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[Yet another] cast iron seasoning problem

I understand this topic must have been repeated a billion times already, and I have read quite a fair amount of threads on this topic too. But it is always so much better if one gets a response, specific to his situation, so here I go.

Bought Lodge 12" Cast iron skillet. It said it was pre-seasoned but I seasoned it with soybean oil 2-3 times before use anyways. Was doing good, except that it started showing patchy grayish spots or maybe they were black spots, you get the idea, it was not visually pleasing! So I came upon the article explaining the science of seasoning and how I should be using flaxseed oil and etc. So I went bananas on my CI skillet, scrubbed it really well with one of those metal scrubbers, and [only to add more to my frustrations later on] I even sanded the inside to kind of smoothen the surface [Yes, I envy how smooth the inside of a Griswold skillet looks, compared with my Lodge!]. After this, I have seasoned CRAZILY with flaxseed oil! First I tried seasoning it by baking at 500F for an hour, after it was done, I could EASILY wipe off the black iron with tissue paper. I tried saving money on the oven gas and then went bananas over seasoning it over stove top. Got the skillet really heated up, applied a thin layer of flaxseed oil, waited for it to smoke completely, and while it was still hot, continued repeating this procedure 3-4 times! After it had cooled, guess what, I made lemon pepper seasoned tilapia in it, only for the fish to stick badly and leave a mark on the skillet. I thought the seasoning was done for or wasnt done properly to begin with. Thoroughly washed the pan with soup and sponge, reseasoned in the oven and this time tried tilapia again, but with different seasoning, Still stuck. Instead of cleaning the pan thoroughly with soap again, I just cleaned it with hot water and reseasoned it in the oven at 550F for an hour. It LOOKED like I had seasoned it properly NOW! Certainly, the inside was smooth and even when I scrubbed real hard with a paper towel, it was not picking up any black (iron). So I decided to go a bit light on the pan, added a layer of oil and fried 2 beef patties in it. Naturally the pan got very oily. So I used a little bit of oil to get rid of the oil. Guess what I notice when patting it dry with paper tower? IRON! The paper towel is EASILY picking up iron! I think I may have stripped the seasoning once again. Please tell me what am I doing wrong? I think there are 2 possibilties: Initially, I was not applying a thick enough coat of oil, which is why I would still pick up iron on the paper towel after it had cooled down in the oven. And this time, I may have stripped the thin coat of seasoning that I did manage to make on the pan by using soap. What do you guys think?

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  1. That kind of stuff is so stinkin frustrating. I only recently purchased my first cast iron skillet and opted for a Le Creuset only because my husband can't have any extra iron and their cookware is enameled and won't transfer any. But since I'm new to the cookware your question was interesting.

    I checked the "Lodge" website and I assume you re-seasoned it by their instructions. At this point, I would call their customer service and see if they could tell you why it's not working and everything is sticking. Don't know where you bought it, but maybe return it as faulty and see if another one does the same thing.

    It took a bit to learn how to use my CI frypan. I discovered if I didn't follow their exact directions everything would stick too. Le Creuset has you heat the pan first on medium, then add your oil or butter, lower the temp a teeny bit, then start cooking. As long as I do that, nothing sticks, not eggs, not anything. And I never use soap on the interior, just soak in very hot water and dry with a paper towel.

    Be sure and post if you find out what the issue is with your pan.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Macladybug

      You can use soap on the interior of Le Creuset. It is enamel, and that won't be washed off. I always use detergent on my Staub and Le Creuset pieces.

    2. I am suspecting and these are just my suspicious, so if anyone can chime in, please feel free to. I suspect that initially, after I scrubbed off all of the previous seasoning, I might have been applying too little oil when seasoning, which is why even after seasoning it at 500 for an hour would not get rid of the excess iron that was shedding off! And most recently, since I did not experience this problem AFTER I was finished with the seasoning, as I took note to apply more oil than I was applying before, I suspect the iron shedding might have occurred because I actually stripped the seasoning from various areas when I used the soap [however little it may have been!].

      But yeah, this is SO frustrating! I have baked at 500 for over 4-6 hours! On multiple days! I thought seasoning was a once in a year sort of thing! I am going to season it, perhaps for the last time, use it and see if the problem recurs when I wash it with hot water only. If it still has the same problem, time to take it back to Walmart and see if they'll accept it without receipt.,,

      1 Reply
      1. re: mrmalik

        While you are waiting for the seasoning to finish... give Lodge a call and vent... maybe they can tell you if you are missing some important secret step in the the process!

      2. Try this: take steel wool to it again, just the inside surface (no need to go crazy, just use it to get rid of the bits that come off easily/moderately easily).

        Then put it on the burner, wait until it gets VERY hot (over 500F). Then use LARD, not flax. LARD. Add a little piece of it to the pan then wipe it around to coat the whole interior surface with the fat.

        Wait for it to smoke for about 10 seconds, then wipe it around with the same tissue/cloth you just used earlier. This will redistribute the fat evenly so you don't end up with gunky spots.

        Let it smoke for a few seconds again, then wipe again.

        Repeat until the tissue or cloth is pretty much dry, then either stop there and use the pan normally to cook, or add another piece of lard and repeat the process (you don't need to do this more than 2-3 times to get a very nice coating).

        Warning: the room will get very smoky and smell of lard. Open all windows, turn on all extractor fans, shut all doors that lead to other parts of the house.

        I've used this method for my CI and CS pans, its the traditional method used for chinese woks (although we/they normally just use a piece of pork fat from the butchers, not lard), and it produces much nicer seasoning than the flax method.

        Note:
        Don't cook anything acidic in your CI yet. No lemon, no tomato, no vinegar, no wine. Also try to limit the amount of liquids, since they don't help the seasoning. Stick to pan frying things for now. After doing the method I outlined above, I was able to fry an egg with minimal fat, on newly seasoned, rough, Lodge CI with ZERO sticking.

        After using your pan, rinse with hot water, scrub with a brush (or simply wipe with paper towel if it is clean enough e.g. after pancakes), heat it on the stovetop for about 2 minutes on low-medium to dry, then apply a very thin layer of lard before storing it. This layer of lard will help gradually add to the seasoning, and will stop rusting.

        Also, any black bits you pick up on the towel are not iron. It is either burnt-on food, or small flakes of seasoning. Burnt on food is quite normal if you don't clean the pan properly. Especially after something like flaky fish that has stuck to the pan, and also particularly with burgers I find.

        1. "think there are 2 possibilties: Initially, I was not applying a thick enough coat of oil, which is why I would still pick up iron on the paper towel after it had cooled down in the oven. And this time, I may have stripped the thin coat of seasoning that I did manage to make on the pan by using soap. What do you guys think?"

          You want the coats of oil you apply to season to be extremely thin, i wipe the oil on and then wipe it off with a clean cloth. Too thick oil will pool and give you sticky spots.

          You may have stripped some seasoning with soap - it sounds like you have reset the clock a few times.

          sirriths method of seasoning makes sense. I alse prefer lard but have been successful with oil

          Here are my thoughts

          Seasoning is an ongoing process not something you do once - dont try for instant perfection - get a light coating of seasoning on the pan and start using it - at first use more fat than you may like - fry away

          So many initial seasonings have come out quite imperfect and spotty i found the best remedy was just to keep going forward and using pan the seasoning will build

          cooking a low fat fish like talapia before you have a fully seasoned skillet was a mistake - it will take time and use to develop real non stick qualities to your pan.

          Black stuff coming off is OK - it is not iron it is either burnt oil or some seasoning - dont worry

          Use your pan, use fat - oil, lard, whatever, but use more than normal at first. Cook things that are not too sticky - like fatty meat or fry things or even saute veg but in a bit more fat than normal. When you are done wipe out your pan (if anything is really stuck to the pan use a metal pancake flipper to dislodge) then clean it with kosher salt (this is a must) and a plastic scrubbie (like a dobie) - dont scrub to death just until the pan has no visible crusties or food debris. (you can use some white vinegar or water if you need and you can rinse the pan quickly to clear away the salt) wipe the pan clean with a damp towel and place on a warm burner for a few minutes. When the pan is dry and still warm wipe lightly with oil and wipe off. store where it wont get undue moisture or just keep it on the range to make sure you use it and use it again.

          dont worry if your seasoning looks a bit imperfect just keep using the pan and cleaning it and storing it properly and sooner than you think you will have the nice black well performing pan you imagine.

          2 Replies
          1. re: JTPhilly

            When reading your post, one thing jumped out at me; you were consistently picking up what you thought was iron on the paper towels. As Sirrith and JTPhilly noted, it's not iron.

            Let me add that I don't try to get my cast iron and carbon steel pans so clean that paper towels don't pick up any color, not even close. I rinse them under hot water, scrub until the surface is completely smooth again, then wipe dry and finish on the cooktop. That's it. Sometimes, if it's looking a little dull, I'll wipe on a few drops (literally) of oil.

            Also, when I can see bare metal in a spot, as invariably happens, I add a new layer of seasoning all over. Smoking hot pan, add oil, let it smoke a bit, then wipe it out and let the pan cool.

            1. re: JTPhilly

              Yes, I was going to say much the same thing. Start using the pan and don't expect instant non-stick. With use, it will become thoroughly seasoned. Fry some potatoes in lots of oil. Roast a chicken. More cooking, less seasoning.

            2. Thanks for all of your replies.

              Lard, I can not use, so I tried reseasoning the pan first on stove top. After the pan cooled down, no more black stuff picked up by paper towels. Relieved! And now, more for my personal satisfaction, I have put the pan in oven at 500F for an hour, coated with flaxseed oil. Just to get those nooks and corners that might have been missed on the stove top.

              After I was done seasoning it on high flame on stove top, I noticed that the inside surface was not uniformly black, in fact, it seemed like it lost the black color in some areas. Is that because of the uneven flame underneath? Because whenever I have cooked something in the pan on stove top, I have noticed similar color change, however, when it's seasoned in the oven, all of it is more or less uniformly black. I think its just aesthetics but still it'd be nice to have a pure black shiny inside :) Any thoughts?

              3 Replies
              1. re: mrmalik

                < I think its just aesthetics but still it'd be nice to have a pure black shiny inside :) Any thoughts?>

                Give it time. Let it do what it wants to do, color wise. Think of it this way; anyone can make a pan look shiny black, then hang it on the wall. Real cooks have multi-color pans, because they're tools, not wall ornaments. When people comment on the state of my pans, I get all smug and superior, because I'm a *cough* serious cook and I need serious tools. Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking with it. :))

                1. re: mrmalik

                  as you build the seasoning you will get it to black. you can spend your time/energy seasoning the pan or you can spend that time cooking with it.

                  Seasoning on CI pans is not a finite thing it is an ongoing process - as you use your pan to cook you will start learning - you will undoubtedly mess up your seasoning a few times, burn it off, get it sticky etc. In a way it is this process that makes CU have the "Living" tactile quality that makes them special - somehow connected to what you cook in them and how you use and treat them.

                  Your initial seasoning is just to get the pan started, use is what will make it shine - and if you mess it up you can just scrub it down and oil it back up.

                  1. re: mrmalik

                    Use Criso instead of Lard then, it is still better than flax IMO.

                  2. <<<<Please tell me what am I doing wrong?
                    What do you guys think? Any thoughts?>>>>>

                    Go here and follow their instructions to the letter.
                    http://www.lodgemfg.com/useandcare/se...

                    Please note they, use "Crisco"....not some exotic, pseudo-magical "snake oils"

                      1. It takes years to build up a really good season. Initial seasoning helps, but nothing replaces the years of micro-layers that only comes from repeated use and cleaning.

                        I used to get frustrated by this, but my 100-year old aunt asked me why I was so rushed and obsessed with trying to do in a few days what took her and her parents decades to do. And that is all I needed to hear.

                        I now just use and clean and have seen my season build throughout the years. It feels good to know that CI and carbon steel pans simply get better with age.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: Rigmaster

                          Just one quick question: when you use a lot of oil in the CI pan, for frying chicken for example, do you simply wash it with water and let the gooey oil remain on the pan afterwards? Or do you clean it with salt or mild soap?
                          Just wanting to hear what people do mostly.

                          1. re: mrmalik

                            no gooey oil

                            pour off the excess - wipe out the rest

                            then add kosher salt - scrub with the kosher salt and scrubbie or towel -the kosher salt will absorb any remaining excess oil. wipe it out

                            if needed rinse with water or white vinegar - dry on stove - then rewipe with the thinnest layer of fresh oil/shortening possible before storing

                            you do not want gooey oil that will just make your pan sticky and rancid.

                              1. re: mrmalik

                                In a pinch but not really - the coarse grains of Kosher Salt really help absorb and clean and break down more slowly - regular salt dissolves too fast and does not give enough abrasion. KS is really one of the most useful CI cleaning products you can use - kosher salt, white vinegar and a plastic scrubbie are really all you need to keep your CI in shape.

                                1. re: mrmalik

                                  In addition to my nylon palm brush that gets used for everything, I have a Ringer XL that is exclusively for iron and steel, all kinds, from carbon to stainless, including cast iron. It's really wonderful, because it works very well and can be rinsed clean with a swish through soapy water. It drapes over the center wall of my sink, taking up zero room on the counter.

                                  http://www.amazon.com/The-Ringer-Cast...

                                  1. re: mrmalik

                                    I've never used anything more than hot water and a nylon scrubber for normal clean up and kosher salt with hot water for caked on items. If you're cooking with high heat and have built a crust of cooked items, have 1-2 cups of water nearby to "deglaze" while the heat is on. Crust comes up fairly easily if deglazed off. You can still do the primary clean up after eating, but there's no point in letting the crust just air-bond.

                                2. re: mrmalik

                                  If there is food residue, I wash with warm water, generally no soap but there have been exceptions. Then dry on the burner, light swipe of oil, and put away. Sometimes I've fried things, falafels most recently, and have just poured off the oil, wiped the pan, and put away. No gooey oil but a light sheen is ok with me.

                              2. FWIW and Your Results May Vary. All of my CI is old Griswold & etc that I have collected here & there at dirt cheap prices. And it was all foul & disgusting when I got it. Years/decades of crud baked into it. I cleaned them all down to bare metal with a wire wheel on an angle grinder. A dirty filthy job but it got them clean. I then wiped them down with regular old vegetable oil & put them in the oven for an hour (or two if I forgot) @ 300 degrees. Took them out, washed them with a little soapy water & wiped them down again with oil & into the cupboard. After that, every time I used them I washed them, wiped them down with oil & put them away. After 8 or 10 times I really stopped oiling them & just washed, dried & put them away. I've never had a problem with stuff sticking in them. I will also add that the more you use them the better they are. If you only use them every other month they're not going to get well seasoned for a looooong time.

                                Wait - I forgot. My frying pan came from my grandmother & she seasoned it when she was a young bride back around 1920 or so.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: JoeBabbitt

                                  <<<<<<<<<< I cleaned them all down to bare metal with a wire wheel on an angle grinder>>>>>>>>

                                  Next time try a lye bucket. Does an excellent job. You stay clean. The iron comes out clean down to the bone. Hardly any effort....just time.

                                  1. re: Uncle Bob

                                    I've done that, also done it by electrolysis. I'm not a very patient person & the wire wheel is fast.