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cast iron pans

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 29 May 2010 at 12:53
ok - i've had some cast-iron cookware for quite some time now, but have never really used them because of not knowing how to use or care for them. they seem to be of decent quality and condition, and were purchased at rummage sales.
 
anyway, today, i took down from where they'd been sitting for a few years and i scrubbed them very well with a plastic brush and hot water only, then quickly dried them and wiped them all down with a little canola oil and put them upside-down in the oven and turned it to 350. i figure an hour or so will be good, then, i will turn it off and let them cool down naturally and put them away, hopefully to be used more often now that i understand the ease of using them and the benefits they bring to cooking.
 
any tips or ideas for better care, or is what i did along the right track? my understanding is that they absolutely should not be cleaned with soap and/or acidic stuff, both of which will have detrimental effects. anything else?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Boilermaker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 November 2010 at 16:26
Go easy with soap and also never use a scratcher.  Keep 'em well seasoned and they will serve you well and the nice thing is if you do ruin the seasoning you can always re-season them.  I have some that I use that have been in the family for probably close to 100 yrs, they're made to last, that's for sure.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 December 2010 at 12:10
was reading some interesting information on another thread here:
 
Quote An unexpected issue emerged during this test. Fries cooked in one of our cast iron pans tasted rusty; evidently, the preseasoned surface had failed. Cast iron is a great choice for a Dutch oven, because it holds onto heat so well. But cast iron will also react with many foods. Some manufacturers coat their cast iron with a layer of brightly colored enamel. Other manufacturers preseason their pots—basically spraying them with oil and baking on the seasoning. But, as we discovered, it's possible to wash away the preseasoning.
 
my wife and a couple of the kids have said the same thing, but i've never noticed. it seems to me that the pans (and dutch oven) are seasoned just fine, and i was wondering if anyone has any ideas on this. we wash them with little or no soap, scrub them well with plastic scrubbers, not steel or copper, being sure to scrub away all food particles, rinse in hot water, dry well and oil them before storage. sometimes we put them in a hot oven, then shut the oven off for them to sit overnight and have the oil cook in a little.
 
any other ideas? could it be bscause of tomato-based dishes such as chili etc.? vinegar or wine used to de-glaze for soups, stew, carbonade etc.?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 December 2010 at 16:13
My two cents are that if you all are getting some "rusty" off-flavor to the food, it's because the seasoning has worn or may be missing slightly in some parts. A well seasoned cast iron vessel has a relatively thick coating over the metal surface. Even with a plastic scratch pad, it can wear down awefully fast, even moreso if the pan is not used with any consistency to allow its "seasoning" to replenish and thicken.
 
Stay away from any kind of scratch pads. If you have bits of stuck food that cannot be removed with your fingernail or a wet papertowel (balled up) then soak a little. Anything harsher and you are wearing off the seasoning coating you have built up.
 
Acids will degenerate the seasoning, but then again, don't cook acids constantly in the cast iron pots either. An occasional spaghetti sauce is okay, but it will wear it. Cast iron cookware does best with regular frying, braising, boiling, baking and the regular loving application of fats (oils) after rinsing. That is what builds up the seasoning and the pans usefulness.
 
I think you can get a perfect answer from members of the forum by doing this: Fill your vessel with hot hot water and let sit for about 5 or 10 minutes. Dump water in the sink, then leave pan/pot side UP to dry on a cool surface. After the water has evaporated, take a picture and post it. Make the picture clear, and encopmpassing the entire cooking surface. Take 2 if you have to. Any orange spots are areas where the seasoning has worn away.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Boilermaker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 December 2010 at 22:00
Yes, please post a pic.  I have never experienced what you are describing, sounds like you have a problem with your seasoning.  We can help you correct it.  Well-seasoned cast iron cookware has wonderful cooking and heat retention properties but proper seasoning is key to its effectiveness. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 December 2010 at 10:24
yep, i do remember the slight orange. i knew that it was the seasoning deteriorating, but figured wipedown with oil etc would eventually take care of it. maybe complete re-seasoning is in order? i've got some crisco (which as i recall is good for just exactly this) and will give it a shot. also, i think our scrubbing as i said before has contributed to most seasoning loss, so john's guidelines above will be practiced from now on.
 
i'm pretty sure that most people have the seasoning method/procedure down pat, but if ayone wants to put it down on-screen, feel free to do so in order to have it for a reference!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Daikon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 October 2011 at 21:54
My clean-up routine for my plain cast iron pans is to always use plenty of hot water and only ever use soap or an abrasive pad if absolutely necessary (and it almost never is.)  Shake off the water and then put the pan on the stove over high heat until any remaining water drops have boiled away and the pan even starts to smoke a little.  Then if it looks like it needs it, I coat lightly with oil or cooking spray while the pan is still hot and put it away when it has cooled.

Water and oxygen can penetrate the black carbon build-up on your pans, so if you leave any moisture to get trapped under the oil in the "pores" of the pan's surface, then it can lead to rusting under the carbon that you often can't see, and can even lead to the pan's surface flaking off (which can also happen in a different way from over-seasoning and developing too thick of a coating.)  By always heating up my pans to smoking hot before putting them away, I know that I have driven off all the moisture than might otherwise cause rust. 

For similar reasons, never leave your cast iron to soak with water in it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 October 2011 at 09:16

looks like a good way to do it - that brings consistent results ~ i know that what i've been doing has been working well sometimes, but not so well now and then. will give this a try.

thanks!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Daikon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 October 2011 at 12:40
It's worked well for me even when maintaining my cast iron cookware onboard a boat, so it should work for you if you once achieve a good starting state.

One of the nice things about cast iron is that, unless your pan is really far gone, you can probably bring it back to good condition even if it currently isn't.  If you've got a self-cleaning oven, then you can stick your cast iron pan in there during the clean cycle.  That will essentially remove all of the seasoning and carbon build-up, returning you to an almost-new state.  Without a self-cleaning oven, you can accomplish much the same thing by putting your pan in a decent-power gas grill at full-blast for about an hour.  Either way, you can then use a wire brush to remove any rust spotting before beginning the seasoning process all over again. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 October 2011 at 12:48
i've got a self-cleaning oven, so it's all good there ~
 
will give this a go with my cast-iron pans and my dutch oven so i can start from scratch. i'll be sure to teach the kids this method as well, since it looks a lot easier and more consistent than what i taught them before ~
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 October 2011 at 20:17
I was reading on the net somewhere about seasoning cast iron an I believe I'm remembering correctly when I recall this procedure.

Get the pan clean, with the self cleaning oven or the like. Preheat oven to 500F. Using flax seed oil, wipe a very, very thin coat all over the pan, inside and outside. Put the pan in the oven and let it bake for one hour then shut off the oven and let the thing cool by itself overnight or whatever. repeat this process 5 more times and you're good to go.

There's a reason for all this trouble. Cleaning the pan first is pretty obvious, but the rest not so much. Flax seed oil is the same thing as linseed oil. What makes this oil the right stuff is that it is a drying oil. In fact, one of the best. Hence it's use in oil based paints and varnishes and such. It drys hard and durable.

The high temps bake it on there and turn it to a hard, carbon rich, polymer coating. Repeated applications thicken the coating. Does it work? I don't know because I haven't tried it.

And don't try the procedure as outlined above without first searching for it to find the original thing laid out by the guy who came up with it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 January 2012 at 20:52

rod - it makes sense - i'll see bout some research on that. up until now, i've used canola oil or shortening.

 
daikon, i've got all my cast iron in the oven on the clean cycle now - will report on results.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 January 2012 at 06:42
It's all about something called the iodine index of different oils. This measures how hard any given oil can dry. Flax seed oil has a very high iodine index.

Here's the link to the article:

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

I did it with 3 cast iron pans and it works fine. The coating turned out quite tough. I don't know about non-stick though. I'm not sure I've ever really experienced a truly non-stick cast iron pan, or even if there is such a thing.

I'm happy with the results.

To recap what I did... I ran the pans through the clean cycle of the oven. That burned everything off the pans, and there was a lot of crud. This left a powdery residue on the pans. Put something down under the pans because a lot of that crud will fall off.

From here on out the pans don't get touched with bare hands. I only allowed clean rags to lay the pans on and to wipe off the excess oil and to cover the pans between treatments, or the paper towel used to wipe on the oil and the clean kitchen gloves to touch the pans during this whole process.

Wearing clean kitchen gloves, I washed the pans in plain hot water and allowed them to air dry, then baked them in the oven to make sure they dried completely and let them cool down.

I found flaxseed oil at a super market on sale. It was in the vitamin section of the drugstore part. This stuff isn't cheap! It was normally 12 bucks for a 12 oz bottle, but it was 2 for 1 when I bought it. Six bucks for 12oz, what a deal... But it took less than half a bottle to do 3 pans, so that works out to less than 1 dollar each.

Anyway, if you do this remember to use very little oil. It took maybe a tablespoon to cover all three pans with one coat. Basically, you want to wipe it all over the pans, inside, outside, handles, etc. and then wipe it off. Like you were drying off the pans if they got wet. You only want to leave behind the shine left by the oil, no more.

After wiping on/off the oil I immediately placed the pans up side down in the oven to bake at 500F for one hour. I left them untouched in there overnight to cool. My oven allows me to set timers. I would set it to come on only when the house was empty, at 500F and turn off after 1 hour and 10 minutes. This stuff smells. Smells like old fashioned oil based paint. Be aware.

Six cycles of this, always being careful to never contaminate the pan surfaces with my fingers, or splashed on kitchen messes or possibly setting them down on an unclean surface. I used clean rags for this.

The oil paint stink doesn't really leave the rags for many washings, and the smell will permeate anything else you might launder with them. Anything stored with the rags will also smell. It all goes away with time.

It does leave a very hard, smooth coating. I'm glad I did it.













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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 January 2012 at 14:19
hey, rod - thanks for a great, detailed procedure there. looks like a sound method.
 
my oven-clean cycle went well; note: do this in the summer, so you can open the windows - it can get smoky! all the cast iron (one 12-inch skillet, one skillet that must be 12.5-inch, a 10-inch skillet, a 10-inch, deep "chicken-frying" skillet and a 12-inch, 6-qt dutch oven with heavy lid that also fits the large skillets) came out looking light, cast-iron grey and clean as a whistle, except for the powdery substance that was left of the seasoning etc.there was also a hint of dark orangish tint, but this seemed to go away when i wiped the cookware down.
 
i hadn't read rod's post yet when i did this, but my procedure was similar. olive oil spray is what i have for now, so we'll see how it works. the procedure is easy enough that i can do it again at a later date, if necessary. here's how it went, after the clean-cycle in the oven: 
 
i wiped them down while still fairly hot in order to get the crud out, then sprayed them lightly all over and let them cool to warm. then i wiped them down well again - this seemed to take care of the orangish colouring since i haven't seen a hint of it since. then i gave a very light spray, wiped down and put them upside-down in the oven at 400 for a little over an hour (assuming it takes 15 minutes or so to heat all that cast iron up to temperature).
 
they've got about half an hour to go, after which i'll let them cool and go through the process at least two more times at 450, then 500), then will see how things look.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 January 2012 at 15:46
How did it turn out? Did the sprayed on oil leave a smooth and evenly colored coating on the pan?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 January 2012 at 16:48
hey, rod - i've got four "sessions" down - here's where we are: 
 
after reading the article you posted above, and the link to the chart showing the comparative smoking points etc. of oils, it looks to me as though the olive oil is certainly an acceptable one to use with no complaints, but flaxseed oil appears to be the "best" due to the properties enumerated in the article.
 
each session, i've been spraying an even coat of the olive oil on warm pans, then wiping them down then heating. the first three sessions were 400 degrees, 450 and 500 respectively; no real reason for this - just because....
 
each time, the pans get progressively darker than the time before. they are currently a dark charcoal colour, nearly - but not quite - black. they are very evenly-coated and look, for lack of a better description, "factory-new."the "texture" of the pans is perfectly sound and they look and feel as though they should have all the properties of well-seasoned cast iron cookware. 
 
i could probably use them now, as-is,without any more sessions, but have decided to do at least one more after supper tonight - and maybe a final (sixth) tomorrow evening.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 January 2012 at 12:01
fifth session down - results are definitely good. we are one shade darker (still almost but not quite black, which seems to be fine), the "finish" is even and consistent and the "texture" of all the pans is very visible and clear. the one exception is a large skillet that has always been smooth bottomed with no texture inside. i wasn't able to do a final session last night, but will try to do so tonight.
 
click here for a "tutorial" that i've come up with on the subject.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Karl Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 January 2012 at 18:21

I have managed to restore a few "yard pots" as they are often called in North Carolina .  I start with a flex shaft on a drill and wire wheel basically making a giant Dremel Tool to try and get down to the bare metal.  Sometimes pouring vinegar in overnight helps strip the rust too but ultimately the secret is elbow grease. 

I have had to use "food safe" brazing rods to patch a few cracks and drain holes (from being used as flower planters.) 

I might be doing it wrong but I tend to use corn oil at about 425F for 40 min. since I like the hard seasoned surface that it leaves me.  I just leave it in the oven without opening the door at all overnight so as not to set off all of the smoke alarms in the house.  I am also NOW reading about flax seed oil but I have not tried it yet. 

When I am done with using them I also rub oil over them while warm then reheat to make sure that it at least "soaks in" well enough to prevent rust.   It is rewarding to restore old cast iron to being usable again.   I actually bought a traditional stiff brush for cleaning cast iron but have never used it for more than showing off at reenactments. 



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 January 2012 at 09:01
hi, karl -
 
sounds like you've got some good results there. it looks to me like the most important requirement is tender-loving care and respect for the iron. everything else will fall into place!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Karl Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 February 2012 at 15:29
I just made out like a fat rat at the local Salvation Army over lunch time and need to brag just a little. Another forum has made me aware that few of my many cast iron pieces say anything but the occasional "China" on the back. I just found several Griswald pieces (LARGE skillet, dutch oven, and lidded chicken fryer) and a "drip drop" roaster dutch oven like: http://www.wrinkledwillytreasures.com/Wa...ping_p_976.html (I don't believe the prices on this site.) I did not fully grasp what the term "self basting lid" meant before seeing this one. They were all between $10.00 and $15.00 which is not bad for Alaska. I want to draft some techy to help me take pictures soon.   It looks like I have to do a little research when I have a waking minuet at home: http://www.griswoldcookware.com/history.htm and http://www.gcica.org/index.html



The Wagner is almost exactly like this picture.  This might be a good time to try flax oil for reseasoning them.

I need new recipes to try in these that my somewhat picky wife might like.  (No beans, vinegar, or much tomato sort of picky.) 
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