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cooking with cast iron

Posted by paulwheaton (My Page) on
Wed, Sep 20, 06 at 18:17

I learned of gardenweb some time ago when somebody sent me this e-mail: "Just a quick note on your "Organic Lawn Care for the Cheap and Lazy" page. I found it since it is mentioned frequently on gardenweb.com forums...."

Well, I hope this is an okay thing to do ... I wrote another article. Kinda like that one. I have spent years on it and it still needs a bit of work. The driving force behind it is rather similar: something I'm keen on; something that can save the world if I post it; something where if I show it to experts, they will gladly point out where I need to learn more!

I call the article "using a cast iron skillet ain't so hard!" and it can be found at http://www.richsoil.com/castiron/

I hope you'll take a gander at it! Thanks!

Here is a link that might be useful: using a cast iron skillet ain't so hard!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: cooking with cast iron

Very good summary, Paul.

I have new and old cast iron pieces and the old is far better. I have a chicken fryer that's at least 80 years old and the cooking surface is satiny and slick.

I've read but never tried this trick: if you want to get all the old crud off a pan to re-season it, put it in a self cleaning oven (without any oven cleaner, of course) and run the oven cleaning cycle. Supposedly it removes all the built up crud on the pan.

Also, for seasoning I like to use coconut oil. Seems to work really nicely.

One other trick: if you do have some stuck on food, dry the pan well, put about a tablespoon of kosher (coarse) salt and scrub with a paper towel. Then rinse with hot water and re-oil.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Paul,

I really enjoyed reading your article on the care and use of cast iron cookware. You have collected and shared some really good information. However, I'd like to point out that the claim to "never use soap" to clean cast iron is based on old folklore and has no scientific basis that I am aware of.

In the "old days" it was very common for folk to make their own soap. Soap simply is the potassium or sodium salt of a fatty acid.......it is the end product of a reaction between Potassium or Sodium hydroxide with an animal or plant fat. Lard and Olive oil were used quite extensively for soap making.

Early folk boiled wood ash extract to get Potassium Hydroxide for making a soft soap. By the early 1900's lye (or Sodium Hydroxide) became readily available in cans and was the raw material of choice for making soap. One of the advantages folk realized in using lye was it produced a hard soap and they didn't have to boil all of that wood ash extract.

Folk used cast iron vessels in which to boil the wood ashes or lye, with animal fat to produce soap. One of the observations they made in the soap making process was that it removed the seasoning of the cast iron kettle. This is where the folklore to "NEVER USE SOAP" began. The error here is that it is not the soap that removes the patina or seasoning on the kettle; rather, in reality it is the Potassium or Sodium hydroxide alkalie that removes the pot seasoning.

Patina development on cast iron is a two part process. The first part involves developing a thin layer of polymerized oil on the cast iron. This is accomplished by applying a thin coat of oil to the cast iron surface and heating it in an oven until it dries to the surface. When done properly this layer of polymerized oil CANNOT be removed by either soap or dishwashing liquid. The only way to removed this layer is by vigourous mechanical scrubbing (i.e. brillo pad), by caustics (lye, draino, or oven cleaner), or by burning it off at temperatures greater than 500 deg F (on BBQ pit or in Self Cleaning oven).

The second part to true Patina development on cast iron involves the actual lay down of carbon on the cast iron surface. This happens at temperatures slightly above the smoke point of the seasoning oil. You MUST heat cast iron above the smoke point to get actual carbon black into the patina matrix. If you do not heat to the smoke point you will only have polymerized oil in the coating........this is a protective coating but it is not as slick a surface as a mixture of both carbon and poly molecules.

Keep in mind that grease splatter inside of an oven undergoes the same chemical reactions as what goes on in the cast iron seasoning process. If soaps or detergents really were able to remove seasoning from a pot, then cooks could actually clean the inside their ovens with Ivory soap or Dawn liquid soap/detergent. We all know that doesn't work and is why oven cleaner and self cleaning oven cycles were invented!

I'll comment on the following in the near future:

1) Oils used for seasoning.
2) Old cast iron is superior to today's stuff.
3) Proper cleaning procedures

Thanks for making your article available for comment.

Dan


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Dan,

In my personal experience, washing my less-than-one-year-old Lodge skillet with dish soap and a gentle plastic scrubber completely nullified any seasoning effect I had been able to build up. (Of course, the Dawn I use also gets the inside of my oven clean... am I the only one who does that?)

I have also always been warned to NEVER let the thing heat to smoking, though.

I think the ban on soap is probably less complicated than the fascinating history you give- I think it's just more likely that nobody's seasoning these right anymore!

For the record, I did stop washing it with soap. After a few years it now works better for me than the older, very smooth pans that Grandma gave us! I'm really curious what kind of soap you use on yours that doesn't make the surface worthless again? Should I throw mine in the fire coals to smoke it and hope it doesn't crack?


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Jane,

I omitted the phrase "baked on" in the oven cleaning reference above. The paragraph should have read:

"Keep in mind that BAKED ON grease splatter inside of an oven undergoes the same chemical reactions as what goes on in the cast iron seasoning process. If soaps or detergents really were able to remove seasoning from a pot, then cooks could actually clean the BAKED ON RESIDUE inside their ovens with Ivory soap or Dawn liquid soap/detergent. We all know that doesn't work and is why oven cleaner and self cleaning oven cycles were invented!"

I use Dawn concentrated liquid (anti bacterial) when I need it. One dosen't have to use soap in all cleanings.....example fried eggs, fish, fries, etc. However, when searing steaks or applications where a good bit of buildup accumulates on the metal surface, I use soap with a plastic brush. I then follow this with boiling some water in the pot to again lift any remaining food particles or possible soap residue from the pot's surfaces and crevices. I then empty the pot contents.... continue to heat it on the burner to insure all water is removed (very important). Finally, I re-oil the pot while it is still hot.

When cast iron is seasoned properly, soap and/or detergents WILL NOT REMOVE it. It will only remove remaining cooking oil, fats, and help lift debris from the surface of the cast iron. I plan to add further to this thread in the future and share my take on proper seasoning and care of cast iron.

How did you season your skillet and what did you cook in it?

Dan

My e-mail address is listed on my member page. I invite a more technical discussion on this issue based on chemistry if anyone is so inclined. Let's do it "off line" so we don't bore anyone.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Thank you Dan, looking forward to your posts on seasoning and care. I don't object to folks who don't want to use soap on cast iron for whatever reason. However, I don't like to see that myth promoted as the only correct way to maintain cast iron. I would not eat from a pan that was not properly washed in soap and water. Who knows how many potential cast iron users get turned off when they hear someone say you absolutely cannot use soap on your cast iron skillet. I grew up watching everyone cook on cast iron. My grandmother, born before 1900 always washed her cast iron in soapy water as did Mom as do I. The carbon deposited on these pans will not be damaged unless you use steel-wool and scouring powder.

I think the common use of cast iron in outdoor cooking also contributes to the idea that soap isn't a good idea. Just wipe it out and pack it up according to campers. Of course this is ok, especially since hot water and soap are harder to come by on camping trips.

I think very few people actually begin with a well seasoned pan. They think they do. They apply a couple coats of oil and some heat and think its done. Incomplete seasoning can be scrubbed off. Thats probably the reason people report failure. Another reason may be these new pans you see for sale today are rough as cobblestone. Its gonna take a while to get a smooth build up on them. Just MHO.

So by all means, dont wash if you want but dont tell everyone else they shouldnt.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

When I got my pan it came with directions stating I should rub crisco all over it and then put it in a 350 degree oven for a half an hour. I should then be good to go, they said.

Upon it's first washing (think I cooked chicken), it got rusty within the 2 seconds between the sink and the stove-top, where I intended to dry it.

Like I said, I think you're onto something that it's not about soap- it's about what constitutes "seasoning".

Do you think it would make any sense at this point to try putting my pan in a 500 degree oven to further carbonize it? I've heard so many stories of people cracking pans this way that I am wary... I guess you have to pre-heat it?


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Aw, c'mon. Go ahead and "bore" us. Many of us are interested. Just got some yucko black greasy stuff off of my Lodge preseasoned pans and I thought I was doing everything just right.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

If you are uncomfortable talking about the chemistry here, please, please, please talk about it on the forum link at the bottom of the article!

My understanding of polymerization is that it is still the same fat molecule, but it now has a different arrangement. The fat molecules now have a tighter bond with each other.

My understanding is that a soap molecule is a long chain - one end really likes fats/oils and the other end really likes water. Mighty convenient since oil and water generally don't like each other. So if you mix soap and oil, the soap binds to the oil. Then when water comes along, it latches to the water.

The question is: if the oil is polymerized, does it behave differently with soap? I would think that soap and water alone are not strong enough to dislodge the polymerized oil. But I suspect (and I could be wrong here) it helps.

Further ... I wonder ... if the soap bonds to the polymerized oil, what happens if the polymerized oil does not leave? Does the soap molecule(s) continue to stick to the polymerized oil? Do you end up with a little bit of soap in your food?


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Jane,

Sounds like you purchased an un-seasoned skillet. IMO your skillet wasn't seasoned properly. You made no mention of removing the waxy protective coating that Lodge puts on their unseasoned cast iron products. The wax coating must be completely removed before applying crisco and baking. If that's the case, it is indeed better to burn it off in the oven and start over with the seasoning process. Cast iron is tough and can take the heat. What it cannot take is a sudden drastic change in temperature......this can crack it. Bake it in the oven at 500 degrees or run it through an oven cleaning cycle. Afterwards allow it to cool in the oven and you should have no problem with it cracking. Putting cool water into a 500 degree cast iron skillet or putting it onto a cold surface might crack it.

Curing cast iron is not rocket science. About 30 years ago an old Cajun camp cook told me that the best way to cure a pot was to "smoke it in the oven with lard" then use it as often as possible for frying (potatoes & fish) and making cajun roux in it.......especially making cajun roux in it.

Today after curing many cast iron vessels from small skillets to huge wash kettles or cauldrons, I now know that he was right.

His procedure works especially well for curing ROUGH surfaced cast iron vessels such as your Lodge cast iron skillet. Not a rocket science procedure maybe.....but factually based on real science non the less. I'll explain later why this works so well and suggest other quicker seasoning procedures.

Dan


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Paul,

As I stated above patina development is a two part process. Part 1 involves the polymerization of the unsaturated oils/fats in the curing oil. Part 2 involves the thermal cracking of the oil/fat and actual carbon laydown into the matrix.

These two patina developing mechanisms can take place independantly of each other or can occur almost at the same time........it just depends on the conditions at the time of the curing process. Factors affecting rates of patina development reactions include 1) concentration of unsaturated fats 2) concentration of saturated fats 3) temperature 4) pressure 5) pot metal metalurgy (catalyst affects) 6) Conradson carbon residue content of the curing oil or fat. It can get rather complicated (boring?) if I try to go into too many details. However, the seasoning process itself is not complicated at all if you follow good procedures. More on that later.........

Regarding Polymerization: Polymerization simply is a chemical reaction whereby molecules contained in unstable unsaturated (double bonded carbon atoms) oils or fats combine or crosslink with other molecules to form other more stable compounds with very different chemical and physical properties. Our goal in the curing process is to control these polymerization reactions in such a manner that they produce polymers with physical properties that are good for cooking purposes (i.e. a non-stick, hard, durable patina).


1 )The rate of these polymerization reactions are very much dependant on type of oil, curing temperature, and the chemical compositon of the metal surface.

2) The chemical and physical properties of the polymer formed is also very much dependant on type of oil, temperature, and metal surface.

One example of a polymerized oil is the "STICKY" residue some people complain about in their cast iron pans. This is usually caused by coating cast iron with oil which is high in unsaturated fats (vegetable oils) and keeping the temperature rather low. A problem with this situation is that this type of polymer residue is also prone to further oxidation (because all of the double bonds have not been saturated). This means it can turn rancid as oxygen gets into the polymer matrix. Another unfortunate physical property of this type of patina is that it is totally worthless for non-stick cooking.

To properly cure cast iron we need to push the polymerization reactions beyond the "sticky" stage and more towards the "dryer" stage.........and that my friend requires the right amount of heat.

Cooks complain they cannot remove sticky polymerized mess even with soaps and detergents. They cannot remove it because polymerized oily residue is a completely different product than that of the mother oil. Soaps/detergents will remove excess mother oil but will not remove the sticky polymers.

To keep a cast iron pan from getting sticky.......don't use excess vegetable oil to coat that pan.......or use a more stable saturated fat like lard or crisco. Remember putting a thin layer of oil on cast iron to form a "protective coating" is one thing.....however, if you want to use that oil to "build patina"..........you must heat it.

Regarding soap residue............soap/detergents WILL NOT CLING to a properly cured and cleaned pan. I'll get into more details on this later when I discuss what I think are proper cleaning and curing procedures.

FYI I have never used grape seed oil to cure cast iron. A line in your article (regarding having to clean up oil splatter QUICKLY after frying foods in grape seed oil otherwise it is very difficut to clean up the splatter)really grabbed my attention. What your observation tells me is that grape seed oil is higher in unsaturated fats than the other oils you have used for frying. The splatter is hard to clean up because it polymerizes quickly. This property of grape seed oil may be the reason you find it works well for seasoning.

I have a recently cleaned cast iron dutch oven and a small kettle than need seasoning. I will use grape seed oil to cure them and will make observations and comparisons to the methods I usually use.

Dan



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RE: cooking with cast iron

Bean counter,

I am 100% in agreement with the opinions you expressed above.

Dan


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Dan & Paul,

I really enjoyed the original article and the discussion here. Please continue the discussion! I find the discussion of the chemistry fascinating, as I'm sure others do.

Liz


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Dan,

First let me say thank you for your patience in helping us all understand this sort of thing.

You mention that the polymer formed depends on the type of metal. Does that mean there can be only one layer of polymer (seasoning)?

For the sticky stage: should I tell folks (in my article) that if you get something sticky, you need to do it over? Because the oxygen has probably already set in and rancidity has begun? Or, is this something that can be mended?

You mentioned that you would provide a recipe for seasoning cast iron. I now suspect that you have multiple recipes - different oils/fats may require different times and temperatures?

I am willing to change my article to take out the stuff about the soap. Can you help me to understand how soap is okay in cast iron? My current understanding of soap is that it helps connect water to fat/oil so that oils can be rinsed away. Of course, there is a bit of a chemical bond there, right? Would the polymerized oil/fat have all of its bonding bits occupied and can, therefore, not bond to soap like the non-polymerized oil/fat does?


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Another question for you dan: You mention that there are two parts to creating a seasoning layer. You mention the second part a little in your first post in this thread .... would you season a pan in the oven, then put down a thin layer of grease and heat it to the smoke point, and then repeat a few times? Or is this done at the same time in the oven?

Is the initial seasoning layer kinda sticky, but it is the carbon layer that is actually slick?

Can soap remove the carbon layer?

Can a plastic scrubber remove either layer?


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RE: cooking with cast iron

I am wondering if it would be a good idea to put the cast iron pans in the oven whenever I do a self clean cycle. For me, just a couple of times a year.

Great thread!

Thx.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

FWIW I Purchased two cast iron woks about 8 months ago and used my outside BBQ to season them. They got blacker than coaley's butt and are fantastic. I cooked them in the BBQ for about 6 hours and recoated them with oil 3 times. The coating produced by this method is bullet proof. I tried the oven method on 1 first at 400 deg for a hour and it doesn't even come to close to the BBQ results.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Gary:

I may just try that now that the weather is getting warm enough in Toronto to get the BBQ out.

I have one pan that is factor pre-seasoned. Do you think the BBQ, or the self-clean oven would take off the seasoning that it already has?

Arley mentioned above the idea of using self-clean to clean up an old pan, but I'm not sure of its value for seasoning.

Thx.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

toronto, the thing about cast iron is that you keep adding to the seasoning. No reason to remove what you have. It's the build up of many applications that create a good surface. Gary's outdoor method is great because it saves you a house full of smoke with the smoke detector going off and everyone wiping there eyes. Apply your Crisco or lard over the factory seasoning and put it on the BBQ.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Toronto,

Factory seasoning and the seasoning I accomplished with the BBQ I think are quite different. The factory type is not long lasting and as durable as when done on the BBQ. I think the high heat provided by the charcoal is helpful to acheive that baked on glaze that everybody trys to acheive with their cast iron pans. My woks cook beautifully and now are stick resistent like a teflon pan.

I would coat the pan 3 times and do this over several hours. I used peanut oil which worked very well.


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RE: cooking with cast iron BBQ seasoning

Toronto Bean counter is exactly right, just season right over the factory stuff.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

BeanCounter/Gary:

Thanks for your responses.

I'm wondering that if the heat of the BBQ is a good thing, would the extremely high heat of the self clean oven be a better thing?


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Y'all have convinced me to get a cast iron skillet. (I need a bigger skillet anyway.)

I'm interested in these new Wagner skillets, which I'd prefer to get over Lodge skillets for sentimental reasons. The polished skillet is the one I'd like, but it doesn't look like it has a grab handle on the far side.

Anybody have experience with this brand? Does the "ergonomically designed" single handle make up for the lack of a grab handle on the far side? Don't wanna break my wrist trying to lift this thing!

Also, you might be interested in the Wagner specialty pieces (see web site). I think the tassle & grain trivet is really beautiful.

Thanks for any & all advice.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wagner ware


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RE: cooking with cast iron

okay, I can't stand it any longer....

I have these visions of well-seasoned cast-iron skillets going into the oven cleaning cycle and (at best) coming out with the seasoning burned off OR (the worst) a fire in the oven.

I recall that my grandmother who used iron skillets on a wood stove would periodically fire up the wash pot and put the skillets in the fire to burn off the accumulated crud on the outside. Since I was a wee thing at the time, I don't have a clear memory, but think they had to be re-seasoned.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Does anyone have an opinion about Lodge vs. Wagner, or are they "all created equal"?


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Paul, as explained in my e-mail to you.........I'll answer your questions when I get a chance.

Dmlove and kaykats, not all cast iron vessels are created equal. There is a lot more to producing a QUALITY cast iron skillet than melting some pig iron and pouring it into a mold. If I had to choose between a Lodge or Wagner I would choose the Wagner because of the "machined polished" cooking surface. It is much easier to develop and maintain a good non-stick patina on this type of surface than it is with the rougher surface type casting such as Lodge.

When I go to garage sales or flea markets I look for cast iron cooking vessels that are thin walled (thin is much much better than thick) and has a very smooth cooking surface. If the surface is as smooth as glass or silk and has thin walls I generally will buy it irregardless of the brand name.

torontoontari, be carful with seasoning cast iron on the BBQ pit. It's OK to do that just don't heat too much past the point where your pot smokes. You must heat your vessel just past the smoke point of the seasoning oil. This temperature varies with the type of oil you use for seasoning. The smoke point of crisco is much lower than the smoke point of peanut oil.

Dan


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RE: cooking with cast iron

learn something every day: I knew about smooth, but thought thick was better. Wish I could still use my cast iron ... it's old and seasoned well, but we now have a smooth top stove and every piece I own has a little ridge running around the edge of the bottom ... doesn't make contact. thanks, danab


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RE: cooking with cast iron2

kayskats,

That little ridge running around the edge of the bottom is called a "smoke ring".....some older cast iron pieces have it. Good quality cast iron....sometimes wonderfully seasoned is always available on ebay. FYI, I bought a number 6 Griswold skillet (without the smoke ring) with perfect seasoning the other day for $3.50 plus shipping.

Dan


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RE: cooking with cast iron

I have found the spun smooth surface of the Griswold skillets to be superior to any of the new heavier molded cast iron skillets made today. Also, for those who are "afraid" to eat from a skillet that is not washed with detergent, you don't wash your bbq grill with soapy water because anything that could be living on the surface is cooked off with the next use. I use a plastic pot scraper for any cooked on food, and rinse with a little warm water, wipe dry with a paper towel. Lodge specifically tells you in their care guide not to use soap or detergent, It doesn't necessarily unseason the pan, but it does infiltrate the seasoning giving it a detergent or soapy taste.

I love all my old Griswold pans. I wish they were still being made today. Also, love my carbon steel pans which are finally seasoned to perfection. Same care goes into those and they're not quite so heavy.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Kimba, that smooth surface is why I was curious about the new Wagner polished skillets. Think I'll buy one just to give it a test drive.

Seems like all the Griswold pans I'm interested in on Ebay get bidded up. It's more economical to buy the new Wagner ware. Hope they're worth the money.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

awm03,

Please keep us posted about these new Wagnerware pans. I'm so glad to hear someone is finally making the smooth iron skillet again.

Another thing is I have a friend who has a Lodge skillet that was "resurfaced" smooth and it works quite well, although it is still weighs more then a Griswold of the same size.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

kimba,

Soap and/or detergents WILL NOT INFILTRATE a properly cleaned and seasoned cast iron vessel.

Regarding Lodge's Care Guide (see link below) recommendation not to use soap or detergent..........keep in mind that their seasoning procedure is flawed IMO due to their concern over possible customer complaints or lawsuits. Read their procedure for seasoning cast iron. In one section they tell you to coat with oil and heat in an oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour. At best this will only apply a light PROTECTIVE COATING on the skillet. Lodge knows full well that you must heat it to a much higher temperature near the smoke point of the seasoning oil to get to a true durable seasoning.

Lodge suggests you not wash with soap because at that point (350 degrees for 1 hour) you only have a very light protective coating at best that MIGHT wash off with soap and/or leave a soapy residue. Whether or not it washes off is a function of the type of oil that was used for seasoning.

Also notice in the attached care guide where Lodge suggests you can heat to 400 to 500 degrees for 3 hours on a BBQ pit. Why the difference in procedures????? Why is 1 hour @350 degrees "indoors" OK but you need 500 degrees for 3 hours "outdoors" on the BBQ pit? IMO Lodge will not recommend heating in the oven to the smoke point for fear of complaints and lawsuits. Also notice what they say about Lodge pre-seasoned vessels.............they heat them to a very high temperature.

Some chemistry........Oil begins to thermally crack near its smoke point and leaves behind carbon molecules in the patina matrix. All oils are not the same.....either chemically or physically. They have different smoke points and different carbon residues. The carbon residue of an oil is a chemical property that is measured analytically by a Micro Carbon Residue Tester. The higher the conradson carbon residue of an oil, the more carbon it leaves behind after its cracking. It is the unsaturated molecules in the oil that polymerize and bond the whole mass together. The higher the carbon content of the seasoning matrix (or lower the hydrogen content) the more durable the patina.

To repeat once again........when a cast iron vessel is PROPERLY cleaned and PROPERLY seasoned.........soaps/detergents will not infiltrate or adhere to the seasoning.............. and soaps/detergents will not remove the seasoning.

Dan

Here is a link that might be useful: Lodge's Seasoning and Care Guide


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Smoke points for various fats & oils in link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fats & oils smoke points


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RE: cooking with cast iron

awm,
Good table. Just keep in mind that these are good "average" smoke point values for FRESH oils and fats.

The smoke point of a particular oil can vary from batch to batch within a brand/type and can vary from one brand to another brand. The smoke point of an oil can change over time depending upon its storage conditions and environment.

Generally the smoke point of an oil gets lower after it gets used or stored at ambient temperatures for an extended period of time. The more you re-use an oil (i.e. frying) the lower and lower its smoke point becomes. That's because of the thermal degradation that takes place. While the actual smoke point (a physical property) of a batch of oil can change with repeated use and storage, it's carbon residue (a chemical property) remains the same.

Dan


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Has anyone been able to get a good patina on a Le Creuset skillet. The matte black enamel is still porous enough to allow some seasoning. I have a LC wok with that interior and I was able to season it, but the seasoning came off in spots. Anyone able to season the LC like raw cast iron?


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RE: cooking with cast iron

My go to skillet for scramble or fried eggs and pan broiled steaks is a Le Creuset No. 23 cm (9 inch). It had a near perfect non-stick patina when I purchased it several years ago at a local flea market. I bought it because of its extremely smooth surface (it's much smoother than a good quality Griswold) and it has relatively thin walls. It had lots of crude underneath the skillet so I didn't know the manufacturer. Only after I cleaned the outside crude did I see it was a Le Creuset and it was bare metal. I thought that Le Creuset only made enameled cast iron.......go figure.

Personally I do not want a patina to develop in my Le Creuset, Descoware, and other enameled vessels. But if you want a good patina to develop in your Le Creuset just keep using it cooking applications where high heat is involved with some oil/fat on the surface of the iron. Stewing or braising does little for patina development, while frying and searing food in it builds patina. If you are satisfied with the quality of the seasoning that you now have in your skillet, just keep using it and the voids where seasoning fell off will fill in over time.

Has anyone else seen a bare metal Le Creuset skillet? Any info as to when these were produced?

Dan


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Dan,

I'm sure everyone has their own techniques for cast iron care. I believe Lodge co. and I have pretty much the same technique of seasoning, thus why they recommend not using detergents. The best way I have found to create and maintain a seasoning for cast iron pan is to use it repeatedly, and to either wipe the surface clean with a paper towel, leaving a thin residue the fat that was used in the cooking behind, -or- washing with detergent and then re-applying fat or oil to the pan once dry. The detergent doesn't taint the black seasoning, but it does strip the oil and what it doesn't strip, will be tainted unless you rinse very well and then re-apply new oil or fat to the pan once dry. I think it's more work to use detergent on your pans because of this extra step, however it is necessary sometimes to strip the oil from the pan like when you've fried fish and onions and you don't want that lingering on the pan surface when you pull it out the next morning to fry French toast :-)

I agree that one would never season an enameled surface. It is unnecessary since it is already non-stick. I love my enameled Le Creuset saut pan. It's perfect to use for recipes that contain citric acid (tomatoes etc) since it is non-reactive. I have found that as long as you never use abrasive sponges (you know, those "green destroyers") or scrub the surface of your enameled cookware, it will be non-stick indefinitely. The problem is, once someone etches the surface, the pan becomes a sticky mess which will require more scrubbing with each use, and unlike raw cast iron, there's no fixin' it from there.

I recall seeing a non-enameled iron Le Creuset fry pan on ebay about a year ago, but the seller was in England. I wonder if this was something produced strictly in Europe.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Paul,

Following are my answers to your questions:

**You mention that the polymer formed depends on the type of metal. Does that mean there can be only one layer of polymer (seasoning)?**

No.the "rate" at which polymers form is affected by the catalyst effects of any bare metal or metal traces that it contacts. Some metals catalyze polymer reactions more so than other metalsfor example bare metal stainless steel polymerizes oils quicker than cast iron when both are at the same temperature. However, polymers can form even on glass... it just takes a little longer. The type polymer formed (sticky or hard) is mostly controlled by heat exposure and the type of oil used. The higher the unsaturates in the oil the more material is available for the polymer reactions. The higher the condradson carbon residue content of the oil, the higher the potential for elemental carbon lay down into the patina matrixhow much lay down actually occurs is dependant on the seasoning temperature. To favor carbon lay down, heat the vessel to the smoke point of the seasoning oil.

**For the sticky stage: should I tell folks (in my article) that if you get something sticky, you need to do it over? Because the oxygen has probably already set in and rancidity has begun? Or, is this something that can be mended?**

No need to do it over unless the seasoning is very thick, cracked, flaky, or uneven. You can avoid "sticky" by seasoning at a higher temperature. Some people dont mind sticky its OK with the way they cook. Not everyone needs non-stick.

**You mentioned that you would provide a recipe for seasoning cast iron. I now suspect that you have multiple recipes - different oils/fats may require different times and temperatures?**

Yes, I use different techniques and procedures for seasoning. I will post my approach to seasoning when I get a chance. Some of the vessels that I season are very large and will not fit in an oven or even in a very large BBQ pit. I developed a procedure where I use a propane blow torch to season these large pots. Too, with many of the vessels that people bring to me for seasoning, we want to put a good patina on the vessel as quickly as possible so that they can begin using it right away. It would take me a long time to season a wash pot/cauldron if I followed some of the procedures that I have seen. Once you understand the seasoning mechanics its easy to speed up the process.

I will also post how I clean my cast iron. IMLO many users have non-stick patina failure simply because they do not clean their cast iron properlyof course not everyone needs or wants a good "non-stick" patina. However; if you want non-stick just keep in mind that if water touched your iron when you used it or when you cleaned it, it is very VERY important than you HEAT the vessel hot enough to completely vaporize all water from the iron before re-oiling and storage.

Many cooks skip this heating step and just air or towel dry. IMO mere wiping with a towel is not dry enough!!! Cast iron and its patina surface is porous enough to hold traces of water.even when it looks and feels dry. If these traces of water are not completely removed by HEAT, what can happen is this trace water will react with iron to form microscopic flaky rust. This rust as it forms greatly EXPANDS IN VOLUME (as all rust does) to where the patina itself is compromised (lifted, pitted, or cracked).

**I am willing to change my article to take out the stuff about the soap. Can you help me to understand how soap is okay in cast iron? My current understanding of soap is that it helps connect water to fat/oil so that oils can be rinsed away. Of course, there is a bit of a chemical bond there, right? Would the polymerized oil/fat have all of its bonding bits occupied and can, therefore, not bond to soap like the non-polymerized oil/fat does? **

I think I have answered this question in my earlier posts. Soaps and detergents do not remove or interact with PROPERLY seasoned cast iron. To anyone claiming to detect a soapy residue after cleaning, I would suggest either (1) the pan was not properly cleaned or (2) The patina has been significantly compromised and the pan needs re-seasoning.

Regarding the cleaning mechanisms you eluded to..Soaps clean by acting as an emulsifier which then allows oil and water to mix to the extent where oily grime can be rinsed away. One of the downsides of using soaps is that it first must react with the hardness in the water (mostly calcium, magnesium, and iron) before it is effective. The end product of this reaction with water hardness is what we call scum..the same stuff that forms in your bathtub.


Detergents on the other hand work by lowering the surface tension of water making it such that the water can interact with the oily grime. Ever put some ground black pepper grind into a bowl of water then put a drop of detergent in it??? The reaction you see when you do this occurs because the detergent lowers the surface tension between the water and the black pepper.

**Another question for you Dan: You mention that there are two parts to creating a seasoning layer. You mention the second part a little in your first post in this thread .... would you season a pan in the oven, then put down a thin layer of grease and heat it to the smoke point, and then repeat a few times? Or is this done at the same time in the oven? **

Paul, in your article you discuss your belief that "a well seasoned pan will have dozens of very thin, very hard layers...so many that the pan will appear black instead of the silvery gray of the raw cast iron". I am 100% in agreement with this statement. Seasoning is not a one step process; its multilayered and an on going process. We can control the type of patina that develops on our pans by changes in the procedure that we use in cleaning and seasoning them.

**Is the initial seasoning layer kinda sticky, but it is the carbon layer that is actually slick? **

The type of seasoning that develops on your cast iron is dependent on both the type of cooking that you do, and how you clean and season your pan. "Sticky" occurs at low temperature while "slick" occurs at higher temperatures.

**Can soap remove the carbon layer?**

No.

**Can a plastic scrubber remove either layer?**

No.


Finally, if you are satisfied with the patina that has developed on your pans..........just keep on doing what you have been doing. However, if you are not satisfied with your patina be open to changes in your cleaning and seasoning procedures. I know my procedures have changed over the years and I'm still learning.

Sorry I took so long to get to your questions.

Dan


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Guess I won't be getting a polished skillet from WagnerWare:
"This email is to inform you that we are unfortunately out of stock of the item you ordered (#1060).
We anticipate this item being unavailable for an extended period of time."

Wonder if they're out of business...


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Thanks for posting that, awm. Have you decided what you'll get instead? I'm no aficionado -- I've never owned a cast iron pan. I guess I'll just pick up a Lodge one, since I can get it at my local market.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

No, I haven't decided on an alternative, dmlove. Looked at Lodge at Wal-mart: it's very rough, & I thought the handle edges were a little sharp. Didn't see anything in a sweep of the local thrift shops & antique stores. Guess I'll haunt eBay for awhile & see if anything turns up.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Hi folks,

I posted the same question on "Le Creuset" thread and thought I would post it here as well.

I am planning on buying a grilling (panini) set. I have no prior experience in cooking with cast iron skillet, except for a Wok, which has quite thin walls compared to the typical skillets.

Therefore I was wondering: pure cast iron cookware/grill sets can be found for as little as $20.00 to Le Creuset ($150.00 in Macy's). Is there a specific reason why people buy Le Creuset? Is that *ONLY* because it is enameled and therefore more chemically stable?

Someone on a thread commented about Le Creuset being heavy. Frankly, I am worried that too heavy skillets/pans might give me a fractured wrist, and therefore am surprised that so much importance is given to thickness. Then I wonder, is thicker always better? Or is there an optimum thickness beyond which it does not matter for CI cookware?

Thanks in advance for all the responses!


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RE: cooking with cast iron

homey,

I have purchased and cooked with many cast iron vessels over the years.....skillets, grills, woks,dutch ovens, bean pots, large washpots/cauldrons, gypsy pots, etc. Hands down the ones with thinner walls are much better than similar items with thick walls........better for several reasons. 1) the vessel is lighter in weight 2) the response time to changes in burner heat level is quicker 3) the vessel generally develops and holds seasoning better and most importantly 4) the quality of the casting is generally much much better.......both the metallurgy and the casting technique itself is much better with thin walled cast iron.

Most would agree that Griswold and Le Creuset vessels are quality cast iron products. Take a look at how thin the walls are of any Le Creuset cast iron dutch oven.......Le Creuset can produce vessels with walls that are this thin only because they have a superior metallurgy in their cast iron formula and they have mastered the casting technique. Their products are smoother because they use a better grade of sand in their casting molds. Too, quality manufactures like Le Creuset, old Wagner,and Griswold machine polish the cooking surface...another procedure that adds to the cost of their product. On the other hand, less reputable manufacutres (China and Taiwan) try to overcome their poor quality cast iron by making the product thicker. They know too well that if they tried to make their vessels thinner they would all crack because of the inferior manufacturing techniues used.

If you can.......examine an old Griswold skillet. It will have thin walls making it lighter than a comparable sized skillet of today. If you find one that has been cleaned and is not pitted...pass your fingers across the cooking surface and it will feel as smooth as glass or silk. Pass your fingers across a modern day Lodge skillet and it will be rough....because they used coarse sand in the molding process and they do not machine polish the surface.

If non stick cooking is important to you......look for a smooth surfaced iron vessel. If you only plan to use it for frying chicken or fish for example, the Lodge product will work great for you.

When I shop for cast iron outside of the quality brand names I look specifically for thin walled and smooth finish. There are many no-named brand cast iron vessels that are available at flea markets and garage sales that are excellent for cooking.

If you see a cast iron item on ebay that appeals to you, ask the following questions of the seller. 1) have any repairs been made on this item......don't buy repaired items 2) are there any cracks......don't buy cracked 3) Is the cooking surface smooth and silky and free of pits....important for non-stick cooking.

Be cautious when purchasing any used cast iron that has been coated with oil.......some oil is good to prevent rust. However, many vendors will use oil to cover up bad cases of rust and surface flaws.

Hope this helps.

Dan


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Dan, thanks for that excellent post. I do have one follow-up question, though. You said that if you're only planning to use the pan for frying chicken or fish, the Lodge will be fine. What types of uses is the rougher, thicker Lodge pan NOT as good for, that a thinner, smoother pan will be better for? I really have no particular plans for my to-be-acquired pan other than the occasional chicken breast or steak, so I wondered what else I'd be using it for and whether I should wait for a good smooth/thin pan vs. getting a Lodge pan at a local store.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Dan, that post really cleared up all my doubts. Thanks a lot!


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RE: cooking with cast iron

dmlo

I have three skillets, which I work to keep a non-stick seasoning on them. I use them for frying eggs, scrambled eggs, pan broiling steaks, shrimp/crab/or crawfish patties, potato patties, crab cakes, omelets, pancakes, and skillet toast. IMO you cant beat eggs fried in cast iron.

Here in South Louisiana we use cast iron for Blackening and Bronzing fish. I posted this technique over on the Cooking forum the other day and have included the link below. The recipe I posted for bronzing calls for cooking in a non-stick skillet or anodized grill pan. My go to pan for bronzing is one of my Griswold skillets. Since cast iron holds its temperature at a steady level for a long time..it produces a superior crust on the bronzed fish.and its non-stick properties make for turning over the fish fillet easy without it breaking up. Too, bronzing fish in cast iron pan will leave a good fond for making the gravy or sauce to pour over rice or pasta.

Now Lodge is good quality and can develop the non-stick propertyit just takes a lot longer to get there and to maintain.

Hope this helps,
Dan

Here is a link that might be useful: Cajun Blackening and Bronzing Techniques


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Thanks Dan - your posts have really helped. Now I just have to go shopping!


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RE: cooking with cast iron

OK. Made my first-ever eBay purchases yesterday and ended up with 3 Griswold pans: a #10 fry pan, a #3 fry pan, and a #8 chicken fryer. Hope they're in as good a shape as they appeared to be in the photos (fingers crossed...).

1. Debating cleaning methods: self-cleaning oven method would be easy, and my oven could use a cleaning too. But one web site recommended against this method as it could warp a large pan. An eBay cast iron dealer uses the lye method which results in *exquisitely* beautiful pans, but I'm scared of lye. And how would I dispose of it safely? We have a septic system. Oven cleaner presents the same disposal problem. Hmmm....

2. Now here's a real newbie question: when I season my newly cleaned cast iron pans with Crisco heated to the smoke point, would it make a difference if I use convection or a regular oven?

3. Finally, are those silicone mitts effective for hot hot cast iron handles?


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RE: cooking with cast iron

The #10 & #3 frying pans arrived today. They are nicer than I imagined: smooth inside & out, nicely finished, well balanced (for a heavy pan), just two specks of rust, probably clean enough to use but I'll run them through the cleaning cycle anyway. I even think they're pretty!


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RE: cooking with cast iron

If you have rust on a pan, I don't know why you would put it thru the self-cleaning cycle of your oven. I personally would not do that. Rust will come off when rubbed with steel wool. That should also take off anything else adhering to your pan. Here are my thoughts on the subject of cast iron care. If they didn't have a procedure 50 or 100 years ago, don't use it now. We have become so very modern in our thinking, we feel we just have to use an automatic dishwasher or the self-cleaning cycle or some super chemical cleaner on everything. Ask yourself, what did great-grandma do? That's just my HO and everyone else may disagree.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

"If you have rust on a pan, I don't know why you would put it thru the self-cleaning cycle of your oven"

To remove the cooked-on, carbonized stuff on the pan. There isn't much of it, but seems like starting with a completely clean pan would ensure consistent seasoning. In researching this over the internet, the self-cleaning oven method seems to be efficient & safe as long as the pan is warmed up before hand.

I'm reluctant to use steel wool -- don't want to scratch the pan's smooth surface. I plan to try Bar Keeper's Friend & a microfiber cloth to remove the rust spots. The oxalic acid in BKF should attack the rust sufficiently.

Why would a self-cleaning oven be any worse than throwing a pan into a fire like they did 100 years ago (and some do today)?

I probably inherited my practicality from my great-grandma, in which case, she would've approved of the simplicity and efficiency of the self-cleaning oven vs. scrubbing/scratching the heck out of a beautiful piece of cast iron. :)


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RE: cooking with cast iron

awm, how about some pictures? Did you get the pans through an auction, or from an ebay store? Do you mind telling me what you ended up paying?


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RE: numbers on Griswold skillets

Sorry, another question. Could someone tell me what the number designations mean on the Griswold skillets?


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RE: cooking with cast iron

dmlove,

The numbers are the fry pan sizes in inches. I'm also curious as to what was paid for the pans. Awm03 will you share with us? I'm guessing the #10 was about $40?


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RE: cooking with cast iron

kimba, so a no. 3 is 3 inches in diameter? What do you do with a 3" diameter pan (one fried egg maybe)?


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RE: cooking with cast iron

The numbers are a mold number (709 J, for example) and the manufacturer's size number. The #10 pan does have a 10" bottom diameter, but the #3 pan has a 5" bottom diameter. I paid $19 for the pans (the only bidder), and it was about $16 for shipping. I have chicken fryer on the way that was $34 (6 bids) $11 for shipping.

Using Bar Keepers Friend & a microfiber cloth to remove the small rust spots worked well! Wonder how it would do for more severe rust? I'm eager to get the plans cleaned & seasoned, but will have to put that off until late in the weekend.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Yes, I wasn't considering the condition with my estimate, but yes, if there was rust, the pans do not fetch as much. You still did good!


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RE: cooking with cast iron

The pans did look a little orange in the photos, like they might have some light rust to deal with. But when I got them, really, there were just 3 specks of rust on them. Still, even if they're specks, the rust needs to go. The Bar Keepers Friend & microfiber cloth cleaned up the big pan so well that I'm debating whether to strip it in the oven. But I might as well start from scratch by getting it down to the bare metal. The little pan definitely needs to be stripped. It has a ring of carbonized gunk in it.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

awm,

You made a great deal!

If the large pan were mine, I wouldn't strip it. Based on your description, the little pan needs it as you have surmised.....the seasoning it too uneven.

FYI, the reason the pan looked orange in the ebay picture is because of the lighting used to take the picture. I too have purchased many items on ebay that looked rusty but were not. If the pan would have been oiled before the picture was taken, it would not have this orange hue....it would look black. But black can cover up rust too. That's why it's important to ask questions of the seller before bidding. Believe me many stayed away from bidding on these items simply because they THOUGHT that these pans were rusty. Take a look at the number of views in the auction and you will see what I mean.

For seasoning in the oven, I would suggest you keep
the convection fan OFF.

For cleaning in the oven, I would suggest that you keep the convection fan ON........if the oven manufacturer allows the fan to be on during the cleaning cycle. After cleaning in the oven some ash material will remain that usually can be easily removed with BKF. For stubborn rust or stains, I usually use an abrasive nylon polishing wheel on an electric drill.....really quite simple to do. I'll give the part number and source when I post my cleaning and seasoning procedures. This wheel will restore the cooking finish to a mirror like finish rather quickly.

Congrats on your purchase. You will love cooking in your pans!!!

Dan


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Thanks, Dam, I appreciate the info. A nylon polishing wheel -- now there's a good idea!

Interesting your post about ebay. The black oily pans made me wonder if they'd been doctored for their photo shoot. I'd rather bid on the not-so-black, unoiled pans.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

The 10" Griswold chicken fryer came today. Oooh, I think this is going to be my favorite pan... Good size, weight, balance, and the higher sides are nice for cooking a variety of things.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

I have to respectfully disagree about hte 'never use soap' information.

Yes, some people can get away with this, but occasional use of soap prevents any left-over grease/oil from going rancid. Not good.

Seasoning cast iron (or plain steel) builds up a layer of carbon, not grease, on the pan. The carbon is what makes the pan stick-resistant.

As to the referred site, there is a lot of opinion and a lack of facts in it. in my opinion.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Dan,
Would you please post your full seasoning advice. I spent about 4 hours working on 6 cast iron pans--4 from grandma, 1 new Lodge, and a garage sale dutch oven. I used bacon grease instead of vegetable oil--I found this suggestion today on another site after being totally frustrated with following the Lodge instructions 5 times on the Lodge pan. However, the site said to use bacon grease and heat 2 hours at 250-300. I chose 255 for 2 hours and now the perfectly seasoned grandma pans (they had white mold type residue, no rust and smooth as silk cooking surface) has the same sticky residue as what I keep getting on my Lodge skillet. I read the smoke point link noted above but didn't see bacon on there. I can use Crisco instead, but I'd love to know your full recommendation for seasoning. I used soap and a plastic brush and have some of that residue off the antique ones, but am still frustrated with my lodge skillet and the dutch oven. Thanks for all your posts and advice--I am at my wits end!


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RE: cooking with cast iron

NPGI,

I'm having problems with Internet explorer on my computer and can't seem to get around a major freezing screen problem. For now here's a quick GENERAL procedure

Although I prefer lard, bacon grease or Crisco is fine. Your problem is: you're not heating your pans hot enough. You need to heat them UP TO the point of where you see them smoke.....don't heat too much past this point. Make sure you only have a LIGHT coating of oil on the pan.....no puddles allowed. Do this coating/baking multiple times until the pan is evenly coated with carbon black.

Then you need to bond it tightly together with the polymer reactions. You do this by coating the pan inside and out with VEGETABLE oil (preferable oil which was used to fry potatoes or fish). Apply a very THIN coating of oil and bake in the oven slightly BELOW the smoke point of the vegetable oil.......say around 450 degrees. Bake it until the coating feels dry and not sticky. Do this multiple times as well.......the more the better.

Keep in mind that seasoning is not a one step process; rather, it is a continuous and on-going process. The final seasoning that develops on your pans is controlled by the oil that your use, what/how you cook, and how you clean your pans.

After you clean up your pans just make sure you heat it on a burner to remove all traces of water.....towel dry is not good enough.......DO NOT SKIP THIS IMPORTANT STEP!!!!!! While the pan is still hot spray it with PAM and wipe all of the excess PAM off with a wad of paper towels. Note: wipe it with purchased lard (definitely not bacon grease) or Crisco if you will not be using your pan for an extended period of time.

E-mail me if you have further questions......my e-mail seems to be working most of the time without the screen freezing up. Got my fingers crossed that this message will post when I hit the submit button.

Dan


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Hi Dan,

I enjoyed your postings as I recently purchased two Lodge iron skillets. I followed your seasoning technique as the first time I cooked with the "preseasoned" skillets my french fries sticked like crazy leaving me angry...the only thing is that after seasoning the skillets on the outdoor gas grill it left me with a shiny black coating ( similar to Tfal)...however whenever I wipe the skillets I get this black dust, residuu...is carbon I think...I didnt cook yet...I am kinda afraid.
Do you think I overseasoned them? I appreciate any advise you could give me. Tks


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RE: cooking with cast iron

You have to be very careful when heating cast iron on an outdoor grill. Because you don't know the precise temperature of the cast iron, you can easily overheat the metal to where you will actually burn the patina off of the skillet. Cast iron can take the heat, but the patina will start to disintegrate if you heat much past the smoke point of the seasoning oil. Ovens work better because of better heat control. Grills can work too, but you have to be very careful not to heat too long or too hot. It is very easy to completely ruin the seasoning on a pan heated on a gas grill.

Lodge preseasons its cast iron by spraying it with oil and heating the pan just past the smoke point of the oil. This process lays down a carbon rich patina which is well bonded to the bare metal. What you now need is to bond it tightly together with the polymer reactions. You do this by coating the pan inside and out with VEGETABLE oil (preferably oil which was used to fry potatoes or fish). Apply a very THIN coating of oil and bake in the oven slightly BELOW the smoke point of the vegetable oil.......say around 450 degrees. Bake it until the coating feels dry and not sticky. Do this multiple times as well.......the more the better.

After seasoning, make sure you NEVER leave a puddle or thick coating of vegetable oil to remain in your seasoned pan. Vegetable oil can go rancid and/or leave behind a very sticky coating that's very difficult to remove. Pam, purchased lard, or Crisco all work fine for coating seasoned pans....there too make sure you only have a very THIN coating of oil.

Dan


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Dan,

Tks for the info, should I recoat it? Or should I get rid of the patina to the bare metal and start over? I wonder if vigurous scrubbing would get rid of the black dust on the pans? Also what do you think of grapeseed oil for seasoning? I heard it has a high smoking point.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

If your pan is evenly coated with black pre-seasoning I wouldn't burn it off and start over. Grape-seed oil is a vegetable-like oil. I've never used it for seasoning but from what I've read it seems to polymerize easily....because its high in unsaturated fats. I've purchased a can of grape-seed oil and hazelnut oil yesterday to try them out for seasoning some of my new pans. I will be experimenting with different oils and fats to see how they affect the seasoning process. I'm curious that way.

Don't worry too much about choice of oil.......almost any oil will work. Some oil types will work FASTER than others.....that's why I suggested after laying down a carbon rich layer on your skillet using Crisco or Lard heating to the smoke point that you follow that up with Vegetable oil heated to BELOW the smoke point.

Lodge already preseasoned your skillet for you and put a good carbon rich coating on the pan for you. As you use your pan, its seasoning will get better and better. Since you purchased a Lodge product the casting is rough and will take longer to get to a good non-stick patina than other pans. You can speed the process up by multiple bakings using vegetable oil as suggested above.

The fastest way to get to a non-stick patina on a Lodge product is to use it to make a cajun roux. Cajun rouxs are made using equal volumes of AP flour and oil and stirring contstantly until the flour attains a dark color. The roux making process occurs at a temperature near the smoke point of the oil and takes place in a very carbon rich environment because of the flour......polymerization reactions will occur on the surface of the iron when making roux. In the process of making the roux, the small voids which exists on the cooking surface of all new Lodge products get filled with patina rather quickly. You can speed up your patina making process by making several rouxs in your pan.

Seasoning a cast iron pan is not rocket science; however, a little science knowledge can be used to better season a pan. The type patina that develops on your pans is a function of the type of oil you use, the temperature that you heat it to, and how you clean your pans.

As you read my posts, keep in mind that I am a retired chemist. My technical background causes me to choose my words very carefully whenever I write about procedures. Whenever I suggest a temperature or oil type, it is suggested for a very specific reason. Pay particular attention to any words that I capitalize. I hope I am helpful in these posts and not making a very simple process seem complicated.

Dan


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Hopefully this won't post twice. I've had the hardest time getting this posted as I wasn't already a member, rather found this thread through a google search. To get straight to my point this time, I've heard (somewhere ) that you shouldn't use cast iron on a smooth top stove as it will ruin "it". I assume "it" is the stove. Has anyone heard this and is there any truth to it? Now that I know how to properly season my pans, I'd love to try using them again.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

There is a wealth of good information covering many topics to be found over the entire Garden Web site. Do a search on this "Cookware" forum site and you find lots of information regarding your question. As an example, see the link below for one thread discussing your concern.

Dan

Here is a link that might be useful: Cast Iron On Glass Top Stove


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Dan, I'd like to try your cajun roux method of seasoning my pre-seasoned Lodge skillet. Can you give me more specific instructions -- is it JUST equal parts oil and flour? And how do I know what is "near" the smoking point of the oil? Once it's there, how long do I keep cooking it? Should I use this method in conjunction with the oil/oven method?


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RE: cooking with cast iron

How often should one "season" a cast iron pan (the whole oil in the oven routine that is)?


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RE: cooking with cast iron

DM, I generally "season" my cast iron until it is "cured". Cured means its surface has been seasoned several times and has developed sufficient patina where the pan is no longer reactive. A cured pan does not need to be coated with oil for storage because sufficient seasoning layers are on the pan surface which provides sufficient protection.

Paul, as I indicated in an earlier post in this thread I would be cleaning and seasoning several pieces of cast iron using different oils and oil blends. After seasoning six vintage cast iron vessels, I must concur with you that GRAPE SEED oil is a wonderful oil for seasoning. It is much better than most other oils and fats that I have used.

I used grape seed oil (in the vegetable oil classification) to season an old Griswold #43 (9 inch) chef skillet after completely removing the old seasoning on the cooking surface. The surface is now shiny-black, hard, and super slick....perfect for eggs. I still have quite a few more vintage items to clean and season and expect to take pictures to document for later postings under separate threads.

If anyone has access to Alcor MCCR test equipment and would like to collaborate with me for a possible publication on The Proper Cleaning and Seasoning of Cast Iron, please contact me by e-mail. Chemists and/or lab techs familiar with Petroleum refining quality control testing may have access to this type analyzer.

Dan


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Is there a good way to maintain the underside of cast iron cookware?

My cast irons all show bare metal and rust on the underside of the pans. I don't know if this is because I didn't think about seasoning this part of the pan in the first place, or if any seasoning that was there would have been "burnt" off by the high heat of the burner.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Yes the underside can be seasoned. However, it is a little bit harder to maintain that seasoning on the outside if you are cooking over a hot campfire. To remove surface rust from the bottom side of your cast iron pan use Bar-Keeper's-Friend and a stiff brush. This should remove all traces of rust. If it doesn't, rinse the pan real well with hot water then use a new Brillo pad to remove that remaining rust. DO NOT USE a Brillo pad with BKF.

After cleaning your cast iron, rub it with a very thin coat of Crisco both inside and outside and heat as directed above to reseason it.

After you have seasoned your pan properly at a high temperature. It is equally important that you "clean" your pans properly after each use. Don't short cut this important step. Here's a good cleaning procedure that awm03 uses........

"When cleaning up, I wash with soapy water & the scrub side of a sponge, making sure all the food is removed. I always set the pan on a low burner to dry thoroughly. I rub a bit of Crisco in it with a paper towel, then rub the pan with a dry paper towel to remove as much Crisco as possible. I turn the heat up to medium until the remaining oil starts to smoke, then I turn the heat off. When cool, I store the pan with a paper towel in it so other pans stacked in it don't chip the seasoning."

When you season cast iron at a high temperature it is perfectly OK to wash your pan with soap when and if needed. Soap is not always needed as in when you fry a batch of french fries or fish. But by all means don't be afraid to use it. Keep in mind that if you exactly follow the cleaning procedure quoted above, each time you clean your pans you will be adding another thin layer of seasoning to your pan. The patina will get better and better( both inside and outside of your pane) each time that you use it and each time that you clean it.

Dan.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

I'm very passionate about cast iron cookware, and cooking in it.

I started a blog a couple of months ago, with reviews on different cast iron pieces I find on the internet as well as what I cook in my cast iron from day to day.

http://ramblingsoncastiron.blogspot.com


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RE: cooking with cast iron

I have 3+ questions. In the 2 part method for seasoning, I'm not sure which comes first, do you put a polyunsaturated oil (like grapeseed oil) on the bare pan at 450 degrees for an hour (below smoke point) and then later add the crisco or lard or other oil and bake it till it smokes or is it the other way around?

2nd question. If I have tiny dark streaks left on the sides of the pan, is that because I used too much oil/lard?

O.K. I have a third question... Can grapeseed oil be used for both parts of the seasoning? And Dan mentioned using oil that had been used to fry potatoes or fish, is this for the first layer against the bare pan, of for the 'top' layer ?


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RE: cooking with cast iron

I dug two old "dinner kettles", as we call them, out of one of my out buildings today. They belonged to my great-grandfather and handed down thru each generation. My dad had stored them in the shed many years ago and they are in remarkably good condition with very minimal rust spotting on the interior and light rust and black charring on the outside. I want to clean them up and cook in them over open flame. I was looking for other opnions on how best to clean and season them as they are too large to fit in an oven or such. One is 18" id and the other is 21" id.
I have enjoyed reading the posts.
Thanks,
Steve


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Here's how I season my large Jambalaya pots (AKA wash kettles, gypsy pots, hog pots).......some as large as 30 gallons. Clean the interior with Bar Keeper's Friend followed by a second water washing with Liquid detergent then a good rinsing. DO NOT skip this important step.

Then warm your pot over an outdoor burner using a small flame. Then intent is to "warm" your pot on the bottom and sides and completely dry it. Allow your pot to slowly get HOT. Put a little lard (or Crisco shortening) in the pot and when it is melted.....CAREFULLY smear it completely around the pot....both inside and outside......using a wad of paper towels. Wipe off all excess lard....no puddles allowed. You only want a "thin" coating of lard. THIN is important. Then using a PROPANE torch heat the pot "evenly" and completely around it. After it gets hot all over....start working the torch in smaller areas...heating that "small area" to the smoking point of the lard. As you do this, you will see it turn black. Don't heat any longer after it turns black....move your torch to another adjacent area and repeat. Continue to keep your pot hot by heating completely around it with your torch....then focus on a smaller area again. Do not let your pot overheat in any one area to the point of where the seasoning flakes (or burns) off. It is important that you do not burn off the seasoning that you just laid down. The more you do this....the better the seasoning layers will develop.

FYI, on a very large pot I use the kind of propane torch that they sell at Harbor Freight for de-icing driveway or for burning grass. For smaller pots I use a smaller propane soldering torch.

To prevent future rust in storage and to help further develop its good seasoning layer. Coat the interior and exterior of your pot lightly with some melted lard (purchased stuff...not bacon fat). NEVER EVER coat your pot with regular cooking oil as IT WILL eventually get sticky, gummy, and go rancid. There is nothing worst than that rancid taste in your cooked food. You can prevent this from ever happening by simply using either Crisco shortening or purchased Lard for coating your pot between use.

......grapeseed oil is highly recommended for indoor oven seasoning (less smoking).

Best of luck to you in your outdoor cooking adventures.

Dan
Semper Fi-cus


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RE: cooking with cast iron

I just recieved some Cast Iron Pans from a family friend. However; I have found through someones stupidity, that instead of seasoning the pans correctly and sanding off the rust they simply used stove paint to paint over it. i have sanded the pans down to the bare metal and am starting all over again. As i have removed the paint and old layers of petina I have found two of the pans to be very pitted. I just don't know if they will be safe to use. does anyone have any ideas or imput about this?


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Last week-end Kevin bought a cast iron griddle/grill at Kohls because he had thirty Kohls dollars that were going to expire if he didn't use them, and so with other discounts, it was almost free. Now I need to season it, and I thought there might be special instructions for something that is reversible, but I only plan to use the griddle side. I need it for pancakes, especially potato pancakes because they are difficult to turn in a pan with high sides like my cast iron skillet. I was going to get a comal, but they were out of those, and this was the last reversible griddle they had left. I think it is discontinued now as well.

Anyway, I wanted to bring this thread back to the top, and this time I will make sure to make a word document and save all of the important information here. It's been a while since I bought anything cast iron, since I stocked up on it long, long ago, and I still have all of it!

If anyone has anything to add concerning reversible griddles/grills, I would like to see it. We've been having coastal fog lately (so-called "June Gloom") and so the house has remained cool. The outdoor orchids are happy because the sun is filtered and they will not get burned. I'll have to bring some of them in when it gets sunny again. Anyway, I won't have to worry about heating up the house by cranking up the oven.

Lars


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Hi Lars, there have been many helpful threads on Cast Iron care and use here on GW over the years, and here is the procedure I've gleaned from them about seasoning new CI:

First, wash in soapy water, and dry well, to remove any manufacturing finishes, or any other guck your griddle may have picked up before its purchase. Then coat with a very thin layer of high-smoke-point oil. I use grapeseed oil, spread with a pad of paper toweling. You can coat both sides of your griddle - the ridged side as well as the smooth side. Place in a 450F oven for about an hour. Let cool, then repeat the oiling and oven-ing. If the surface is at all sticky, then you either didn't cook it hot enough, or long enough. Three of four cycles should get you a smooth hard season.

I never use the ridged side of my so-called reversible griddle - I presume any seasoning on that side has long cooked off due to contact with gas flames. Just be sure to preheat the griddle before putting any food on it. And maybe, preheat slowly - someone posted on another thread recently about breaking her vintage Griswold griddle by cranking the heat under it too suddenly.


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RE: cooking with cast iron

Bought a cheap, light, beat up and pockmarked cast iron pan at the thrift store.

I cleaned and have tried seasoning it with crisco/veg oil in the oven and on the gas stove. I got a nice smooth coat on the stove, but when cooking stuff gets stuck to it and the coat wears off. Wondered if you had thoughts about whether it's hopeless or maybe I just need more layers/more heat?


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RE: cooking with cast iron

I pulled up this thread because I bought another cast iron griddle/grill, and this time I bought the one in the image I linked to before. That was not the griddle that Kevin bought at Kohl's - the one he bought was by Bobby Flay, and I have hated it from Day One because it has "handles" on opposing corners, which prevent it from sitting flat on the burners, and so it always wobbles. The wobble would be worse if I ever used the grill side, but I wanted it for the griddle side only. I have outdoor grills for grilling, as well as square grill pans that I like better. Anyway, the Bobby Flay griddle was at least preseasoned, but the new one is not. So I searched for this thread to remind me how to season cast iron properly. The new griddle that I bought does not wobble, and if necessary, I can use both griddles if I ever make pancakes for a crowd. The good thing about the BF griddle was that it was cheap - the new one cost twice as much, but I think it is worth it, even though I do not like the grill side - ridges are too low.

Lars


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