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Cast iron worse than high maintenance girlfriend!

So I have recently started trying to eat healthy which involves cooking properly. I have a stainless steel skillet that my father gave me and that was it. I read that stainless steal is to sticky to use as a real pan other than for sauces? so I went out and under recommendation by everyone bought a 30$ cast iron pan.

Brought it home, scrubbed it with warm water seasoned it up (oil oven etc) and immediately noticed as I tried to put another coat of oil on it two things were happening.

1) The paper towel was leaving behind small chunks of itself that I could only reliable remove with water.

2) The towel I was drying it with was leaving behind lint.

Now neither of these things are all that alarming unless you enjoy eating lint and paper towel remnants but as a normal human being to me they were extremely frustrating. I finally was able to just wash and dry using the burner but I can't put another coat of oil on after using without getting all kinds of paper towel junk all over it.

So whatever, maybe I don't need oil. Ill let it sit for an hour to cool down and throw it in the cupboard. Nope. 2 hours later it's still just as hot as when It came off the burner but now the heat is all over the pan.

Seriously, I have stuff to do during the day, I can dedicate MAYBE 30 minutes at a time to cook unless I have time to make a huge meal, Is this pan really that much better than say a stainless steel pan? Is it really worth all this hassle if I don't have all day to care for this thing?

I am using bounty paper towel to spread the oil, any suggestions on how to not get chunks everywhere?

PS: Not to mention it stinks up the house when I dry it off on the burner.

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  1. Sounds weird. I have old pans with a smooth finish, so I don't experience any of those problems. I also use a stainless steel skillet (with a heavy aluminum bottom), and it works fine.
    Is your CI pan rough, so is tearing the paper towel? Some of the newer ones seem to have that type of finish.
    The pan will stay hot for awhile. I just rub mine out with the paper towel. and if I actually scrub it (yes, I do that in a sink of water, with some soap), I still wipe it out with a towel. make sure it's really dry, then add some oil, rub it in while the pan is still warm and leave it on a cold burner and let it cool down on its own.

    2 Replies
    1. re: wyogal

      My biggest problem is when I rub it with a paper towel chunks of the paper towel break off in the pan because the surface is rough still since it's new.

      1. re: esoterikk

        If you bought a pan with a rough cooking surface, that's your first mistake. The second is using oil instead of shortening for the initial seasoning. Then there's the procedure. You should follow the instructions on panman.com and ignore everything else.

        In the long run, a cast iron pan will give you far less trouble than any GF.

    2. "I read that stainless steal is to sticky to use as a real pan other than for sauces?"

      I would definitely have to disagree with this. Cast iron is nice for lots of applications, but so is stainless. It's not sticky at all assuming you follow proper cooking techniques, I use stainless for almost everything but braises and eggs.

      2 Replies
      1. re: twyst

        What type of oil did you use to season it?

        1. re: mike9

          not sure if thats a misplaced question or not, but you dont season a stainless pot/pan

      2. I have reported your topic to switch it to cookware, where these questions are discussed at length. Your first mistake was not buying a used one at a flea market or tag sale. It's typical for a new pan to be rough. If you want to speed the breaking-in, you can scour the interior with salt, a splash of water, and steel wool, wadded aluminum foil, or a scrubby. It's important to season the exterior with oil - the oven method. But for the interior, you can just start cooking, using generous oiling for the first few months. Wipe the interior clean - don't even rinse if you can help it. Put it in the oven or on a warm burner - anything to dry it quickly and thoroughly. Your object here is to prevent the start of rust. Over time, the oil will polymerize and the interior cooking surface will become glossy and smooth.

        1. That's why my cast iron pan has sat unused for 25 years, I only buy the Teflon coated ones now.

          1. A few comments...

            I suspect the problem with your cast iron pan is that you have used too much oil. You really need the layer of oil to be very, very thin. Almost non-existent. If you use too much oil, you get a sticky layer.

            As far as stainless steel goes, if it is a good quality pan, such as a stainless-lined aluminum pan (like All-Clad), you can use it for pretty much everything. I regularly cook scrambled eggs and omelets in an All-Clad skillet. No problem, if your technique is good. Most cooking problems (OK, all cooking problems) are the fault of the cook, not the pan. For a stainless pan, you want to keep it perfectly clean, not "seasoned". If your technique is good, you do not need to scrub to do this. I use only a soft washcloth on my pans. On stainless (and only stainless), you can use some Barkeepers Friend if you get a stained spot.

            Also, you might consider a carbon steel pan, like de Buyer makes. Search the cookware forum for more information. They are inexpensive, slick, season easily (if you follow directions, which are different from cast iron), and perform very well.

            Finally, your high-maintenance girlfriend analogy is offensive. I am still waiting to hear the term "high maintenance" used to describe a male. Because I assure you, men are high maintenance.

            6 Replies
              1. re: MelMM

                Being a married middle aged guy with kids your last paragraph made me chuckle. Have some younger single friends (men) that spend more every month on the latest "IN" clothes and shoes that any of the girls I ever dated. We won't even get into the tanning salons & hair stylist. And to hear them get so excited talking about the latest shoe style ????? Heck only a year ago did I find out what a "man blouse" was. Ha Ha.

                On the pans, I have both the De Buyers and old passed down SMOOTH black cast from the 30's or 40's. Have found the De Buyers more user friendly: Handles, Weight & sloped sides but easier to "De Season. With a little experience with what to do and what not to do they became my go to pans. The old smooth cast are heavy, poor handles and steep sides but very hard to screw up the seasoning and boy do they hold the heat for maintaining frying temps.

                Its like you and others have pointed out, each type of pan has a learning curve and technique is everything.

                1. re: MelMM

                  MelMM is right about using only a small amount of oil. You don't need an oil slick to get started. Try cooking something like bacon in it, let the pan cool down completely, then wipe it out.
                  A blog I found extremely helpful is http://blackirondude.blogspot.com/200... .
                  Holey moley have I ever had some high maintenance boyfriends. Not anymore, thank god.

                    1. re: MelMM

                      +3 about the high-maintenance analogy.

                      As for cast iron, it just takes a little time to build up a good season.

                      1. re: MelMM

                        -1 lighten up, y'all...its humorous

                      2. You don’t have to rub the pan with the paper towel. Pour a couple of tablespoons of oil in, tip the heated pan in various directions, so you get good coverage on the bottom. Then blot up the excess with the scrunched-up towel, held with tongs, while making sure all the inside, including sides are wet and glistening with oil, but not pooling or runny. Re-fold the towel so the applied surface is fresh if you see any bits coming off. Then put the pan in a hot oven, turn off the heat, and leave it until it’s cool.

                        For cleaning, while it’s still hot, bring it over to the sink, and with hot water running use a bristled brush, but no soap, to scrub out any debris. Then bring it back to the hot burner, and when the residual water has evaporated, do the oil and paper towel wipe and place in the hot oven, as above.

                        Re-stainless steel, if the pan is heated before adding the oil, there is less stickiness.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: VitalForce

                          That's what I do - just use a scrub brush under running water, then just dump it on top of my stove where it lives because I use it for EVERYTHING. To the op, I just use lots of oil to season it and leave it in a very low oven for a few hours, but I've only had to do this when my idiot, uh, uninformed husband has washed it with SOAP!

                          1. re: dianne0712

                            I wash my with soap, lightly, not soaking. I'm no idiot.

                          2. re: VitalForce

                            i switched out some teflon pans for ceramic coating ones from cuisinart. they work great even under fairly high heat, though i still only use plastic utensils, even a plastic wisk. my cast iron skillet has been removed from use on glass stovetop and only makes cornbread now.

                            1. re: VitalForce

                              Can I use a wire bristle like I use on the outdoor grill on my cast iron stovetop grill?

                              1. re: VitalForce

                                Someone else has mentioned using salt to scrub it out if there is burnt-on food, I do this - pour a couple of tablespoons of regular table salt into the pan and scrub with a paper towel or scrubbie. May have to rinse with water, if so, dry it quickly with a paper towel and invert it over a still-warm or low heat stove burner to dry thoroughly.

                                I recall a scene in a movie where a woman had hung up her cast-iron frying pan outdoors in the desert during a sand storm to scrub it out - seems like a kinda harsh way to do it!!

                                  1. re: NancyHT

                                    I just bought special cleaner for enamel covered castiron -like Le Creucet. Will that work to clean non-enamel castiron?

                                1. You may have put too much oil on the pan. I have done this on accident before and it can turn sticky rather than season the pan. The best remedy is to build an outdoor fire and put the pan right in the middle of it. Retrieve the pan the next day after the coals have all cooled.
                                  As far as the paper towel / towel problem, I would use a flour-sack cloth to dry your pan. These are readily available at most big-box stores for a couple bucks and won't leave any lint or chunks if the surface is a bit rough.
                                  The more you use your pan, the more smooth it will become as the patina builds up. In the long run, cast iron is very low maintenance, you just have to get through the inital seasoning. The added benefits to cast iron are that it cooks very evenly, is naturally non-stick, lasts forever and imparts a small bit of iron to your food.

                                  1. My brother didn't marry until he was in his forties. He had a cast iron frying pan he had not washed in twenty years---it was perfectly seasoned, cooked his morning egg just fine, and he never ever washed it. Then he got married and his wife made him wash it. Ruined the pan. Take heed. Those things are tempermental.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Querencia

                                      There, a wife can be higher maintenance than a cast iron pan -- in your example.

                                      1. re: Querencia

                                        My BF did this when we first met. Cleaned that lovely cast iron right down to the original surface. I married him anyhow. Thirty years later and he is still not allowed to touch my cast iron pan!

                                      2. All I can say is that cast iron cookware have served me well, and they are not high maintenance for me. Otherwise I won't use them. For me, a cast iron pan is less of a hassle to use than a stainless steel pan. Now, obviously some people like cast iron pans and some people prefer stainless steel cladded pans. In fact, the most popular cookware today is the Teflon nonstick cookware (by far). Yet, I find Teflon cookware very limited.

                                        Whatever works for you. Our experience do not always have to agree.

                                        1. First you're lucky to have never had a high maintaince gf.
                                          A cast iron pan is not difficult to season but takes time. If done correctly they are easy to maintain. Even the new rough surface pans will work well.
                                          As meiMM suggested you may have too much oil. It's a common mistake

                                          Starting with a clean non preseasoned pan you want to warm it on the stove top to maybe 200f to open the pours and rub a very thin layer of fat all over and then dry it of almost all oil leaving the pan appearing dry. No sheen. Then into a pre heated 500f oven for about an hour then let cool in the oven. Repeat this step a few times. Cowboyrdee can give you hints on a shorter way if he chimes in but essentially you start out the same

                                          After you have a good seasoning just pop in the sink after use and I like to scrub with a generous amount of kosher salt and a scrubby rinse and pop on the stove. Dry inside, rim and handle with a paper towel while the pan heats up to drive off the moisture. Turn off heat and walk away. Let it cool on the cook top. The whole cleaning and drying should take just a few minutes after use. I don't find I need to add oil after use before storing. If the base seasoning is good you increase the seasoning with use and don't have oil and reseason after use

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: scubadoo97

                                            <First you're lucky to have never had a high maintaince gf. >

                                            :D Insightful.

                                            1. re: scubadoo97

                                              My son uses flax seed oil instead of fat. He says the molecular bond is better to the pan. Same procedure as yours. His pans are slick as a babies butt.

                                              1. re: scbeachnuts

                                                I use flax as well and it has worked better than anything I've tried in the past. I'm a believer.
                                                I used the term fat because everyone seems to have a favorite to season their pans with.

                                            2. I've had my cast iron pan for several years and I adore it. I'm not sure if my care techniques are typical but here is how I care for mine. When I'm using it I'm sure to put up a kettle of water so it's nice and hot by the time I'm ready to clean the pan. I empty the pan and fill it with the HOT water and simmer. I gently remove any debris with a silicone spatula. It there is stubborn debris I use some salt. Then I carefully drain the water out of the pan and return it to the heat where I pour in a small bit of veg/canola oil and swirl around to coat all interior surfaces. if there is excess oil, I carefully remove it with a paper towel.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: nyfoodie718

                                                i have never been gentle with my cast iron even using soap and the interior surface is perfectly smooth. i try to clean it with just hot water and a scrubbie. i did overheat a skillet enough so it wont sit flush on a flat surface anymore, it domed out a bit.

                                              2. esoterikk,
                                                You DON'T need all day to care for it. When my pan was new, I remember getting paper towel chunks all over it too. Your pan will smooth out with time and use. I put mine on the burner to dry and if I let it get too hot, mine will also stink up the house, so I turn the burner off right when the pan is dry, no longer. I generally wash it at night, so I leave it on the burner to cool off overnight and then put it away in the morning. I don't bother oiling it anymore before putting it away - as long as it's dry, it's good enough for me.

                                                1. You're making this much more work than it is. If it's really a huge issue to you that the pan not be on the stove, let it cool in the oven. But it shouldn't take 2 hours to cool so I'm wondering if your overheating it or you have an electric stove and residual heat from the burner is keeping the pan hot longer?

                                                  As for the paper towel, the problem could be: you bought a rough surfaced pan and are either not heating the pan enough ( unlikely given the 2 hour cool down) before putting the fat on, you are not using enough fat or your are using too much pressure with the paper towel.

                                                  Other possible issues, the pan isn't really clean and you have bits of burned food or fats in the bottom of the pan grabbing the paper towel.

                                                  Cloth towel lint, solution: don't buy towels that leave lint.

                                                  1. HI esoterikk.

                                                    Olive oil is not the best to use for seasoning cast iron. Lard, crisco, or peanout oil, works much better.

                                                    New CI is just as good as the old, I use it all the time. At first it is really rough. Scrubbing with metal scrubbies and using metal utensils, will quickly round off a smooth the bumps. You will have to continue to bake on the seasoning layers for a while.

                                                    You can let the pan cool enough to handle it bare handed and rub the grease around, trying to use as little as possible. Then a quick rub with the paper towel to get off the extra grease. Don't worry to much about the bits of paper left over, they will just burn up in the oven. You can also use a silicone basting brush to brush on the grease. Using your hands or basting brush is that much less paper towel to stick to the pan.

                                                    There is maintence to CI, but it is so worth it. Just like a really good girl friend.;o) Soooooo worth it. If you think about it. Anything worth having requires maintenance.

                                                    1. Find someone to help you with this. Your granny or a nice older lady who has used cast iron for years. Or anyone else. Your description makes no sense to me, unless you are trying to wipe down a hot skillet.

                                                      Cast iron requires a minimum amount of maintenance, but it isn't hard or time consuming. CI does retain heat but what you describe is not my experience at all.

                                                      Whatever you do though, heat at med-high heat, and cook at medium.

                                                      8 Replies
                                                      1. re: sueatmo

                                                        I'm thinking he ain't asking his girlfriend. -))

                                                        1. re: scubadoo97

                                                          Not especially if she happened to read this post.

                                                            1. re: sueatmo

                                                              :) Ha ha ha. (I need to try this trick someday)

                                                          1. re: scubadoo97

                                                            get'er hot, grease'er up, good to go.....no need to buy it dinner, movie, and get bitten by her cat. High maint, no. A different kind of maint, maybe

                                                            1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                                              hey my cats don't bite. The German Shepherd on the other hand......

                                                        2. Have you tried to season it with olive oil and coarse salt? Wipe off the excess leaving some of the oil and salt and put in the oven at 250 for a couple of hours. It may take awhile for your pan to become fully darkened (months of usage) but it will and at that point nothing will stick to it. As for the cool down issue, relax, and after 10-15 minutes of cooling it off put it under the tap, it will survive and cool off.

                                                            1. I have both cast iron and black steel pans--I only use vintage because modern pans are made with a lower grade of iron that is too rough. Old pans are light and smooth, although they sometimes have hot spots.

                                                              Honestly I suggest heavy black steel pans for regular use. They are smooth-bottomed, heat up extremely quickly and evenly, cool down quickly, sear beautifully, season well, and generally get a lot more use in my house than cast iron pans, which I now use for pancakes because of the wide flat bottom. Once they are seasoned (and every time you cook they get more seasoned) you can cook tomato and other acids in them without a problem. A housekeeper put one of mine in the dishwasher and the seasoning was still intact when the pan came out!

                                                              Here's how to season: Heat the pan to hot hot hot hot hot, put some low smoke point oil on a paper towel or floursack (use floursack since your paper towels are giving you trouble), pick the floursack up with some long tongs, then give a quick sweep over the inside (and outside if you can manage it) and let it smoke up a storm. Run the hood or open the doors and windows of your house. Repeat as many times as gives you satisfaction, I would do it at least 3-4 times. I will often use olive oil, but honestly butter has seasoned up my black steel pans beautifully as it has so many compounds that will carbonize with even a medium heat. Then do what they recommend, which is fry some potato skins in peanut or grapeseed oil. Most of all, use it--fry bacon, sear beef, pan roast fish, pan roast and then cook a chicken in the pan in your oven. Wipe it out unless it has crusty bits, which you can scrub off, then dry on high heat and wipe with a thin coat of oil when you are done (while it's hot hot hot). After a while they will turn pitch black and you won't even have to wipe them with oil anymore.

                                                              This site has terrific black steel pans, although they are heavy. Subtract approx two inches to get the actual with of the flat bottom:


                                                              1. never use oil to season a cast iron pan. It will leave a sticky residue you will need to remove and start over again. A light coating of lard or shortening is what is needed or cook a lot of bacon. Coat with the fat. place in a moderate oven and periodically give it a wipe with a paper towel, repeat.

                                                                Stainless steel is soft and scratches easily. Scratches=sticking. If you want to use stainless steel, add your fat of choice and heat the pan slowly so the pores and scratches expand slightly and take in fat. It will lessen the sticking problem.

                                                                I would suggest a Swiss Diamond pan or maybe Chantal, Chantal is stick resistant, but can stick if the heat is too high, something you are cooking has a lot of starch etc. I love my Chantal and i love how efficient it is. Expensive? Yes. Worth it? You bet.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Candy

                                                                  While he was still at Saveur magazine, Coleman Andrews did a great article on frying chicken, and when wrapping it up stated that this is the best possible way to season an iron skillet! Of course if this skillet is part of an "eat-healthier" program there might be a problem. Deep-fried tofu?

                                                                  Having lived with iron skillets all my life and used them for most of it, I have to say I had a harder time learning to parallel-park than I've ever had with a skillet. I have seasoned them, I have stripped off nasty old seasoning and redone it, and Yes I have had to break in a new one, just once. Used Crisco.

                                                                2. A thin layer of oil in the bottom of the pan is all you need. Pour the oil into the pan (or rub with shortening) making sure to cover the walls of the pan, rub oil on the outside too. Place the pan in a 500 degree oven, turn off the heat let it cool, and you should be good to go.

                                                                  Cooking with stainless shouldn't be stressful. Just follow this old saying: "...hot pan, cold oil and foods won't stick."!