Forgot to say...I always get some residue on the towel when I wipe mine down and it is perfectly normal. Here is a pic showing how much residue comes off my well used skillet on a paper towel for reference. This is after I actually cleaned it with soap and water last night after cooking some shrimp and vegies. There was some burned on spots due to the fact that I used some soy sauce. The moisture will "cook off" the non stick part temporarily. After scraping and cleaning it a quick spray of oil fixes it.
Just wanted to poke in a small message again - I'm still lovin' my griddle! A little while back I fried eggs on it. I had my reservations; from my internet research, frying eggs on cast iron was sometimes seen as troublesome. Let me also mention that my griddle is rather new, apparently with that not-smoothed, rough surface. I would say I'd used it before that a handful of times at the most, and I never did any oven-seasoning routine. But, like I said: terrific results!
Some newbies might think they need to wash the cooking surface until it passes the white glove test. But not so! This is a really different way of cooking. The little bit of dusty black/brown stuff left behind is actually part of the seasoning! A little oil and grease left on the cooking surface between meals is a good thing!
Food should never be left on the cooking surface between meals. But salt/oil/grease is actually good.
I should move this information into the article ... okay, I have now added this to the article!
I just had to share how improved my cast iron is from using some of these techniques. I'd been using cast iron 15 years or more, and loved it, but didn't really know how to optimize the seasoning.
Here's the key pieces that hugely improved my cast iron: * a flat-edged metal spatula works far better than a wooden or plastic (horrors, I know!) spatula for maintaining a clean, glossy surface * bacon fat, lard or palm shortening are, as most of you know by now, much better than vegetable oils on cast iron (I HIGHLY recommend the organic palm shortening for this and for baking - finally non-hydrogenated, almost guilt-free fatty pleasure!) * heating the fat for the polymerizing action makes a big difference.
In the past, I'd used mostly vegetable oils, and didn't heal the oil or fat until it begins to separate and polymerize. Seeing the heating action live, in person, made a big difference for me - probably because I'd thought, 'oh, I've had cast iron for years, I know how to keep it seasoned.' Thinking I knew my stuff made it so reading all the technical words like "polymerize" went in one ear and out the other. Using a plastic spatula (wincing to type that here - it was the only one I had with a flat edge!) just didn't scrape stuck food or sticky vegetable oil off very well and I was appalled to see all kinds of "stuff" flake off once I started using a metal spatulas. Between the oils, the heating and the spatula, my pans became so much more non-stick, easier to clean and enjoyable, that I am genuinely thrilled.
I have been so happy, in fact, that I found two Griswolds at a nearby antique shop and bought them both for a great price. They were quite a bit crusty, but I did the oven cleaning trick (one at a time) and except for some initial immediate rusting from being completely bare, they both seasoned up quickly and beautifully with the methods I've learned here. And my oven is quite clean, too!
So thankful to have blundered onto this site. I have the same problem mentioned above - the black/grey sooty looking residue. It's a cheap pan I found at KMart (the only place I could find one small enough for cooking for just me) . My sister got the same pan and has had no problem with hers so I was thinking mine was just a lemon. I followed the directions that came with the pan but the first time I used it the white on my egg was that sooty grey. I searched around the net for seasoning instructions and did the oven seasoning twice at 350 degrees just to be on the safe side. However, I tried frying an egg again this morning and although it slid right out, the white was grey yet again (although I think not quite as bad as the first time, it still didn't look exactly edible).. I tried after that to oil it up and heat it up about 4 times now but am still ending up with a grey paper towel. I'm thinking maybe I should just give up and throw the darn thing away at this point.. I'm running out of paper towels and tired of wasting eggs. I had also bought a Lodge grill pan with the slot thingys and since I've had so much trouble with the little one I've been afraid to use it.
First, thanks for the response. Second, no, neither.... Did get some good news, though. My sister got some of those new "green" pans and said I could have her little iron skillet. Maybe I'll just give mine to a charity and hope somebody else can somehow manage to make use of it, though I hate to do that if it is in fact defective. Here's hoping I have better luck with the Lodge grill. Thanks again. I will definitely keep your site in my favs because there are some really good tips here.
welcome dara! remember that cooking on cast iron is bit of a different animal if you are moving from non stick pans. some of that graying of the egg white may perfectly normal its some of the seasoning getting scraped off. I don't notice it because I always cook my eggs in bacon grease and it has bits of burned bacon and grease in it. The eggs don't look like a picture in a Martha Stewart magazine but that is ok! they taste alot better. you might have to adapt your expectations some. However if the color is really obvious it may not be completely seasoned yet.
what exactly have you tried to get it seasoned? what kind of fat have you used?
Hi, thanks for the welcome Leah. So far I've baked it twice with coconut oil (a tip from another site) after a good scrub each time. Tried stove top after that with grape seed oil (don't remember where I saw that). I've never been into baking so I don't have any Crisco or lard. I would have tried frying some bacon in it as someone suggested but I also don't have any bacon just now and figured I'd be afraid to eat that too. Also the weather here has been too wet & gloomy to get out. I guess another scrub and oven baking won't hurt since I hate to just throw it away. Oh, and I've never had any of the teflon or other non-stick pots and pans - never really trusted them. Have a great day.
I want to find a way to cook off all of the old junk first. But since that just doesn't seem to be an option, I would like to suggest that you fry five eggs, one at a time. use the coconut oil - that stuff is gonna be first rate!
Here is what I want you to do: use a super thin layer of oil in your pan - all over the inside. Heat it. Put some salt on the surface. When it starts to smoke, put the egg in. Fry it. After a bit, flip it. After a bit, pull it out of the pan. Then put on another super thin layer of oil. Repeat until you have five eggs.
The key is that this sort of thing makes for an excellent seasoning.
The egg in the middle of the pan, cools the middle just a little - allowing the outer edges of the pan to season a bit without burning off the seasoning in the middle of the pan.
Hi thanks for the suggestion but having just spent mucho dinero for Christmas gifts I don't like the idea of wasting that many eggs right now. However, while shopping I did buy some bacon and will be trying that. Also, I found a slightly bigger and deeper small skillet at Walmart's that is a Lodge which I'm going to try making cornbread for one in. In case I don't get in here again soon (thanks to the holiday shopping/wrapping thing), I wish you both a great holiday season.
well, I might have found a great way to season cast iron cookware yesterday! grease fire. I scrubbed and cleaned my dutch oven with a pumice stone since I hadn't been able to extract a particular taste resulting from an accidental...shall we say....science experiment wherein I put it away still full of cooked blackeyed peas only to be found weeks later. oops. anyway I set it on the stove and tossed in some lard and managed to end up with a grease fire. no damage except maybe a few years off my life. After it cooled I added oil and wiped out all the black stuff and it looks perfectly shiney and re- seasoned! haven't cooked on it yet so we will see.
Hi everyone. This is all great information for a cast iron virgin like me! However, I'm still running into some problems that I'm hoping the folks here can help me fix (or at least understand better). The item in question is a new pre-seasoned 12" skillet from Lodge (before I learned that I ought to have gotten an old, used Griswold or some other experienced piece). Used several times to cook, many rounds of oven and stovetop seasonings in between, all using store-bought lard and a variety of heating techniques.
1. Sometimes after I wash the pan with hot water and a nylon brush, it gives off a metallic smell. I don't see any bare spots on the metal, though - so do I really have to re-season it, as the Lodge site recommends if the "utensil develops a metallic smell"? Yesterday when this happened, I just heated the pan, melted some lard in it, wiped it around, and let it cool a bit. Then I wiped out the excess and the smell was gone. I'm wondering if this is enough or if I really have to do yet another round of full-blown seasoning.
2. Paul, as you and others have pointed out, bacon leaves sticky residue on the pan that requires boiling water in it to remove. Does this nullify the effectiveness of cooking bacon in the pan in order to season it? I would think that the boiling water removes any proto-layer of seasoning that the bacon fat might have laid down.
3. Most of the advice I've read says to clean a cast iron pan while it's still hot. The problem is that I like to eat first and wash up later. How much "food sitting around in the pan" time can I get away with?
Thanks in advance for any advice. Paul, your page is terrific.
P.S. Here's the backstory, in case anyone's interested ...
I got curious about cast iron a few weeks ago and bought myself that 12" Lodge Logic skillet to experiment with. First use, straight out of the box: Frittata. Big mistake. It looked and tasted great - I was even able to stick it under the broiler to brown the top - but HOLY CRAP what a mess it left in the pan! I scrubbed with salt and oil, and got maybe 50% of it off. Boiled water in it, got maybe 50% of the rest of it off. Then broke down and scrubbed it out with diswashing detergent (Palmolive), figuring I'd just reseason it starting from scratch. That got everything out, but made the pan smell metallic - though there wasn't any visible bare metal. I gave the pan a quick heat and rub down with lard, resolving to season it the next day.
The next day, I reseasoned it using lard and both techniques described here:
I did, iirc, two rounds of the oven seasoning and three rounds of the stovetop seasoning. (I did not, however, strip the pan down to bare metal before starting the process. Maybe I should have?)
That night, I plonked a ham steak in the pan (no oil) and wound up with a little bit of sticking, not a whole lot, but enough to require scouring out with some salt. The salt got it out but turned black in the process. Again, no bare metal, but I worried that I'd scraped off whatever seasoning I managed to put on during the rest of the day and decided I'd do some more seasoning before cooking in it again.
Fast-forward to a couple of days and several more rounds of oven and stovetop seasoning later. Diced some bacon and fried it up. Got sticky stuff in the bottom. Having been scared off the use of salt, I deglazed it with a little boiling water and a nylon scrub brush. Bacon stickies came off, no problem. However, when I dried the pan with a paper towel, the towel turned BLACK. I know people have said that "a little" residue is normal and even good, but I wiped that sucker out multiple times and STILL got what looked like soot all over the paper towel! I gave the pan another really good scrubbing with boiling water and the brush. Then wiped again. No black stuff. But now I've just killed all the seasoning YET AGAIN.
Gritting my teeth, I larded the thing up for yet another round of seasoning. This time I lost patience and put it under my gas broiler, which supposedly runs at 525 degrees F. Kept it there until it stopped smoking (amid much screaming of smoke alarms). No pooling or puddling, nice even layer of carbonization or polymerization or whatever, to all appearances anyway.
Next attempt: Fried egg in a bit of olive oil. Pleasantly surprised that it was relatively tractable. Minimal sticking, clean-up with a bit of oil and a paper towel; no black on the paper towel, encouragingly.
So I decided to push my luck with scrambled eggs. About a tablespoon of olive oil, two eggs. Major sticking. Damn! I boiled water to get the stuff out, and guess what? The pan smelled like metal again. Still no bare spots. What's going on?
I wiped the warm pan with lard and the smell again disappeared. Then I immediately fried another egg to see if I'd significantly damaged the seasoning with the latest boil and scrub. It behaved exactly like the first fried egg. Minimal sticking, clean-up easy. No metallic smell, no black residue on paper towel.
Which brings me up to the present and my questions. You'd think I'd have given up by now, but I refuse to be beaten!!
Sorry for having written "War and Peace" here but I figure if there's anyone who'd understand, it's you guys. Anyway, thanks in advance for any help.
1) Have you removed the "pre season" stuff yet? I think that might be the problem.
2) The cleanout is going to negate any seasoning that might have happened. Some bacon (that does not contain sugar) does not require this level of cleanout.
3) If the stuff in your pan has acids, I suggest you deal with cleaning the pan before you eat. If the stuff in your pan has a lot of water, I would probably pour out as much as I could before eating. Some stuff is ten times easier to clean out before eating, so it is worth cleaning before eating. I would guess that half the time I clean the pan after eating.
To some of your other points:
Yes, I think you should get down to the bare metal. But no amount of scrubbing is going to do that. A wood fire will work. Or a self cleaning oven.
That black stuff is carbon. It's fine. Don't worry about it. It isn't really seasoning, but it does help stuff to not stick.
You clearly have a passion to get going down this road and leave the toxic "non stick" stuff behind. Good job!
If you follow my techniques and cook eggs every morning for two weeks, you will have a first class seasoning.
Thanks, Paul. I just want to be sure that the metallic smell *is* actually a problem or if it's something that just happens every now and then without detriment to the pan or to whatever's cooked in it.
I really don't relish the idea of stripping the thing down to bare metal. I live in an apartment and have already pissed off the neighbors with the smoke alarm, so self-cleaning oven is out, as is a wood fire. I might just start over with an unseasoned pan. Do you know if Lodge still makes unseasoned pans, btw? The 12" "original finish" one was unavailable from Amazon, and I couldn't find any unseasoned cookware on the Lodge site.
I don't plan on cooking anything acidic in it until I can get scrambled eggs to slide out as smoothly as they do for you in your video. I assume that when you said "cook eggs every morning for two weeks," you mean fried eggs and not scrambled? If scrubbing out the bacon residue canceled out the seasoning from cooking it, I'm sure scrubbing out scrambled-egg residue would do the same.
I can feel my arteries hardening now. lol
By the way, it looks like the underside of the pan might be starting to lose its pre-seasoning from all the time it's spent on a hot gas burner. Anyone else ever have this problem?
Edit: Made a Cajun roux, let cool, washed out as per Dan's recommendation. Then fried another egg. The clean-up wasn't quite as easy as last time, but still not too bad. And no metal smell.
I'm gonna grease the pan up and bake it again to take care of the underside.
I've been using cast iron for several years and have never experienced this metalic taste thing - at least not that I recall. I know that if you have a lot of humidity in the air, that cast iron that has gone through the self cleaning oven thing, or through the fire, quickly gets a thin layer of rust. That rust would taste metalic.
Lodge does not make an unseasoned pan. Why would you want to buy another of something that is lame? Go out to ebay and buy a wagner. It will probably cost less than a new lodge.
I think you should stop worrying about seasoning that pan. Stop baking it. It just uses up a lot of power. It will season as you use it.
I just came across this summary of a research paper that showed that, not only does cooking in cast iron add iron to the food, but newer cast iron pans add more iron to food than old cast iron pans. Presumably, the thinner seasoning layer on the new pieces allows more iron to pass into the food.
My concern with the existing "seasoning" is what it is made of. I suspect that it has far more to do with surviving two months of humid, salty air in an ocean liner than anything to do with what is edible. So I suspect that the "seasoning" is some sort of toxic gick. I would want to get rid of that and get a fresh start.
Just popping in to say that I am still trying to get to love my pan. Planning to make a brick chicken in it soon. We'll see how much sticking I get.
I just thought of something while reading Dan's earlier post about how making a Cajun roux will help season the cooking surface. I wonder what would happen if one uses graphite lubricant powder instead of flour??
I have to tell you: I started with a lodge and it drove me nuts.
Did you see my little video? Youtube now has something so I can add more notes to the video as it pops along - so I added some. I think it helps.
The purpose of the video is to show just how slippery the cooking surface is when you do it right.
Is your lodge that slippery?
As in my article, if you have the right kind of spatula, you might be able to get your skillet to have a good cooking surface over six months if you use it a lot.
I just looked out on ebay. In recently completed griswold skillet sales, I see one where a #8 went for $10.49 + $15.00 shipping. A #9 went for $9.45 + $13.05 shipping. A #10 went for $4.99 + $15.34 (wow, what the hell happened there).
I see a wagner #8 for sale with a glass lid! The current price is $10.49 + $13.33 shipping. 10 hours to go. That a screaming deal!
The key is that all of these will have a glassy, smooth surface. This surface will make you so much happier. Unlike your lodge - which will frustrate you and drive you nuts.
Oooooh - thanks for the tip about the vintage stuff on eBay!!
Actually, I made the same frittata I started out with in the Lodge last night and it slid right out!!! I guess all that seasoning, cooking, and experimenting is starting to pay off. Rinse with hot water, a swipe with a nylon-bristled brush, dry on the stove, wipe with a tiny bit of melted lard: done. No metallic smell, either. And no need to have stripped it down!
The Lodge is not as slippery as your beautiful pans, but now I have hope that it may someday get there. Unless I abandon it for an experienced pan, that is.
Chicken under a brick is FREAKING AWESOME, by the way. It's something I could never have made in a non-stick pan. That alone makes all the struggle with the CI worth it.
paul wheaton wrote: ... if you have the right kind of spatula ...
Speaking of which, do you actually have one of those All-Clad spatulas you link to from your article? I'm looking to upgrade from mine, whose blade is about 1-1/2 mm thick ... much too thick for flipping things like, say, pancakes with finesse. The best blade I found was on an Oxo lasagna server - but the handle was so short it gave me cramps.
What's the All-Clad like in terms of thickness, if you have one?
One I found at the home depot with all of their BBQ stuff. It has a wooden handle and a very flat edge. That is the one that is in the video. The flat edge is critical. The wooden handle makes it so that I can lay the handle across the hot edge of the pan and that the handle will never get hot.
The new one I have is smaller and in one way, better. It also has a flat edge and a wood handle. The improvement is that the corners are rounded. With my big one, it had sharp corners (that rounded with use) and I always worried about taking off seasoning near the edge of the pan.
It's me again. Now that I've got a seasoning going, I find I have another question. I came across this link that purports to tell you how to "deep clean" a cast-iron skillet using a cup of salt and heat:
What, exactly, is the point of this? Is it intended to strip off the seasoning? It sure seems like it from the instruction at the end to re-season. Or is it just to get off whatever bits of food and crap may be stuck to the seasoning, but that is too small to be seen with the naked eye?
Location: Carnation, WA (Western Washington State / Cascadia / Pacific NW)
I used to get a caramelized, sticky build up on my cast iron when I seasoned a lot with vegetable oil, (and/or didn't heat it until it polymerized!) so I imagine the salt cleaning described would be good to remove that. Now that I season primarily with (organic palm) shortening or bacon grease, I don't have any caramelized build up at all.
Even stuck food wouldn't require such a process. If food gets too stuck or messy for a simple wiping out in one of my pans, I boil water in the pan, scraping with a metal spatula until it's gone. If that doesn't cut it, after it's been heated and loosened, I'll scrub a little with a scouring pad. Usually after I boil water, I do put a thin coat of shortening or grease back on and heat the pan until it does it's little spidery, smoky, polymerizing action, to reinforce the non-stick surface. It's very simple and quick.
I suppose some folks might not clean out all the food bits each time they use it, so then the "deep clean" would be necessary every once in a while, I guess.
Yes, the instructions do say to do it when stuff starts sticking that wouldn't normally, so maybe it is to get rid of inadequately polymerized oil that would get in the way of the good seasoning underneath. I wonder why the instructions say to re-season afterwards, though? I guess just in case the process removes the good seasoning, too?
I'd try it just to find out, except I don't want to damage the fragile new seasoning that I worked so hard to build up over the past month.
Paul, for years I have not been able to cook a fried egg in my skillet. After reviewing your page and watching your video one time, I cooked 8 eggs this morning for my family in my 10" lodge skillet. I used the light oil, not the 2"of oil ive always used, also, I did the salt and pepper you said on the cooking surface, and all 8 came out perfect.
I wanted to thank you for putting up this how to, it looks as if it has been up there a very long time, but i wanted to let you know how easy it was, and helped us out alot. Now I can throw away my cheapo teflon coated from walmart, there isnt much I cant use my lodge for now.