cast iron advice
My 10” cast iron needs to be re-seasoned – I think. I’m not sure if the photos help, but my once glossy, black patina has chipped away, becoming spotty, uneven, and, in some spots (near the center), rough and dull. More concerning is the faint brownish color (rust?) beginning to creep along the edges and up the sides (somewhat visible on the lower left side of the pan in the pic). This coloring is something I can see, not feel – it appears to be underneath several layers of seasoning.
After reading several threads on this board, I’m more or less resigned to re-seasoning. There was a year’s worth of cooking in that coating, but I think my initial layers were too thick. However, the chipping is something I’m still uncertain about. It seemed to begin after searing a steak a VERY high temp, per Alton Brown’s suggestion. The steak ruled (despite smoking up my apartment), but the pan was never really the same.
So...a few questions:
1) Forgive what may be an obvious question, but is that rust on my pan? How does one distinguish rust from that brownish coloring that often shows up in the first round of seasoning?
2) If that is rust, as I suspect, then how does that happen? I took great care to avoid getting this pan wet, dried it over the burner and wiped down w/ oil after each use. Any thoughts? It’s particularly curious (to me, anyway) that the rust (if it is rust) appears to be layered beneath my seasoning. Did I just fail to notice it and cook right over the top of it?
3) What options (if any) are there at this point besides scrubbing the pan and re-seasoning from scratch?
4) Re: Chipped/uneven seasoning – any thoughts as to what causes this? My pan wasn't always like this; it used to have a more consistently glossy and smooth sheen. If I’m going to start from scratch and re-season completely (as I suspect I must do), how can this be avoided? Can high searing temps trigger these issues? That seems to be when they started.
Basically, if I’m going to put in the leg work involved with properly seasoning this pan, I want to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.
Thanks in advance.
I'll be short: IME, if you are planning on "smoke-filled-room" sear cooking, this is *exactly* what you should expect. I urge you to accept the gnarly look and texture as a badge of honor.
Much of the thread traffic here on seasoning and CI is focused on some uniform, glassy Platonically-ideal seasoning layer that will slip eggs like a politician slips prosecution. If you aspire to one of *those* pans, great--just don't expect its seasoning to survive the next trip past 700F.
>>Much of the thread traffic here on seasoning and CI is focused on some uniform, glassy Platonically-ideal seasoning layer that will slip eggs like a politician slips prosecution.<<
Yes and yes. The threads about seasoning with flaxseed oil just about made my head explode. I guess that precludes me from "overthinking" this in the future...
You are most likely overthinking this. as Brandon Nelson says, cast iron is not necessarily pretty. But is tough and can take "use". I've played a lot with seasoning over an open fire at temps that often get the metal glowing red, and at a certain temp, the season just flakes right off to complete bare metal. This is especially easy to achieve with thin carbon steel woks and such. Anyway, you may have hit a spot on your pan in the high searing process where the season cooked off. No big deal at all. "Season" does not build up to a super thick level. It will always be thin. Re-season if you want. Or try it without. Either way I don't think you'll be "wrong".
A little "surface rust" comes and goes on non-stainless cookware and guns. It's the real deep rust that can be a problem, and I don't see that. Use it with oil or fatty foods and it should go "back to black" as Amy Winehouse says.
"Rust" is safe to eat.
<but is that rust on my pan?>
I cannot see anything from you photo to be honest. Brown alone is a tough color to describe, as rust is red to brown, and seasoning color is light brown to brown to black.
<How does one distinguish rust from that brownish coloring that often shows up in the first round of seasoning? >
Many ways actually. Get a wet paper towel, lightly wipe the spot, if it is pure seasoning, then you don't get much color on the papertowel. If it is rust, it will dissolve onto your paper towel and you will see a reddish brown color. You can lick it too. :) They taste different. Rust taste like iron.
<What options (if any) are there at this point besides scrubbing the pan and re-seasoning from scratch?>
If you want to re-season the pan, you can use your self-cleaning oven instead of scrubbing it. Self cleaning oven can burn off all of the seasoning.
<Chipped/uneven seasoning – any thoughts as to what causes this?>
A few potential reasons. You may already have a layer of rust, so whatever seasoning layer burn ontop is unstable. Or you may be overly careful with the pan and allow thick food residue/curd to build up insteading of seasoning to build up. These residue paritcles are unstable and will flake in time, and pulling off the real seasoning along wiht them
<Can high searing temps trigger these issues? >
One can burn a layer of charred meat or food residue during high searing temperature, and not remove the residue. If you like to use this pan for high heat searing, then I suggest you to use high heat seasoning as oppose to low heat seasoning. When you season a pan at high temperature, the seasoning which you build can definitely tolerate high heat.
Thanks - this is helpful.
>>If you want to re-season the pan, you can use your self-cleaning oven instead of scrubbing it. Self cleaning oven can burn off all of the seasoning.<<
So I've heard - but I'm a renter who's never had a self-cleaning oven. I may hold off for a bit and just cook some bacon.
No need to re-season it unless you think you need to.
If you do not have a self cleaning oven, then there are still many other alternatives. You can heat the pan on stovetop to burn off the seasoning, or you can do so on a grill. I won't recommend these. Instead, you can use an oven cleaner like Easy-Off to strip the seasoning. Apply Easy-Off on the pan and then put the pan in a large plastic bag. After a few hours, the seasoning should be dissolved.
re: Brandon Nelson
Hmm...I like that response.
The pan works. Very little sticking. I could probably even out that dull spot in the middle. I was concerned that rust was somehow finding its way into my food. There is more brown than is evident in that pic. But it's buried under layers, like I said. Is that safe?
And, well, it just used to be so much better/more even. Is chipping just an inevitability, and merely an aesthetic concern? Or can/should it be avoided?