re-oil it with a thin coating. I often heat the pan on a burner for a few minutes, but I don't think it is necessary. The non-stick properties are the result of a chemical process of the oil bonding to the metal because of the heat. The more you use the pan the more non-stick it will become.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Ambimom

            Thanks, Ambimom. The cast iron pan I'd been using before was seasoned with vegetable oil, not lard, so I was hoping plain oil would be ok! (That was a new pan that came with manufacturer's directions for seasoning so we just followed that and never got overwhelmed with internet research). The appearance of the pan has actually changed somewhat since my initial post--I had re-oiled it and put it back in the still hot (but turned off) oven. It came out looking darker. The splatter looks brown rather than gray now and overall the whole surface looks more black. Anyway I tried using it just now -- fried a couple eggs in a generous pool of oil. Since the eggs more or less sat on top of the oil, I feel like I can't judge the non-stickness of the cooking surface yet, and wouldn't want to yet, but you're surely right that it just needs continual use. The pan was pretty immaculately scrubbed down when I received it so I don't think it was soap scum. So jaykayen might be right that it was from too much heat during the first seasoning attempt. Judging from my experience with the first pan, I will have to reseason in the oven at least one more time, but for now I figure I'll just keep using it for frying.

            And yes, I have relaxed.