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Cast Iron skillet problems - HELP!

We had a skillet, seasoned it and thought all was well. We were careful not to use soap or metal implements. Anyway after some time... food was sticking. (perhaps mistake of using a bit of oil in cooking? And then these little black flecks would come off and stick to our pancakes. (Assuming that is old burnt oil residue? Can't imagine it would be part of the pan. It has never rusted at any point.

Has this ever happened to anyone? Should I scour the hell out of it with steel wool and try again? Any advice most welcome.

Thanks,
Pan-less
J&C

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  1. <perhaps mistake of using a bit of oil in cooking?>
    You should use oil. Nothing wrong with this.

    <And then these little black flecks would come off and stick to our pancakes.>
    Most likely they are previously burned on foods which accumulated over time, but it could be that the cast iron cookware has a very poor seasoning foundation.

    <Has this ever happened to anyone?>
    Assuming is it the burned on food problem, then yes. It happened to me when I was new to seasoning.

    <Should I scour the hell out of it with steel wool and try again? >
    It depends how bad it is. If it is pretty bad, you may want to scrap off much of this crud, and do a very quick stovetop seasoning -- no need for a full blown seasoning.

    It would help if you can upload a photo of your cast iron pan.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      Hey Thanks! I'll take a photo and post once the munchkins are out of the way.

    2. My suggestion is that rather than start over completely, use lots of hot water and scrub the skillet thoroughly with a non-soap stainless steel scouring ball. You'll want to see little "speckles" of raw metal on the small high points that occcur in a newer cast iron piece. Then, as CK suggested, do a stovetop seasoning, but make it worth while -- fry up some bacon low and slow, starting with the meat in a cold skillet ot get lots of fat rendered out, or do a batch of pan-fried fish or chicken.

      Also, nothing wrong with using metal implements. They do tend to knock down the seasoning on the high points, but that encourages the high points to become smoother each time you use the skillet. In a short while, you end up with a pan bottom that is almost glass-smooth, with a nice base of seasoning.

      1. Was your skillet a new Lodge skillet that you seasoned yourself? All of my new lodge skillets have done this. It is the seasoning put on at the factory coming off and taking your seasoning with it. Or if you got your pan too hot for too long, this can make your seasoning come off.

        Almost anything fry or bake in your cast iron should have a little fat of some kind in the skillet before you begin cooking. The only thing that I cook without first putting fat in the skillet, is something that already has fat. Like bacon or maybe buttered bread that I want to toast.

        I am now going through the same thing. I had a perfectly good little lodge skillet, that was seasoned so well, then, the little black flecks of seasoning start flaking off. It was a newer preseasoned skillet that I did not remove the factory seasoning before I started seasoning it myself.

        2 Replies
        1. re: dixiegal

          I get black flakes all the time on my Lodge grill pan. I've used the pan for over a year now. When I have too much residue, I rinse it in hot water, dry the bottom off, and then put the pan on the burner, turn it on med. and put in my turkey bacon. I cook turkey bacon every day in that pan. However, I don't get so much residue in my vintage CI. But you need to make sure that you aren't leaving cooked on residue in the pan when you put it away. You might have to scrape or scour off something that was cooked on. Just do that and then wipe the pan down with oil, wiping it thoroughly before putting it away. The seasoning develops over time. And, you have to attend to it. It isn't a one and done sort of process. But a fully seasoned skillet does not require a tremendous amount of effort to maintain, either.

          1. re: dixiegal

            <It is the seasoning put on at the factory coming off and taking your seasoning with it>

            That is indeed one of my concerns too.

          2. Hi, biripbirip:

            This seasoning thing with cast iron isn't an exact science, and everything works--after a fashion.

            My first suggestion is that you lower your expectations about it being non-stick. If you are searing meats, cooking acidic foods and using metal utensils, the seasoning--ANY seasoning--is going to take a beating. Some smart folks have one pan that they dedicate to cooking eggs in, and in that case you *can* approximate non-stick if you baby the pan.

            The second suggestion is that you reconsider how much oil you put in the pan when you season it. I've had bad luck with leaving too much oil in the pan, and good luck wiping it out to the point that you can hardly tell there's any there. IME, if too much is there to start with, the seasoning layer will flake off soon and easily--even though it looks beautiful when you seasoned it. I think the theory that wiping the pan with a thin coat of oil before you put it away after each use (and not worrying) is a good one in this regard.

            Third suggestion: When you've finished cleaning the pan, hold and move it under bright light to determine if there are any areas that don't reflect the light, i.e., look matte. If you see areas like that, it's food residue, and you'll have a sticky spot there if you don't get rid of it.

            Hope this helps.

            Aloha,
            Kaleo

            1 Reply
            1. re: kaleokahu

              Another suggestion if it's food residue is to use a significant amount of coarse kosher salt and a scrubby or paper towel and scrub the pan hard. After rinsing my pan I use the salt method of cleaning. Rinse and dry then heat the pan to remove any traces of moisture in the pan. This usually removes all food reside leaving only a seasoned pan that is ready for storage

            2. Thanks everyone for all the helpful tips and information. I am going to upload a photo. The pan was definitely not a pre-seasoned pan. I do think it may be accumulated burned on food. We've always struggled to get the pan clean. Perhaps we didn't season well since we are new to cast iron.

              We were told no soap and no metal so that ruled out ever scrubbing with steel wool. How do you clean your cast iron? We do always fully dry and coat with very thin layer of oil.

              Again we really appreciate everyone who has taken the time to post.
              Thanks!

              7 Replies
              1. re: biripbirip

                Washing a cast iron skillet with dish washing soap will not hurt it one bit. Just don't leave it soaking in the sink and dry it well after washing.

                1. re: biripbirip

                  Metal is no problem. Cleaning couldn't be simpler. After seasoning, wash in hot water, and if it needs it, use a stainless steel scrub pad ( not Brillo or SOS). It cleans up really well and doesn't affect the seasoning. As the pan ages, it will become nearly non- stick and cleanup will be even easier. If you are using it to brown/sear, you need to keep it clean. Any left over food will interfere with that process .

                  1. re: biripbirip

                    Interestingly, people can be too rough or too gentle with a cast iron cookware. If you are way too rough with a cast iron cookware using detergent all the time, using acidic solution (vinegar or wine) all the time...etc, then you can destroy the seasoning surface. However, if you are way too gentle with a cast iron cookware, then you will encourage burned on foods, crud building up too thick.

                    For a brand new cast iron cookware, I like to use wood or bamboo utensils and avoid using strong detergent for the first week to allow the seasoning to build up. However, after a week or so, you should able to metal utensils. In my opinion, metal utensils actually do a great job of constantly scrapping exceed seasoning and burned on foods, while the cooking constantly replenish the seasoning -- so this strikes a good balance.

                    For cleaning, I usually use water with a hard brush. For tougher burned on foods, I fill the cookware with water and then bring the cookware to a boil. This softens the burned on foods and then I remove them. For very greasy residue, I use detergent.

                    1. re: biripbirip

                      eh, I totally ignore that stupid no soap rule. I learned how to care for my cast iron from my mom and her pans are great. I wash mine with little detergent and a scrubber sponge with hot water every time I use it and then dry it either on the stove or in the oven ( if I don't have room on the stove top) with a little lard very thinly spread with a paper towel. I use metal utensils all the time.

                      And I cook eggs including omelets in my pans ( I don't dedicate an egg pan) all the time with no additional fat. Of course they are old and well seasoned. It will take time to get to that point with a new pan.

                      1. re: rasputina

                        Hi, rasputina:

                        I'm not disputating with you (mostly I agree), but your response and others shows how idiosyncratic and adamant folks are about cleaning and seasoning CI. If a space alien or CI virgin read all the CI threads, they'd think there are 27 different CI religions, each pronouncing themselves the one true right way.

                        It's good that folks find ways that work for them, but all the divergent statements can befuddle and overwhelm the novitiate. I think the *truth* is that a person futzes around with different ways and means until they're satisfied (or not dissatisfied), and then that becomes the *right* way for them--and everyone else by extension--to do it. I don't know why I find that aspect of human nature so amusing, but I do.

                        Aloha,
                        Kaleo

                        1. re: kaleokahu

                          Kaleo, Thanks I had a good laugh at the first paragraph.

                        2. re: rasputina

                          I too scrub my ci with dish detergent and a steel wool pad. Especially when the pan is new and stuff has a tendency to stick. If food is really stuck, I will put water in the pan and simmer with a top on it. The water and steam help to loosen the food. Then a quick scrub and rinse, and dry it. If it is a newer pan. I then coat the warm, dry pan with lard and place in the oven for a quick baking of my new coat of seasoning. After the pan is used many times, well seasoned and smooth, this step isn't necessary but on occasion.
                          Just keep working with it and you will figure it out. It is well worth the effort.

                      2. Use metal spatulas ect in it, it's not an issue at all. It sounds like you aren't cleaning the pan well enough between uses if you are getting flecks of carbonization. Personally I don't use oil for seasoning, I use lard.

                        1. Thanks everyone. It is clear to me now that we have been like first time parents, overly cautious and gentle to what is otherwise an extremely resilient object. Really appreciate all the feedback and time people took to post.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: biripbirip

                            >It is clear to me now that we have been like first time parents, overly cautious and gentle to what is otherwise an extremely resilient object.<

                            Yea, don't worry too much. The best thing about cast iron and it's seasoning, is that if it doesn't work out like you want, you can always redo it. The only way to totaly ruin bare cast iron is to warp it, crack it or break it. Rust and seasoning issues can be fixed.
                            Just don't let it stress you out and just enjoy the journey.

                          2. I'm a novice poster and a novice cast iron user, purchased a set of Skeppshult skillets/pots just over a year back. What I've found out is that -possibly unless you regularly cook fatty food, which I try to avoid- the seasoning layer wears off over time, especially if you cook acidic foodstuffs like tomato sauces or long-simmering chili. But I never had black specks in my food so in your case it sounds more like the factory-applied layer releasing.

                            What I usually do is clean the pot/skillet immediately after eating, using only water and a plastic scouring pad. Then I put it on the fire, heat it up to dry out and when it's just dry I add a couple of drops of canola oil -any oil or fat will work- and spread it with a tissue in a very thin layer, wait until it just starts smoking, then turn off the heat and let the skillet cool down before storing it. Using this process the seasoning stays nice and slick for a couple of months. Every 3 or 4 months I apply a coat of oil and bake it on in the oven. Works like a charm for me, just baked 2 eggs over easy using perhaps half a teaspoon of oil and they slid right out, no sticking at all.

                            I do suspect that what you cook and how you clean your gear determines the re-seasoning frequency to a large extent. If I'd fry bacon or sausages every couple of days I suspect I'd never need to re-season in an oven again. But then my mainstays are oatmeal, sautéed veggies and soy burgers with an occasional piece of lean steak or fish thrown in.

                            1. Yeah - I'd start from scratch. Scour it HARD with steel wool and kosher salt, rinse well and dry thoroughly. Then heat it to about 250-300 to DRY IT UP. Get your oven to 425, coat it inside and out LIGHTLY with canola oil then put in open side down in the oven for 30 min. Turn off oven and let cool slowly. Repeat another 2-3+ times. It will now be bullet-proof for a long time to come.

                              You'll be able to let it soak, use dish soap etc. No worries. Just don't ever put it in your dishwasher. Good luck!