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Aug 7, 2013 08:58 AM

cast iron pans are great - REALLY?

My husband bought me one since I'm a foodie/gourmet cook and was told I have to have one. I've seasoned it two different times using different methods (on cooktop and in oven) and it is absolutely the worst. Can you say "STICKING?" What now? It was bought a restaurant supply so I'm assuming it's not the pan, but me.

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  1. have you fried something in it? I lucked out & got my grandmother's pans, but I do have newer smaller ones that I have seasoned . I'd suggest frying some chicken to really get a good "greasy" coating. I never use soap, just hot water. I also put the pan on a low burner after washing to dry completely. Once it is dry & hot I wipe w/ an oiled paper towel & heat another 5 minutes or so. Good luck!

    1. You have to use more oil than you're used to with cast iron to start off with. Don't try cooking "sticky" foods with it for now (e.g. eggs, fish, potato), stick to things such as bacon, sausages, steak, pork chops etc...

      Read some more info on maintenance to get you started. I've got a cast iron griddle that I've only had for a few months, and I've only used it for bacon and steaks a couple of times. The rest of the time I make pancakes in it, and it is already non-stick to the point of me not needing to put any oil in it for making pancakes.

      It also helps to preheat the pan first, then add the oil just before cooking.

      1. I find using ghee as the seasoning and for cooking makes cast-irons pretty slippery, as well as adding a real nice butter flavor to food. It's a tad pricey, but IMO, worth it.

        3 Replies
        1. re: David11238

          Will have to try this since I have had some pans close to 10 years, and they still tend to stick.

          I don't wash them with soap until I just can't clean them with my scraper or salt. But then I reseason them with either soybean oil, shortening, or bacon fat. Still sticks really bad when I make scramble eggs.

          1. re: Crockett67

            commercial bacon has so much sugar in it, it sticks and is the devil to get off. Ghee is a much cleaner oil.

            1. re: toodie jane

              If the bacon is fried, baked, or nuked properly, the sugar doesn't wind up in rendered fat. Not at all. I save rendered bacon fat all the time and it performs exactly the way ghee does.

        2. New cast iron is not very good in the beginning. You can give up, or you can keep going. Fry some bacon very slowly, drain and wipe the pan out, then fry some more bacon. Do this once or twice a week between other uses, such as searing steaks and chops. Avoid anything saucy at this point.

          1. What are you used to cooking with? Nonstick? Clad Stainless? Copper?

            Your sticking problem can be due to a variety of things. Not allowing the pan to preheat enough before adding the food. Trying to move food around before it's ready to be moved, especially low fat foods. If it's sticking, leave it. Once it's cooked enough it should release. With new cast iron cook a lot of fatty foods for awhile in it to help season the pan. Bacon and any fried foods are good for this. I usually just put a new pan on breakfast duty for a couple weeks and use it for bacon before I try eggs or fish in it.

            Once it's seasoned well and you are familiar with cooking in it cast iron is great. I cook eggs including omelets in my cast iron all the time without adding fats.

            detergent and soap is perfectly fine. I have always cleaned mine with detergent and water after use, I just dry them in the oven or on the stove after cleaning.

            14 Replies
            1. re: rasputina

              Glad I'm not the only one who washes them!

              I just cook fatty things like bacon, sausage, fried anything for at least a few months. I can't bring myself not to use soap- just my own mental block. When I wash it, I heat it on stove top then oil it good and leave on low temp (I can't give a time because I heat it 'till I remember it- 30 min to 4 hrs. Awful, I know :) I don't cook eggs (they are glue!) in mine or anything acidic. I use stainless steel for those. Recently I bought one of those green pans (orgreenic or some goofy word combo like that)you see on TV. The jury is still out on that- great for fried eggs and pancakes but not sure it was worth $20.

              Just keep seasoning your cast iron by cooking nothing but fatty foods in it and no acid. You'll probably get best results if you don't wash it.

              1. re: PandaCat

                Eggs were a glue at the very beginning of using my CI, not any longer, It just happened to my surprise. Before turning to CI three years ago, I tried several varieties of non-stick pans - no one lasted longer than a year. I am in a skillet heaven right now - I would never buy another piece, and nothing sticks any longer to anything.
                I don't use soap, my main oils are coconut, bacon grease, beef tallow. Some people are just more relaxed about not keeping everything super clean.

                1. re: GalinaL

                  Since CI has to be preheated before each use, it gets sterilized every time just before use - probably cleaner than other pans!

                  1. re: sandylc

                    I guess some people just compulsively have to process every kitchen item through a soapy water without any logical thinking - it gives them a sensation that they did the right thing and everything is in order. I hope no one in a right set of mind is aiming for their skillets to be a germ-free, from my perspective an un-natural for a human body chemicals which are present in a detergents have more harming potential even in a very small quantities . I stay away from everything anty-bacterial myself.Of course, I like silverware, china and glass to be completely oil-free, but try to choose me cleaning solutions wisely. The amount of a rancid oil on a not super-clean pan should be really negligent.

                    1. re: GalinaL

                      You and I are REALLY on the same page! Well said.

                      1. re: sandylc

                        I use baking soda and a scrubby sponge never, ever, detergent1

                        1. re: OCEllen

                          While I respect the conventional assured that a little detergent is not going to strip the seasoning of your pan.

                          If my pans only need a short swipe to get some oil out, I don't take the time to squeeze all the soap out of my sponge. I wash it and rinse it and it's no worse for the wear.

                          I have never used baking soda or salt for any cleaning. I use a steel scrubber if it needs scouring. Again, no worse for the wear. Otherwise, a quick rubbing with the sponge and I'm done.

                    2. re: sandylc

                      Exactly my thoughts about carbon steel. If folks can cook on a gas or charcoal grill with a simple reheat and brush off for cleaning - than going soap-free for cleaning cast iron or carbon steel should be fine too.

                    3. re: GalinaL

                      Congrats on your CI'e better off without those toxic non-stick pans anyway (when the manufacturers warn against using the pans on high heat, one really has to wonder!).

                      I wouldn't do eggs on anything but my CI pans. I actually get better non-stick results on those than I did with the non-stck coated pans I used years ago. Even slowly cooked soft-scrambled eggs present no sticking problems at all on the CI.

                      CI most definitely rules.

                      1. re: The Professor

                        Actually, my turning point came when the time came to choose what to give to my son to cook with at college. He totally killed a good quality ceramic coated thick aluminum pan (pieces of material was falling out of cooking surface) during his first semester, so I got for him completely rusted Griswold #8 for $10 which was sitting perfectly flat from eBay, and an un-coated Aluminum Adcraft from a restaurant supply store. After rust removing and seasoning the cast iron pan turned into a perfect cooking vessel despite some pits, and I got myself some good vintage CI as well. Adcraft is working well too - the seasoning on a naked aluminum pan is much less prone to a damage that on CI,even though cast iron is superior for cooking, aluminum is more care-free after initial seasoning - the perfect pan for a college kid. It looks like all that scare about aluminum causing Alzheimer turn out to be the usual media hysteria about completely weak hypothesis which never got proven.

                        1. re: GalinaL

                          <He totally killed a good quality ceramic coated thick aluminum pan>

                          I don't know what ceramic coated pan you are talking about. If you are talking about those nonstick ceramic pan, then I think the pan just died on it own -- has little to do with your son.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Yes, it was a nonstick ceramic pan which was overheated by my son. I still have couple of similar quality which are intact but lost the ability to be non-stick, however can function for cooking tomato-based sauces.

                            1. re: GalinaL

                              These nonstick ceramic pans have rather short lifetime -- shorter than typical Teflon nonstick pans. So, you son probably did not kill them.

                      2. re: GalinaL

                        I never use soap on my cast iron, would never scrub with anything other than paper towels, and I'm pretty relaxed about cleaning immediately after use. Maybe the oil remaining in contact with the cast iron does good things to it. I dunno. I will clean before use of course: heat just enough to loosen the oil, clean with paper towels as needed, swirl boiling water around inside the pan, dry with paper towels (and dry completely over a low flame if not using immediately). That's usually all I need to do. The surface should end up smooth and dry, suitable for either storing or for immediate use.

                        The vast majority of my cast iron is dedicated to vegetarian cooking, my wife does use an 8" wagner 1891 skillet as well as a recently acquired wagner 1891 chicken fryer which was an absolute steal on Ebay (about 30 dollars and it arrived well seasoned and in good condition). But for all of the other pieces it is either peanut oil or butter. Mostly peanut oil. If I am making cornbread for both of us, I use peanut oil - maybe 3 T. total for my 8" skillet, and I have never had any problems.

                        I was therefore a little surprised when I was making some duck fat cornbread for my wife, in her skillet (which still has a little ways to go after being recently stripped and reseasoned but she can fry eggs and potatoes it it with no problem), using about 5 T. of duck fat, and the darn duck fat cornbread stuck in the pan.... that was the first and ONLY time I have ever had cornbread stick in a cast iron pan!!!