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using a cast iron skillet ain't so hard!

Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2346
Location: FL
    
  69
I fried up 4 eggs today for lunch (had the day off).  The pan has an excellent season to it.  I use about an M&M sized dollop of butter or bacon grease as I heat up the pan.  Eggs cook fine, don't stick at all, are not dripping with grease.  In fact, the pan is just about dry when I'm done cooking.  I wipe out the pan then add just a touch more bacon grease, about 1/4 of an M&M, to wipe down the pan.

I'm wondering how much grease or oil you all use for your cooking?


Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
http://farmwhisperer.com
charles c. johnson


Joined: Dec 02, 2009
Posts: 369
i Don't use any unless i burn something. My pans are old and well used so they don't need oil just elbow grease
Jennifer Smith


Joined: Jul 14, 2009
Posts: 669
Location: Zone 5
I dry my skilletts on the stove and wipe with a oiled rag.  It depends on what I am about to cook how much oil I use, sometimes nothing, a wipe with that oiled rag, sometimes a spray of canned (olive or soy) oil.

When something does stick, scrape with flipper, scrub with oil and salt on a warm stove using a luffa, a well seasoned pan is on the way. 

No soap, hot water is fine in my opinion.

If like the dog has licked the pan and you think dog germs are gross, rinse quickly in sink of hot soapy water if you Must (even though nothing can survive the rinse and preheat),  but DO NOT PUT SOAP ON PAN. 

Try to discourage hubby from cutting cornbread while still in pan with sharp knife.  Protect seasoning as you would teflon.  That is why they say plastic or wood.
          


Joined: Jan 24, 2010
Posts: 32
Ken Peavey wrote:
10 people will tell you 12 different ways to season a skillet, and they probably all work just fine.  With regular use the pan will develop a season, even if the first attempt was not the best.


My husband and I have a collection of cast iron inherited from his mom when she went to teflon (very sad). We've been caring for them for years and they just get better.

We don't keep a thick layer of oil that would run out of them, so we hang them for storage, to save space. We have six different pans, 6.5" to 12" skillets and one comal, so stacking them made it impossible to lift the stack to get the pans on the bottom. It was really sad when I broke my arm and could barely use the big 12" frying pan.  

We use organic palm oil shortening, olive oil occasionally and canola oil. We didn't know what we were doing at first to take care of them, just realized things gradually and stopped using soap, leaving the burner on while they were dying and burning away all the seasoning, and all the other things rookies tend to do. Now they are in their prime and they are, imho, the most valuable things we own.

One thing I have a harder time with is making tortillas in the comal. It seems to get too hot, burning away the seasoning, and I don't want to add oil because I'm cooking tortillas. It also fills the house with smoke. I feel like every time I try to make flatbread I have to start over re-seasoning the comal. I feel like the heat is appropriate for tortillas, so maybe it's just something I have to live with.

So I'd take any advice on that if anyone has it. And viva le cast iron.
Jennifer Smith


Joined: Jul 14, 2009
Posts: 669
Location: Zone 5
You are so right, don't turn your back and leave the pan to dry on the stove.  Wipe dry with oiled cloth over warm heat. 

rose macaskie


Joined: May 09, 2009
Posts: 2134
I don't want to read all this today it looks so log i just want to say you can buy stainless steel pots an dpans if you want cheap ones you can buy them from ikea. rose .
charles c. johnson


Joined: Dec 02, 2009
Posts: 369
here's my cast iron collection


[Thumbnail for Picture 704.jpg]

charles c. johnson


Joined: Dec 02, 2009
Posts: 369
oops need to do the dishes lol
Jennifer Smith


Joined: Jul 14, 2009
Posts: 669
Location: Zone 5
stainless has it's place, boiling water for example, but give me a cast iron skillet
Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1782
    
  11
I use coconut oil for cooking in my cast iron.  I do believe now that it took the seasoning off.  I purchased a pre-seasoned pan and it was great, but quickly started sticking.  Now it's just a mess.

I hate to use Crisco, so I'm going to try and find some lard. 

FYI - I have found using a non-stick scrub pad with oil will easily remove most stuck on food and not scratch the pan.  I use oil, not soap, not water, then I wipe and leave on the hot electric burner until it's cool.  I've spent a lot of time cleaning since using this coconut oil, and no amount of frying in oil will stop the sticking - so I guess it's the coconut oil.

I asked you about this (coconut oil and cast iron) in another thread, I guess I know now.

jeremiah bailey


Joined: May 05, 2009
Posts: 343
I use my stainless when ever I'm cooking something soupy. Cast iron is king for pans. Wifey still prefers teflon, but I'm getting her to like iron.


"Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it." - Helen Keller
--
Jeremiah Bailey
Central Indiana
charles c. johnson


Joined: Dec 02, 2009
Posts: 369
I LOVE my dutch oven / sauce pan and skillet it always goes camping

http://www.lodgemfg.com/
jeremiah bailey


Joined: May 05, 2009
Posts: 343
I have a lodge 12" that I scavenged from someone leaving it behind in an apartment owned by a landlord I used to work for. It was pretty rusty when I found it. A little tlc and bacon grease brought it back to new status. I also have an 8" and a 10" that my grandmother used to cook on. The 10" had its long time seasoning ruined by my brother when he helped wash dishes. Apparently he used a stainless scrubber and thought the seasoning was dirt. He had it to a near mirror finish by the time my dad found him scouring away. I've a decent season on all of them now. The 8" is definitely in best condition, as it has kept its season for decades.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15425
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I just now noticed that my cast iron video has over 20,000 views!

http://www.youtube.com/paulwheaton12#p/u/20/K3hGxEpuY2U

It's also my oldest video.

I made this video because of comments in this thread and because I wanted to show newbies that with a little knowledge, how slippery a cast iron cooking surface can be.  And how easy cleanup can be. 



sign up for my daily-ish email / rocket mass heater 4-DVD set / permaculture playing cards
Jennifer Smith


Joined: Jul 14, 2009
Posts: 669
Location: Zone 5
Paul, I am not set up here to watch video...need to work on that I think...anyway ...

If I can get this to load I want to show it to house-mate.  I hope it has something about heat...as in she has a hot spot in the middle of my big skillet from frying potaotes.  I would not stop her as she is cooking but think she could use some pointers on proper use and care of cast iron. 

High heat is a no no...
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15425
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Maybe it would be easier to show her the cast iron article?
Jennifer Smith


Joined: Jul 14, 2009
Posts: 669
Location: Zone 5
I am not confident she can read that well and would hate to embarass her.  I have it loaded now and will have her watch it next time she makes potatoes.
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
I swear I posted in this about enameled cast iron made in France by the Le Crueset company.  Did you delete it, Paul, you tyrant? 

I know Paul probably thinks enamel is a "new fangled" coating designed to emulate teflon, but that company has been making enameled cast iron for a long time - long before Dupont came up with a cheap alternative.  Enamel is a coating of extremely durable ceramic on top of the iron.  In my not very humble opinion, clay is a much much more ancient cooking surface than iron.  I love my skillet.  And my clay cook pot. 
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15425
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I'm quite certain I did not delete it.

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15425
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I have two cool things to share for the uber scientists that hang out here.  I would really like to hear some feedback.

First:  http://www.homesteadingtoday.com/showthread.php?p=4255867#post4255867

Next, a woman emailed me and told me that she recently wrote a blog about the science behind the seasoning of cast iron and linked to me.  Her info is very interesting and we have since exchanged a few emails. 

http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/01/a-science-based-technique-for-seasoning-cast-iron/

http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/02/black-rust-and-cast-iron-seasoning/

Black rust?  Magnetite?

Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2346
Location: FL
    
  69
I'm thinking magnetite could be forming on the bottom of the pan where the direct contact of high heat allows its formation.  Pores on the bottom would be filed with oil, eventually transforming to graphite.
Sheryl Hatfield


Joined: Feb 03, 2010
Posts: 14
Thanks for posting the links to my articles, Paul!

Ken Peavey wrote:
I'm thinking magnetite could be forming on the bottom of the pan where the direct contact of high heat allows its formation. Pores on the bottom would be filed with oil, eventually transforming to graphite.


I've also noticed that magnetite seems to form on the bottom of pans where they touch direct heat. But I'm not sure about the polymerized oil burning off to graphite. It takes very high heat to burn polymerized fat. Regular oven temperatures don't do it - the splatters just get harder than ever. It takes self-cleaning oven temps - 900-950 degrees - and you don't encounter that during cooking.

I'm pretty sure any carbon in the pan would come from browned/burned food. Probably some of this carbon gets bound up in the polymerized fat, but I doubt it's much. If it were significant, the inside of the pan would be darker than the outside, which has much less contact with food, but that is not the case. That's why I think the darkening is from magnetite rather than carbon.

Also, I'm not sure about the role of carbon in imparting slickness or hardness to the seasoning. Carbon by itself would not form a layer - it would either be a powder, like soot, or a clump, like graphite (coal). It would easily be washed off with hot water unless it was bound up in the polymerized fat. And at that point, I'm not sure it would be adding anything except perhaps color. Polymerized fat is very hard and slick all by itself.

But I'm not a chemist. Maybe there is some chemical interaction between carbon and polymerized fat that makes the whole greater than its parts. If so, I'd be interested to learn how that works. Any chemists here?
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15425
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I have checked this thread 20 times since you posted hoping that one of the super science geeks here would post something amazing in response .... 

Since they seem to be a no show, I guess it's just us. 

Here is my thought at this time:  each layer is different.  And there are infinite flavors of "slippery".  Some layers are harder than others.  No layers are pure anything - they are all a mix of polymerized fat, carbon and other.  Some layers have more carbon than other layers.  The same can be said for the polymerized fat and the "other". 

Some of my earlier experiments were with attempting thicker layers of polymerized oil.  I found that these chipped easily with my metal spatula.  I tried lots of thicker layers.  In the end I abandoned all of the thick stuff and turned my focus on very thin layers where I had excellent success. 

I feel that my head is not yet fully wrapped around "rancidity == polymerization".  Further, I would like to understand more about free radicals, carbon and smoke in this space. 

I feel like I have made HUGE progress since I started this journey, and I am very close to a much higher knowledge.  But somehow I am struggling to get some things to fit in my head.

Sheryl Hatfield


Joined: Feb 03, 2010
Posts: 14
It's not exactly that rancidity = polymerization. The type of polymerization that occurs with cast iron seasoning is called "radical polymerization", and this is initiated by the release of free radicals in the oil. The release of free radicals in the oil is also what defines rancidity. So more accurately, rancidity = initiation of radical polymerization.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15425
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Linseed (flax) oil is kinda famous for becoming rancid quickly.  And, so, you're saying that it is also indicative that it is quick to polymerize. 

Grape seed oil has a similar reputation. 

So it seems there is at least a mild challenge of getting the oil from the plant into the bottle and from the bottle into my pan.  Just simple storage can be tricky.  ??

So, at cooking temperatures, any oil will polymerize, right?  And then it doesn't really matter which one does it at the lowest temperature, but which one will do it more evenly and result in a slipperier surface.

In fact, we might end up with different fats that polymerize in different ways.  Some might leave a super slippery surface, but be poor for the first layers on iron.  Some might help fill in a pit or fill in a rough (new lodge) surface. 

I know that I have had times where fats will leave a polymerized layer that is a thin, contiguous layer.  And other times where fats will leave a layer that is "mottled" or "spider-web-ish".  I suspect that there are a lot of factors here, one of which could be the different types of oils.  It might even be compounded with the type of oil/layer from the previous use of the pan. 

I guess my point is that it is results that count.  And the real results would be to try a dozen different types of fat cooking the same thing five times in a row and to conclude which was the best on the fifth time. 

Sheryl Hatfield


Joined: Feb 03, 2010
Posts: 14
paul wheaton wrote:So, at cooking temperatures, any oil will polymerize, right?


Not at cooking temperatures, at smoking temperatures. You never want to eat oil you've allowed to smoke because it's releasing free radicals, which are carcinogenic. For this same reason, you need oil to smoke for it to polymerize. When it's fully polymerized and no longer releasing free radicals, it's chemically stable again and no longer carcinogenic. It's not oil anymore, it's a polymer.

But not all oils polymerize equally. Someone posted a comment to my blog post that adds some info on this:

http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/01/a-science-based-technique-for-seasoning-cast-iron/#comment-298

paul wheaton wrote:I know that I have had times where fats will leave a polymerized layer that is a thin, contiguous layer. And other times where fats will leave a layer that is "mottled" or "spider-web-ish".


I've noticed this only with bacon drippings, which contain a lot of ingredients that don't polymerize - notably salt.

I also have discovered that heating the pan first, to create a thin layer of magnetite, improves adherence and slickness:

http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/02/black-rust-and-cast-iron-seasoning/

I wish I'd heated my skillets first. Maybe at some point I'll strip them down and do that, but they are perfectly serviceable as is.
charles c. johnson


Joined: Dec 02, 2009
Posts: 369
i thought black rust was hematite

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hematite
Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2346
Location: FL
    
  69
I see this thread pop up in my email, its the first thing I look at.

Every time I read a post it makes me want to go buy another pan, but I've got 11 pieces already and only use 2 regularly.
Sheryl Hatfield


Joined: Feb 03, 2010
Posts: 14
Hematite is red rust. Magnetite is black rust. Both are "rust" because they're formed by oxidizing iron. I explained it in my blog post.

http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/02/black-rust-and-cast-iron-seasoning/

I'm done buying cast iron myself. I have everything I need now.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15425
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I'm going to try to channel the discussion on advanced seasoning to this thread.
                      


Joined: Jan 10, 2010
Posts: 10
Location: Southern New Hampshire
Ahhhh, I love my cast iron skillet.  Tonight we were going to grill some sirloin tip steaks on the gas grill - made the baked potatoes in the oven - cut up the salad and then turned on the grill.  Guess what? - Outta gas - it ran out while still preheating.  So I turned to my trusty cast iron skillet and the steak was better  than it would have tasted on the grill.  Whatta treat.  Perfectly cooked, perfect color on the outside, tender on the inside.  Heaven.
                    


Joined: Mar 19, 2010
Posts: 63
Location: N.W. Arkansas
I have read this thread with interest.
I grew up with cast iron, and have had cast iron all of my life.  I do agree with the seasoning of new cast iron, they are a nuisance!

I hand wash all my dishes, and one day, I was doing dishes, a neighbor stopped by to chat.  And I kept washing while we talked.  When I got to the cast iron, and plopped it into my soapy water, he about came unglued.  I just smiled, washed it and put it on the drainer.

He had to open my cabinet and go through all my cast iron, all in excellent season, no rust, no pits, no odors, just normal cast iron.

I suppose that I fit into the category of overclean!  But once it is seasoned, as long as you don't scrub it down to bare metal, I have never had an issue with washing it like any other dish, and it continues to season in spite of me.

And I finally gave up on new cast iron.  I wash it good, heat it really hot to get rid of laquer on it.  Then really scrub it good.  Then I dry it, and when it cools enough, I lightly oil it, and put it in the oven to slow bake for an hour.  Then I shut off oven and let the pilot light do the rest.  The next day, I scrub that thing good again, with soap.  And just dry it, and put oil on it, and back in with pilot light.  That's it, from then on it is simply cast iron.  Until it loses that metal look and turns black, I don't use it for anything: wet or that might stick on it, I use for things that need oil in the skillet, and simply wash it like any stainless steel pan that I own.  It has never been an issue.

I do not even coat my cast iron with oil, unless it had an issue.  Because it goes rancid and makes them stink and food tastes off.  So, once it is blackened, it is just a skillet, nothing special in treatment, soapy water, and rinse, I do dry it on a burner, but I dry cookie sheets that might rust and aren't cast iron in the oven so just normal treatment.  It works for me!

I am not arguing the post, just saying what works for me.  I don't hang my cast iron, and just dry it, and put it in the cabinet, as soon as it cools enough.  Cast iron is tough it can even survive folks, like me, and my grandma, who just treat it like... a tool, cookware, nothing special.  But, I love my cast iron, and it will last a lifetime and can be passed to the next generation.


Talk to your plants!   If your plants talk to you...Run!
Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1782
    
  11
Ah, this is good to know.  Don't pay it to much attention and it won't get spoiled and give you trouble - I love it!
                    


Joined: Mar 19, 2010
Posts: 63
Location: N.W. Arkansas
In April 2008, our house burned, a nearly total loss.  Odd things survived the fire.
Cast iron on the stove didn't.  But, some that was stored in another cabinet, seldom used and poorly seasoned did survive.  That fire was so hot that my sewing machine was totally destroyed to the point of finding hardly anything at all left.

Needless to say, some of the cast iron that survived was a mess.  It was rusty from the heat, it had firehoses on it for over an hour, it had plastic and wood, and glass all melted on it.  Some didn't have glass or plastic on it, but still rusty from high temps and water, and setting there, until we could get the roof off and safely get to it.  The house smoldered and was unsafe for days.   Really a challenge.

I put it all in a big old fashioned wash tub out side, and filled it with water, I let it rust, for a few weeks, actually I forgot it, with so many things to deal with.  I dumped the tub one day, ugh, what a mess.  I took a hammer and whacked the back side, and most of the junk fell off, with the rust.  I brought it inside and attempted to wash it.  The melted plastic wasn't interested in coming off, and some was on the bottom, some in the skillets.

I opened all windows, and turned on the gas burners, then I put the skillets on them, and heated them to melt the plastic again.  Then I scraped with a damaged egg turner, until most was gone, then washed it.  No luck, finish is shot, can't get it off.

So I set it aside, and dealt with other stuff.  I got back to it, and heated water and let set, back and forth, beginning to think, no way.  So, it became a dog food dish, outside.  And about once a month, I would take it inside and try again.

I honestly don't know when it happened, but, that cast iron is now in with all the rest.  I can recognize the older skillets, but I can't tell you which ones were the plastic/glass covered ones.  I can still read all the names of the skillets and they all work great.

Talk about abusing cookware!  This went through the fire, literally, and emerged to cook again!  It is possible that the heat of the fire damaged the metal deeply, but, I can't see it, I can't tell any difference.  My dutch oven was one in the fire, without plastic, and it fries fish at very high temps, then after washing cooks a great pot of chili.  High heat, low heat, on burner in the oven, it just doesn't care.  Takes a licking and keeps on ticking!

Would you believe that canning jars also survived the fire?  They fell, from the attic storage and were empty, but somehow didn't all break, but the smoke is baked on them, I have them boxed up, no idea how to clean that mess, if I can clean them.

Stainless Steel, Cast iron, and Glassware survived.  So, guess who seldom buys plastic anymore?

Our house was hit by a lightning strike at 3 am.  Rude awakening.   But no lives lost, and no human, or animal hurt.  So, material things can be replaced, sooner or later.  We had other mobile homes, and just had to get one ready to move into, so in 3 months we were home again, just a few feet away from the former home.

But, I betcha can't abuse your cast iron more than mine was... and lived to tell the story!  And cook for us again.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15425
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
The video from the article:

Margaret Yoder


Joined: May 12, 2010
Posts: 7
I wanted to make a comment regarding heating your cast iron dry after washing - you say to use your full attention so as not to leave it to burn up.  I find that as I get older I can no longer do this - I invariably forget about it.  So when I turn on the burner I set my timer for 45 seconds or a minute, and then turn off the burner when the timer dings.  Thanks for all the information!
                              


Joined: May 02, 2009
Posts: 262
Location: Coast Range, Oregon--the New Magic Land
I put mine to dry on top of the woodstove when it's running and just leave them there. In the summer I just leave it to drip dry.

I think bacon fat is da bomb for seasoning. No weird goo like other oils leave. I get nitrate free happy pig bacon from Carlton Farms in Carlton, OR(awesome meat). Nitrate free bacon fat is awesome stuff! I use it for baking too. Never any rancidity problems.


My Blog, Natural History and Forest Gardening
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"Listen everybody, to what I gotta say, there's hope for tomorrow, if we wake up today!" Ted Nugent
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Joined: Jun 08, 2010
Posts: 9
Have been reading through all these wonderful posts, soaking the info up like a sponge!  Thanks everyone, for posting everything you did!

I mentioned in another thread that I had gotten a decorated pan from a thrift store.  Boyfriend is in the water industry and deals with many chemicals, and he put his foot down against trying to remove the paint and cook with it due to potential leach issues.  Considering what I paid, and the fact that I can get store credit I will probably give it back and hope someone else uses it as a decoration so it doesn't go to waste.

So I bought a cheap 12" Lodge.  Going camping next weekend, and since it's my first real piece of cast iron I figured I would get all my mistakes out on this one.  Have already told several people I want some Griswold pieces for Christmas   Any specific pieces I should look for?

Anyway, I tried to use a stiff stainless steel brush to scrape off the pre-non-stick junk on the Lodge, but I didn't really get very far.  I got some black dust going, but I know I would probably work for a good 2 or 3 hours trying to get it all down to the bare metal and I just don't have that in me.  I'm an apartment-dweller right now, no access to a self-cleaning oven or an open fire, so I just started by laying down a thin layer of canola oil inside and out, then baking it upside-down in the oven at 400 for 30-45 minutes.  Turned off oven and let it sit until cool enough to handle (or overnight), then repeated for a total of 3 times.

Bought cheap bacon (I don't eat it very much) and found that it didn't stick very much, just a couple places, but a good nudge with the spatula loosened it.  Drained off the bacon leavings into a grease keeper and tried to clean up for eggs.

Ugh.  The paper towels started to shred a bit, which was annoying.  But I cleaned up enough to try 4 eggs.  Two came out great, the other two were a mess.  Wondering if because the stove is SLIGHTLY off (the grease migrates toward the back of the pan) that was part of the problem.  The two closest to me cooked decently without much sticking, the two in back took longer to cook and I wrecked them pretty badly.  Had to use the spatula to try and scrape off the stuck bits.

(PS: Paul, I COMPLETELY missed that when you said get a spatula with a straight edge you meant the SHAPE of the spatula as a whole - like more square/rectangular.  For some reason I took it to mean don't get a spatula with a beveled edge, so when I found one at the dollar store I was all excited.  Once I was cooking, I did a facepalm and branded myself a moron.  :roll

Once I got the egg off, I tried re-greasing it, had trouble with the paper towels shredding again - BAH.  Decided to give it one more go for the evening and made cornbread.  Melted some butter as a base, then poured the batter in - 15 minutes later I took it out and immediately turned it over onto a plate.  CAME RIGHT OUT!  Just a few SPECKS remained in the pan.  I was thrilled.

So hopefully I get some good use out of the Lodge as I start my search for a nice, well-seasoned Griswold (or the like).  THANKS EVERYONE!
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15425
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
When you go camping next weekend, are you gonna have a campfire?
                      


Joined: Jun 08, 2010
Posts: 9
Yes, but I wanted to use it to cook with!  Is it better to season it up now before next weekend and have something easier to cook with or start from scratch and try and season it well there at a campsite?

PS, I just turned my pan over and noticed some bizarre stuff on the bottom.  Looks like a yellow powder (first thing I thought of was sulfer, but doesn't smell like it) but sweeping my finger over it doesn't remove it.  Normal?
 
 
subject: using a cast iron skillet ain't so hard!
 
cast iron skillet 49er

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