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Smelly cast iron pan

I love my seasoned cast iron pan and use it for almost everything. After use I wash it with soap and a gentle scraping. Sometimes this leaves a residue and smell. For example, after searing salmon and wash, I would end up with fishy smell when making an omelette (yuk). Any tricks to fix this?

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  1. Hi, eatntell:

    You have a hard choice: (1) Clean the bejeezus out of it and re-season every time you cook fish; or (2) Have a designated fish pan.

    Actually, there is another choice as well: (3) Get a designated egg/omelette pan, and sear everything else in your CI pan.

    Hope this helps,
    Kaleo

    1 Reply
    1. re: kaleokahu

      Thanks to all the responses.

      Yes, I'm currently using the designated fish pan solution. I'll give a shot to the other suggestions. Short of re-seasoning I'm not hopeful they'll work, since searing salmon leaves a very strong smell.

      BTW, I have the same problem with my cast iron dutch oven. I don't cook fish with it, but after a curry dish, the curry smell would linger.

      I guess that's one reason why there are enameled cast iron wares.

    2. <For example, after searing salmon and wash, I would end up with fishy smell when making an omelette (yuk). Any tricks to fix this?>

      To be honest, the answer is no. Seasoned cast iron or seasoned any cookware will absorb smell and fragrance. One way to minimize this (if you so incline) is to pour a thin layer of cooking oil into the pan and heat the pan up again, dump the oil, and wipe the pan clean with papertowel.

      1. When I cook something in cast iron where pan eeds to be "washed"... I dump in liberal amount of cheap-o salt and scrub away. Then back on stove top till HOT and a dab of bacon grease to reseason... that's what my grandmother always did. Know salt can help take onion/garlic smell off your hands... might work for fishiness?!?

        1 Reply
        1. re: kseiverd

          Good advice but I learned the hard way that the scent of fish lingers for quite awhile even after several salt cleanings and fat applications. Now I sear or fry fish in it's own pan.

        2. Try making a paste out of baking soda and water. Use it to clean your pan or leave it on for a while after cleaning as normal. It will help clean the pan without removing the seasoning and absorb some of the fishy odor.

          1. When I have a dirty, smelly CI pan I fill it with hot water and soap and let it sit for a minute. Then I scrub it with one of those stainless steel "curly" scrubbers. Once clean, I rinse it well and put on the gas burner until hot and dry. Never had a problem.

            3 Replies
            1. re: escondido123

              >I fill it with hot water and soap and let it sit for a minute. Then I scrub it with one of those stainless steel "curly" scrubbers. Once clean, I rinse it well and put on the gas burner until hot and dry.<

              This is what I do too. Though I still may have a bit of a fish smell left, it isn't enough to transfer to my next dish that I cook in it. Some people are more sensitive to smells than others. I would do as others have suggested and just have a pan designated for fish cooking. CI is not expensive, so having pans designated for a particular dish is easy enough.

              My mom had a little CI skillet that only cornbread was cooked in it. The skillet was absolutely perfectly seasoned (which is why she would not cook anything but cornbread in it) and I once made the mistake of scrambling eggs in it. They were great, but I got chewed out for it. LOL

              While transfering of smells and flavors can be a drawback to CI cooking, it is really what I like the most about it. I season my cookware with pork fat or bacon grease and that suttle flavor transfering to other foods is wonderful, as is the smell when the pan heats up.

              1. re: dixiegal

                I have never noticed any smells or flavors from my CI and would be kind of grossed out to think there was still "food" in my pan.

                1. re: escondido123

                  >my CI and would be kind of grossed out to think there was still "food" in my pan.<

                  I don't think there is food left over. Just the odor. Like getting onions on your hands and you can still smell it even after washing your hands. There is no onions or onion juice left on your hands, but they still smell, for some reason.

                  Same with skunk spray on the dogs. You can wash it all off, but the slight skunk smell still remains for a while.

                  I am very sensitive to smells, and I can always detect what food I just cooked in my CI. But the odor does fade away with time and/or use. At least it will fade away if you wash the pan real well with soap and water. Not just 'wipe it out' as some prefer to do with their cast iron. If don't wash out all traces of, not only the food, but the oils you cooked the food in, then the odors and taste are going to remain with the pan.
                  That is why 90 percent of the time, my CI gets washed with soap and water after cooking in it. It depends on what I cooked in it, as to how I wash it.