Cast Iron Novice Having Problem with Stir-Fry Rice Sticking
Partly because of enthusiastic users here I recently bought a Pre-seasoned Lodge Logic Cast Iron Skillet (seemed like the best option as antique Griswold / Wagner are very hard to come by in Scotland!). I added to the seasoning using flaxseed oil as per Cooks Illustrated / Sheryl Canter. The pan was nicely seasoned, such that I was able to fry eggs, omelettes and pancakes with no sticking.
The problem came when I tried to stir fry. Doing vegetables seemed to be ok, though it did leave a slightly gummy residue in the pan. When I added cooked rice it all stuck horribly to the pan and took the seasoning with it when I (as gently as I could) cleaned up. I built up the seasoning again and then did a stir fry with rice noodles and the same thing happened. I was using a very high heat and was keeping things moving with a metal spatula. I’ve only ever cooked stir fry rice in non-stick before but have gone off non-stick and thought I was getting something better with a CI skillet.
I know that a wok would be a better shape for stir fry but I don’t do it very often so am happy to manage with a skillet. But as woks were traditionally made out of cast iron then it must be possible to cook rice on seasoned CI without sticking?! Am I doing something wrong? Is freshly cooked rice too wet to stir fry on cast iron? I’m nervous of trying it again as it’s pretty tedious to keep having to re-season it. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
If the heat is too high you may be burning off the seasoning and the starch in the rice is acting like a binder for the seasoning. You didn't mention whether or not you are using oil in the pan first. I might have to look to see if I have any rice and try this out.
Edit: No rice to try.
I think there are several issues. Traditionally, a wok is better as you said. The reason is that a wok allows you to constantly toss the rice which is a bit faster and more uniform than moving the rice with a spatula. You can randomize the rice is less than a second by tossing and there is no way you and I can do remotely close using a spatula. Not only a Lodge cast iron skillet is not the ideal shape, it is not the ideal weight.
I know Sheryl Canter seasoning approach. WIthout going into details, it is meant for fried an egg or two. It is not meant for stir-fry actions. It is not wrong. It is just not what it is meant for.
I won't stir fry rice in a newly seasoned cast iron/carbon steel cookware. It is tougher than meats(aka protein). You need to build up a good seasoning surface for it. Yes, fresh rice is not ideal. Try to use cold rice from long grain rice like jasmine rice. I also add a small amount of oil into the rice and mix them. This is on top of adding oil to the wok. You have asked a very deep question which there is no short answer to. There are many wok posts on CHOWHOUNDS. Take a look and see if any help.
Thanks everybody. I've found it reassuring to hear that this is one of the hardest things to cook on CI. I’d thought I must be doing something wrong.
Chemicalkinetics – can I just clarify: you seem to be saying that it’s not just that it’s not seasoned sufficiently; but that the type of seasoning I’ve done is the wrong type of seasoning. Have I understood correctly? If so, I hadn’t realised that there were different types. Are you able to clarify / expand?
Really appreciate the responses here!
You may have read this thread but it does give some perspective on what some others are experiencing with the Canter method.
As others have pointed out most fried rice is done with cold day old rice which reduces the amount of moisture and stickiness. I'm also wondering if the rice could be dried in the skillet in the oven, removed from the skillet, the other ingredients cooked on the stove top and then rice added back in.
Cold rice, especially the longer grain types, has a different texture than warm. It can be hard, with an almost crystaline surface. This has to do with the type of starch that dominates, and how it responds to temperature. That may affect how it initially responds to heat in the wok.
One Iron Chef liked to coat his rice with beaten egg before adding it to the wok.