Grilled Halibut on Lodge Cast Iron Reversible Griddle - Sticking Issues!
I just got a new Lodge cast iron reversible griddle/grill and used the grill side for the first time tonight with some halibut and asparagus. I heated the pan for a few minutes on medium/high, coated it with olive oil, then hit it with the fish. When I laid the fish down I heard the sizzle so I figured I was good to go, but when I went to flip I discovered there was considerable sticking happening. I cooked the other side and the fish tasted fine. Then I grilled up some asparagus, and added more oil and after the first batch was done and went for the second batch there was a large flame up and I got discouraged and just served the food I had made.
A couple of questions;
-How do I keep the fish from getting stuck (was a huge pain to clean - scraped and scraped and its still covered in black soot)
-How do I avoid flame ups in the future?
I have theories about the heat (probably too low) and amount of oil I used (probably too much), but just wondering what I did wrong and how to remedy it in the future! Thanks!
Until you have more seasoning on the grill pan your best bet is to oil the pan and the fish.
You probably got flame up because the smoke point of olive oil can be relatively low compared to other oils....maybe close to 400 degrees for extra virgin olive oil. Once it reaches smoke point it will break down and next is a flame up when the oil reaches the flash point. For most oils that's around 600 degrees F...for olive oil it could be slightly lower.
Although Lodge cast iron is ostensibly pre-seasoned, I would still season it myself before using. Also, monku is right about the olive oil. If you must use olive oil for high-heat cooking, make sure it's a 'light' olive oil, NOT extra virgin. Coat the food itself lightly with the oil, not the pan. Make sure the heat is correct for the foods you're cooking. Most foods will release themselves when ready to turn. It can be tricky to use a spatula on a ridged grill pan anyway, so it really helps if the food is ready to be turned. You really shouldn't have much trouble with asparagus, just make sure you lay it horizontally to the grill 'slots', so it doesn't fall into the slots. I use tongs to turn asparagus, not a spatula. Like anything, it just takes practice to get this stuff right. Oh, yes. Before you use it again, make sure you get all the 'soot' off of it, then re-season it well. If you don't, the foods will stick from now on, as the 'soot' will kind of act like an adhesive when oil is added. There's a difference between the 'natural' build ups and an excess of char. Once you have it cleaned and re-seasoned, make sure you don't use soap or rough abrasives on it. (You will probably have to use both this time) I usually just use salt. Regular table salt, not the large-grained Kosher salt, which is too rough. I use a paper towel at first with the salt and then a soft large brush to brush off the salt, then a LIGHT coating of grapeseed oil, applied with a clean, soft, cotton rag, (like an old bedsheet scrap.) Anytime you are forced to use soap or abrasives on cast iron, you must start from 'square one' to re-season it. The less often you need to do this, the better off you are.
Thank you both for your responses.
So it sounds like my first problem was using EVOO. I looked up the smoke point and its about 408F. Corn oil and canola oil were closer to 450F. Light olive oil was 468F according to one site. Those seem like better choices for grilling.
However this raises a secondary question that may ultimately require a new thread, yet I will pose it here nonetheless. How hot was my pan? I was thinking I didn't have it hot enough, but if the oil is smoking and then even flaming up, it means the surface was wicked hot. So maybe I had it too hot..? I have other Lodge products and am very familiar with the heat distribution power it holds, but maybe having it on medium-high was just too much. I will have to try it slightly lower, and with less oil.
The asparagus itself wasn't really a problem - the first batch came out tasting great. It was more that by that point I had a LOT of oil on the pan as well as stuck fish charring and burning. Those factors, combined with the high heat, lead to a flare up that put me over the edge and I decided to give up for the night.
I will clear out all the soot before the next use, thanks for that tip. I have seasoned my other skillets in the oven a few times, so I will have to do that with this as well. I love cast iron and am determined to make this work, so thank you for all your help!
I have the exact same Lodge reversible griddle you do, and it required much more of a learning curve than I expected. Based on my experience, your intuition is exactly correct: you actually had the pan way too hot.
What I've learned works for me is to heat the grill by giving it a LONG preheat over relatively low heat (four out of ten, or medium low, is where I usually set my gas burners). I have been known to start preheating my grill as soon as I start my mise en place, but give it a minimum of 10 minutes to preheat. And then I do the actual cooking with the knobs turned to their lowest setting. This is plenty hot to cook just about anything (you still get a good sear if you're doing steaks or chops this way) but it's low enough that you run much less risk of incinerating anything.
Another trick that helps me: I have a mess of small disposable aluminum pans (technically, they're called half-size hotel pans -- I buy them in bulk at BJs or Costco: one bag costs about $7 and lasts me about a year) that I originally bought to use as drip pans when I'm doing indirect charcoal grilling. But I quickly learned that they're also useful when I'm using the Lodge, especially when I'm cooking relatively delicate things like fish or most vegetables: placing one of these pans over the fish traps the heat, essentially turning the grill into a miniature oven and allowing the fish to cook faster, release more readily, and keep from getting dried out on the grill.
But first and foremost: it's even more important to keep this pan seasoned than your other cast iron: remember, when you're using the griddle side, you've got flames in direct contact with the grill side, and vice versa. That can cause you to lose seasoning much faster than you will on a piece that has only one cooking surface.
If you say were you using "a LOT" of oil. then some could have splashed out of the pan when you put in the food, and ignited on the flame or coil.
Back to your pan, I believe that Lodge products are sand cast, leaving them with lots of little bumps on them. If your pan is not incredibly well seasoned, then these can be the cause of sticking with delicate foods such as fish.
My advice, make sure that pan is WELL SEASONED before you put fish on it again, especially such a flaky one as halibut.
I agree with the others. Your pan is brand new, so the fish easily stick to it. It will become more stickless as time goes on.
I would avoid the extra virign olive oil. It has a low smoke point and flash point. In addition, it has this burned taste when it is heated above the smoke point. Needless to say, it is not healthy to eat burned oil.
Not good for taste, not good for safety and not good for health for high temperature cooking. There is your extra virign olive oil.
I do recommend you to get a small fire distinguisher as water cannot be use for putting out grease/oil fire. I have never use mine, but you just never know.
America's Test Kitchen (ATK) just did an episode on this very issue. Yes, your new Lodge is probably not seasoned quite enough, but according to ATK, to grill fish successfully you have to heat the grill smoking hot, oil it, let it smoke, oil it again, let it smoke, oil it again (at least 10 times) for it not to stick.
The thing about Lodge grill pans is that they take a long, long, time to pre-heat. I'd give it at least 15 minutes before putting food in it. ... (maybe even put it in a 500F oven for a while).
As for the oil, as far as I'm concerned it's personal preference. If you normally cook with olive oil, then go for it.....I've never had a problem using olive oil but that's what I prefer.
This is all great information. Thank you everybody.
I have a gas burner, but I can't imagine what the point of having a heating element that can get to 2012F!! That is absurd! My gf was always afraid of the red hot coils in our old apartment which I thought was ridiculous but now I feel she was right to be a bit on edge, hehe. Does anyone know the heating range for gas burners? I would imagine it varies a decent amount. Just curious now.
I like the idea of trying the gradual heating from medium-low next time. Of course everyone's concern about building up the seasoning is a very valid point as well. I have never once had a sticking issue in any of my other Lodge pans, even from the first use, but its very true that this is a whole different animal when you are putting the fish directly on the pan in order to sear it. I will diligently work on building up that seasoning!
Good call on using the aluminum pans to help cook the fish too, that makes sense and is a very helpful tip. It was a pretty massive piece of halibut (spanned the entire griddle) so that poses its own challenges, but at least with smaller pieces of food that makes perfect sense.
If fish sears at 300F and we can reasonably estimate that the pan was at least double that, I clearly had it too hot for what I was using it for. But I think ultimately the coarseness of the brand new pan was probably the number one issue in it sticking.
As for oils, while olive oil may do just fine, I think I will at least play around with some of the other ones. Interesting about the ATK thing... might be worth a shot after I gain back some confidence with the pan, but for now I will probably try grapeseed oil for higher heat cooking and see how I like its performance.
This has proven to be a very useful and enlightening discussion. Thank you everybody. I am still a relatively young cook, with only a few years of under my belt, so these are all vital tips - thanks!
I suppose something at 2000F would boil water fast, that's one advantage. Also, I would guess that most of your standard pans would dissipate that heat very rapidly, making 2000 degrees not so absurd - however with cast iron retaining most of it, this is probably just another reason why gradually heating from a lower setting makes the most sense with cast iron. Still curious about that gas burner temp range, if anyone knows :)
From an older CH post http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/293560
Reminds me that rather than concentrating on surface temperature BTU's may be more appropriate.
They sell infrared laser kitchen thermometers to measure the surface temperature of the pan or your food. The more expensive ones will measure higher temperatures over 1000 degrees F.
Also, don't forget to prep the fish beforehand. Get it to room temperature and pat it dry with kitchen towel. It will stick less.