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cast-iron-fi

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
There's so many contradictory directions online about how to season cast iron cookware...I'm seasoning a couple of skillets now, and the 400+ degrees instructions didn't work (well, it might have, but it filled the apartment with smoke...not the "kinda hazy" level of smoke, but the "OMG I can see the apartment's airflow" smoke). Last time, the 300-or-so-degrees-for-an-hour instructions produce a couple of very sticky skillets.

Anyone out there season cast iron? What's worked for y'all?
post #2 of 17
The 400+ sounds right, when i was in scouts thats how we would season our dutch ovens wich are cast iron, then after that you never use harsh cleaning stuff like wire brush or forks or wire scotch pads, just the sponge and soap. After more and more use it will season over time.
post #3 of 17
400 degrees is WAY above the smoke point of every cooking oil. those were bad instructions, and may in fact have created some carcinogens as byproducts.

Honestly, you'll never get an awesome slick surface from seasoning alone. Use a generous amount of cooking oil, and use a 350 degree oven for about an hour. Doing the process more will not really help - you'll simply have to start cooking in the pan.

I promise that if you only wash very lightly between each use, and NEVER use anything rough for cleaning, youll have a non-stick surface in no time! I've treated both my pan and dutch oven in this manner, and have not had a problem with stuck food in years
post #4 of 17
I think there's an older thread somewhere around with about ten different recommendations for seasoning.

I've been cooking with cast iron for twenty years, and I confess that I think I have gotten the whole seasoning/cooking/washing thing *right* only within the last three. I tried the bake-to-season method for many years, and cooked with wooden spoons, and tried hard not to destroy the patina of seasoning on the pans with abrasive pads and soap. I had really variable success. It was hard to get crusty stuff off with soft-washing, and the wooden spoons really didn't do a great job of keeping the sediment from burning-on--especially with anything that involved a roux-based sauce. And, of course, all I had to do was deglaze the pan, and it seemed like it would boil-off all the seasoning into the liquid. The next time the pan was used, it would be 'nude'.

The better system now seems to be the Oriental one. 1. To remove any rust, you scrub and wash an old pan as well as possible (wire pads fine), bake at 400 F. until hot, carefully take out hot, put on hob, and then cover the bottom with Kosher salt. After ten minutes, you put a dishcloth in and scrub out remaining rust with the salt. Works well.

2. After rinsing out the pan with hot water and drying, you season by heating it on the hob until very hot. Prepare a 1/4-1/3 cup of oil, and a big bowl of sliced ginger and green onion. You drop the oil into the hot pan and then immediately add the ginger and green onion (which keep the oil from burning and filling your house with smoke). You continue to stir and scrape all of that at very high heat with a steel or cast-iron spoon or spatula (from Oriental food store). Don't be afraid to scratch the iron with the impliment; the whole idea is that the scratches themselves are filled with the carbon over repeated cookings, and the more you scratch it while you cook, the better the seasoning gets. After stir-frying the veggies for ten minutes, dump them, and when the pan is cool enough to handle with a pot holder, put it in the sink with plain hot or warm water. Use something normally abrasive to scrub out any remaining sticking stuff. Oriental shops sell a terrific, cheap scrubber that's like a small broom head made from bundled, split strands of bambo: this works a treat for scrubbing off sticking stuff from a pan surface. Don't use soap.

3. After washing with hot water, you roughly dry out the pan with a bit of paper towel. Then you add a dollop of vegetable oil, and swish it around to coat the inside thinly. Another sheet of towel picks up any excess oil, and then you can leave the pan out or store it away. The oil prevents rust. It also permeates the top layer of the porous, scratched iron.

4. When you cook next, you can quickly rinse and wipe out the inside surface, but really, you probably won't find any oil at all that hasn't been integrated with the pan. I just stick it on the hob, heat, and cook. I use the metal spatuala and spoons--not worrying about scratching (it's good for the pan). When I finish with everything, I scrub with the bamboo brush, rinse, dry, oil-coat, and store. That's it.
post #5 of 17
The instructions that Alton Brown worked great for me. Instead of oil, I used vegetable shortening and the seasoning I got from that was fantastic.
post #6 of 17
Cooking oils have different smoke points, hence I would assume you were using an oil with a low smoking point. I have seasoned a couple of cast iron fry pans with Canola oil and Peanut oil without having any problems.

Shortening is a solution I would like to try one time (if I remember). Thanks.
post #7 of 17
Bacon grease is great for seasoning cast iron. It takes a high temperature before it smokes. I save all my bacon drippings and leave it in the freezer for this purpose.

As far as the cast cooking iron surface. I never scrub my cast iron pan & griddle unless I really have to. I usually take a wet/damp paper towel to a hot pan/griddle to wipe off after cooking. This will leave a coating of oil on the cast iron. If food gets stuck in the pan/griddle, I will just leave a low flame on and burn/dry the stuck food and them lightly scrap the high points off whatever was burned in with a spatula. I will then recoat the pan with bacon grease and leave it on a low flame for a while before wiping it off with a dry paper towel.
post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by frozenice View Post
Cooking oils have different smoke points, hence I would assume you were using an oil with a low smoking point. I have seasoned a couple of cast iron fry pans with Canola oil and Peanut oil without having any problems.

Shortening is a solution I would like to try one time (if I remember). Thanks.
I've had fairly bad experiences with shortening...it leaves a sticky gunk on the pan and has a fairly low smoking point. I used lard this time 'round, and it seems to work pretty well. Maybe refined peanut oil could work...I only have unrefined around the house, and it has a much lower smoking point.
post #9 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by aristos_achaion View Post
I've had fairly bad experiences with shortening...it leaves a sticky gunk on the pan and has a fairly low smoking point. I used lard this time 'round, and it seems to work pretty well. Maybe refined peanut oil could work...I only have unrefined around the house, and it has a much lower smoking point.
My understanding of the purpose of cast iron fry pans and cooking oils must be a lot different from yours. The whole point (as I understand it) of cooking with cast iron pans was to use high heat to sear and blacken the food that was being cooked and to do that you would need an oil with a high smoking point. Also, I thought that an oil with a high smoke point didn't break down into unhealthy compounds as readily as oils with a lower smoking point.

The only time I use an oil with a low smoking point when I cook is when I cook with extra virgin olive oil. I use a non-stick pan and I tend to us slower heat and stir the food often to prevent burning. The only reason I use olive oil is for adding flavour to the dish and not for searing.
post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by frozenice View Post
My understanding of the purpose of cast iron fry pans and cooking oils must be a lot different from yours. The whole point (as I understand it) of cooking with cast iron pans was to use high heat to sear and blacken the food that was being cooked and to do that you would need an oil with a high smoking point. Also, I thought that an oil with a high smoke point didn't break down into unhealthy compounds as readily as oils with a lower smoking point.

The only time I use an oil with a low smoking point when I cook is when I cook with extra virgin olive oil. I use a non-stick pan and I tend to us slower heat and stir the food often to prevent burning. The only reason I use olive oil is for adding flavour to the dish and not for searing.
They can be used for searing/blackening, but they can also be used for frying (which tends to use a much lower smoking point oil, often bacon fat or lard) and baking (especially cornbread), which I suppose is at a fairly high temperature, but doesn't require a high-smoking-point oil (in cornbread I typically use shortening, olive oil, or lard, with bacon fat on special occasions).

I don't even own nonstick, basically defaulting to my cast iron as my all-purpose stovetop-ware. It was good enough for my grandmothers, who were much better cooks than I am. I inherited one small, well-seasoned skillet from grandmother, fell in love with it, and am expanding my stable.

What oils do you use with searing/blackening?
post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by aristos_achaion View Post

What oils do you use with searing/blackening?
I mostly use canola oil and to a lesser extent peanut oil. I find both work fine, but most of the lower temperature cooking I do is on a non stick pan.

If it works for you, that is all that matters.
post #12 of 17
Completely unhelpful post, but why bother with plain cast iron, when cookware like Le Creuset is available.
post #13 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by leveller1642 View Post
Completely unhelpful post, but why bother with plain cast iron, when cookware like Le Creuset is available.
Truth is, I find enamel too delicate. I have an enameled cast iron dutch oven which I think is really nice, but I wouldn't use enamel for the stuff that I use my cast iron skillet for. I might also go ahead and do a regular cast iron dutch oven too at some point just so I could do some cooking on coals.
post #14 of 17
Most pots and pans have a reason why they are built a certain way and the choice of materials.

Pots like Le Crueset were designed to cook foods like chicken and root vegetables in France in times gone by. In places like France the farms were small and farmers would own a few chickens and they would keep them a fairly long time (they would keep them for their egg production). When their useful life was done they would be butchered and they would need a long cooking time because they were older, tougher birds (in comparison with feed lot style chickens in North America which are raised, plumped up and sent to market as quickly as possible). The other foods they would cook would be wild game and even their cows were mostly raised for their milk production and would be a lot older and need a lot more cooking time to break down than their American cousins.

Even though pots like Le Creuset are available the food that they were designed to be used for cooking aren't readily available in North America. I find Corningware works better when I'm making casseroles and pasta dishes. I own a pot similar to Le Creuset but I never use it.
post #15 of 17
I think bacon is great for cast iron. Cook up the entire bag and just let the leftover bacon grease solidify. Then just wash it with hot water and scrub it with a sponge (no soap) to clean it out.

Back then, people just used to fill the entire pan with lard and let it sit there for a while.
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