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Food & Wine Ground >> Proper care for cast iron


12/21/09 5:31 PM
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Zwingli
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Cleaning and seasoning advice would be appreciated.

12/22/09 9:16 AM
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shibbytastic
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The best way I have found to season them is to rub the entire pan with crisco then set it face down over a grill (outside). Leave it on the grill for an hour or so with the grill lid down. This puts a nice coat on the pan and keeps all of the smoke from the seasoning process outside of your house.

As for care:

NEVER use soap on a cast iron pan. Everything you cook will taste like soap for months.

After I cook in mine i deglaze the pan with a little warm water and wipe it dry with a paper towel. If you try to clean it too much you will lose your seasoning.
12/22/09 10:30 AM
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Zwingli
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Much appreciated.
12/22/09 11:15 AM
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shibbytastic
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also be careful about putting cold water into a hot pan, the thermal shock can cause a crack.
12/22/09 12:04 PM
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crescentwrench
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 For any stubborn stickies that don't want to come off, while the pan is still hot place a small pile of kosher salt in there and put a small amount of crisco or other oil on it.  Use a cloth to rub that abrasive paste to get off the stuck on bits.  Then wipe away the salt/gunk to somewhere safe.  Because it'll be hot as fuck.  
12/22/09 1:39 PM
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CR1chard
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 I keep a jar of bacon drippings specifically for seasoning my cast iron skillet
12/25/09 11:26 PM
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Mullet @ Heart
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What about reviving fucked up cast iron?

I was doing well until I decided to re-season with vegetable oil. Huge mistake. Whole fucking thing is sticky now.

How do I get rid of the sticky, so I can start over?
12/26/09 9:30 AM
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crescentwrench
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 Yeah you can do a couple of things.  

Turn it upside down and put it in your oven.  Then run your oven's cleaning cycle and leave it in there after it's done until it cools down enough to handle..  That will burn away all the cure.  You might have to take a wire brush to it to knock off some flakes but it will take it down to bare metal and square one.  It will also run you out of your house with the smell of charred fiery mess if you don't have a kick ass hood.  I had a range in my shop and did it in there.  Even with my purge fan going it still made for enough fumes for a few hours to give me a headache.  

The other is to set up a grill for full blast and set it in there the same as the oven.  Do gas grills have a cleaning setting?  If not, do it as hot as it gets for a good couple of hours.  If you can set your charcoal grill to get hotter then you don't have to do it as long.  

After that you just start over.

If that all sounds like a pain in the ass and the pan isn't some heirloom, it might be worth it to abandon that one and go grab another one at the hardware store.  It might be worth the twenty bucks to not go through that shit.  
12/27/09 12:03 AM
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ashleigh11
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mullet, put the skillet in the oven at 350 for 4 or 5 hours. eventually, the application of heat will remove the hydrogens from the fatty acid chains and leave you with slick carbon beauty. unsaturated or monosaturated oils just take more time to break down (unsaturated=fewer hygrogen bonds and more double bonds to be broken)
12/27/09 10:01 AM
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crescentwrench
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Really?  Hmmm, that is interesting.  Please try what ashleigh said first, I'd like to hear about the results.  Keep the hood on though, it won't be the burning carbon cloud of fumes that happens on a refurb but I bet it won't be a treat either.  Maybe bake some cookies beside it every now and then.  

I also appreciate any kitchen advice that refers to hydrogen bonds.  
12/30/09 10:28 PM
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alpo
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Yeah, I would never try to season a pan, and especially unseason a pan, indoors.  The 350 degree thing is interesting and I have never tried that, but I would definitely still do that on a gas grill if at all possible. 

One thing about the grill, though, is you may want to put something under the pan like a few layers of aluminum foil or a cookie sheet you don't care about.  You are really going for ambient and consistent heat here, not open flame temperatures.  Even if the pan doesn't smoke, the shit that drips off it will.. and it's not a good smoke like BBQ.  It smells like ass. 

I don't claim to be an expert on cast iron.. I mean, honestly, how many cast iron pans do any of us have?  I only have 3 and I don't anticipate ever owning another for the rest of my life.  I have a big one, a medium one and a griddle with a small lip that I only use for tortillas and sandwiches and dry things like that.  I used the grill method for all of them and it seems to work pretty good.

Upkeep is just as important.  As already mentioned, never use soap.  For the first few years, shit will stick to it pretty good sometimes, but you can just scrape it off with a plastic scraper and suppliment with the kosher salt/shortening scrub.  I occasionally use water with the scraper if it is particularly nasty, but I make sure to dry it really well (use paper towels for fuck's sake).  I am probably not the best at maintaining my pans, but I try to do the salt and shortening scrub at least 1 out of 4 times that I use it. 

My flat griddle is the oldest one I have, probably going on 13 now, and the one I use the most.  I make tortillas probably 2-3 times per week on it.  it is slick as a motherfucker.  Nothing ever, ever, sticks to it.  Not burnt cheese, not meat, nothing.  Just remember a good piece of cast iron is a long term project.  Just pay careful attention to it and follow the basic rules and it'll last you a lifetime. 
12/30/09 10:47 PM
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alpo
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FWIW, I have some unpainted tools made partially or completely out of cast iron and I seasoned them in motor oil.  (but shortening would maybe work too?)  I only seasoned them once, but the difference is enormous. 

I have a couple clamps that I bought at the same time, about 7 years ago.  Pretty big C clamps that I use for compressing automotive brake calipers when changing the brake pads.  I seasoned only one of them because I couldn't find the other one at the time.  I neglected to follow up with the seasoning once I found the other one and it started to show big time, even after just a couple years.  I left them both out in the rain one time and I don't think I need to tell you how that turned out.  After 10 minutes of wire brush treatment on a bench grinder, I got all the surface rust off the second clamp and seasoned it as well.  I mean that clamp was freaking bright orange.  The one that was already seasoned was completely fine.

Believe it or not, seasoning also made a big difference with the steel components.  On those clamps, the screw part was steel and I seasoned it also for the hell of it.  The one that was seasoned during the rain had zero rust on the steel part and unseasoned steel developed numerous small spots.  They were easy to grind off, but still.  They were also both lightly lubricated with WD40 or whatever, so it's not like the metal on the second one was completely untreated. 
12/31/09 9:16 AM
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shibbytastic
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That's really interesting information about your tools alpo.
12/31/09 11:44 AM
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Mullet @ Heart
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350 for 4 hours got the vast majority of it. I'm going to send it through for another 2-hour run to get a few of the corners that didn't quite come clean.

Thanks for the info.

What is everyone's favorite oil/grease to use to for re-seasoning? I'm afraid to try motor oil, alpo. Sorry.
1/1/10 3:14 AM
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alpo
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I always use veg shortening.  A lot of people swear by lard, but I can't bring myself to actually buying lard. 
1/1/10 7:57 AM
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crescentwrench
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 Crisco or lard.  Lard's not that evil.  I just think of it as unsalted bacon fat.  
1/7/10 1:40 AM
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Mullet @ Heart
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Crisco seems to leave my shit sticky, just like the liquid vegetable oil did.

Bacon grease, ftw.
1/7/10 8:35 AM
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ashleigh11
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any kind of an oil with a high smoke point (temp) will require hours of use or seasoning in the oven to get rid of the stickiness. crisco was created to have a high smoke point without scorching, to make your baked goods look pretty.

olive oil, lard, or bacon fat season the quickest.

the end result is the same, the time involved is the big difference.
1/18/10 5:44 PM
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shootfightermike
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ttt
2/19/10 1:21 PM
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Unicron
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This is a load of good info.
2/21/10 6:44 AM
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hvt
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Edited: 02/21/10 11:05 AM
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I managed to "save" an old cast iron pan recently that I got from a family member.I don't know what she had done to it, but it was a mess; parts of it were kind of greasy and burnt, while other areas were covered with a thin layer of rust, probably because she had used dishwash in it and failed to dry it properly.

First thing I did was to get rid of all the old grease, to sort of "reset" it. A real simple way to do this is to cover the pan with a thick layer of salt, I went with approximately 5 mm. Then heat the pan on the stove to a really high heat and let it sit on the stove for around 30 minutes (keep the heat high), occasionally shaking/stirring around the salt. This will suck out all the "old" grease into the salt. Get rid of the salt, and you should now have a nice, clean surface on the pan, and normally you can start seasoning it again.

I still had some rust left on my pan, so I covered the pan with a thick layer of ketchup and let it sit (no heat!) over night. I'm no chemist, but as I understand it Ketchup is acidic and dissolves the rust, plus it's something that most people have in the fridge. The following morning I just washed the pan with hot water, wiped it with a towel and let it dry out on low heat, and then first cooked a nice bunch of bacon on medium heat, and then a batch of pancakes in butter, and I now have a nice, clean and seasoned cast iron pan.

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