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Old 10-30-2004, 10:37 AM   #1
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Cast Iron Use and Care

I have some questions using cast iron. Up until a few weeks ago I have never used a cast iron skillet. I grew up in a house that never used cast iron, so my knowledge on it is extremely limited.

After watching shows and reading about how wonderful cast iron is, I decided to get a skillet and give it a try. Thanks to Alton I know the basic care for cast iron but the question I have is the seasoning I am putting on the skillet always burns off the bottom of the skillet when I use it. After use I coat it with a little vegitable oil. Is that ok?

The second question I have is, is there any tricks or tips to using it? I have made a terrific sirloin steak in it and that went well, but my attempt to make eggs in it wasn't exactly the result I was hoping for. I am sure it just takes a little getting used to but any advise I can get along the way would be great.

Thanks.

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Old 10-30-2004, 04:14 PM   #2
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Cast iron cookware is wonderful stuff and just gets better and better with age, assuming proper care. Vegetable oil is perfect to use in seasoning, Ten Spoons.

I'm going to send you to a favorite cast iron cookery website, where there is a ton of information regarding its use and care:

http://www.lodgemfg.com/useandcare.asp

I've never had much non-stick success in cooking eggs, and I always grab a non-stick pan for that. But every time I do use cast iron, be it a skillet, saucepan or dutch oven, I never, ever use soap when cleaning...just hot, hot water, then immediately dry thoroughly, and even follow that up with a paper towel to be certain.

I hope the website helps until the experts chime in with their thoughts!
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Old 10-30-2004, 05:21 PM   #3
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Audeo has given you the straight scoop. In particular, non-stick is much better on eggs, pancakes and creamy sauces.
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Old 10-30-2004, 05:35 PM   #4
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heya 10spoons,

audeo's got the scoop. she's one of the most remarkable people around here. i love reading her posts; i learn something new every day.

get yourself a cast iron grill pan if you like thick steaks. you'll get the grill marks, some of the fat will drip away in the grooves, and you can finish the thicker cuts of meat in the oven, after searing them. i love mine. have been experimenting with making little matchsticks out of mesquite and applewood, lighting them, tossing them in the pan and covering it to add some smokey flavor. so far it's worked ok...
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Old 10-31-2004, 08:45 PM   #5
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Thank you very much for all of your help. The only cast iron I have right now is a 12 inch skillet, I figured I would get used to that and make sure I like it before moving on. When I made the Sirloin in it I did get a terrific sear on the steak, it wasn't the traditional "grill like" sear I am sure the grill pan would give me but it was good enough for me. When you use the matchsticks of smoke wood how much do you use? I am a farily regular griller and smoker as well. I love that smoky flavor and always have smoke wood around.

I have used the skillet a few times sense then and it seems to be getting a better seasoning each time. The only thing that I am somewhat concerned about is the original seasoning I put on it has burned off the bottom of the skillet. Is that normal? Could this lead to rusting? Should I season it in the oven again?

Thanks again
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Old 10-31-2004, 09:25 PM   #6
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Ten Spoons;

I have been using cast iron for most of my life. Eggs don't stick when thrown into my pans. I just add a little oil or butter, after the pan is hot, place the eggs in the fat, and cook until the whites just begin to set, then flip, or add a couple tbs. water and cover for about thirty seconds. I the take them out very easily. In fact, and I'm not exagerating at all on this one, yesterday, I went to fry a couple of eggs in my 11-1/2 inch Wagner pan and broke both egg yolks because I couldn't get the spatula under the egg. Every time I tried to slide it under, the eggs would slide first. I ended up pushing everything to the side of the pan and mooshed them. I wasn't very happy as I love runny yolks.

As far as the oil burning off of the bottom, you need not worry. When I first got my pans, and a couple of times later when I did burn somehting into the pan that it did require soap and scouring, I seasoned them by rubbing inside and out with a thin film of oil, and placing in a 450 degree oven until they quit smoking. After letting them cool, I again rubbed oil over the inside of the pans. I just wash with hot water and a plastic brush. They come clean very easily. But these pans have been in use for years and are well seasoned.

If you bought Lodge, you probably noticed that the cooking serface is not actually smooth. Thius will change over time as fat will fill the pores and harden into a very slippery carbon surface that will make it firtually stick free, and protect the pan from oxidation, and the food from nasty tasting metallic ions.

Cast iron is great for pan frying things, in about two inches of oil. when done, pour out all of the grease and rub clean with a paper towel until there is just a sheen of oil on the surface. And always, after washing, rub a thin film of oil on the cooking surface and inner sides. Your cast iron will serve you well and last a lifetime.

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Old 11-01-2004, 09:26 AM   #7
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Everybody has great tips here.

I've been using three different cast iron skillets for years now. I have a 12", 10", and an 8".

In my experience, the BEST way to clean the pan is right after you're done cooking in it. Plate the food, drain any grease/sauce, then immediately hit the pan with a splash of warm water (the hot pan will heat the water up), and use a sponge or abrasive pad to remove any food. NO SOAP! Then, place the pan on a burner and dry it ON THE HEAT to insure that it won't rust. Lastly, I'll fold up a paper towel, wipe about a T of solid Crisco onto it, the rub the pan down, inside and out, and move the pan to a different burner to cool down.

If you notice that the seasoning on the pan is wearing off, you can get a better season by doing some pan-frying in the pan (chicken-fried steaks, for example). Or, you could just re-season the pan by rubbing it with shortening and baking it for an hour.
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Old 11-01-2004, 09:57 AM   #8
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For a reason I've never understood I've had better success using a solid fat (like Crisco or lard) for the initial seasoning rather than oil.

BTW, did the link mention to put the skillet upside down (with a cookie sheet or something underneath to catch any possible drippings) when seasoning? It's supposed to prevent uneven seasoning on the bottom.

If I'm feeling truly compulsive and plan to use the oven for actual cooking, I've been known to grease up a cast iron skillet or pan and put it on the bottom rack (from when the oven starts preheating through the cooking and then let cool). Of course the oven temp is not as high as that recommended for seasoning but I figure - what the hey! - its free heat and a little maintenance for the cast iron can't hurt.
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Old 11-01-2004, 04:18 PM   #9
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Once your skillet is decently seasoned don't be too afraid to your soap and hot water when you need it.

They key is to rinse well and DRY completely.

Veg oil usually leaves a sticky film, which is why I like to use crisco.
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Old 11-01-2004, 07:51 PM   #10
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Thank you so much for all of your replies. All of you have been extremely helpful.
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Old 10-07-2006, 11:20 PM   #11
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Great information . I have several cast iron skillets and a dutch pot. I have had the hardest time figuring out how to take care of it but now I know how. Thanks again.
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Old 10-08-2006, 03:33 AM   #12
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Thanks to everyone for the information in this thread. I have just seasoned an old cast iron skillet which I am 'rescuing'. Basically when the oven was on, I coated the skillet with oil and baked it. I have used it a couple of times and have noticed that tomatos mark the surface. Should I just keep coating and baking? Also, I cannot find crisco here in New Zealand can anyone tell me what it is made of so I can look for a substitute. Thanks so much.
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Old 10-08-2006, 06:48 AM   #13
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You can use vegetable oil.
Don't cook tomatoes in cast iron.
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Old 10-08-2006, 10:35 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gretchen
You can use vegetable oil.
Don't cook tomatoes in cast iron.
Actually no acidic foods should be cooked in cast iron.

You will enjoy your cast iron pieces once they are fully seasoned. One of mine is seasoned so well that it performs like Teflon. I love it.
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Old 10-08-2006, 02:41 PM   #15
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Can I use tin foil in the bottom of my oven when seasoning my cast iron skillets so when the crisco drips it will drip on the tin foil?
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Old 10-08-2006, 02:55 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunshine1967
Can I use tin foil in the bottom of my oven when seasoning my cast iron skillets so when the crisco drips it will drip on the tin foil?
Highly recommended, to make clean-up easier. It will drip during the seasoning process.
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Old 10-08-2006, 03:03 PM   #17
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Thank you very much !!
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Old 10-08-2006, 03:13 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katie E
Actually no acidic foods should be cooked in cast iron.
Well, all food is acidic (baking soda and egg whites being the two common exceptions). Some just more than others. Here's a chart of foods and their pH. http://www.food-info.net/uk/qa/qa-fp65.htm The lower the number, the more acidic it is.

You can cook tomatoes briefly in cast iron. Long simmered dishes can have an off flavor or color result as well as some issues with the patina of the pan.

Red wine is not good in cast iron at all.The tannins react quickly and become unpleasant.

But chili and baked beans are all tomatoey dishes that are cooked famously in cast iron. Usually well seasoned cast iron.

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Old 10-08-2006, 03:28 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thymeless
Well, all food is acidic (baking soda and egg whites being the two common exceptions). Some just more than others. Here's a chart of foods and their pH. http://www.food-info.net/uk/qa/qa-fp65.htm The lower the number, the more acidic it is.

You can cook tomatoes briefly in cast iron. Long simmered dishes can have an off flavor or color result as well as some issues with the patina of the pan.

Red wine is not good in cast iron at all.The tannins react quickly and become unpleasant.

But chili and baked beans are all tomatoey dishes that are cooked famously in cast iron. Usually well seasoned cast iron.

thymeless

The pH scale runs from 1-14 with 7 being neutral. Numbers lower than 7 indicate acids and numbers above 7 indicate alkalies. What you have to consider is that acidity comes in different strengths with corrosive acids down at the numeric bottom of the scale and things that are mildly acidic with numbers near 7.

Foods between say 5 and 7 are not really an issue as far as their acidity is concerned. Strongly acidic foods would be below 5.

So I guess folks have been a little imprecise in their language but the point made about tomato in cast iron is a good one.
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Old 10-13-2006, 01:55 PM   #20
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Something I haven't seen mentioned is the technique of using kosher salt and a bit of oil to clean your cast iron. It's an abrasive of sorts, and does a great job of sopping up / scraping off whatever bits o' stuff are stuck to the cast iron. The only time I will use soap on cast iron is when I'm planning to re-season the pan.

Whenever I get a pan that is really, really crudded up I either put it in the BBQ grill (heat cranked all the way up) or spray it with oven cleaner and use a soft wire brush (bronze) to clean it up. I've used this to restore very very old pans with no problems.

Oh - and I don't use the cast iron for any tomato-based dishes. I've also heard that the acidity will cause some icky flavors (or metals!) to leach into the food.
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