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Cast iron not too non-stick

I purchased a lodge cast iron skillet 4 years ago. It came seasoned but I scratched everything off and seasoned it every now and then (probably 10 times over a year) in the oven. I also used it mostly to cook greasy things like bacon. After every use, I would also do a "light" seasoning by warming the skillet on the stove, put some vegetable oil on it and rub it away with a paper towel to make a very thin coat.

The past two years or so I stopped seasoning it because it started to have some non-stick qualities, but it still left some residue after each cooking that I had to clean up either by pouring hot water on it while it was hot and then rubbing it off with my wooden spatula, or just wiping it with paper towel and sometimes with a bit of salt.

But I was under the impression that after all this use, it'll turn better than the nonstick pans out there, that I can fry eggs on it. I don't dare do such a thing right now because the cleanup will be a mess.

What can I do to improve its nonstick quality?

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  1. The non-stick qualities of cast iron are exaggerated.
    For eggs and crepes you're better off with an
    economical aluminum non-stick pan.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mpalmer6c

      I cook eggs in mine everyday without any sticking issues at all, including omelets. I completely disagree that aluminum non stick is better.

      1. re: rasputina

        >I cook eggs in mine everyday without any sticking issues at all, including omelets. I completely disagree that aluminum non stick is better.<

        I do too and my cast iron is NOT vintage. Just run of the mill Lodge from walmart and kroger.
        I will say that to experiance the non stick qualities of cast iron, that is has to be used and maintained like cast iron. It is NOT non stick aluminum and should not be treated as such.

        Much of the success of cooking with cast iron is the method of cooking and care. The proper seasoning is just the beginning.........

    2. A while ago, I posted a thread trying to figure out how best to season cast iron. Like you, I had been let down by the mediocre sticking-resistance of a newly seasoned CI pan, and I didn't have the patience to wait years to slowly build up a non-stick surface. After some fiddling around, I found that using flax seed oil (which has a very low smoke point), you can apply many layers of seasoning very quickly on the stove top. Here is a link to the thread:
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7854...

      The upside of this method is you can build a seasoning resembling a pan that's been in use for years in a very short period of time without too much effort. There are some downsides, and I list those in the thread. I'm not positive, but it also seems that a CI pan seasoned this way is even less well suited to high temp cooking than most seasoned CI pans - the seasoning can burn off, perhaps a little more easily than seasonings created with other oils. I have since also used the same method to touch up my pan after apparently burning off a portion of the seasoning.

      It's an option.

      BTW, I still don't fry eggs in no oil whatsoever, but a teaspoon of butter makes them glide around the surface no sweat.

      1. What can I do to improve its nonstick quality?
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        Use it!!!

        1. Google basted eggs. They changed my life. :)

          1. I was in the same boat as you one year ago. I tried the flaxseed oil method and it was discussed extensively here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/757023

            My chief complaint at that time was that I don't use sold shortening or pork fat to fry in, and my skillets didn't have that wonderful seasoning people talk about. I had mixed results using the flaxseed oil, but in the meantime I started using my skillets more, and LO! they really do have nice seasoning one year later.

            One thing I would mention is this: someone posted about using kosher salt to scrub out the pans, and that is what I do. I use a little salt in a still warm pan, a damp paper towel (esp. if the pan is dry) and a pair of tongs. I've read that others use cornmeal. I seldom rinse out my CI, except for my stovetop grill pan.

            I don't think the pans will ever be non-stick the way a coated pan is. But they do become black and glossy, and food doesn't tend to stick the way it would in an untreated pan. I do use the hot pan, cold oil method in my CI.

            Hope some of this helps.

            1. "But I was under the impression that after all this use, it'll turn better than the nonstick pans out there"

              No. That is nonsense. Everyone here know I like cast iron and carbon steel cookware. At the same time, there are many exaggerated comments about the nonstick quality of cast iron cookware which really isn't helping anyone in the long term. Cast iron cookware indeed can be used to fry eggs and can keep them not sticking to the pan with minimal to no cleanup. However, it is not ever going to be as nonstick as a Teflon pan.

              To improve its nonstick quality, I find that it is more useful to use it for some high temperature cooking.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Agreed. I have a lovely vintage cast-iron skillet that I use almost daily. It has a great seasoning, but it's certainly not teflon. My eggs don't stick because I fry them in bacon grease (or use butter to turn them into omelettes), but I can get similar results with stainless steel. Cornbread, of course, glides right out of the pan (although it usually has some bacon grease to help it along as well)

                1. re: caseyjo

                  I use butter, melted in the pan, then added to the batter. My cornbread comes out beautifully. there is nothing as good as cornbread baked in an iron skillet. (I can't have cornbread very much anymore. I really miss it.)

              2. The problem with Lodge, and almost all new cast Iron cook ware, is that they don't properly finish the interior cooking surfaces of their pans anymore! A rough, sandpaper like finish, and "Non Stick" are two terms that don't jive very well. It would take you decades to build up enough seasoning to fill in all those nooks and crannies! I took a day out of my life to sand down the cooking surface of a lodge pan that I bought 2 years ago with 200 grit sand paper. Reseasoned it, used it a lot for baking things like corn bread and pizza , as well as greasy breakfasts and whoa! The thing is like black Onyx glass inside. Things glide across the surface!

                8 Replies
                1. re: gourmandonater

                  >A rough, sandpaper like finish, and "Non Stick" are two terms that don't jive very well. It would take you decades to build up enough seasoning to fill in all those nooks and crannies!<

                  And bajillions of new lodge cast iron users, would disagree with this. The CI I use the most is new Lodge CI. And I have never wasted a second of my time sanding them smooth. I season with lard and cook in them. Yes, even fried eggs come out wonderful. The surface does not need to be smooth as glass to perform optimally. I have both vintage CI and new. They both cook equally well.

                  I will second Chem's comment. CI will never be as non-stick as a new teflon coated skillet. But I will say that I can cook anything in my CI that I could cook in my teflon. I prefer the food cooked in my CI.(and that would be my new Lodge CI). Has a much better flavor!

                  1. re: dixiegal

                    I think it depends on "how dry" you use your cast iron skillet. Myself, if I'm frying an egg, I almost always have either bacon or sausage at the same time so the eggs sort of "float" a little on the grease as they cook.

                    If you cook in a much drier pan without additional oil or grease, smoothness and food temperature matter.

                    An egg straight out of the fridge into a relatively "dry" pan will stick like nobody's business in stainless steel and while not as bad in cast iron, sticks pretty hard too. Cold eggs, use some oil or start with a "wet" pan otherwise, look for a cheap teflon skillet. ;-).

                    1. re: Sid Post

                      I am not aware of any pan, other than teflon or something similar that you can cook in dry without major sticking issues. For me, it goes without saying that a skillet needs some greasing up before cooking in it. I will say that my fully seasoned cast iron can cook eggs with only a greasing of the pan. There is no need to float the egg in oil or grease or butter. I just have to put enough fat, oil or butter to coat the bottom of the pan, and I am in business.
                      Now a brand spanking new CI pan that I am just begining to cook in, I do the float the egg in oil thing. :o)
                      But the only thing I but in a dry cast iron skillet, is very fatty meat. Such as bacon.
                      For actualy dry frying, I suggest teflon.

                      1. re: Sid Post

                        I must respectfully disagree with you Dixiegal. I didn't "Waste my time" sanding down my pan. Like the original poster, I bought a lodge Logic pan and after two years of frequent use, it never quite worked right. In search of an answer, I took a look at my Grandma's old Griswold and Wagner pans. I noticed that they had machined the cooking surfaces to a smooth finish. Surely they must have done that "for fun"? Maybe they did it because it was more " Cost effective"?. It couldn't have anything to do with the fact that a smooth cooking surface is a desirable trait in a pan.

                        1. re: gourmandonater

                          >I must respectfully disagree with you Dixiegal. I didn't "Waste my time" sanding down my pan<

                          I did not say it was a waste of 'your' time to sand down your CI. I just said it would be a waste of 'my' time to sand down mine, because I can cook anything in my new lodge CI as well as anything in my vintage, smooth as glass CI pans.

                          All I know is, Lodge cast iron is still in business and going strong. If a totaly smooth surface is necassary and more desirable, why aren't there CI companies making them? True, it might cost more, but if that is what folks prefer, they would gladly pay the extra cost.(look at what we pay for LC cookware) Just like they do on any other high end/high quality cookware, tool, gadget, or whatever.

                          1. re: dixiegal

                            I hear you Dixiegal. I didn't mean to sound snarky. I respect your opinion. It's just that I grew up having to cook for myself, usually on cast Iron. My new lodge didn't
                            behave the way that I was used to. After sanding it down, and 6 months of use, its just about as good as the old cast Iron that I had grown up using. I was just sharing something that worked for me.

                            1. re: gourmandonater

                              >It's just that I grew up having to cook for myself, usually on cast Iron. My new lodge didn't
                              behave the way that I was used to<

                              ahh, that is the thing. We all prefer what we are used too. And that desire intesifies with age. LOL

                              The problem I have is when posters post that new lodge CI and others that have a rough surface does not cook as well as the old ones. For this just is not true. I do not want any new CI users or those interested to be put off with CI cooking because they do not have an old CI pan to cook in. Or get discouraged because they baught a new lodge pan and then read where it will never be suitable for frying eggs or whatever.
                              It does not take decades to get a new lodge CI pan in shape for frying eggs. In a short time of a few layers of seasoning and using the pan, it will be ready for eggs in no time. I have new lodge pans that I have been using for only a couple of years that is now very smooth. These same pans, I could chase a fried egg around in it in a couple of weeks time.

                              Though vintage cast iron is a treasure for the history that they hold, they do not cook any better than the new ones. One might prefer them, because they are thinner, smoother, handles feel better, lighter weight, or what ever. But non of those reasons actually makes them cook better.

                              I am with everyone else. I like using what I am used to. I am now used to new cast iron and prefer it. I like the helper handles in particular. But since I seldom use my vintage CI, I have a tendency to not cook in them as well. I misjudge the heat as they are a thinner pan. It is just easier to stay with what I know. But just because I am out of practice with the vintage CI, does not mean it is not as good as my newer ones, it just means that I am not used to cooking in them anymore.

                              So for those that are interested in Ci cooking or already have new CI, just go with it. You can cook anything in the new ones that you can the old ones and cook it just as well. I do it all the time. I learned to cook in CI about 40 years ago, So I have experiance with both the old CI and the new.

                              I

                              1. re: dixiegal

                                My older CI pans have smoother surfaces from three sources; long term abrasion from use, a well developed and maintained layer of carbon which fills in the pits and valleys normal to any cast material and the finer grain of the metal formed over 30 years ago. My father was a master machinist, blacksmith and tool maker and I had a chance to examine the grain of some very old and very new cast iron pans, finding a distinct difference in the material makeup and grain size, which results in a denser form and less pronounced ridges and valleys from the get go.

                                That said, I can cook anything in a new Lodge that I can in my Grossmutter's 18 pounder (probably 60+ years old) , but I'll need more oil or fat to do it... Eggs are a challege for any pan because they flow easily into the surface imperfections and cook in place, forming long protein chains that don't let go easily. I personally don't object to the use of oil to act as a heat transfer medium and separating agent to keep these proteins from cooking into the pan's surface, but it seems some people do. If you're one of them, I suggest a pan which is already covered with it's own separating agent (PTFE). I personally have never found a pan which can cook with no fat at all, either from the food or added in.

                  2. We have had the same cast iron for years and seasoned initially with cooking oil and crisco to get started. Now this is what I do and it makes somewhat of a mess but it works. I brown a bottom round or rump roast in a little oil on top of the stove and then, fat side up, place it in the oven at 325, uncovered. It is messy because as the fat melts, it starts to splatter, and gets a little smokey from splatters hitting the bottom of the oven, so I only go this route when I have to clean the oven anyway. I have cast iron that looks and feels non-stick inside and out and it releases most foods without any sticking. I do not do eggs, scrambled or otherwise in the pans but chicken, beef, pork are all good. We even make gravy in the pan so as to not lose the flavor from the drippings. And only wooden spoons are used. It is messy but you get a good mixture of animal fats in the pores of the iron. You can also leave the lid on and get the inside of the lid seasoned as well. Whether this is perfect of not I cannot say but for us it works. In making the gravy, first a rue, then heated stock so as to not shock and loosen the seasoning. Hope this helps.

                    1. ALL of my cast iron is "vintage"... I guess. Every piece was found at yard sales, flea markets or thrift stores. MOST were pretty grungy, but I bought them cuz they were Wagner, Lodge, etc. Probably committed CI heresy in the way I initially cleaned them up... spray oven cleaner & elbow grease. My Grandmother always used bacon grease in her stuff. If pan had to actuallt be "washed"... NO soap! HOT water and generous amount of cheap-o salt and a scrubber.

                      Think a well-seasoned CI skillet is easier for making eggs than non-stick. Have much better luck flipping without breaking yolks since eggs don't slide all over the place. CI doesn't have to be babied. The way to achieve the most out of CI is... USE IT! USE IT! USE IT!

                      1. My Lodge cast iron skillet is my go-to pan for frying eggs and omlets. Make sure you use enough butter and that the pan is hot before introducing the eggs. If done correctly, cleanup is a wipe down with a paper towel. Occationally not enough butter and the pan needs to be Lightly washed. I have no fear using dish soap and sponge on my Lodge. Always dry by heat and coat with a little veg oil. I also like using the cast iron for searing ham or any meat in a casing like hot dogs.

                        For bacon and loose sausage I use a stainless steel All Clad pan, which I find a fair amount of sticking with bacon is unavoidable. But easy to clean with a soak in hot soapy water and a wipe with sponge. Home fries and any veg saute i reach for the All Clad as well.

                        I find cooking on the two cast iron and stainless pans rather different as far as how I use them and techniques used. When in need of very high heat i tend to use stainless. I think if i am going to cook something that is likely to stick and become a mess i use stainless. Or if i plan on making a sauce in the pan also stainless.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: takk

                          Well there must be a difference in using SS skillet and CI skillet. I can't fry anything in a SS skillet without it turning out bad. LOL

                          As for the bacon sticking. A lot of bacon, now, is cured with sugar. Sugar is a major sticking issue. If you find and buy the bacon with no sugar, sticking is not much of a problem, except for a few bits here and there. At that time, making gravy out of it is wonderful.

                          I look to buy bacon that has nothing added to it. I like it straight for the smoke house where the only additive is salt and smoke(and I don't mean liquid smoke). No preservavtives or added flavorings. Just plain ole bacon.

                          1. re: dixiegal

                            <I look to buy bacon that has nothing added to it. I like it straight for the smoke house where the only additive is salt and smoke(and I don't mean liquid smoke). No preservavtives or added flavorings. Just plain ole bacon.>

                            I bet you can find those at your local farmer market.

                          2. re: takk

                            <When in need of very high heat i tend to use stainless>

                            Interesting, I go the other way around because I find stainless steel cookware really make food stick to them at very high heat.

                            <I think if i am going to cook something that is likely to stick and become a mess i use stainless. >

                            Also opposite in this decision.

                            <if i plan on making a sauce in the pan also stainless.>

                            Same as you here.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              I use CI for high heat as well, but I can sit CI in the flame empty and dry for a good preheating before starting the cooking and it holds the heat longer, where a clad or cored pan will heat up faster but disipates the heat faster as well. It reminds me of learing to cook on electric elements and changing over to gas later. An electric range takes longer to change it's heat level, but gas is almost instant due to the thermal mass (or lack of). For me, it's just what I've been used to and I'm used to CI...

                          3. I have a well seasoned Griswold #8 cast iron skillet and to make it completely non-stick, what I do is preheat skillet on high until I see a little smoke, then I put what ever cooking oil, i.e. canola oil, butter, and fold up a paper towel and coat inside on skillet including sides. Then I cook away! I have cooked eggs, scrambled and fried, pancakes, potatoes with no sticking whatsoever! Simply put: hot pan cold oil equals no stick!!! Clean up is a breeze. Give it at try and let me know how it turns out.