Black ashy residue coming off cast iron skillet
I purchased a 10" Lodge pre-seasoned cast iron skillet 3 months ago and have maintained it very carefully. I always clean with hot water, no soap, scrub with a nylon brush, dry, and apply an oil coat while the pan is still warm. Today I used my cast iron skillet to bake a few pizzas at 550 degrees F (plus broiler at times.) Some cheese, tomatoes, and herbs fell onto the skillet during this process. I cleaned the skillet in between pizzas the best I could with a damp towel. Afterward, I soaked the skillet in hot water for 20 minutes, scrubbed with a nylon brush, and then scrubbed with my fingernails wearing one of those yellow "rubber" dishwashing gloves. After drying and coating the pan with oil, I saw some black residue on on my hands (I applied the coat with my bare hands.) I noticed there were some ashy spots on the pan. No matter how many times I scrub and rinse, there is still residue coming off the skillet.
I have read quite a bit, but I'm unsure if I should simply not worry about a little ash, keep trying to clean it, re-season the pan, or strip the seasoning and start all over. Any ideas?
Could you please explain? I actually started soaking after reading a post here on Chowhound about how to get solidified gravy off the bottom. The poster soaked the pan for quite a long time and then scrubbed off the loosened gravy . I didn't see anyone protest, so thought it was okay. I can't find the exact post right now.
I should clarify, by "soak" I mean I filled the inside of the cast iron skillet with water and left it on the stove for 20 minutes. I didn't "soak" the outside of the cast iron pan.
I cannot tell from your description that your black residue is part of the seasoning or burned on foods or not. If it is burned on food bits, then you have little to worry. If it is part of the seasoned surface, then you can do a very quick 5-10 minute on stove seasoning (as oppose to in oven seasoning).
Either cases -- you will not need to strip the seasoning off.
<and then scrubbed with my fingernails wearing one of those yellow "rubber" dishwashing gloves. >
You can use a cheap plastic pastry scraper for this (or an old credit card).
What you can do is the following. First scrap with plastic scraper or an old credit card to remove the large burned on food residue. Then, pour some salt and cooking oil into the pan (~2 teaspoon of oil and a teaspoon of oil). Scrub the pan using this salt and oil mixture with a tough paper towel. You will see black residues on the paper towel. Keep doing until the black residue is mostly gone.
Finally top this off with a quick on-stove seasoning. Heat the pan up, pour some oil, swirl around, once the oil starts to faintly smoke, turn of the heat and let it cool (may need to put on a different stove). After cooling, dump the oil. Swipe the pan with a paper towel.
<cannot tell from your description that your black residue is part of the seasoning or burned on foods>
Is there some extra information I could provide? Would a picture help?
Would you know offhand where to buy a cheap plastic pastry scraper? I went to WalMart but didn't find one.
Unfortunately, I can't use paper towels on this cast iron pan because it's the newer pre-seasoned kind with bumps that are supposed to smooth out over time. Last time I used paper towels, it took forever to remove all the tiny paper towel pieces clinging to the pan. I have some old cloths I can use, though. Even with cloths I have to be careful because some will stick just like paper towels.
Thanks so much for your reply.
<Is there some extra information I could provide? Would a picture help?>
Well, a photo can help, but depends on the resolution of the photo. When these black residue came off, did the seasoning of the pan also comes off? Does the pan looks "spotty" to you? Some areas are black, while some are 'naked' and even worse maybe rusty, like this photo:
If so, part of the seasoned surface has came off, and you will need to do a quick seasoning on the stovetop. However, make sure you remove any rust before doing the seasoning -- assuming if you see rust. If not, then you don't have to this. Either way, no need to do a full blown seasoning -- unless you want to.
<Would you know offhand where to buy a cheap plastic pastry scraper? I went to WalMart but didn't find one.>
I got mine from Bed Bath and Beyond for $0.99, but I didn't see them yesterday. For now, you can use an old credit card. Even a disposable plastic spoon also works (hold it near the spoon, not the handle).
I do prefer the scraper just because it is easier on my hand. I have one dedicate for scraping my cast iron and carbon steel cookware.
<Unfortunately, I can't use paper towels on this cast iron pan because it's the newer pre-seasoned kind with bumps that are supposed to smooth out over time.>
I see. Actually I have been where you were. It is not too bad in my experience. You can still use a paper towel. It will get torn up a little bit and bits will cling to the pan, but it is ok. At the very end, just rinse the pan with running water and brush with your hand. Don't worry, the water won't get to the cast iron because you have a layer of oil on the pan. You will notice that water will form "water bead" on the pan. If the pan is really rough, then just won't worry about the salt and oil method. The plastic scarper (or plastic spoon) can still work.
Thank you everyone for helping. I was able to use a plastic spoon to scrape off a lot of gunk, but the rest I think I will just let it remain and become part of the seasoning, unless that's a bad thing. It doesn't seem to be affecting anything and I pan-fried shami kabobs the last two nights with no issues. (That's why I was freaking out. It's Ramadan, I have been craving shami kabobs for breaking fast, and nothing but this skillet will do.)
I used the salt and oil method and I did the quick stovetop seasoning. Water does bead on the pan. Here's a high-res picture of my skillet: http://www2.picturepush.com/photo/a/8...
You can see some ashy residue left over on the right side of that picture, where the bottom meets the side. Also, I'm not sure why it looks like there's rust on the top-right part of the pan (where the bottom meets the side.) It's strange, with the camera flash, when filled with water, and when filled with oil, parts of the pan give off a "rusty" color, but when I wipe the pan clean after use and lightly season it with oil, that color is not there. I was looking for just plain steel wool to do dixiegal's re-seasoning technique, but sadly my WalMart doesn't have plain steel wool pads, only ones mixed with detergents.
<the rest I think I will just let it remain and become part of the seasoning, unless that's a bad thing>
A little bit is fine. They look like they are just caught in the valleys of the rough surface.
<I have been craving shami kabobs for breaking fast, and nothing but this skillet will do.>
I must admit I am not well verse of Muslim practice.... but what do you mean by "nothing but this skillet will do". Do you mean your other pans will somehow violate your Muslim practice? Or that your other pans yield bad tasting food?
<but when I wipe the pan clean after use and lightly season it with oil, that color is not there>
It is probably fine, but I would just keep an eye for it.
<I was looking for just plain steel wool to do dixiegal's re-seasoning technique>
Stainless steel wool works. It really depends how and what you want to do. The advantage of using stainless steel wool is that you can get a lot of builds-up off fast. The downside is that you will have to reseason. On the opposite is the gentle salt and oil method. The advantage of salt and oil is that you don't have to reseason the cook. The disadvantage is that it is very slow.
Oh no, the other skillets don't violate any religious practice, just that the other pans don't quite have the heart of this cast iron. Shami kabobs are a lot of effort to make, and are pillow-y and delicate, so I don't trust anything but the cast iron skillet to get them fried right. These days many people coat their shami kabobs in beaten egg before frying to form a crust, so flipping the kabobs is easier. I like to do it old school, no egg coating, straight into the cast iron, get a good sear, one flip, sear again, and all done. (Sometimes fried egg goes on top!) The cast iron skillet can get a good sear on four kabobs over medium heat on my uneven electric coil stove no problem.
I always thought all steel wool was stainless. Learn something new every day.
Here are some pics of my pan in natural light. As I wrote above, the "rust" isn't visible under regular viewing. I realized when I was taking the pictures that the bottom of the pan does have some rust in the "Lodge" logo. Do you think I could I do a quick seasoning in the oven somehow to take care of this?
<just that the other pans don't quite have the heart of this cast iron.>
Ah, got it.
<I was taking the pictures that the bottom of the pan does have some rust in the "Lodge" logo. Do you think I could I do a quick seasoning in the oven somehow to take care of this?>
You mean the exterior surface, right ? (the non cooking surface). Yes, if you like you can remove the rust, and then seasoning the pan in the oven to coat the surface. Many people do not care about exterior surface minor rust.
bmore, if this were me....acutally this has been me. Many times.
Here is what I do. I wash the pan and scrub with a stainless steel scrubby. This will get off the loose stuff ...... and.......scrubbing with metal helps to wear down the rough edges. It does take off some seasoning, but it is worth it. Seasoning gets wore off with use anyway. That is what you are experiancing. After a scrub to get the loose seasoning off, dry the pan in a warm oven. While the pan is still warm, coat with grease or oil. I prefer lard.
When my pans are new and rough, I often will let them cool enough I can handle the bare handed and smooth on the lard with my hands, or I might use a silicone basting brush. I put on as little as possible, so when I wipe it off with a paper towel, I don't have to wipe much. Because it does tear up the paper towel. When tiny bits of paper towel are left on the pan, I just don't worry about it.
Proceed with baking your pan in the oven to bake on the oil/grease. I do it at about 400 deg. for about an hour. Then I leave it in the oven to cool. I will then repeat the seasoning with maybe 4 more layers. Then I use it a few times, and will reseason again. I season pretty often with new CI.
I am now working on my old dutch oven that used a lot this weekend. It did the same as your pan. After cooking and washing it a couple of times, I noticed the brown and black residue coming off on my paper towel. So, I gave it a good scurb with my metal scrubby, dryed it, heated it and am now reseasoning it. This is my old dutch oven, but I spent a long time cooking green beans in it and then a pot roast. So it was exposed to heat for a very long time this weekend as well as the hot liquids.
I think some folks don't realize that the seasoning on the CI is not permenant. It wears off with use. The only way to really keep it going is to either fry food in it most of the time, or grease it up and bake the layers back on it.
Now my older family memebers did not spend the time that I do baking on seasoning of their cast iron. They didn't have to. I am from the south and we fry everything. Meats and vegetables. Grease was in their cast iron at every cooking. Even the turnisp greens, green beans and dried beans, contained a lot of fat meat.
I rarely cook like that anymore, so I have to regularly reseason my pans with lard, because I seldom cook with it anymore.
But the quickest way to get that roughness off new CI cookware is to use metal utensils and scrub with metal scrubbies. Then keep reseasoning. Before you know it those sharp edges with be slick and smooth pebbles, that food will just slide right over. Then with a little more use, even the pebbles will smooth down flat.
I think of the continual scrubbing and seasoning and heating the CI as sanding, cleaning and finishing wood.
Scrub the heck out of it, and yes, you can use soap. Then fry something in it, using shortening. I don't use bacon to season as some suggest, I find there is too much "stuff" in it that sticks here and there, burning. Make some tortilla chips or something. Yes, It's a frying pan, with regular sides, but just be careful not to overcrowd the pan or fill it full of oil. About halfway works.
Sometimes I don't bother as much with the scrubbing if I have a residual something on the surface. I just fry it out. If it's gunk, it should lift off, if it's a seasoning thing, well, the frying should help it, too.
>I don't use bacon to season as some suggest, I find there is too much "stuff" in it that sticks here and there, burning.<
The problem with bacon sticking is so much of the comemrcial bacon has sugar added to it. If you can find bacon without the sugar and other flavorings, it doesn't stick so bad. I have found the same with a lot of blended seasonings. So many of them contain sugar and it causes the food you sprinkle it on, to be sticky on the pan.