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Jan 22, 2010 08:40 AM

Cast Iron newbie questions

I had a couple of cast iron pieces years ago, but gave them to friends as I couldn't deal with the seasoning process. Now, older and wiser, I'm trying again. I have 2 Lodge skillets (12 and 10") and the Lodge aebleskiver.

Interestingly, the aebleskiver seems.... perfect. Either the pre-seasoning was better, or my added seasoning was better, because it just seems wonderful. It was the one that I was most nervous about using...

I'm not quite at the same stage with the skillets, and I've read so many techniques...

They're looking good EXCEPT that each of them has areas that look less shiny.
- on the 12" skillet, along part of the curve where the bottom of the pan meets the vertical sides,
- on the 10" skillet, just mottled on the flat surface

Does that mean that I scrubbed off some of the seasoning layers in those locations, so there is less seasoning there? Or perhaps when I was coating with oil, I didn't coat those areas as generously?

So, the question is, what do I need to do, if anything, to get a more consistent, even surface.

Do I need to 'start over' and burn off (or scrub off) all the seasoning that exists?
Or, do I just add seasoning, focusing only on the locations that seem under-seasoned?
Or, do I add a full layer of oil and reseason a few more times, until the seasoning evens out?
Or, just continue to use the pans and it will even out.

Also, I'm reading conflicting info about whether or not I can use metal utensils. I'm sure folks didn't always have silicone available! I used a regular knife to cut a slice of perfect cornbread, but now I see the knife marks in the bottom of my 10" skillet.

Thanks for your continued cast iron patience.

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  1. Sounds like you might be "overthinking" your cast iron's appearance. Be more concerned with performance. Have you made pancakes or griddle cakes in either? If they stick, your skillets need to be seasoned more. I assume that you are handwashing these, towel-drying them and oiling them after use. I feel sure that with continued use, your skillets will take on the look (and wear) that you desire.
    An interesting note: Cast iron reacts to acidic foods, so your skillets will look different after cooking say, a smothered steak with tomatoes, than just scrambling eggs. Never fear, the skillet will right itself with continued use. BTW, my favorite way to season a skillet? Use about a 1/4 cup of canola oil in a cold skillet and add a prepared cornbread mix. Bake @ 400 until the cornbread is almost burnt. Throw out cornbread and repeat...two or three times will season a skillet nicely.

    2 Replies
    1. re: beesrcool

      nail on the head - I overthink. Everything.

      I haven't tried pancakes yet. I'm sure my 17 year old will be ok if I try that for breakfast tomorrow!

      And I think I'll add some fried foods to the menu for a couple of weeks.... I did a roast chicken with vegs in the 12" skillet last night, and that was good and easy. And I'm sure it helped the pan.

      The standard Jiffy cornmix doesn't work for me as it contains lard (modified kosher, not vegetarian). I'll look for a suitable substitute, unless anyone tunes in with a comparable suggestion.

      When you do your 1/4 cup of canola and cornbread routine, do you add the other ingredients to the mix? ie, the egg or water or whatever is called for? Or do you just use oil and the powdered mix?

      1. re: mtpaper

        My guess is that the aebleskiver worked best since the batter for those is fairly rich, like waffle batter.

        For a decent cornbread recipe, try this one from the Lodge website:

        Yeah, yeah, mayonnaise. I've seen "Annie Hall", too ya know! If it makes you feel better, Hellmann's is parve, so you got that going for you. The recipe on the back of the Quaker corn meal box is pretty good, too. I'll let you decide if you want to make it sweet or not, yellow or white, with or without kernels of sweet corn -- those kinds of questions will leave you with a fat lip in some parts of the country.

        Not sure you need to put so much oil in the pan that you can't eat the cornbread. Seasoning consists of lots of thin layers. It takes a while. Til then, relax and have fun. Use your pans as often as possible.

    2. The secret to cast iron.........don't tell anyone......promise?

      Use it!

      Yup, it's that simple. There's very little harm you can do to it. Make sure after every use you remove food residue, (scrape with implement and method of your choice -- they all work) and wipe it dry. I used to use salt and water; nowadays I use a wire brush to remove food residue. I rinse with plain water. But you may find a routine that works better.

      I use plain old olive oil or canola oil, but you might prefer something else.

      Use the pan every day; that's the secret!

      1. If you ever think that you've started to wash off or deglaze off some of your cast iron finish, then there's a quick solution. Make some bacon. One batch of bacon in a pan will re-season and fix up any problems that you're having. Plus you have bacon! Score!

        3 Replies
        1. re: Indirect Heat

          I suspect someone avoiding Jiffy cornbread because of the lard won't be frying bacon anytime soon. ;-)

          1. re: MikeB3542

            Heh, whoops. Missed that one. Ah well, I tend towards the "bacon solves all problems". Not everyone agrees with me. ;)

            1. re: Indirect Heat

              Should we have a Nobel prize for foods? If so, should the inventor of bacon be nominated? (Despite there is no way to find out who exactly invented it)

        2. Mtpaper,

          To answer your questions quickly:

          You can do anything you like from "starting all over" to just "continue to use", but you certainly do not NEED to start all over.

          You can use metal utensils especially when the seasoning surface has set in. When the pan is brand new, I would either use a wooden utensil or use a metal utensil lightly. Don't worry about the knife mark. It will heal itself as you cook, but I certainly won't try to scratch the pan continuously.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Why do all you people want to metal utensils, knifes, salt, and steel wool to scratch the hell out your cast iron pot and pans. You go to all the work to put a proper seasoning on just to remove it. All you need to do is remove all food while pan is hot then wipe good and oil. If need be add HOT water to pan and boil for a minute, scrape with wood utensil, dump, wipe, dry good and oil. That is all you need to do. But if love your cast iron, use only wood spoons, spatulas, knifes or hi-heat plastic ones. Also plastic lettuce knife works great for cornbread. I have done this many, many years and show how old school I am, I use hay to clean to my Dutch Ovens, it gets soft in the hot water and won't scratch my pots. If you are getting Castironitis and not sure what to do, then go to they have been around for 100 years and the only cast iron still made in the USA.